Along Ethiopia’s Western Frontier: Gambella and Benishangul in Transition

Since it came to power in 1991, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has pursued an innovative programme of transferring authority to ethnically-based regional administrations. However, this policy has been seriously challenged in the underdeveloped and politically marginalized territories of Gambella and Benishangul-Gumuz on Ethiopia’s western frontier. This study contributes to an understanding of the area in three ways: first, it brings to light revolutionary struggles in Gambella and Benishangul that form the backdrop to present political configurations and systems of administration; second, it examines the experience of these territories in connection with the ongoing process of decentralization in Ethiopia; and lastly, it analyses the importance of the area as a frontier between highland Christian Ethiopia and lowland Muslim Sudan. It shows that the implementation of the post-1991 government’s programme of ethnic regionalism has intensified local rivalries, and regional governments remain weak, being highly dependent on professionals from highland Ethiopia. Nonetheless, local political power, in sharp contrast to earlier periods, has to an appreciable extent passed into the hands of indigenous leaders. Bibliogr., note, sum.

Title: Along Ethiopia’s Western Frontier: Gambella and Benishangul in Transition
Author: Young, John
Year: 1999
Periodical: Journal of Modern African Studies
Volume: 37
Issue: 2
Period: June
Pages: 321-346
Language: English
Geographic term: Ethiopia
External link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/161849
Abstract: Since it came to power in 1991, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has pursued an innovative programme of transferring authority to ethnically-based regional administrations. However, this policy has been seriously challenged in the underdeveloped and politically marginalized territories of Gambella and Benishangul-Gumuz on Ethiopia’s western frontier. This study contributes to an understanding of the area in three ways: first, it brings to light revolutionary struggles in Gambella and Benishangul that form the backdrop to present political configurations and systems of administration; second, it examines the experience of these territories in connection with the ongoing process of decentralization in Ethiopia; and lastly, it analyses the importance of the area as a frontier between highland Christian Ethiopia and lowland Muslim Sudan. It shows that the implementation of the post-1991 government’s programme of ethnic regionalism has intensified local rivalries, and regional governments remain weak, being highly dependent on professionals from highland Ethiopia. Nonetheless, local political power, in sharp contrast to earlier periods, has to an appreciable extent passed into the hands of indigenous leaders. Bibliogr., note, sum.