Seminar – Insight into development projects in EPRDF Ethiopia: social and political aspects


Date : Vendredi 24 janvier 2020, 9h00-13h00 / Date: Friday, January 24th, 2020, 9:00am-1:00pm

À/Venue: Berhanou Abebe Library, French Center for Ethiopian Studies (JanMeda


This workshop aims at fostering debate about contemporary development interventions in Ethiopia. By deliberately adopting a large understanding of ‘development’, we aim at bringing together different forms of state action to analyse their social and political consequences. For the past 50 years at least, successive Ethiopian rulers have framed their action within the lexicon of development. Public action and policies are legitimized by referring to a ‘development’ process that would be beneficial for the whole population. Although ideological frameworks have evolved under successive regimes, ‘development’ remains a tool justifying public action. Under the EPRDF administration, the state itself has been labelled as ‘developmental’, thus referring to a model of economical governance combining state control of key markets, state ownership of land, and an interventionist action aiming at leading the industrialisation process.

In Ethiopia’s developmental state as elsewhere, development interventions take various forms. Infrastructure projects, industrial parks, mining investments or land and agricultural policies all resort to development interventions. Depending of the nature of the project or policy considered, such undertakings combine different levels of state intervention and private funding. But all can be seen as political projects in the sense that they entail encounters between groups and individuals over the (re)allocation of resources, administrative jurisdictions, rights, and conceptions of justice and dignity.

Under the EPRDF regime, state interventions in rural Ethiopia often served political purposes. All policies were used to assert the party’s hegemony in the countryside, especially after the 2005 electoral crisis. Indeed, the ‘lematawi mengist’ also had political aspects. The country was deemed as not yet developed enough to afford democracy, and all social groups were politically mobilized under the leadership of the ruling (vanguard) party. Rural population was controlled and forcefully mobilized in the name of its own development.

This workshop brings together several contributions looking at different kinds of development interventions in rural Ethiopia. All papers focus on the concrete implementation of development projects, by using ethnographical inquiries, field surveys and interviews as preferred methodologies. These contributions bring first-hand materials that give insights on the political effects of development interventions. They look at how local populations are involved into projects as workers, beneficiaries or clients. They also take into account the affected populations’ grievances and diverting strategies. Papers consider the different administrative levels and actors involved, from federal to qebelé, including international consultants, enterprises, ‘activists’ or NGOs. By doing so, we hope to bring more detailed and nuanced image of the practice of power in Ethiopia’s rural areas.

Now that the current administration seems to be willing to liberalize the economy and amend the ‘lematawi mengist’ project, it is time to look at the political aspects of past experiences.



The aim of the workshop is to foster debate between researchers concerned with the political aspects of development. Each presenter will give a 20 minutes presentation that will be discussed by other presenters and the audience. Video projection is available.

January 24th, 2020

09.00am: Introduction by Mehdi Labzaé

09:15am – 10:00am: Mehdi Labzaé - “The difference between by and for”: The politics of peasant “participation” in rural land registration

10:00am – 10:45am: Getaneh Wudeneh - Mining Development and Human Security in Ethiopia: Case Study on MIDROC Lege Dembi Gold Mine, In Odo Shakiso Woreda of Oromia Regional State

11:00am – 11:45am: Edegilign Hailu - The politics of hydropower development in Ethiopia: analyzing everyday resistance from below

11 :45am – 13:00am: Global discussion



Mehdi Labzaé –  “The difference between by and for”: The politics of peasant “participation” in rural land registration

“Participation” is a buzzword of development policies. To make sure a policy or a development programme is legitimate, “beneficiaries” have to “participate”. According to most donors and international organizations, participation is a necessary condition for the success of a programme. Over the 27 years as the Ethiopian government ruling party, the EPRDF made great use of the participatory rhetoric, often conflating participation with (revolutionary) democracy. In rural areas, land registration programmes that spearhead the EPRDF’s rural land policy since the early 2000s are deemed to be participative. This paper takes the idea of peasant participation seriously, by looking at how peasants concretely take part in rural land registration and cadastral surveying. Before rural parcels are surveyed, rural landholders are gathered for “public information and awareness raising” (PIA) sessions, where they are taught by civil servants about the need for having their land registered. These long sessions are part of a myriad of development lessons taught in rural qebelés. If many peasants try to avoid them as much as they can, those sessions can also be an occasion for some to raise concerns and grievances towards governmental policies. Other “participative tools” are as a means for the ruling party to strengthen its grip on the rural society, and produce consent. On the basis of 26 months of fieldwork carried out between 2013 and 2017, this paper brings ethnographical insights from qebelés in Benishangul-Gumuz and Gambella where land registration is currently underway.


Getaneh Wudeneh – Mining Development and Human Security in Ethiopia: Case Study on MIDROC Lege Dembi Gold Mine, In Odo Shakiso Woreda of Oromia Regional State

Mining industry has the potential to significantly contribute to Ethiopia’s economic development. However, such projects are also recognized as one of the most pressing areas of human security threats. In Ethiopia, human security and development were not mutually reinforced on mining development projects. Therefore, this paper examines the human security implications of mining development projects on the host community and the dynamics of resource based conflicts in Ethiopia by taking the Lege Dembi gold mine as appoint of reference. As far as the case of MIDROC gold mine operation in Odo Shakiso Woreda is concerned, the human (environment, health, economic and political) security of the host community severely threated by the mineral extraction method, chemical and waste discharges, the expansion projects and the exclusionist approaches of the mine. The community deprived of the land and the resources like Gold, forest, and pasture they had or previously have been using. This is mainly due to, lack of or/and inadequate mitigation strategies of threats resulted from the intense demands of state which is generating extractive led economic growth instead of securing the environment and sustain mining for the benefit of the present and future generations. It is, therefore, the sum total of the mine’s human security threat, little regulatory oversight, and lack of local development contribution that aggravated local’s grievance over the mine which escalated to a widespread anti-mine protest that resulted project suspension and several human and material lost.


Edegilign Hailu – The politics of hydropower development in Ethiopia: analyzing everyday resistance from below

The EPRDF-led regime, since the turn of the new millennium, had been conducting a series of operations that seek to achieve a key government objective: its self-declared democratic developmental state. However, the literature on this issue has been dominated by technocratic and macro-intuitionalist analyses and portrayed its flagship  development projects such as big dams as unilateral exercise of state domination. There has been, surprisingly, little in-depth qualitative research on its materiality and everyday local reactions from below. This paper, inspired by political explanations, tries to examine materialization of the state developmentalism in the hydropower sector and consequent reactions from below by drawing on the Gibe III project as a case study. On the basis of 18 months of field work from 2016 to 2018, it attempts to use empirical evidence to examine how had locally affected people been engaged with, challenged or subverted the imposed Gibe III project.To this end, the study avoids the power/resistance or cooperation dichotomy in which resistance is understood as practices played out by only organized larger groups and social movements, but, rather recognizes practices by individuals, subcultures and everyday reactions as forms of resistances. By doing so, unlike the assumptions of some macro political analyses, it shows how the apparent silence of the affected people regarding the workings and impacts of the project is misleading.”

Citer ce billet
stagiaire (2020, 22 janvier). Seminar – Insight into development projects in EPRDF Ethiopia: social and political aspects. UN ŒIL SUR LA CORNE / AN EYE ON THE HORN. Consulté le 23 mai 2024, à l’adresse

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