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رســـالة على المــلأ.... لـلأخ / عمـر جابـر

حامد إزاز - لندن

Message to the publicتحية طيبة  بعد ،، اطلعت على مقالكم المنشور في المواقع بخصوص رابطة أبناء المنخفضات الإرترية بين عدم الإدانة والتأييد للحجج والأسباب التي أبديتموها وهنا أسمح لي بأن أختلف معكم في ما أبديتموه من آراء  :

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The elimination of  Communal Land Tenure and Change in Demographics in Western Eritrea

By Ibrahim Ahmad

Traditionally land tenure is classified into four categories: private, communal, state and open access (FAO, 2002). Private land tenure is an exclusive ownership of the land by a private party such as an individual, a family or a corporation. A communal land tenure is the ownership of  land by a community members such as a village. Each member of the community in a communal land tenure has the right to use the land in consistency with the guidelines of the community such as permission to graze cattle in a common pastoral land. State land tenure is the ownership of the land by a government , which in turn allows the public to benefit from the land  as in high ways, parks, forest and rivers. Open access land tenure is a land that is not owned by a particular entity,  but implies government ownership, such some forests and  mountains.

Historically, the lowlands of western Eritrea has been used by the natives for sedentary farming and cattle grazing (agro-pastoralism) where the main activity is raising livestock and farming by individuals residing in communal gatherings or small villages or towns. The livestock comprises cattle, goats and camels , while the farming crops include sorghum, maize, barely and sesame. The land was traditionally regarded as a common property of the villagers and individuals were allowed to farm and graze their cattle on the land based on their residence in the village and descent  (Tronvoll). During the struggle for independence, the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) permitted this traditional land tenure to continue, while the Eritrean People's Libration Front (EPLF) characterized the communal land tenure as backward and obstacle to development (Tronvoll). In 1994, the Eritrean government abolished the communal land tenure with a land reform legislation (Proclamation of Land Reform 58/1994) that declared the government as the sole owner (section 3) of  the land and that ordered all activities on the land to conform with the new legislation. It is clear then that the legislation ignored the rights of the indigenous peoples of the region and their way of life. This also sets the stage up for a demographic change in the area as the government can grant land to anybody  it wishes.

In May 6, 1998 a border war broke out between Eritrean and Ethiopia in the area of Badme. The war lasted a little over 2 years and resulted in many human casualties. It also resulted in a war of expulsion on both sides of the war zone. Ethiopia reportedly  expelled about 75,000 Eritrean and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin (Wikipedia, 2014), while Eritrea expelled  an estimated 70,000 Ethiopians. (Watch, 2003). Most of the expelled Eritreans along with internally displaced Eritreans and repatriated Eritrean refugees from Sudan were resettled in the Gash-Barka region (Mebrahtu). This created at least two changes in the area. One is the loss of land by the village communities as a result of the 1994 land reform act that inspired the government resettlement program without consultation with the native pastoralists and the second is a demographic change in the region due to the cultural  and linguistic differences between the majority of the settlers and the local pastoralists. it is expected that these changes will lead to a conflict between the original land owners and the new settlers, based on past experiences over land between pastoralists and sedentary land users that resulted in conflict in Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa (Joieman, 1996)..

Most of the pastoralists in Western Eritrean are Tigre speaking  Muslims  who were the base supporters of the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and most of the settlers are Tigrigna speaking Christians who relate to the political teachings of the Eritrean People's  Liberation Front (EPLF). The Tigre speaking Muslims are set up to lose their grazing lands and the Tigrigna speaking Christians are set up to gain fertile farm lands with a stroke of a pen. Since the government does not allow free speech for the public to vent their disagreements and  frustration over political laws, it is likely that the frustration over the land reform legislation and its consequential change in demographics will result in direct conflict between the two groups.

The 1994 land proclamation is appears to be based on economic theories that failed in other African countries. The land legislation suggests communal land tenure is a constraint against land development and increases the degradation of the land which is the basis for "Hardin's" economic theory in the "tragedy of commons" (Tesfatsion, 2001). Hardin argued that individuals in a common grazing land will act in self-interest and increase their cattle thereby depleting the shared limited resource. However, many studies (Tesfatsion, 2001) have shown that communal land tenure is a transitory state of ownership where local communities will decide how their practice of grazing and farming should be changed to adapt to new realities as their level of education and awareness develops. It is the responsibility of the agro-pastoralists to review their land use and modify their practice with the help of the authority to achieve a better standard of living. It is  not for the government to render their way of life obsolete without their consultation or input.  It is suggested that the government prevent social conflicts and demographical changes and preserve the rights of pastoralists and semi-pastoralists in western Eritrean by suspending the 1994 land reform proclamation and initiate a process of consultation and education to the local communities in an effort to decide the future of the grazing land to achieve a common ground that encourage development while maintaining the pastoralists interest. It is also suggested that the government relocate the settlers to different enclaves with the same religious and linguistic background to prevent upsetting the demographical balance between the enclaves. In the absence of such remedial actions, Eritrean may be in a path to social unrest.

Bibliography

FAO. (2002). Land tenure and rural development. Retrieved 03 26, 2014, from Food And Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: http://www.fao.org/doCrEP/005/y4307E/y4307e05.htm#bm05

Joieman, S. F. (1996). Minefield of Land Reform: Comments on the Eritrean Land Proclamation. African Afairs , 269-285.

Mebrahtu, S. Eritrea: constitutional, legislative and administrative provisions concerning indigenous peoples.

Tesfatsion, F. (2001). The Eritrean Land Tenure System From Historical And Legal Perspectives.

Tronvoll. (1998). The process of nation-building in post-war Eritrea: created from below or created from above? Journal of modern African studies , 412-418.

Watch, H. R. (2003). The horn of Africa War: mass expulsions and the nationality issue. Human Rights Watch.

Wikipedia. (2014, March 14). Eritrean-Ethiopian War. Retrieved March 31, 2014, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eritrean%E2%80%93Ethiopian_War

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