Fana Gebresenbet Erda is an assistant professor at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies, Addis Ababa University. He coordinates the Institute’s PhD programme in Peace and Security Studies. He received his PhD in Global and Area Studies, with special emphasis on peace and security in Africa, from the University of Leipzig and Addis Ababa University. His dissertation was on “The Political Economy of Land Investments: Dispossession, Resistance and Territory-Making in Gambella, Western Ethiopia.” His research interests include resource politics, politics of development, climate security, and pastoralism in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. He has published journal articles and book chapters on these themes. He is a Research Fellow at the Center for African Studies, University of the Free State, South Africa, and was a Southern Voices Scholar at the Wilson Center, Washington, DC, United States.
This research investigates the production and perpetuation of grassroots conflict by developmental aspirations of the Ethiopian state. Specifically, it examines the impact of mega development projects (dam and sugar industrialization) in Ethiopia's Lower Omo Valley. The study will also evaluate the various strategies employed by the government to resolve the emerging conflicts, and their challenges and limitations. Furthermore, the research will explore the local people's perceptions of government conflict management strategies and their perspectives to better resolve emerging conflicts and build sustainable peace. The opening up of South Omo for capitalist accumulation has serious consequences for the local communities. The primitive mode of accumulation pursued in these lowlands takes the Lower Omo Valley as a Terra Nullis and intends to replace pastoralism with commercial farming, made possible by the building of Gibe III dam upstream. This process has set the 'modern' and 'traditional' systems of resource governance and economic activities on a perfect collision course; one of the major consequences being change in conflict dynamics. The increasing withdrawal of rangelands from the portfolio of resources pastoralist communities access and hindrances on migration and access to water points has the potential of further stiffening resource competition and conflicts. Moreover, the presence of new group of actors in the lowlands will also heighten the risk of conflict, likely along ethnic lines as the social differentiation/classes are drawn along such lines. Despite this, the government does not appear to be sufficiently prepared to manage conflicts and build sustainable peace in the Valley. Misdiagnosing the emerging conflicts as pastoral conflicts, the government attempts to manage and resolve the conflicts and build peace and works with, and through, elders and customary institutions to this effect. Simultaneously we witness the government suppressing customary