The Nested Paradigm of Conflict Foci: The Case of Ethiopia
By John Prendergast
This Article Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: John Prendergast, "The Nested Paradigm of Conflict Foci: The Case of Ethiopia," sect. in Building Peace, by John Paul Lederach, (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, 1997), pp. 161-169.
Prendergast analyzes conflict in Ethiopia using Lederach's models of conflict and peacebuilding. Ethiopia had been at civil war since the early 1960s. The Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) secured independence for the Eritrean territory in the early 1990s. The remainder of Ethiopia is controlled by the EPRDF, a coalition group. Opposition groups boycotted the elections which brought the current Ethiopian leadership into power. Ethiopia is still subject to national tension and local conflicts.
Lederach adopts researcher Maire Dugan's nested foci paradigm for relating the immediate issues within a conflict to the larger systemic aspects. Particular issues arise within relationships, which exist within the larger context of subsystems, and ultimately society-wide systems. Ethiopia exemplifies this nesting model, according to Prendergast. Two issues contribute significantly to national tensions: the withdrawal of major opposition parties from the electoral process, and the support for certain Ethiopian opposition groups provided by radical Islamic groups in Sudan. International diplomatic initiatives have focused on both these issues.
These issues arise within the context of historical ethnic relationships and rivalries in Ethiopia. Local peace conferences have had some success in peacebuilding between ethnic groups. Issues of gender equity have also been addressed at the relationship level. Fairly specific local proposals which encourage gender equity are more likely to be implemented than broad systemic reforms, which often conflict with local traditions. Ethiopian social institutions have traditionally viewed conflict management as a matter of mending broken relationships. Subsystemic and systemic factors contribute to conflict in Ethiopia. Poverty, especially in the form of food insecurity, contributes to conflict in the region. Resources generally are scarce in Ethiopia. Prendergast notes that "the central role of the state in determining resource distribution makes it a major target of, and--when power is overcentralized--a major reason for, conflict."[p. 165] Peacebuilding strategies have focused on reducing poverty, increasing food supplies, and decentralizing government. The Ethiopian government has implemented a Green Revolution approach to increasing farm yields and reducing poverty, with mixed results. The government is attempting to decentralize along a model of ethnic federalism. This has contained what would once have been national conflicts at the local level. However, the process of drawing regional boundaries has been very contentious, and has occasionally prompted violence.