The political economy of land tenure in Ethiopia
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In surveying the literature on land tenure reform in Africa, what can readily be observed is that much of that body of work has comprised a markedly econometric and technical focus, to the neglect of evidently contiguous political factors. As a result, fundamental structural impediments to reform efforts have largely been ignored - a fact that may be reflected in the failure of many titling interventions. In light of this omission, the nature of political economy in both Ethiopia and Africa more generally is delineated in this thesis, in order to construct a more rounded conceptual framework through which the issue of land tenure can be deciphered. In so doing, the model of the ‘neopatrimonial’/anti-developmental state is utilised as a benchmark against which twentieth century Ethiopian regimes, and in particular the incumbent EPRDF Government, are assessed. Considerable evidence is uncovered to support the view that, despite its unique historical experience of independence, contemporary Ethiopia nevertheless fits with many key aspects of the neopatrimonial model – most notably in the Government’s pursuit of political survival and revenue to the neglect of long-term sustainable development. It is therefore argued that political imperatives have undermined the establishment of a progressive economic agenda in the country, and the ways in which this has affected land tenure are delineated. Moreover, it is demonstrated that the contemporary debate on tenure reform in Ethiopia has taken a form that is somewhat myopic and circuitous, possibly in an attempt to circumvent discussion of controversial political issues. It is argued that this apolitical stance has undermined not only the debate itself, but also the practical intervention strategies that have emerged from it, such as the recent land titling and administration project in Ethiopia. It is therefore concluded that the only means of escape from this theoretical and practical impasse is to reintegrate politics into the analysis.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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