Land disputes between villages in the highland of Eritrea : the case of Guaquat and Geddele villages.
Ghebreab, Habteab Werede.
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This thesis is an examination into the problem of land disputes between villages in the highland (kebessa) area of Eritrea. Through a case study of the dispute between the villages of Guaquat and Goddele, which are located in the district of Mereta Keih, Southern Zone, this study explores the causes, nature and consequences of land disputes and the mechanisms by which they are settled. It interprets the land dispute by placing it within its historical, social, and political contexts and in the land tenure systems in the area, establishing the complex nature of the case study in particular and land disputes in the highland in general. In this area of the country, where the society is made up of settled peasant cultivators, the village is the basic land owning-community in which land is communally owned. For almost all of rural Eritreans land remains the sole means of subsistence, hence the means of life. Yet, over the decades, because of high population density land resource became extremely scarce. As a result land became a source of competition and struggle for existence. It is a kind of property that must be jealously defended. While scarcity of land is the underlying cause of land disputes, other immediate causal factors have been identified, which result from tenural arrangements, unclear boundaries between villages, trespassing, etc. The disputes manifest themselves through endless litigation processes and with clashes between disputant villages. The long-established permanent village settlements, which go back for centuries, created a strong and inextricable link between land and communities. Land is, thus, a source of dignity and identity. Over the years this strong link between land and society intensified people's attachment to land, which in tum resulted in the development of significant social and cultural value to land. All these factors added fuel to the struggle for the vital resource of land. The study also shows that the new land proclamation, which puts land in the hands of the state , cannot eliminate land disputes between communities to the extent is expected, but, rather adds another dimension to the problem of land disputes.