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FROM THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY TO THE INTEGRATION AND EMPOWERMENT OF FORMER SLAVES AND THEIR DESCENDANTS IN TƎGRAY, NORTHERN ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 0507-11]
The practice of slavery has an ancient history in Ethiopia and echoes up to the most recent past. The Derg (a military junta which ruled Ethiopia between 1975 and 1991, following the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974) introduced radical reforms including land redistribution (in 1975) to former slaves and other groups who had been denied land right during the ancien régime. Indeed, these measures have played their part in the empowerment of former slaves and descend-ants of former slaves in Ethiopia and in particular in Tǝgray. In this talk I argue that it was the policies and reforms of the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF) which warranted ‘real’ integra-tion and empowerment of slaves and their descendants. Along this argument, this article critically examines the major reforms introduced by the TPLF (and concomitant developments) which have been crucial in providing real freedom to former slaves and descendants of former slaves in Tǝgray: 1) radical land redistribution schemes which guaranteed land ownership of the ‘freed’ and their descendants and 2) outlawing the act of discrimination of former slaves and their descendants in-cluding the use of derogatory terms/names such as Barya, Shanqǝlla. Concomitantly, descendants of former slaves started joining the armed struggle of the TPLF as comrades of the ‘freeborn’, and some even assumed important political and administrative positions. The policies and reforms of the TPLF gave the victims of slavery not only full economic and political rights but also “new op-portunities of independence and new social mobility.” Consequently, marginalization and stigmati-zation have been considerably reduced. For instance, marriage between the ‘freeborn’ and persons with slave-ancestry has become possible. In a nutshell, the reforms, albeit mainly top-bottom in approach, have made the integration of former slaves and their descendants in Tǝgray relatively ‘easy’ and ‘quick’ compared to other parts of Ethiopia.