Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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TIRSIT Sahledegle, Institute of Ethiopian Studies, AAU

This paper studies the nature of the relationship between refugees in Western Ethiopia and their host communities. Currently, Ethiopia is the fifth largest host of refugees in the world and the biggest in Africa. Most of the refugees are from war-torn Horn of Africa countries. It has received and continues to receive a large number of refugees from neighbouring countries, mainly Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Eritrea, countries that have been grappling with conflicts for a long time. Currently, the South Sudanese make up the largest number of refugees in Ethiopia. Because of geographical proximity to South Sudan, the two regions in Western Ethiopia that host the largest number of refugees are Benishangul-Gumuz and Gambella. The focus of this study is particularly Benishangul-Gumuz, which has been the main destination for South Sudanese and Sudanese refugees since 2011. Due to historical and cultural ties between the hosts and the guests in this region, there are peaceful relations between the two groups, manifested through intermarriage and other friendly contacts. However, there are also economic rivalries such as in labour markets, where refugees with no work permit in Ethiopia try to engage informally in work to support their families when there are insufficient food supplies in the camps. This paper documents the peaceful relations and economic rivalries between the hosts and the guests. It also examines the impact of both forms of relations on the host communities and vice versa. The research used a qualitative approach to data collection and analyses.