social institutions
social relationships

culture and customs
family life
food security
spiritual beliefs
traditional skills

introducing the area

justice and crime

 quotes about justice and crime
 key testimonies featuring justice and crime

In cases of arson and robbery an afersata (gathering of villagers) used to be held, from which no one was allowed to leave until the offender was exposed: "Now if I see someone take away my ripe crop, he can be imprisoned" (Ethiopia 8). By tradition, anyone who committed the crime of murder had to leave the area: "His kinsmen, too, have to leave the place since the kinsmen of the deceased want to avenge the blood of the dead person by attacking them" (Ethiopia 8).

A sense emerges from the testimonies of a general recognition that traditional ways of settling scores or exacting justice, including revenge killings, have been largely superseded by the state justice system: "Now you don't talk about bravery and cowardice, for there is the law above you" (Ethiopia 10). However, it's clear that a number of people see a continuing role for community mechanisms of reconciliation and compensation. Religious heads seem to have a particular responsibility for reconciling people who have quarrelled: "[When someone quarrels with another] he goes to the elders and appeals to them to reconcile him with the person he has quarrelled with. Or the community or the judge will detain the offender for a night and they will reconcile him with the other person by making him pay compensation to the victim. I myself have reconciled others in this manner. This practice exists even now," explains a Muslim religious leader (Ethiopia 9).

One narrator claims that there was no theft in the old days because there was no poverty then: "Now you find them burgling somebody's home and the owner will hit him on the head when he catches him in the act. The thieves too have become tougher now. That is why death has become so common" (Ethiopia 2).

quotes about justice and crime

"There were arson and robbery in the old days and they called the afersata. Now if I see someone take away my ripe crop, he can be imprisoned. Now they say, thieves should be eliminated. In the old days, you needed powerful allies and kinsmen to find out the thief and eliminate him. If you had no such helpers, you would be constantly vulnerable to robbery."
Yekaba, F/25, farmer/female head of household, Ethiopia 8

"I am still the Qadi of my woreda. In this capacity, I reconcile women who have quarrelled with their husbands, oversee new marriages, divorces and inheritances and other religious matters."
Haji Zekiy, M/57, Qadi (Muslim religious leader and judge), Ethiopia 9

key testimonies featuring justice and crime

  No.   Name   Sex/Age   Occupation   Location  
Summary Transcript   10   Hamza   male/28   farmer   Gumar  
Summary Transcript   13   Mesay   male/28   farmer   Meqerretcha/Denkenna (highlands)  
Summary Transcript   16   Mekonen   male/72   priest   Ganchire Gebriel  
Summary Transcript   19   Yaregal   male/41   farmer trained in beekeeping   Warkaye  
Summary Transcript   2   Negussie   female/45   market trader   Filaqit, Woina Dega (midlands)  
Summary Transcript   21   Mario   male/40   farmer   Filaqit town (midlands)  
Summary Transcript   8   Yekaba   female/25   farmer/female head of household   Gala Dejen (highlands)  
Summary Transcript   9   Haji Zekiy   male/57   Qadi (Muslim religious leader)   Tcherqos village (highlands)