Law, Social Justice & Global Development

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Law, Social Justice & Global Development
(An Electronic Law Journal)

Rural Commons and the Ethiopian State

Muradu Srur*

This is a refereed article published on: 31st July 2013

Citation: Srur, M, ‘Rural Commons and the Ethiopian State’, 2013(1), Law, Social Justice & Global Development (LGD).


This article examines the legal status of rural commons, a crucial aspect of the land question in Ethiopia. To this end, it analyzes the Rural Land Administration and Land Use Proclamation No. 456[1], 2005, Article 5(3), which provides that “Government being the owner of rural land, communal holdings can be changed to private holdings as may be necessary.” This legislative stipulation has received some treatment in literature, which generally recommends its nullification on the ground of unconstitutionality. Yet, to the present writer, this legislative provision cannot be merely brushed aside as contrary to the tenets of the current Ethiopian Constitution. Instead, there is a need to appreciate the underlying historical belief behind such provision that declares rural commons as the property of the state.

The article suggests a need to develop a perspective that caters for the interests of both the community and the state taking into account current diverse needs and developments within and outside the community and the state. This requires an articulation of the terms ‘customary land tenures’ and ‘community’ in a manner which considers the inequalities hidden behind the social embeddedness of land rights.

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