State and Society on Ethiopia’s Northwestern Borderlands: Chilga Awraja, 1935 -1991

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Addis Ababa University


This dissertation investigates and reconstructs a history of Chilga Awraja, a region which is located along Ethiopia’s northwestern borderlands adjacent to the Sudan. In Ethiopian historiography, frontier areas located along the nation’s borders have not been studied properly. One of these frontier borderlands is Chilga sub-province. Although the area was well incorporated into the Ethiopian state in the 14th century and passed through major political, social and economic changes, it was following the Italian military occupation (1936-1941) that these political and socio-economic changes led to a dynamic change among the people in the sub-province.. Thus, this dissertation seeks to analyze how the local people in Chilga sub-province reacted to the various socio-economic and political activities and integrating strategies introduced by governments based at Addis Ababa from 1935 to 1991. This dissertation is analyzed and reconstructed based on using extensively archival documents collected in Addis Ababa and Gondar and oral information gathered from informants who were participants and observers of events in Chilga sub-province. I argue that the governments based in Addis Ababa from the Italian military rulers to the Därg’s socialist state had little success in integrating Chilga Awraja to the center by using the governance tools at their disposal. Hence the area remained a sanctuary for anti-government forces mainly anti-Därg opposition groups and organizations. Largely the hostile relations between Ethiopia and the Sudan since the mid-1960s partly due to boundary dispute made Chilga Awraja a bone of contention between the two states and this greatly affected the lives of the local people. I believe that this study is a useful contribution to borderland studies in Ethiopia as well as in Africa because it elucidates how governments from the center faced challenges in administering and integrating the borderlands.



State and Society on Ethiopia’s Northwestern Borderlands: Chilga Awraja, 1935 -1991