Woga: An Ethnographic Study of Customary Law Among the Gamo of Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa University


The study of indigenous social institutions has become one of the key issues among social scientists during the past two ceturies. This study is an empirical study aimed at exploring the role of woga (customary law) in upholding group solidarity and the changes it presently facing among the Gamo. The study began by reviewing the available related and relevant literatures, which latter helped the development of objectives of the study. To explore the customary law, data was collected from different key informants, interviews are conducted with individuals who came from different social background and focus group discussions are conducted to explore the meaning of woga, its role and the changes. The data is analyzed and interpreted in relation to the literature. Some cases were analyzed to show the significances of the customary law in the day lives of the study group. To this end, it begins with a discussion about the meaning of woga with different social groups. The study shows that, the customary law has sub-diveded into four categories. The indigenous social institutions such as kawo, woga maga, oge maga and eqa maga play a significant role in enforcing the customary law. The study found that clan also has a pivotal role in the enforcement of the customary law. Qualitative data also shows the customary laws are playing a role in resolving interpersonal, family and inter-dere conflicts. It guides the marriage relationship among the different groups. The study identified that the customary law is discriminatory; that it does not treat women equally with a men and marginalized groups faces biases. The study also identified the institution has been facing various challenges and changes, which adversely affects the effectiveness and efficiency of its role. Government and Non-governmental Organizations should promote its continuity by providing the community conflict resilience through participating all social groups and enhancing local peoples potential and rediscovering elders wisdom and knowledge. Key words: Change, Conflict, customary law, indigenous, Social Institutions, Woga.



Change, Conflict, Customary law, Social Institutions