Period: 2 September 2004 - 30 January 2005. Country: Ethiopia
(1) Activities of Community Based Organizations and the Formation of Public Spaces: A Study on the Gurage Road Construction Organization and Funeral Associations in Ethiopia
NISHI Makoto  (Division of African Area Studies)
Key Words: Public Spaces, Community Based Organizations, Civil Society, Social Development, NGOs

Young Gurages working at a fruit market in Addis Abeba.
A rural elementary school built with assistance by the Gurage community in Addis Abeba.
A tipical settlement in rural Gurage.
(2)  Past and contemporary studies on public spaces in Africa tend to focus on the antagonism between the state and ethnic groups, and thus assert that the foundation of strong civil societies is indispensable for making societies in Africa more stable. Through my study on community based organizations (CBOs) in Ethiopia, I try to understand their activities as people’s projects to form and maintain public spaces premised on their own historical experiences. The experience of the Gurage Road Construction Organization (GRCO), which has been active since 1962, is the center of my study, and I analyze its relationship with iddir (funeral associations), the most pervasive form of CBOs in Ethiopia.

(3) The present research was conducted from September 3, 2004 to January 30, 2005 in Addis Ababa and the Southern Region in Ethiopia. I conducted detailed interviews with some founding members of the GRCO, discovering that they shared the aim of "modernizing" their villages against the oppression of the aristocracy that dominated the peoples of Southern Ethiopia in the 1960s, although the organization was founded on the pretext of apolitical development activities. In recent years, however, the organization has lost its cohesiveness, and clan-based subcommittees are conducting development activities in a quasi-independent manner. This may be because the local administration is trying to suppress their activities out of fear that the organization will act as a political enemy.
           I also conducted intensive interviews with some leaders of iddir in a poor quarter of Mercato (the biggest market area in Addis Ababa). I learned that the iddir have been strong enough to continue their activities for decades in spite of crises (such as the seizure of funds) that they occasionally face. In addition, iddir are often composed of individuals with various ethnic and religious backgrounds.

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