A New Frontier: Ushering in Lasting Change in Oromia, Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa

July 26-28, 2019

Finfinnee/Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Introduction

We are thrilled to announce that the 33rd annual conference of the Oromo Studies Association (OSA) will be held in Oromia, Ethiopia on July 26-28, 2019.

With this historic step, OSA celebrates the success of the overwhelmingly peaceful protest movement of youth across the country that led to the current opening for reform.  The sustained grassroots initiative that brought this opening that the country now enjoys was led by Oromo qeerroo and qarree and joined by Amhara, Konso, Sidama, Gurage, Somali and many others.  Such solidarity and collective action brought unprecedented regional and global attention to nationwide demands to address grievances regarding land, rights in resources, increasing inequality, repression, loss of freedoms and obstacles to opportunity. With Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s assumption of the position of Prime Minister, Ethiopia has entered a fast-moving political, economic and social transition period marked by dramatic reforms and equally dramatic crises and challenges.

The OSA conference of 2019 in Finfinnee takes up the challenge of overcoming marginalization by providing an institutional platform for contributing knowledge, evidence-based research and policy recommendations derived from new sources, introducing new perspectives and including voices that have been historically sidelined. OSA warmly welcomes such perspectives and voices from across the country and the Horn of Africa to join this initiative in addressing the urgent questions of this transition period. The conference will also serve as a forum among scholars and experts for constructive debate about how to reimagine just and sustainable systems to build foundations for advancing peace, development and justice through public policy and law.

Call for Papers

In seeking to develop the overall theme, A New Frontier: Ushering in Lasting Change in Oromia, Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, the conference will focus on exploring data, ideas and evidence-based policy considerations for entering a new frontier that reimagines 1) governance, 2) the economy, 3) the environment, 4) institutional infrastructure and 5) the study and use of indigenous knowledge. The conference will therefore consist of five plenary sessions, which are outlined in detail below. OSA calls for papers from academics and experts located within Ethiopia, across the Horn of Africa and around the world from various renowned institutions who have the experience, expertise, knowledge and passion to address these topics.

Those interested in having scholarly, thoroughly-researched and solutions-based papers considered for inclusion at one of the five plenary sessions should submit their fully completed papers in English by May 20, 2019 to OSA2019conference@gmail.com. Papers submitted first will be given priority.  Anyone wishing to suggest the names of scholars to be contacted for invitation to participate is welcome to provide the name, the field and focus of scholarship and contact information. Presenters will also be drawn from scholars nominated by their universities within Ethiopia. We also cordially invite all interested academics, scholars, students, experts, journalists and leaders to attend as conference participants and to register for the conference at OSA’s website: www.oromostudies.org.

Plenary Sessions

1) Reimagining the State

This component examines multinational federalism. Ethiopia is officially identified as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.  What is required to fully exercise this historic commitment to multinational federalism? Papers are sought which address the prospects and foundations of an authentic multinational democratic federation, the challenges of peace, security and management of the armed forces, the various demands for regional autonomy and self-rule, the prospects of integrating indigenous institutions, practices and values into national, regional and local governance, and implications for inter-state relations across the Horn of Africa.

2) Creating a Youth-Empowering Economy

This plenary session will focus on addressing the overriding demands of youth for access to economic opportunity, strengthening innovation and entrepreneurship and exploring alternative, more local/regional development models in which the youth are empowered. Papers that address the challenges impacting youth will be given priority.

In light of the above, papers will also be considered that provide critical appraisal of past and current development policies and practices that have blocked the youth and other potentially productive sectors, particularly farming, the livelihood of over 80% of producers in Ethiopia. These papers could address the mechanisms of economic inequality, offering critiques on a range of existing issues such as liberalization and privatization, current investment and trade reform, corporate social responsibility, current infrastructural development and investment models.

3) New Approaches to Sustainable and Just Development

This component examines the intersectionality of the environment, development and scarcity. Papers are sought that provide evidence-based research and policy recommendations addressing climate change, vegetation and biodiversity loss, natural resources degradation, food insecurity, water-related challenges andassociated humanitarian and development crises.

Papers are also welcome that focus on sustainable and integrated development policies; that tackle unemployment; that examine rights, mechanisms of authority and tenure over land and other resources; that explain indigenous epistemologies of development and agro-ecology; that investigate mechanisms of dispossession and the prospects for repatriation of farmers and pastoralists; that address employment and business opportunities for former detainees; that analyze alternative forms of rural development and rural institutions as well as urban development and urban institutions; above all, that address the urgent challenge of promoting environmental justice.

4) Designing Inclusive Institutional Infrastructure

This component focuses on the building and strengthening of vibrant and inclusive institutional life within a multinational federal system. Papers are sought that supply knowledge-based policy solutions for democratic institution building, civil society development, education extension and reform, health sector reform, accountability and repatriation regarding displaced/dispossessed/detained and tortured peoples, women’s leadership and empowerment, and gender equality. Papers on the legal reform required to support such developments and reforms are also welcome.

5) Revitalizing Indigenous Systems

This plenary session will focus on exploring cultural and epistemological inclusion in systems and institutions across the country.  In the Oromo case, sacred knowledge within such administrative traditions as gadaa and siqqee, and such resource management concepts and practices as abba biyyummaa provides a wealth of insight into wisdom that has been excluded from governance, legal and economic systems. We welcome papers that explore the following question: How do we incorporate and exercise the principles and values embedded within such indigenous traditions – and the many comparable traditions to be brought forth in the cases of Sidama, Konso, Gedeo, Somali, Anuak and others, into policies and institutions to be supported by formal legal systems?

Conclusion

OSA represents the collective experience of a generation of intellectuals and specialists who have provided over 30 years of scholarship.  Scholars of OSA contend that solutions found in Oromia and Ethiopia apply across Africa, especially for providing opportunities for a burgeoning generation of youth who demand change, for creating new forms of inclusive and sustainable development, for constructing viable civic institutions that support democracy and for grounding security in strong mechanisms of collaborative peace-building. In line with its objective of producing a foundation for good policy solutions, OSA plans to collect and share the results of ground-breaking research introduced at the annual conference with interested institutions, governments, organizations and stakeholders.

We acknowledge that the youth, the qeerroo and qarree who, together with their counterparts throughout the country, held onto a vision of democracy, justice and equality and made the ultimate sacrifice that has brought us into this new era of reform and transformation. We commit OSA to addressing this opportunity created by the youth and to carrying forward this project of producing and sharing our collective knowledge to reimagine and ultimately contribute to transforming Oromia, Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

Kulani Jalata, JD

President, Oromo Studies Association

 

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