Traditional conflict resolution mechanism in ancient Wolaita Featured

01 Jul 2018

Until the 17th century, a range of conflict management systems had been brought into play across the length and breadth of the country. They were in the habit of making use of various effective techniques with the purpose of burying the hatchet. Among the traditional conflict management systems in ancient Wolaita, the customary conflict management systems take the lion’s share. At that specific point, there were wide arrays of successful predicament solving techniques with no trouble.
To be quite honest, nobody knows when and how the customary conflict management systems embarked on Ethiopia yet. But according to different sources, the traditional conflict management systems in ancient Wolaita put into effect in various regimes. More often than not, whenever conflict in any issue arises between different parties elderly people get to the bottom of the problem in next to no time.
In the 12th century, the dominant conflict management system was customary one. A range of cases were entertained making use of customary laws as well as traditional administration in Ethiopia.
The people of Wolaita occupy part of southern regional state which is divided into different administrative districts. It is bordered in the South by Gamo Gofa, in the East by Sidama, in the Southwest by Dawuro and in the North by Hadiya, Kembatta and Tambaro.
The people of Wolaita resolve conflict through elderly people and structural conflict managing systems. In the past, a range of conflict management systems had been brought into play. However, most of the systems are not used to resolve conflicts at this point in time. In actual fact, the people of Wolaita avail themselves of the resolution of conflict involving the elderly.
The resolution of conflict involving the elderly
To this point, the people of Wolaita have been using the resolution of conflict involving the elderly over and over again. Whenever conflict arises, quite a lot of elderly people living in the area solve the problem without problems. In this fashion, the elderly people of the area fully get themselves engaged in solving conflicts time and again. Cases which are handled through the resolution of conflict involving the elderly include border conflict, setting fire to a house, committing adultery, not paying back a loan, false witness, stealing, insulting, committing murder and what have you.
Whenever the aforementioned crimes take place, they are entertained by the elderly people chosen by the community. The elderly people look into the case in various ways. After they investigate the case, they pass verdict anchored in the weight of the crime. To mention just a few, if somebody commits a murder, the elderly people make an effort to solve the problem in a little while for the most part before the situation go from the frying pan into the fire between two parties: the murderer’s family and the deceased family.
In the same way, whenever problem arises, the murderer’s family sends the elderly people to the deceased one for finding the middle ground. They give their words to pay blood money and other related aspects. In the process of peacemaking, mothers who have reached menopause will be assigned on behalf of the deceased sisters with the intention of following the case. It means as of today let us stop seeking revenge. Moreover, a sheep and a cow which have reached menopause will be slaughtered by the head of a clan. Subsequently, the clan leader smears blood on both parties. But both parties are not allowed to dine the meat.
The major conflict resolution starts when the murderer’s family brought an ox and made to be slaughtered by the clan leader. After that, the meat is served for participants in the peacemaking process. Sooner or later, the elderly people make the two parties to dine together. In due course, the whole thing will be on the right track.
Blood money
Blood money is paid if the murderer’s and the deceased family are related by marriage and blood. But if the required amount of money is beyond the capacity of the murderer’s family, the murderer is made to beg passersby in different market places and pay the required amount of money. Otherwise, the case will last for many years unsolved leading to unnecessary sacrifice.
Verdicts for robbers
When thieves or pickpockets are caught red-handed over and over again, they will be dressed down by the elderly people. If they fail to do so, the criminals will be taken to the elderly people in next to no time. After the elderly people investigates the case once again, the thieves or pick pockets will be tied to a certain stem and made to stay for some days. This kind of penalty is commonly known as “Duteta”. The intended target of this type of penalty is making others to learn from their mistakes and not to get themselves involved in this kind of illegal acts.
False witness
If a false witness is testified against someone, the elderly people make the suspects to swear different life-threatening things pertaining to his life. How does it take place? First and foremost, the judge makes attendees to be seated. After that a spear will be left on the floor. This time, the eyes of the wrongdoer will be tied and made to step on the spear swearing in the following ways, “let God shorten my child’s life,” “let God make me a worthless person” and other life threatening things. But if the criminal steps on the spear swearing the aforementioned things, he will be freed in a little while. There was structural conflict management systems used by the community at this point in time. But they are not being brought into play at this point in time.
Structural conflict management systems
When a serious crime surfaces, structural conflict management system was brought into play within the shortest time possible. There are fifty-four people drawn from different clans and assigned for resolving a range of conflicts. Moreover, there are twelve king’s advisors getting themselves engaged in the structural conflict management systems. If a death penalty is imposed, the case will be directly taken to the king for approval. After the king has thoroughly investigated the case, he approves the death penalty without rubbing his eyes. Revealing war secret, conspiring on the king, committing a cruel act of killing, setting fire to a house, stealing, beating somebody seriously and so forth will result in capital punishment.
What are the stages of a death penalty case?
First and foremost, the selected fifty four elderly people deal with the case. But if the case is beyond their capacity, they take the case straight to the king’s advisors. If they believe in the death sentence, the king’s advisors take the case straight to the king. After the king has investigated the case, he approves the decision.
Execution takes place in the form of cutting off one’s head, burying somebody’s below the waist and letting a horse step on the criminal’s head, beating with a big stick, pinching with a chunky clippers and the like. How does the execution take place?
Cutting off one’s head
The case of a person committing a serious crime will be taken to the fifty-four committee members for investigation. If the crime is punishable by the death penalty, they take the case to the king. After that the king approves the capital punishment. The next step before execution will be making the decision public. In the fullness of time, the criminal’s neck is cut off. After the whole process is over, the family of the criminal takes the body of the dead to the king and asks for forgiveness. At the end of the day, the king gives them the go ahead to bury the body of the criminal.
Burying a criminal
The body of a criminal sentenced to death will be buried below the neck. After that, horses would be made to step on the neck of the criminal time after time. When the criminal departs this life, the cadaver will not be given to the family. He will be made to be buried right there. When adultery, theft and property damage, stealing, insults and other related aspects take place, different types of verdicts pass down by the elderly people.
Committing Adultery
Adultery is completely forbidden. It is not tolerated in the area. If somebody committees adultery, all and sundry gives him the cold shoulder. He will as well be disliked by the community. The man who commits adultery will be made to give one to three cows to the woman’s husband and a calf to the judges investigating the case.
Theft and property damage
Stealing somebody’s property is entirely forbidden. It is very unusual to steal property of the same clan as this would mean a crime against a ‘brother’. If somebody is caught stealing the property of somebody, the thief would be made to return the item taken. The thief as well will be ostracized by the entire community of the area. The person will be forced to pay a fine. A person found stealing would be stoned until a policeman come and through him into prison.
Throwing Insults
If friction arises between a husband and a wife, they will not take the case to the elderly people. Instead they get to the bottom of the problem on their own. If insults are thrown outside the clan, the elderly people solve the case on their own. In most cases, a clan plays a fundamental role in customary dispute resolution. The elderly people are respected and not questioned once they come to mutual agreement. They stand for an ancestral spirit. They bless the people at wedding or in other ceremonies.

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