Law and Social Conflict in Transitional Market Economies: Ethiopia, 2014–2018

Document Type


Publication Date



Since the end of the Cold War, the World Bank and other Western development agencies have prescribed restructuring land rights in post-communist economies to promote land markets, with the goal of alleviating poverty and social conflicts. But restructuring land rights in such settings is more difficult than it may seem. Ethiopia’s efforts in this area have produced disparate laws that have exacerbated both the intensity and the frequency of land conflicts. This article analyzes all land cases decided by the Council of Constitutional Inquiry (CCI) and the House of Federation (HoF), Ethiopia’s constitutional review bodies, from 1998 to 2018. It shows that from 1998 to 2014, the trial and appellate courts were favorably disposed toward the policies of international financial agencies, and that the CCI and the HoF acquiesced. However, starting in 2014, following a countrywide protest connected to land dispossession, the CCI and the HoF have reversed the lower courts’ judgements by invoking constitutional clauses declaring that land belongs to the Ethiopian nations and that it cannot be alienated. The country’s experience reveals the perils of restructuring land rights without paying close attention to distributive concerns and the needs of those who end up being excluded from property access.

Publication Title

International Journal of Constitutional Law

First Page


Last Page



This record does not contain full text. If available, click on the "DOI" link to see where the full text of the item is located. If you are a UB student, or faculty or staff member and unable to access the full text at the link, try searching for the item in Everything Search (https://search.lib.buffalo.edu/discovery/search?vid=01SUNY_BUF:everything). If not available, request via Delivery+ (https://library.buffalo.edu/delivery/).

This document is currently not available here.