World Bulletin / News Desk
Ethiopia, as known, is the most populous country of Africa after Nigeria. Ethiopia hosts eighty different ethnic identities, cultures, and traditions. There is one of these ethnic groups, which is specifically advanced in consultation and peacemaking activities. This ethnic group, known as Gumuz, live in the state of Benishangul Gumuz in Ethiopia. Of course, the living space of this group is not limited to this state; they also live in Fazogli district of Sudan. So, what is the difference between Gumuz people in Ethiopia and those in Sudan? While the ones in Sudan are Muslims, Gumuz people in Ethiopia maintain their local religions
Renowned for their unique peacemaking activity
The most fundamental feature that differentiates Gumuz people in Ethiopia from other ethnic groups is their own peacemaking activities. That is, when the family of the victim wants to reach an agreement with the criminal and his family, he demands firstly to establish a committee of 10 persons, composed of the elders and religious leaders of the Gumuz community. This committee consists of people whom two opposing groups want. The elders who are chosen from their own tribes are thought to have resolved the tension in a peaceful way. But in order for this peace process to take place, both sides of the committee must be convinced that they want peace. The persuasive 10-member consensus committee first selects the president, vice-president and other members.
Secondly, the mentioned people in charge of peacemaking process provide information about the amount of money that the offender has to pay to the victim. After the judgment is placed, the adjudiciation is explained to the parties. Space and time are set for this. If the offenders or the victims’ families violate the rules of this peacemaking activity, they are sentenced to pay 10,000 Birr (Ethiopian currency) to the government and up to 10 years imprisonment.
After the agreement, the two groups that arrive at the place where the peacemaking activity will take place (far from their villages) sit with the family members and their animals in a way that will not see each other behind a curtain. In addition, important materials and animals are brought to this area. They are used during the course of the negotiations in order to reduce tension. Among these important materials and animals there are knives, bullets, stones, thorns, goats and chickens.
The value of human life
To clarify the issue, if a criminal has killed one of the family members of the opposite party, the family of the murderer and the deceased person sends their greetings behind the curtain. This greeting is a sign of goodwill. Then the murderer confesses the guilt, begs forgiveness. The family of the victim declares that they have forgiven the crime of the murderer. Therewith, the peacemaking people use the tools nearby them as a means of threatening not to disrupt the oaths of the killer and the deceased's family and not to make the same mistake again. On the other hand, it also means that the peacemaking committee providing the compromise is successful.
In addition, after the goats are prepared for dinner, they become ready to have a meal. The peacemaking committee accompanies the family of the criminal and the victim to their home. Thanks to this peacemaking process, the family of the deceased person cancel the revenge plan they might put in action. Both parts (the criminal and the victim) are committed to provide economic and social assistance to each other. This, of course, serves as a model for the different tribes within the Gumuz community.
In fact, alternative solutions such as peacemaking for social and individual incidents not to be worse, alleviate the burden of contemporary Ethiopian courts. It also avoids what we call blood feud. It emphasizes the value of human life.
As a result, the compromising function of the Gumuz society, which has centuries-old tradition and culture, shows us the cultural values of this society, the value given to human life, the superiority of promise over anything, the deterrents of punishment, and the clues of the rules of covenants.
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