Ethnic-Based Conflicts in Ethiopia’s Higher Education: The Case of Debre Berhan University

By Zekarias B. Abebe


This study intends to explore the conflict dynamics in Ethiopia’s higher education with specific reference to Debre Berhan University. It sheds light on the triggers and some of the structural problems that engender ethnic-based conflicts in a university set-up. As part of the university community for more than seven years, I have first-hand account of the conflicts among the university students. Thus, my personal observation largely informs the analysis in this study. Besides this, primary data have been collected from key informants such as members of the University’s Student Union. Discussion has been also made with members of the academic staff at the College of Law to get their reflection on the nature and causes of student conflicts. Insights are also gathered from the available handful literatures on the area. In this regard, the study has benefited a great deal from Abebaw Adamu’s article on ‘causes of ethnic tensions and conflicts on campus among university students in Ethiopia’ and Arega & Mulugeta’s writing on ‘interpersonal conflicts and styles of managing conflicts among students at Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia’.

The study proceeds in five parts including this introduction. The second part gives a background information about Debre Berhan University. The third part navigates the conflict dynamics in Debre Berhan University, while the fourth part delves into the analysis of some of the structural problems and enabling factors associated with ethnic-based conflicts. The last part chalks out the way forward by suggesting a very popular approach described as ‘sustained Dialogue’.

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