Land reform was perhaps the single most galvanizing issue of the Ethiopian Revolution. The changes effected in this regard led to the collapse of a social and political order that had prevailed for centuries. The Ethiopian Revolution broke the chains of serfdom and freed the peasants from feudal bondage. Although the archaic and exploitative land tenure system was brought to an end, the revolutionary slogan “land to the tiller” was not realized. The Land Reform Proclamation of 1975, which abolished the landlord-tenant relationship, at the same time instituted a new form of land tenure. It made the state the new landlord over all rural land in the country. The enshrinement of the state as the landlord over all of the rural land empowered it to intervene at will in the economic and political lives of people. This article aims to revisit the revolution’s land reform program and assess some of its legacies. The author’s perspective has been informed by his active involvement in the now largely forgotten Chilalo Agricultural Development Unit (CADU) project of the 1970s and his efforts to advance land reform legislation just before and after the 1974 revolution.

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