Ethiopia: Land grabs disenfranchize thousands – EHSNA PR

November 5th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Local communities are often unaware of land grabs until bulldozers arrive and begin clearing terrain. The Ethiopian Heritage Society is appalled at social and ecological consequences. (more…)

Local communities are often unaware of land grabs until bulldozers arrive and begin clearing terrain. The Ethiopian Heritage Society is appalled at social and ecological consequences.

Ancestral Heritage Falls to Spurious Economic Development

Pushing for what it says is as a way for needed economic development and the betterment of indigenous populations, the corrupt Ethiopian regime has put up vast hectares of ancestral or heritage farmlands and pastures for lease to the highest bidder.

The ruling party, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has used the nation’s socialist laws, that deem all property to be government-owned, as license to lease away heritage lands across the country to foreign corporations or investors from among Ethiopia’s political elite.

Ancient Legacies Ignored by Socialist Regime

The tribes people of Ethiopia have ancestral homelands in these vast swathes of territory dating back thousands of years and have no formal deeds to the property. The land legacies are preserved in generations of spoken history.

Since the use of these lands is cyclical, due to the unique ecological niche the ancient peoples have carved in their Ethiopian environment, the TPLF has deemed the lands as unused and therefore eligible for lease through the regime’s land bank.

The indigenous populations are rarely consulted and are usually unaware of any leases until the investors show up with their machinery and start reworking the landscape to suit their horticultural or pasturage needs.

Ethiopian Heritage Society of North America Slams Homeland Leases

Concerned as it is with safe-guarding the heritage, the dignity, and the fair compensation of indigenous peoples, the Ethiopian Heritage Society of North America is appalled at the social and ecological effects of the regime’s effort to lease tribal heritage lands and it condemns the continuation of the present policies by the regime’s land bank.

Entering its second year of operation, the mission of the Ethiopian Heritage Society of North America (EHSNA) is to promote and preserve the rich heritage and traditions of the Ethiopian culture and its progenitors. Through its efforts it hopes to establish a strong link between that heritage and the new generation of Ethiopians born and raised during the Ethiopian Diaspora.

Cheap Labor, Thousand of Hectares for Plantations

In the central Oromia region alone, Indian investors have leased over 100,000 hectares for oil seed production, 28,000 for sugarcane plantations, and 10,000 for tomato cultivation. A Chinese company is poised to sign a 25,000 hectare concession to produce sugarcane in the Gambella region of western Ethiopia. (One hectare is approximately 2.5 acres.)

Apparently the investors have also been told that they will have access to cheap and abundant labor as well as practically unlimited water resources. The prospect of further damming of the headwaters of the Nile has nations downriver grumbling. Many tribal elders see their young people becoming disenfranchised plantation workers laboring on their heritage lands with no profit-sharing and little benefit.

International Organizations Decry Land Transfers

The Oakland Institute recently released a study, “Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa, Country Report: Ethiopia.” The report explains how –

Commercial investment will increase rates of food insecurity in the vicinity of leased lands.
Large discrepancies exist between publicly stated positions, laws, policies and procedures and what is actually happening on the ground.
No limits on water use, no Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), and no environmental controls weakens the indigenous people.
Displacement from farmland is widespread, and the vast majority of locals receive no compensation.
There is no meaningful pre-project assessment, and little in the way of local benefits associated with these land investments.

EHSNA and Survival International, a British charity that campaigns for the rights of indigenous people, argue that communities’ rights are being trampled. Activists spoke of a widespread fear of reprisals for speaking out and predicted armed resistance to what they see as a government land grab.

A report this month from Survival also claimed that over 100 individuals from the Mursi and Bodi tribes were arrested for protesting a lease plan. “Africa Rising: Economic progress vs. cultural preservation in Ethiopia,” a news report in the Christian Science Monitor dated October 27, 2011, affirmed the above circumstances.

Leaders and Journalists Arrested in Mid-September

These reports of land grabs come on the heels of arrests made in mid-September by the TPLF government police of renowned Ethiopian journalist Enskinder Nega and Andulalem Andargie, the popular vice president of Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ). They were hauled off to the TPLF’s infamous Makelawi Prison.

Those arrests came in the wake of over 30arrests made earlier; among them were actor Debebe Eshetu and opposition party leader Bekele Gerba of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM). Leaders and members of the Oromo People’s Congress (OPC) were also rounded up. Both parties are legally registered with the current government.

The regime has recently charged journalists with acts of terrorism; among them: Reyot Alemu (columnist, Fiteh), Woubeshet Taye (Deputy Editor, Awramba Times), Elias Kifle (editor, US-based Ethiopian Review website), and Swedish journalists, Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye.

Ethiopian Heritage Society of North America Seeks Support

EHSNA demands release of all detainees without conditions or charges. It calls on Ethiopians and Ethiopian-Americans to appeal to the U.S. government, their elected representatives, and to the American people to end the land grabs and to lend their moral and financial support to those arrested and their families.

EHSNA, a 501(c)(3) organization, seeks to share the historical and cultural heritage of Ethiopia with citizens of North America and to contribute even more to the wide diversity that the North American nations already celebrate.

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