Ethiopia: Think tank deplores Ethiopia land grab deals – By Abebe Gellaw

December 1st, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Washington DC (ESAT News)–The founding Executive Director of the Oakland Institute (OI), an independent policy think tank based in California, USA, has condemned cheap land giveaway deals that have been displacing indigenous communities from their ancestral land. In an exclusive interview with the Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT), Anuradha Mittal has said that the deals are illegal and should be voided.

She says that the land giveaway deals in Ethiopia have been causing great misery to the indigenous people, who are not even being consulted when their fertile land is given away to foreign agribusinesses to produce food and cash crops for export.

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Mittal further pointed out that the land deals that has been destabilizing and detrimental to ordinary Ethiopians are illegal and should be voided. “These deals are illegal. The people’s voice has not been taken into consideration. These deals need to be voided,” she said.

“These leases are pretty atrocious. If you look at the price of land of this fertile land, which is close to water being given away for leases, which are 45, 50 or 90 years leases. There are no environmental, social impact assessments done,” she said. Mittal further noted that the Ethiopian government cares little about the impacts of these deals on powerless local communities that are being displaced as a result of the land giveaway. “You don’t find any kind of consultation process with the local communities because in Ethiopia land belongs to the government,” she noted. Lack of democracy and good governance is at the heart of such a situation, according to Mittal.

“We don’t find investment scheme that would result Ethiopia as a country, as an economic power, gaining any kind of advantages,” she said adding that the scheme appeared to allow “strategic investors” to rob Ethiopia’s rich resources and taking the benefit out of the country.

Earlier this year the Oakland Institute published special reports on seven countries severely affected by land grab. In its country report on Ethiopia, OI underlined that the land lease deals would aggravate food insecurity, have negative environmental impacts and devastate indigenous communities. According to the report, published earlier this year, over 3.6 million hectares of land has been transferred, largely to foreign agribusinesses.

Despite the fact that Meles Zenawi has been arguing that leasing away millions of hectares of “unutilized land” would ensure food security, OI’s chief says that the land grab rush has the opposite effect and can even sustain hunger and famine. “In the case of Ethiopia, you talk about a country where 13 million people are dependent on food aid. So you can imagine trucks full of aid coming to Ethiopia. On the other hand you have trucks full of cereals, cut flowers and agro fuels leaving the country. So it is just the juxtaposition of the two pictures that base the reality in Ethiopia.”

The OI chief emphasized that the commercial agribusinesses are not growing food for consumption within Ethiopia but for export. “This is food that is leaving Ethiopia. So has nothing to do in terms of food security”, she said.

“The kind of foreign investment in land that we are seeing in Ethiopia is basically a recipe for continued famine in Ethiopia. This is not going to lead to improved food security. This is not going to be supporting small holder farmers. It doesn’t provide a kind of incentives you need to grow and develop as a country,” she added.

Mittal further indicated that OI researchers who travelled to Ethiopia to investigate the impact of land giveaway discovered rampant violation of human rights and the indigenous people are denied their basic rights to raise their concerns. “Our researchers reported a lot of repression. They reported indigenous communities were hunted down like animals where they constantly asked if they support these plantations. They are supposed to say yes. If they would have said no beatings follow, rapes follow,” she said.

The OI director blamed the Ethiopian defense forces for enforcing the land giveaway deals. Mittal says that the defense force uses tanks to monitor “the areas where people are constantly being beaten or arrested if they voice their dissent.”

In Gambella, a region severely affected by land grab deals, the institute’s researchers found out that one of the Gambella National Park is being deforested and devastated by investors operating in the region including Karuturi and Saudi Star, which is owned by Sheik Mohammed Al Amoudi.

Another OI finding contained in its country report on Ethiopia and that has raised eye-brows is that up to 75 percent of land grab investors in Gambela affiliated with the TPLF. The OI country report on Ethiopia states: “It is widely perceived that Tigrayans receive beneficial treatment in relation to investment are given land freely and receive preferential access to credit. All but one of the domestic investors that we visited were from the Tigray region…One regional government official in Gambella estimated that 75 percent of the domestic investors in Gambella were from Tigray.” Mital said such a practice is a kind of colonialism.

Mittal argued that Ethiopia is a rich country with massive resources that can feed itself. She highlighted that people have to figure out how to remove the governance obstacle that is hindering the nation’s progress.

“History shows that if a country like Ethiopia continues to marginalize its own people, continues to ignore and show no respect to human rights, continues to practice schemes which will cause more food insecurity, we do know that there will be more hunger and poverty in Ethiopia. We do know from history that increased hunger and poverty leads to increased insecurity that leads to political instability,” the OI chief said.

Author of several books and reports, Mittal, is an internationally recognized expert on development, trade, human rights and agriculture issues. Recipient of several awards, she was named as the Most Valuable Thinker in 2008 by The Nation magazine.

  1. Agotu
  2. Asaminew
    | #2

    Ato Abebe Gelaw,
    Thank you for the report. Allow me to mention one thing if I may though. I am one of those concerned Ethiopian who follow on developments concerning my country and I have been following your reporting of late that depict an image so bleak that one cannot see anything positive happening in a country which otherwise has been lauded as one of the few countries on course to achieve the MDGs. Remember, I am not referring to government sources but independent UN agencies, a fact that even some non partisan bodies such as Human Rights Watches could not deny.
    What I see as a problem in your kind of reporting is that you always selectively report negative information about the government and as a result you lose your credibility as an impartial reporter worth reading rather than a propaganda tool worth ignoring. Otherwise I do not have any problem with what the think-tank had to say about the situation in Ethiopian agriculture. Actually, I agree with their assessment.

    Thank you.

  3. Gigi
    | #3

    Thanks to her honesty and bravery but does she know that Meles is some kind of Indian or Asian?????. Not to say
    No Indians should be living in Ethiopia. But to say people need to be fair and have respectful of one another. We all have short life on this planet, and this planet belongs to all of us. Why hurting each other? If the problem is names of
    Nations countries? May be their shouldn’t be any. For all we know we are all human beings and we wore given this world, it is clear that we need to live together and caring for each other.

    So I say long live man kind and death to colonizers and separatists of human beings. Believe in God our creator. We will live in harmony and we will reach GLORY in live with the lord GOD in his kingdom. He said that he will put a corner stone in Zion and thou shale not fall or destruct by it”

    Let us all respect each other and come to our senses that we all are human beings. And we need each other and we need to care for each other and that is the key to our survival in this world and their is nothing more beautiful and nice
    World than that. When we care about each other, other than that it is that same yak world and problematic and the deviles world not of Gods and human beings.

    Thanks dear Abebe for this Great article and interview.

    long live Ethiopia beyond it’s promenecence.

  4. Gigi
    | #4

    Correction

    Glory and live with the Lord God and in his kingdom. Here on earth and beyond.

  5. Dawi
    | #5

    “…Anuradha Mittal has said that the deals are illegal and should be voided….”

    She is saying ingenious communities in remote areas should remain tourist destination because there are 13 million who need food aid today in Ethiopia. It implies to me that she is suggesting the hungry folks should be the ones to do the farming in Gambela and develop Ethiopia?

    At the same time, 42 million receive food stamps in the US however and it will considered insane if anyone suggests for the food stamp recipients to develop United States and get her out of the great recession. Ms. Mittal is advising us to do exactly that. At this moment since we don’t have the money FDI is the way to go. I also consider the Saudi Star investment made by Al Amoudi as Ethiopian. Who is to say he is not Ethiopian origin?

    I think Ms. Mitta’s organization is in practice standing against the rights of people to education and better life?

    Dr. Tewolde Gebre Egziabher, Director General of Ethiopia Environmental authority says

    “..the reasons given in connection to environmental impacts of the mega projects in Ethiopia are unrealizable. It holds no water. He emphasized that all the necessary environmental assessments were done before the construction has begun…”

    “.. no mega projects has constructed in Ethiopia without environmental impact assessment. If there are organizations criticizing the assessment they put their boot in the wrong foot, which clearly implies the reasons given to distract mega development projects in Ethiopia by a few international organizations holds no water. If so it is vivid that there is something behind the curtain which they themselves know. That hidden destructive move gets no acceptance by all Ethiopians. Ethiopians, being hand in glove, have determined to work hard to realize sustainable development putting aside all the failed attempts based on groundless reasons…”

    As an Ethiopian I have no problem trusting Dr. Tewlde’s assessment on this issue.

  6. DRAMA
    | #6

    HERE IS THE DEAL. ALL THESE COMMENTS MIGHT MEAN ZILCH AT THE END UNLESS ETHIOPIANS GET TO THE SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM. ETHIOPIANS IN AMERICA SHOULD START WORKING FOR THE REAL DEAL. WHERE IS THE ROI (RETURN OF INVESTMENT) FROM THE LAND GRABS GO?????? THOSE ARE THE ENTITIES THE DIASPORA SHOULD ATTACK. DO YOU THINK THE LOCAL GAMBELLAN IS GOING TO FIGHT ALL THE MONEY POWER FOR INSTANCE KARATURI HAS??????????
    IF YOU GUYS GO AND RESEARCH ABOUT KARATURI, YOU WOULD FIND OUT THAT IT IS A COMPANY THAT WAS CREATED IN THE EARLY 2000′S. WHEN IT WAS CREATED, A BUNCH OF US COMPANIES CONSIDERED INVESTING IN THIS SO CALLED “INDIAN” EMERGING COMPANY. US AND OTHER WESTERN COUNTRIES ARE NOW DAYS INVESTING IN NEW AND EMERGING COMPANIES IN INDIA AND OTHER SO CALLED EMERGING COUNTRIES. REALLY? INDIA EMERGING FROM THE DARK? IS INDIA A TOOL??? THE ANSWER IS YES, BUT THEY STILL GET BENEFIT OUT OF IT. MAKE INDIA A FAKD WORLD POWER AND INVEST IN IT. MY FRIENDS IT IS ALL FAKE AND MADE UP. INDIA A WORLD POWER????? OUT OF THE DUNGEONS???? ALL OF A SUDDEN????? GIVE ME A BREAK! DON’T EXCLUDE THE WEST FROM THE GAMBELLAN AND OTHER REAL DEALS, BECAUSE THEY ARE IN IT.

    HEDGE FUNDS THEY CALL THEM; THEY ARE THE INDIRECT SHORT CUTS WESTERN INVESTORS TAKE TO GET THEIR CUT OUT OF AFRICA’S LUCRATIVE RESOURES AND CHEAP LABOR. REMEMBER? THE WEST ALWAYS WANT TO LOOK LIKE THEY ARE FREE FROM THE EXPLOITAION, “KEDEMU NITSUH NEN”. RIGHT. WE ETHIOPIANS SHOULD START LOOKING INTO WHAT WESTEN PRIVATE EQUITY FIRMS AND OTHER INVESTMENT FIRMS ARE DOING IN RELATION TO INDIA, CHINA, AND OTHER COUNTRIES TO UNDERSTAND THE REAL PROBLEM AND TACKLE THE GIVEAWAY OF OUR GAMBELLAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS RESOURCES TO THESE PIGS. FOLLOW THE MONEY AND YOU WILL KNOW WHO TO FIGHT.

  7. HELELE HANBABE
    | #7

    @DAWI: YOU SEEM TO BE IGNORANT OF WHAT TRANS AGRICULTURAL CORPORATIONS HAVE DONE TO PEOPLES IN GUATEMALA (WHERE UNITED FRUIT COMPANY OWNS 40% LAND OF THE COUNTRY THAT WAS FACILITATED BY SUCCESSIVE MILITARY DICTATORS); IN THE PHILIPPINES (BY GENERAL FERDINAND MARCOS), IN URUGUAY,PARAGUAY, SERA LEON AND MANY WEST AFRICAN COUNTRIES, INDONESIA, BRAZIL AND MANY OTHER COUNTRIES RULED BY MILITARY DICTATORS. THESE RUTHLESS CORPORATIONS GRABBED FERTILE LANDS BY WAY OF CORRUPTION IN THE NAME OF BRINGING FOOD SECURITY AND DEVELOPMENT, BUT PAID HUGE SUMS OF MONEY THROUGH FOREIGN BANKS TO THE RUTHLESS DICTATORS. THE CORPORATIONS HAVE BEEN WELL IDENTIFIED AND ALSO REPORTED. ETHIOPIA RECENTLY JOINED THESE MAFIA CLUBS BY WAY OF DICTATOR MELES ZENAWI. THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND (IMF) IS ALSO PRAISING SUCH LAND GRABS AS A GATEWAY TO “SUSTAINED DEVELOPMENT.” PLEASE, GOOGLE BRAZIL’S IMF DEBT REPAYMENT AND ALSO ITS HOSTILITY AGAINST IMF AS THE RESULT OF THE CHRONIC POVERTY LEFT BY SUCH MAFIA STYLE BUSINESS. WADI, PLEASE, WAKE UP AND EDUCATE YOURSELF WITH REALITY.

  8. Dawi
    | #8

    HELELE,

    By writing in CAPS it seems you’re yelling at everyone. May be you are yelling at me. In that case it is ok. :-)

    On Dictatorship:

    As far as Dictatorships, not all are created equal. The one that follow not the “money” all the time but, Developmental State theory of the Chinese/Korea type shall fair better IMO.

    Compare China & the Soviets. Both faced crises as they reform old communist system. They were similar up to Perestroika to break from their old systems. Soviets engaged in political liberalization and little changes in the poverty reduction side. China went big in economic liberty but no political rights. Soviets stagnated and disintegrated and China did much better.

    On land grab:

    If you’re reading what is going on in Land ownership lately in Addis Ababa? As all land is owned by the state folks in practice only own what ever they built on it, for what ever years they leased the land for. When the contract is up the government may ask you to move and that is the end of the story. Living in capitalist west, it is hard to digest such policy; it is for me but since it eliminates the “selling of ancestral land” I kind of like it because the future children of the poor & rich are equal when it comes to the land.

    The rich won’t own the land for eternity. I guess that is what Bill & Melinda foundation is trying to accomplish by giving away billions they accumulated including land asset of the rich. In Ethiopia at least you eliminate someone taking and giving back land to the natives. It is always theirs to use when they are ready and have the means.

    The question for you & others is now, if an Ethiopian citizen don’t own the land what makes you think Kartouri or the Saudi Star own land?

    Yes with FDI they leased the land. If the State wants the land they take it back no questions asked, is what the contract says. Read it.

    As far the Gambela Ethiopians Children of the future ? IMO, they are better off than the native Americans or Native South Africans. Their land is leased not sold for ever. They can take it back when they have the means and the education to run a modern farm. Unlike the US or South Africa, you won’t find them in Indian Reservation or Black townships for generations/eternity.

    .

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