Land Grab or Land Robbery in Africa? Belayneh Abate
I usually feel discomfort when people refer the land robbery in Africa as “Land grab”. Land grab indicates the existence of formality or legality which is not the case in the large scale African land robbery. The online dictionary defines land grabbing as buying or leasing of large pieces of land in developing countries, by domestic and transnational companies, governments, and individuals.” This definition carries important terms such as buying, leasing and land which worth a closer look.
Unfortunately, many consider selling land as selling commodities such as a tractor, spoon, shoes and necklace. One may cite brutal and immoral economic policies and principles to defend the so called land grab. In my view, land should not be governed by similar principles or policies that govern other man -made commodities. The nature of land, especially African land which is considered as the origin of human, is like the nature of human body. In other words, the components of land are similar to the component of our body. As you may know, land is made of water, organic and inorganic material. The human body is also made of water (60-70%), proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. The later four constitute the organic and inorganic components of the human body. The proteins of our muscles and the calcium of our bones are coming from nowhere but from the land. The bible also clearly teaches that “you are dust, and you will return to dust.” In other words, whether you look at it from scientific or religious perspective land and humans are connected with life in a vicious circle.
The land of a certain territory is enriched by the blood and flesh of the indigenous people who inhabited it for centuries. The indigenous peoples’ blood could have spilled and their flesh decomposed naturally or when they defended their territory. The cold- blooded dictators do not worry about the content of the land when they rob and sell it cheap to greedy individuals who offer substantial amounts of bribes. These heinous criminal’s eyes do not blink when they sell their ancestors’ blood, and umbilical cord.
Selling and leasing requires the involvement of at least two parties: The seller and the buyer. As most of you know, the sellers are the greed African dictators who took power either through the barrel of gun (assisted by foreign powers) or phony elections. They sell the land via backdoor deal hiding from the very people who are highly connected to the land. This heralds that these land sellers are robbers as they snatch and sell the land forcefully without the inhabitants’ consent. The buyers or leasers are immoral and unethical business men who buy any profitable object from robbers. Any indifferent spectator of this transaction at the robbers’ market is also a human without conscience. African tyrants are acting like street robbers. Unbelievable! Because robbed material is cheap, they lease one hectare land for 99 cents for 99 years. That is one century! Look how African dictators are even more dangerous than street robbers! The street robbers snatch just whatever they find in front of them. On the other hand, the heartless African despots rob land not only from the current generation but also from the previous and the coming ones.
During the former colonial era, the European colonizers invaded Africa not just in search of slaves but to rob the Africa’s land. That time colonizers used the bible, guns and tanks as weapons. Now the new colonizers are using bribing dictators as effective tool to snatch Africa’s land cheap. This means Africa is developing new colonial wound before she fully recovers from her former colonial ulcer. The new colonial wound includes not only economical, environmental and social derangements from land robbery but also fatal health hazards including cancer from excess and improper use of fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals. (I may come back with the health hazards of land robbery later)
In summary land is not gold, diamond, oil, gas, coffee or any other commodity that comes out of the earth. Land is more than the sum of its constituents. Land is highly connected to humans. Land is where humans begin and end. Land binds the former, the existing and the coming generations together. Land is everlasting life. Therefore, the deal between shameless African dictators and immoral international billionaires is not land grab; it is life or land robbery. Let’s call it as such. Thank you.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org