Corrupt Ethiopian Regime (TPLF) Makes Land Grabs for Ancestral Farmlands – Thousands Disenfranchised – EHSNA-PR

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.

 

The Ethiopian Heritage Society of North (EHSNA)