Ethiopia forcibly resettled 70 000 - claim

2012-01-17 21:18

kalahari.com

Addis Ababa - Ethiopia has forcibly moved tens of thousands of semi-nomadic people in the country's west to barren villages and threatened, assaulted and arrested those who resisted, an international rights group said in a report on Tuesday.

The Human Rights Watch report said that Ethiopia last year resettled about 70 000 people in its western Gambella region after the first of a three-year "villagisation" programme.

The rights group said it suspects people have been moved to lease out farmland to investors, and not just to lift them out of poverty.

It said that security forces "repeatedly threatened, assaulted, and arrested villagers" who resisted relocation. The watchdog also reported rape, killing of cattle and burning of houses among rights violations.

Instead of the promised improved life with "access to basic socio-economic infrastructures," locals found new villages that lacked food, farmland, schools and health clinics, the New York-based watchdog said.

Human Rights Watch said its report is based on 100 interviews in 2011 with residents in Gambella and in a refugee camp in Kenya. The report also relied on visits to 16 affected villages.

The organization called upon the Ethiopian government to suspend its programme until all promised facilities have been provided for.

Ethiopia's minister of federal affairs, Shiferaw Teklemariam, denounced the allegations in a letter to Human Rights Watch as "downright fabrications" of a "politically motivated" organisation. He wrote that Human Rights Watch "willfully ignores the fact that more than 50 000 people are utilising services from the newly built" villages.

Excess produce

He said the Gambella resettlement is a success and that "villagers for the first time in their history started to produce excess product -maize, sorghum, rice, potatoes, beans, vegetables, fruits, etc - beyond and above their family consumption."

Shiferaw said resettlement is voluntary. He denied any presence of military troops and claimed that interference of security forces was unnecessary because participants showed a "keen interest".

Ethiopia plans to relocate a total of 45 000 households in Gambella by 2013. According to the Oakland Institute, a US-based policy think tank, Ethiopia's government has earmarked 42% of Gambella's land for investment.

The Gambella resettlement plan is part of a larger scheme that aims to relocate a total of 1.5 million people in four regions. Ethiopia has earmarked a total of 3.5m ha for leasing nationwide and according to the country's ministry of agriculture website it rented out more than 350 000 hectares to 24 investors in the last two years.

Jan Egeland, Europe director of Human Rights Watch, said that resettlement takes place "in the exact same areas of Ethiopia that the government is leasing to foreign investors for large-scale commercial agricultural operations".

"This raises suspicions about the underlying motives of the programme," he said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch cited an official from the US government's aid arm - Usaid - as saying the US organisation had concerns about underlying motives of the resettlement scheme but wasn't successful in getting the government to respond to allegations of a link between relocation and investment.

Ethiopia is one of the top recipients of US aid.

Egeland said that it "seems that donor money is being used, at least indirectly, to fund the villagisation programme." He said donors should take the responsibility "to ensure that their assistance does not facilitate forced displacement and associated violations".

Internal conflicts

Usaid did an assessment of the Gambella resettlement programme in March 2011 and, while the report has not been made public, concluded that relocation was voluntary, Human Rights Watch said.

US Ambassador Donald E Booth and Usaid deputy country director Jason Fraser travelled to Gambella last week but were not immediately available for comment.

Gambella, in west-central Ethiopia, is a traditionally marginalised area of the country that suffers internal conflicts over resources like water and land between indigenous peoples like the pastoral Nuer and agrarian Anuak.

It also is affected by its border with South Sudan, as refugees pour across into Gambella when violence erupts in that newly independent nation.

Gambella also saw a large influx of Ethiopians who the former dictatorship forced to relocate after a devastating famine in the 1980s.

Human Rights Watch has accused Ethiopia's military of murder, rape and torture of scores of ethnic Anuak in Gambella in December 2003. The government conducted an investigation but largely absolved the military.

Ethiopia's Walta Information Centre has reported that most of the 1.8m ha leased Gambella land has gone to Indian companies.

A World Bank report last year on leasing agricultural land to foreign companies noted that some of Ethiopia's leases last up to 100 years and favour rich foreigners over poor Ethiopians, with large investors receiving land and water free of charge along with tax benefits, while local peasants have to pay land taxes and other fees.


- SAPA

Read more on:    hrw  |  ethiopia  |  east africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Fashion
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Monday Goodwood - 07:04 AM
    Road name: N7 Vanguard Drive Southbound
    DELAYS approaching Voortrekker Road
  • Monday Table View - 06:59 AM
    Road name: Marine Drive Southbound
    DELAYS between Blaauwberg Road and Sunset Beach
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2 TV Series for R250

Get 2 TV Series box sets for R250 and save up to R148! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Apple iPad 3 Black 64GB 9.7" Tablet With WiFi & 4G

Retina Display Finally the incredible Retina display technology from the iPhone...

From R7999.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is a strong emphasis on relationships. Obsession, emotional disputes, retaliation or competitive actions are highlighted....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.