Ethiopia forcing thousands off land: Human Rights Watch

2012-01-17 09:21

Ethiopia has forced thousands of villagers from their land to make way for commercial farming developments, leaving people impoverished and hungry.

At least 3.6 million hectares have been leased to foreign and state-owned firms since 2008, with state security using force to drive people from off their land, Human Rights Watch has said.

“The Ethiopian government under its ‘villagisation’ programme is forcibly relocating approximately 70 000 indigenous people from the western Gambella region,” the report by the New York-based group read.

However, the new villages people are sent to “lack adequate food, farmland, healthcare, and educational facilities,” it added.

“State security forces have repeatedly threatened, assaulted, and arbitrarily arrested villagers who resist the transfers,” the report added, titled Ethiopia: Forced Relocations Bring Hunger, Hardship.

Ethiopia plans to lease a further 2.1 million hectares, the report added.

“Mass displacement to make way for commercial agriculture in the absence of a proper legal process contravenes Ethiopia’s constitution and violates the rights of indigenous peoples under international law,” Human Rights Watch said.

Ethiopia has previously rejected similar accusations, claiming that anyone displaced receives fair compensation, and says that movements are voluntary.

Driven by recent food, energy and climate crises, investors from richer nations have been acquiring rights to vast tracts of land in several African nations to meet demand for bio-fuels, crops and mining resources.

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