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A Fire under Ashes: The Ongoing Struggle for Human Rights in Ethiopia July 1, 2017

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A Fire under Ashes: The Ongoing Struggle for Human Rights in Ethiopia

As massive protests swept across Ethiopia last year, the dire human rights situation in the country made headlines around the world. The Financial Times described it as Ethiopia’s “Tiananmen Square moment,” and then-US Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Tom Malinowski called the government’s crackdowns on dissent “self-defeating tactics.”

A poster of Olympic silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa at a protest in Oakland, California. Making the crossed arm gesture is now a criminal offense under Ethiopia’s state of emergency. Credit: Elizabeth Fraser
A poster of Olympic silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa at a protest in Oakland, California. Making the crossed arm gesture is now a criminal offense under Ethiopia’s state of emergency. Credit: Elizabeth Fraser.

The protests that brought this unprecedented attention to the country were rooted in land grabs. Starting in November 2015, Ethiopians took to the streets to oppose a “Master Plan” to expand the borders of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, which would have displaced Oromian farmers from their homes and land. The plan was eventually canceled, but the protests struck a nerve and became more widespread, calling for human rights and democracy in the country.

After failed attempts to quell the increasing dissent with force, the Ethiopian government imposed a country-wide state of emergency in October 2016. Since then, the news out of Ethiopia has waned, but problems remain.

The State of Emergency: A Veil to Hide Political Turmoil

In late July 2016, as protests spread from Oromia to the Amhara region, the country’s two largest ethnic groups – who together make up over 60 percent of the population – joined together. Despite being faced with violence from the security forces, citizens refused to back down and took to innovative means, like shaving their heads in solidarity with political prisoner Bekele Gerba and launching city-wide stay-at-home protests. In August, when Olympic silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa crossed his hands above his head in solidarity with the protests as he crossed the finish line at the Rio Olympics, the plight of his people was brought to the TV screens of millions around the world. And in October, the political situation in Ethiopia further unravelled as dozens if not hundreds were killed at an annual Irreechaa celebration in Oromia, when the police response to protests triggered a stampede.

To curb this mounting dissent, a state of emergency was imposed in October 2016, including a long list of draconian measures curtailing freedoms across the country. Security forces were given greater powers, social media and diaspora news outlets were banned, curfews and travel restrictions were imposed, and more. Over 26,000 people were arrested, most of whom were sent to “rehabilitation camps,” where detainees reportedly endured physical violence, degrading conditions, and were forced to take part in a training program to ensure allegiance to the ruling party.

In March 2017, while some of the restrictions were lifted, the state of emergency was extended for another four months.

The Need for an Independent Investigation

Hundreds, if not more, lost their lives to Ethiopia’s security forces during last year’s protests, causing international human rights experts and civil society organizations to call for an international investigation. The government has rejected these calls, claiming that the investigation should be led by national institutions.

An oral report from one internal investigation, provided by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in April 2017, concluded that nearly 670 people lost their lives in last year’s violence, over 600 of whom were civilians. The commission, however, went on to blame much of the violence on opposition groups, as well as diaspora-based media outlets such as the Oromo Media Network and the television station ESAT. Worse still, the commission deemed that the use of force by security officials in many instances was “proportionate.”

Several observers have challenged these findings and question the EHRC’s independence. The Commission is both funded and overseen by the parliament and is led by Dr. Addisu Gebregziabher, who took the appointment after finishing his term as deputy chairman of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia – the agency under which the current government won 100 percent of the seats in parliament in the last election.

A few weeks after the EHRC’s oral report was heard, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein traveled to Ethiopia where he met with numerous government officials, as well as political prisoners at the notorious Kilinto jail.

In a press conference, High Commissioner Zeid brought attention to several issues plaguing Ethiopia, including the need for more “substantive, stable and open democratic space.” Zeid also noted that laws such as the Anti-Terrorism and Charities of Societies Proclamations are not aligned with international legal norms. High Commissioner Zeid did not, however, corroborate the EHRC’s findings, as his delegation was not granted permission to travel to areas affected by recent protests. Calls for an international investigation thus remain.

“I am also concerned that an excessively broad definition of terrorism may be misused against journalists, bloggers, and members of opposition parties … if the fight against terrorism is misused as a pretext to attack perceived dissent, this only feeds grievance and will weaken the State.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, May 2017

Simmering Discontent

While the state of emergency may have taken Ethiopia out of the international spotlight, it has failed to address the issues that fueled protests.

Political dissent continues to be a criminal offense. For instance, in a “further blow to press freedom in the country,” the editor of the newspaper Negere Ethiopia, Getachew Shifteraw, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for “inciting subversion.” Yonatan Tesfaye – the former spokesperson for the opposition “Blue Party” – was found guilty of encouraging “terrorism” because of his Facebook posts and sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison. And indigenous land rights defender, Mr. Okello Akway Ochalla, is serving a nine-year sentence for speaking out about human rights abuses in his home region of Gambella.

Opposition party members likewise continue to be detained. Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) has been in jail since December 2015. The evidence used against Gerba includes a video in which he advocates for non-violent struggle. Merera Gudina, the chairman of the OFC, was arrested after returning from a trip to Brussels in November 2016, where he spoke to the European parliament about the current state of emergency.

The government’s second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II) continues to advocate for foreign investment in large-scale commercial farming operations, which raises concerns about further land grabbing, forced displacement, and loss of livelihoods.

Unsurprisingly, given these circumstances, many expect that protests will resume once the emergency measures are lifted, with one Oromo-based judge calling the situation a “fire under ashes.”

International Complacency

At the same time, the international community has been complacent about ongoing crisis in Ethiopia. Sure, after the state of emergency was enacted, visits by some foreign dignitaries took place, including calls for democracy and fundamental freedoms. And yes, the EU recently passed a resolution on the situation in the country. But Ethiopia continues to be celebrated for its economic growth and enjoys extensive financial backing from Western and non-Western donors alike. This includes billions of dollars in multilateral and bilateral funding, as well as significant foreign investments from countries like India and China.

While millions of Ethiopians continue to be denied basic human rights, this international support sends the message that the Ethiopian government can continue its crack down on democracy and people without consequences. International complacency towards the regime may well stem from concerns around maintaining stability in an unstable region. But this short-sighted approach ignores the fact that continued repression could lead to more loss of lives and a region spiralling out of control.

New African: A conspiracy in the wild June 14, 2017

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A conspiracy in the wild


For over 10 years, the Northern Rangelands Trust, a Kenya-based conservation initiative, has been acquiring land in the arid north of the country. Today, it controls almost 10% of Kenya’s land mass. Environmental journalist John Mbaria investigates.

In its dying days, the Obama Administration pumped massive amounts of money into supporting a powerful NGO accused of using below-the-radar tactics to control a huge amount of Kenyan land, thereby using conservation as a subtle tool for dispossessing tens of thousands of pastoralists, who have unwittingly participated in their own dispossession.

Much of the land, whose control is enforced by local well-armed militias, has recently been granted UN-protected status. And with financial backing from powerful Western donors, the Northern Rangelands Trust’s (NRT) activities are largely insulated from public scrutiny.

Unless the new Trump administration discontinues the US government’s support to wildlife conservation in Africa, the NRT is set to continue having a say over vast, mineral-rich lands in the north and coastal areas of Kenya.

Most of these lands have been identified, in official documents, as areas of immense potential capable of becoming the very basis of the country’s future economic progress. These areas are also crucial to the maintenance of the extensive livestock husbandry practised by millions of pastoralists in northern Kenya.

Today, the NRT effectively controls 44,000 km2 (or 10.8m acres) of land – that’s roughly eight per cent of Kenya’s 581,309 km2 landmass. Interestingly, the organisation appears to have acquired a decisive say over these lands by co-opting the local leadership. Consequently, NRT’s control of the lands in Kenya’s Upper Rift, North and Coastal areas is facilitated by local political and community leaders, some of whom are co-opted as members of the organisation’s Board.

This has been done through community wildlife conservation, a model in which landowners assert the right to manage and profit from wildlife on their lands.

Conservancies have proliferated across pastoralist, wildlife-rich areas in northern and southern Kenya. They are also an extremely attractive funding prospect for Western donors in the conservation sector.

All the cash is handed over, not directly to the landowners, who have constituted themselves into 33 community conservancies, but to the NRT, which acts like a middleman and which has taken up not just conservation, but other roles (including security arrangements) that are ordinarily performed by national governments.

Among the biggest financial supporters of NRT, the former Obama administration consistently extended tens of millions of dollars to the organisation through the United States Agency for International Development (USAid). As if to underscore how important the NRT’s work was to the Obama Administration, the organisation’s Chief Programs Officer, Tom Lalampaa, and its founder, Ian Craig, were among the people given the privilege of making short presentations about their work when the former US president visited Kenya last July.

America’s latest support to the organisation was announced in a press statement released by the US Embassy in Nairobi in late November 2016. In the communiqué, the US Ambassador to Kenya, Robert F. Godec, said
the US’s new 5-year, $20m support was meant “to help expand” the NRT’s operations in Coastal

He hailed NRT’s partnership with the communities, terming it “a shared vision of protecting ecosystems and promoting peace for a better future”. He added that the cash would be used to support the work of community rangers, to conserve wildlife and fisheries, improve livelihoods, and advance women’s enterprises.

For its part, NRT, through Craig (who signed off as the organisation’s Director of Conservation), said the cash would be used to fund the opening up of new conservancies and create a conservation trust fund.

The former Obama administration consistently extended tens of millions of dollars to the NRT through USAid.

Though the US government believes that the NRT shares “the visions of protecting ecosystems” with the communities in Upper Rift, the North and on the Coast, recent developments in Kenya have proved otherwise. Indeed, the US support comes at a time when some well-armed herders, from some of the same communities the NRT has helped to form community conservancies, have invaded sprawling private ranches in Laikipia and elsewhere, leading to human fatalities, the killing of wild animals and forcing the deployment of specialised security units from the Kenya police.

The work of NRT and the West’s support to conservation in some of Kenya’s arid-and-semi-arid lands has altered the human/ wildlife dynamics in some areas. This has also invited curious concern from conservation experts, who believe that the US and other countries in the West have been supporting a controversial organisation that has been usurping the role of Kenya’s human and wildlife security organs, as well as destroying the age-old ability of tens of thousands of herders to live off their land.

As New African found out in extensive visits and interviews with different people in the affected areas, the NRT-inspired community-conservation model is simple and can be quite attractive for anyone ignorant of its implications, especially for the lives and livelihoods of local people.

After co-opting the local leadership, the NRT appears to have crafted MOUs with the communities owning the vast tracts of land. In most cases, the communities’ land-ownership claims are based on the most rudimentary rights – an ancestral claim to the land.

Community members are also reputed to retain significant respect for, and allow themselves to be guided by, local leadership which, in most cases, uses its standing in communities to advance, and persuade “lesser” members of communities to conform with the wishes of the NRT.

This is not so difficult as the organisation has come up with quite an attractive package for the  communities, including securing for them investors interested in developing lodges and other tourism facilities, once they agree to set aside some of their lands for exclusive use by wildlife and the investors.

NRT also promises bursaries for school children, employment for community members, a ready market for the livestock and the setting up of a grazing plan to prevent livestock deaths through drought in the drylands of Kenya.

“NRT’s approach is quite attractive to communities who have been neglected by successive governments in Kenya since the country attained independence from the British,” says Daniel Letoiye, a Samburu County resident who previously worked as a programme officer with NRT.

However, hidden in the fine print are consequences that are considered grave for the pastoralist groups in Northern Kenya. “Even when droughts occur, many of the pastoralist groups [who have signed up to the agreements] cannot access part of their lands that are now set aside for wildlife conservation and which constitute community conservancies,” says Michael Lalampaa, an official with the Higher Education Loans Board who hails from Samburu County.

Samburu comunity elders discuss their perspectives with the author in Samburu County

Lalampaa complains that the NRT compels communities to set aside the best portions of their lands for the exclusive use of wildlife and the tourist investors. Lalampaa says that the organisation usually identifies leaders and elites within relevant communities who aid in persuading the pastoralists to set aside big parcels of land for conservation purposes. “Once the agreements are put in place, it becomes impossible for the herders to access some areas with pastures in the conservancies … they are confronted by armed scouts who evict them.” He adds that it is “sad that at times, livestock ends up dying simply because the owners cannot graze the animals in what used to be their own lands.”

This has proven problematic especially since vast sections of the relevant rangelands have been depleted year-in, year-out by overgrazing and are inhabited by people who have become increasingly vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of livestock end up competing over the remaining patches of grasslands and dwindling water sources such as the Ewaso Nyiro River.

This happens, as copious reports show, in an area largely ignored by the Kenya government, inhabited by morans, have taken up cattle- rustling as a traditional pastime.

Claims have also been made that NRT’s activities have far-reaching implications on the entire country and therefore need to be handled with more than casual attention by Kenya’s allies across the world, the government as well as the people of Kenya.

“The sheer geographical, financial, cultural, and political scale of this intervention calls for a lot more thought than has been given to it thus far,” said Dr Mordecai Ogada, a conservation consultant based in Laikipia County.

Dr Ogada believes that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has “abdicated” from its responsibility to inspire the formation and sound management of conservation activities outside Kenya’s protected areas. But top officials at KWS – which has lately been experiencing financial difficulties – deny this, saying that they see no problem with the operations of the NRT.

However, KWS appears critical of recent moves by foreign governments to fund the NRT. “Conservation NGOs like NRT have recently benefited from funding from development partners, following the paradigm shift where development partners and other governments prefer to fund communities through NGOs rather than governments directly,” said Paul Gathitu, KWS spokesperson and head of corporate communications.

Attempts by New African to elicit comments from NRT met with no success. Nevertheless, on its website, the organisation – which calls itself a “movement” – announces that it has been raising funds to aid the formation and running of conservancies.

NRT also says that it supports the training of relevant communities and helps to “broker agreements between conservancies and investors”. It claims that it provides donors with “a degree of oversight” by participating directly in how community conservancies and incomes accrued are managed.  This was evident as New African toured eight conservancies in Isiolo, Marsabit, Samburu and Laikipia, where NRT has appointed its own managers who are in charge of the day-to-day running of the conservancies.

Besides the managers, there are the members of the Board and grazing committees who are, on paper, supposed to be making decisions that suit the needs of the true owners of the land.

However, there is evidence that main decisions are made by NRT and that the organisation has maintained little or no engagement with the owners of the land and local public institutions.

Besides the US, NRT’s activities are funded by a host of other private companies and bodies in the West. Some of the principal donors to NRT include the Danish Development Agency (DANIDA); the Nature Conservancy (a US-based international NGO); and Agence Française de Développement (AFD) of France. NRT is also bankrolled by other donors who fund its long-term programmes – including Fauna & Flora International, Zoos South Australia, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ of Germany), US Fish and Wildlife Service, San Diego Zoo, International Elephant Foundation, Saint Louis Zoo, Running Wild and others. These latter donors have boosted what NRT terms a pooled conservation fund that has a lifespan of more than five years.

The Tullow Oil Company, that has been involved in oil prospecting in Turkana County, has funded NRT to the tune of $11.5m in a five-year project meant to aid the latter in establishing and operating new conservancies in Turkana and West Pokot counties.

Seventy per cent of the money was meant to go directly to community conservancies’ bank accounts for meeting operational costs (i.e. staff salaries, the purchase and running of vehicles, the acquisition of computers and other equipment), while 30% was to enable the formation and management of the conservancies.

The NRT has maintained little or no engagement with the owners of the land and local public institutions

But this did not go down well with the Turkana County government, which declared the relevant conservancies illegal, with the County Executive for Energy, Environment & Natural Resources ordering NRT to stop its operations there.

Later, the County Governor, Josphat Nanok, termed NRT’s move to establish conservancies in Turkana as “ill-advised with a hidden agenda”.

Dr Ogada believes that the millions of dollars in grants given by the US and other countries in the West have made NRT a “launch pad” for what he terms “a new conservation paradigm” in East Africa.

“NRT has championed this model of conservation very actively for the last decade [resulting] in a situation where challenges or mistakes aren’t spoken about by donors or implementers because of the sheer scale of professional and financial investment in an institution [which like all others] does have inherent weaknesses,” he added.

The NRT’s security function is considered one of the most controversial aspects of the community conservancy movement in Kenya. Usually, maintenance of security within countries is a preserve of governments. But on its website, the organisation says that it inspires community conservancies to “tackle insecurity holistically”.

This includes conducting anti-poaching operations, wildlife monitoring and providing what it terms “invaluable [support] to the Kenya Police in helping to tackle cattle rustling and road banditry”.

The organisation says that by 2014, it had facilitated the training of 645 rangers who operate in the conservancies while Dickson ole Kaelo, the chief executive of the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association, reported that over 2,300 community rangers have been trained so far.

Normally, the organisation selects community members and takes them for training by the KWS’s personnel at the wildlife agency’s Manyani Training School, close to Kenya’s biggest national park, Tsavo.

Here, the rangers are taught “bush craft skills, as well as how to effectively gather and share intelligence, monitor wildlife and manage combat situations”. The involvement of KWS in the training of the community rangers was confirmed, but downplayed, by Michael Kipkeu, KWS’s Senior Assistant Director in charge of the Community Wildlife Service. “The KWS law enforcement academy provides tailor-made community scouts’ training.”

After being trained by KWS, the rangers are given more advanced training than what is posted on the NRT’s website. For instance, according to the Save the Rhino NGO, the rangers are given Kenya Police Reserve accreditation and “sufficient weapons handling training”.

Such advanced training involves tactical movement with weapons, ambush and anti-ambush drills, handling and effective usage of night-vision and thermal-imaging equipment, and ground-to-air communications and coordination.

There are also suspicions that the bigger scheme is to ensure that Kenya unwittingly “forfeits” some of the lands under the NRT by getting them declared by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

The scheme to have UNESCO declare some of the biggest private game ranches and wildlife conservancies in Laikipia, Samburu, and islands in the Coast as World Heritage Sites is now being pursued in earnest.

“Legally, the move may not amount to much but knowing how lobbying is done, if the government were to [seek to] change ownership, listings would be put up to demonstrate how special these ranches are and why they should remain with the present landowners,” said Njenga Kahiro, a former Programme Officer with Laikipia Wildlife Forum. The aim, Kahiro avers, is “to create a super-big protected area … all of it [covered by] the World Heritage Convention.”   NA


Gendered Impacts of Large-scale Land Acquisitions in States of Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz May 26, 2017

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Gendered Impacts of Large-scale Land Acquisitions in Western Ethiopia

Author: Forests and Livelihoods: Assessment, Research and Engagement (FLARE)

Date: May 24, 2017

This study presents the results of a comparative assessment of the effects of four cases of land transactions in western Ethiopia in the states of Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz. The study contributes to the larger body of research on large-scale land transactions. It does so through a particular focus on how these transactions are affecting women and women’s livelihoods in comparison to those of men.

  • Key Findings
  • Related Analyses

The study identifies four consistent outcomes across the studied cases:

(1) They reduced available land and parcel sizes for agricultural households;

(2) They reduced available grazing area, livestock holdings, milk consumption/sale, and availability of other livestock products;

(3) They prompted out-migration and increased labor requirements from women who came to manage both their normal domestic chores but also had to take address new tasks outside the home;

(4) Finally, they reduced available forest area and forest products such as firewood and non-timber goods, again increasing the labor burden of women. Preliminary evidence of changes in nutrition and diets point to an important avenue for future research.

Gendered impacts of large-scale land acquisitions in States Oromia and Benishangule -Gumuz

– See more at: http://rightsandresources.org/en/publication/gendered-impacts-large-scale-land-acquisitions-western-ethiopia/#.WSiVbVTytdg

Oakland Institute: World Bank Fuels Land Grabs in Africa Through Shadowy Financial Sector Investments May 4, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Ethiopia's Colonizing Structure and the Development Problems of People of Oromia, Afar, Ogaden, Sidama, Southern Ethiopia and the Omo Valley, Land and Water Grabs in Oromia, Land Grabs in Africa, Land Grabs in Oromia.
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“Tens of millions of hectares of land on the African continent have been grabbed by foreign investors in recent years. This has led to loss of life, land, and livelihoods for millions, and threatened the very survival of entire communities and indigenous groups,” commented Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “The World Bank must acknowledge that this is not development. It is not poverty reduction. These are investments for corporate profits that exploit and displace people.”

In Africa, the investigation uncovered 11 projects backed by IFC clients that have transferred approximately 700,000 hectares of land to foreign investors. The projects include agribusiness concessions in the Gambela region of Ethiopia that were cleared of their indigenous inhabitants during a massive forcible population transfer campaign in the area; oil palm plantations in Gabon that have destroyed 19,000 hectares of rainforest and infringed on the customary land rights of local communities; and a gold mine in Guinea that led to the violent forced eviction of 380 families.  

“These projects are antithetical to the World Bank’s mission of fighting poverty through sustainable development,” said David Pred, Managing Director of Inclusive Development International.

World Bank Fuels Land Grabs in Africa Through Shadowy Financial Sector Investments

May 1, 2017

World Bank fuels land grabs in Africa through shadowy financial sector investments

Oakland, CA—The World Bank Group has indirectly financed some of Africa’s most notorious land grabs, according to a report by a group of international development watchdogs. The World Bank’s private-sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), is enabling and profiting from these projects by outsourcing its development funds to the financial sector.

Unjust Enrichment: How the IFC Profits from Land Grabbing in AfricaThe report, Unjust Enrichment: How the IFC Profits from Land Grabbing in Africa, was released today by Inclusive Development International, Bank Information Center, Accountability Counsel, Urgewald and the Oakland Institute.

“Pouring money into commercial banks that are driven only by profit motivations is not the way to foster sustainable development,” said Marc Ona Essangui, Executive Director of Brainforest and winner of the Goldman environmental prize in 2009. “In Gabon, this development model has instead enabled a massive expansion of industrial palm oil, which threatens our food security and the ecological balance of Congo Basin’s ancient rainforests.”

“Tens of millions of hectares of land on the African continent have been grabbed by foreign investors in recent years. This has led to loss of life, land, and livelihoods for millions, and threatened the very survival of entire communities and indigenous groups,” commented Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “The World Bank must acknowledge that this is not development. It is not poverty reduction. These are investments for corporate profits that exploit and displace people.”

The report is based on a yearlong investigation conducted by Inclusive Development International, which found that IFC-supported commercial banks and private equity funds have financed projects across the world that have forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of people and caused widespread deforestation and environmental damage. In Africa, the investigation uncovered 11 projects backed by IFC clients that have transferred approximately 700,000 hectares of land to foreign investors.

The projects include agribusiness concessions in the Gambela region of Ethiopia that were cleared of their indigenous inhabitants during a massive forcible population transfer campaign in the area; oil palm plantations in Gabon that have destroyed 19,000 hectares of rainforest and infringed on the customary land rights of local communities; and a gold mine in Guinea that led to the violent forced eviction of 380 families.

“These projects are antithetical to the World Bank’s mission of fighting poverty through sustainable development,” said David Pred, Managing Director of Inclusive Development International. “They also make a mockery of the IFC’s social and environmental Performance Standards, which are supposed to be the rules of the road for the private sector activities that the IFC’s intermediaries support.”

The report is the fourth of the investigative series Outsourcing Development: Lifting the Veil on the World Bank’s Lending Through Financial Intermediaries, which follows the trail of IFC money and examines at how it impacts communities around the world.

Inclusive Development International’s yearlong investigation uncovered 134 harmful or risky projects financed by 29 IFC financial-sector clients. These projects are found in 28 countries and on every continent except Antarctica. A database of the findings can be found here.

In response to the concerns raised in the Outsourcing Development investigation and by the IFC’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, IFC Executive Vice President Philippe Le Houérou recently acknowledged the need for the World Bank Group member to re-examine its work with financial institutions. In a blog post from April 10, Le Houérou wrote that the IFC would make “some important additional improvements to the way we work,” by scaling back the IFC’s high-risk investments in financial institutions, increasing its oversight of financial intermediary clients and bringing more transparency to these investments, among other commitments.

The IFC has also exited investments in banks highlighted by the Outsourcing Development investigation, including ICICI and Kotak Mahindra in India and BDO Unibank in the Philippines.

“We welcome the IFC’s new commitments to encourage a more responsible banking system by increasing its oversight and capacity building of financial sector-clients moving forward,” said Pred. “However, rather than simply divest, we want to see the IFC work with its clients to redress the serious harms that communities have suffered as a result of the irresponsible investments that we have brought to light.”

“IFC’s collusion in land-grabbing in Africa is deeply shocking, so its pledge to reduce high risk lending to banks is welcome, said Kate Geary, Forest Campaign Manager for Bank Information Centre Europe. “But how can we be sure when there is no disclosure of where over 90 per cent of IFC’s money invested through third parties ends up? The IFC’s financial sector clients must come clean about projects they are financing so they can be held accountable to their commitments to invest responsibly.”

Financial-sector lending represents a dramatic shift in how the IFC does business. After decades of lending directly to companies and projects, the World Bank Group member now provides the bulk of its funds to for-profit financial institutions, which invest the money as they see fit, with little apparent oversight. Between 2011 and 2015, the IFC provided $40 billion to financial intermediaries such as commercial banks and private equity funds. Other development finance institutions have followed suit.

Unjust Enrichment: How the IFC Profits from Land Grabbing in Africa is available at:


The Outsourcing Development series is available at: http://www.inclusivedevelopment.net/outsourcing-development

A database of IFC Financial Intermediary sub-Investments with serious social, environmental and human rights risks and impacts is available at:


For more information, please contact:

David Pred, Managing Director of Inclusive Development International: +1 917-280-2705; david@inclusivedevelopment.net; Twitter: @preddavid

Kate Geary, Forest Campaign Manager at BIC Europe: +44 7393 189175; kgeary@bankinformationcenter.org

Moritz Schröder, Communications Director at Urgewald: +49 17664079965, moritz@urgewald.org

Kindra Mohr, Policy Director at Accountability Counsel: +1 202-742-5804, kindra@accountabilitycounsel.org, Twitter: @AccountCounsel

Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute: +1 510-469-5228; amittal@oaklandinstitute.org, Twitter: @MittalOak


Genocide Watch: Land Grabbing and Violations of Human Rights in Ethiopia May 2, 2017

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Land Grabbing in Ethiopia

Land Grabbing

Land Grabbing and Violations of Human Rights in Ethiopia

Malkamuu Jaatee, Anywaa Survival Organization

28 January 2016


Land grabbing is classically known as the seizing of land by a nation, state or organization, especially illegally or unfairly. It is recently redefined as a large scale acquisition of land through purchases or leases for commercial investment by foreign organizations (6). Both micro and macro scales of land grabbing can result in displacement of indigenous communities and disappearance of their identities over time, because land is not only a fixed asset essential to produce sufficient amount of crop and animal to secure supply of food, but it is the foundation of identities (language, culture, & history) of communities living on the land.

Changes to land use without consultation of traditional owners of the land – mainly by forceful displacement of indigenous peoples, can, in the long-term, result in the disappearance of human communities traditionally identified with that ancestral land. Both expansion of amorphous towns & cities, without meaningful integration of indigenous peoples and large-scale transfers of rural land to investors, are the major political strategies of the current government of Ethiopia under the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) or the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to achieve the target of the systematic eradication of rural communities living around cities and at vicinity of agro-industries, mainly in Oromia and Southern (Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella and Omo) regions. Conflicts arising from land grabbing have become very complex wars disturbing the daily lives of the oppressed peoples of Ethiopia, because the peoples are undemocratically represented by the regime.

Conflicts arising from land grabbing have become very complex wars disturbing the daily lives of the oppressed peoples of Ethiopia, because the peoples are undemocratically represented by the regime.

The allocation of farmland to investors has been going on in Ethiopia since at least 1995. The years between 2003 and 2007 were the boom years for cut-flower exportation to Europe. Demand for land by foreign investors began to increase sharply since 2006. More than one-third of the land allocated to investors in the ten years period was given out in 2008. Year 2008 was a mad rush of investors to get access to land with many applicants requesting large tracts measuring more than 10,000 hectares (21). About one million hectares of land was transferred to 500 foreign investors in the period between 2003 and 2009. The largest foreign holding is Karuturi Company of India, which has been given 0.3 million hectares of land in Gambella and 11,000 in Bako district of Oromia (21). In 2009 and 2010, about 0.5 million hectares was allocated to investors. The land transferred to investors between 2004 and 2008 was 1.2 million hectares (27).

The land transferred to large-scale investors, without including land already allocated, has been planned to increase from 0.5 million in 2011 to 2.8 million hectares in 2013, and to 3.3 million hectares in 2015 (15 & 16). Total land transferred to investors will measure about 38% of land currently utilized by smallholders (21). Therefore, at least 7 million hectares of agricultural land was transferred to investors between 1995 and 2016. In addition the long-term plan to expand Addis Ababa city administration at 200 kilometers radius was secretly designed by the regime until the hidden plan has made public in 2014.

The impact of land grabbing in Ethiopia is manifested through five interconnected factors that the regime has designed to sustain its military, political and economic powers in order to protect its brutal and savage governance system for the next quarter or half a century. Analytical evaluation of effect of current land grabbing policy indicates destabilization of livelihood assets of rural communities of Oromia and Southern Ethiopia through the following five factors: aggravation of poverty, increase of food insecurity, intensification of conflicts, degradation of ecosystem quality, and deterioration of human rights conditions (13). This review focuses on the human rights violation and its political implications.

1. Deterioration of conditions for basic human rights in Ethiopia

The TPLF regime is escalating its violations of human rights through the implementation of a very dangerous policy of land grabbing in Oromia and Southern Ethiopia. The regime has killed at least 180 innocent Oromo civilians in the last two months (mid November 2015 to mid January 2016), while the Oromo people peacefully protesting against the unfair land use policy. Thanks to the founders of media technologies, reports of human rights violations are daily circulated around the globe at high intensity and are known to the international communities. The regime is accustomed to kill unarmed civilians since it has illegally controlled the capital city of Oromia, Finfinne (Addis Ababa), on May 28, 1991. Between 1994 and 2010, OSG (the Oromo Support Group, a UK-based human rights organization) has reported 4185 instances of extrajudicial killings, and 944 disappearances of civilians suspected of supporting groups opposing the government, a majority of them from the Oromo people (19). The capacity of human rights organization to access data of extrajudicial killings and disappearances in Ethiopia is at most limited to 10% of data recorded by the OSG, because carrying out politically motivated extrajudicial killings in darkness is common in the security system of the regime. Therefore, the number of civilians murdered by the regime, between 1991 and 2016, can be above 56,000 (fifty six thousands) based on a conservative estimation of the recorded extrajudicial killings in Ethiopia.

The violations of civil rights during the process of land grabbing include both direct and systematic crimes against humanity. Human rights violations directly carried out by the regime include physical mistreatment like beating, raping, detaining, torturing and killing during the forced evictions of rural communities from their ancestral land. Survival’s director, Stephen Corry, said that, “The Ethiopian government and its foreign backers are bent on stealing tribal land and destroying livelihoods: they want to reduce self sufficient rural communities to a state of dependency, throw all who disagree into prison, and pretend this is something to do with progress and development” (24). Systematic violations of human rights mainly involve limitation of accessibility to basic human needs through the destruction of livelihood assets of the people. Outcomes of violations of the legitimate rights of indigenous people to access ancestral land are as follows: increase of population living in extreme poverty; reduction of subsistence crop and animal production; unsafe drinking water and shortage of food; poor health conditions; increase of internal displacements and refugees; financial disability to access basic needs; and reduction to the status of forced manual laborer.

The direct human rights violation practices of the regime in Oromia and Southern (Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella and Omo) regions of Ethiopia demonstrate atrocities of the land grabbers. For example, human rights violations in the lower Omo valley are characterized by arbitrary arrests and detentions, beatings and mistreatment, governing through fear and intimidation, and violations of economic, social and cultural rights (11). The government and its police force are cracking down, jailing and torturing indigenous people and raping women in the Omo region that the people do not oppose the land grabs and an interviewee said, “Now the people live in fear – they are afraid of the government” (23). In a report based on more than 100 interviewees in May and June 2011, a victim from Gambella said, “My father was beaten for refusing to go along [to the new village] with some other elders, he said, ‘I was born here – my children were born here – I am too old to move so I will stay,’ but he was beaten by the army with sticks and the butt of a gun, he had to be taken to hospital, and he died because of the beating” (10). About 200 Bodi, 28 Mursi and 20 Suri tribes men and women of Omo region are in jail, and the indigenous people now fear that the security forces may start killing people and they said, “The arrests are a show of force, to intimidate us not to oppose the land grabbing policy: ‘we lived here in peace, in the heart of our land, the place where all of our cattle were grazing during both the rainy and dry seasons; but now, in this place there is a plantation owned by a rich Malaysian company who trained 130 soldiers and armed them with 130 machine guns by the government: if our people oppose the land grabbers, the soldiers are ready to kill us” (22). Since mid November 2015, the regime put Oromia under a martial law. The Oromo people of all age (children, youth, and elderly) and all classes (schoolchildren, university students, peasants, teachers, medical staff, engineers and other civilians) are indiscriminately targeted by the brutal and savage governance of the regime. The special military (Agazi) and the federal police forces of the regime have wantonly killed hundreds of Oromo civilians since April 2014. The regime has declared war on the Oromo people in order to maintain its illegal occupation of Oromia.

The then head of the TPLF regime, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, rejected the critics of land grabbing as ill-informed and he said, “We want to develop our land to feed ourselves rather than admire the beauty of fallow fields while we starve.” Also the head of the government agency responsible for land leasing (Mr. Essayas Kebede) said, “Ethiopia benefits in many ways from land deals that we will receive dollars by exporting food; the farms provide jobs; they import know how; they will help us to boost productivity; and therefore, we will improve food security” (20). However, the institutionalization of corruptions will effectively limit the distribution of investment benefits to the poor people of Ethiopia. For example, between 2000 and 2009, Ethiopia lost US$11.7 billion to illicit financial outflows. The illicit money leaving the economy in 2009 was US$3.26 billion, double of the amount in 2007 and 2008, and greatly exceeds the US$ 2 billion value of total exports of Ethiopia in 2009 (8). Even though the peoples of Ethiopia try, by any means, to fight poverty, the possibility to defeat evil system is full of challenges. The global shadow financial system happily absorbs money that corrupt public officials, tax evaders and abusive multinational corporations siphon away from the peoples of Ethiopia (8). Therefore, the implementation of global land grabbing policies directly limit socio-economic development of the rural communities to access primary human needs – mainly sufficient food, pure & safe water, and adequate house, cloth, & medical services.

Human rights violations directly carried out by the regime include physical mistreatment like beating, raping, detaining, torturing and killing during the forced evictions of rural communities from their ancestral land.

The right to feed households and family is realized in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa with the right to access agricultural land to produce sufficient food through crop and animal productions. Failure of African governments to protect & guarantee sustainable use of land & water, to produce food by subsistence peasants, constitutes a violation of the right to food, because assuring long-term supply of food is part of their obligations in relation to the right to food. The right to adequate food exists when every individual, household or family has achieved physical & economic access to adequate food at all times or means for its procurement. Agricultural investment policy of the TPLF regime encourages export oriented crop production. For example, the Saudi Star produces rice in Ethiopia and export to the Middle East. Karuturi marketing & logistics make no secret of the fact that the investment is commercial that the company will sell its agricultural products to those who pay most (20). But, at least 80% peoples of Ethiopia are very poor to access food economically to buy it, if it is available. Agricultural companies mainly focus on production of commercial crops, because investment on agriculture in remote areas is profit oriented. Therefore, the investment on the production of local stable food crop is very marginal. For example, the investment of Indian agro-companies on food crop is less than 10% (25). The violation of land accessibility rights of rural communities has resulted in increase of starvation rate through dramatic reduction of subsistence crop or/and animal productions. Therefore, the land grabbing policy of the TPLF regime will increase food insecurity.

The right of rural communities to access agricultural land is the most important factor to achieve primary standard of living, because agriculture is the foundation of the livelihood assets of rural communities. Access to land is an essential element of the right to an adequate standard of living and the realization of the right to work (art. 11 and art. 6 ICESCR). Land grabbing leads to forced displacements and refugees. The right to adequate housing is the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity (3). The right to housing is directly linked to the right to be protected from forced evictions. For example, the forced displacement of 270,000 indigenous peoples from the western Gambella and Omo regions to new villages by the government of Ethiopia details the involuntary nature of the transfers, loss of livelihoods, deteriorating food situations, and ongoing abuses by the armed forces against the affected people: and that many of the areas from which people are being moved are leased by the government for commercial agricultural development (10 & 11). The violation of the rights to live somewhere in peace is defined as the permanent removals of individuals, families, and/or communities from their homes and/or lands that they occupy, on either a permanent or temporary basis, without offering them appropriate measures of protection (4). Rural communities of the Omo Valley of South Ethiopia are neither ‘backward’ nor in need ‘modernization,’ they are as much a part of the 21st century civilization as the multinationals that seek to appropriate their land; but forcing them to become manual laborers will certainly lead to a drastic reduction in quality of their lives, and condemn them to starvation and destitution like many of their fellow countrymen’ (23). Despite some instances of income improvement by export opportunities, the expansion of world agricultural trade has failed to translate into better living conditions for most of workers on farm in the developing world (12).

Governments and private investors assume rural community accessibility to the job market compensates for the loss of land and livelihoods. However, income derived from daily wages never replaces livelihood assets of rural community, which are constantly and directly derived from land use. For example, some peasants were employed as casual laborers (day laborers) by the coffee plantation following eviction from their land and they received about 1$ per day for a fixed amount of work that they have often completed in two days work (1). Large shares of commercial agriculture jobs are characterized with very poor working conditions mainly very low payment, low-skilled daily work, seasonal fluctuation, without health insurance, very high risk of accidental death without insurance, violence, harassment, and employment of underage children. A young boy is digging up weeds kneeling in the middle of a sugar cane field in blistering temperature of 40 C º, while an Indian worker stands over him to make sure he does not miss any and Red is eight years old and earns 73 pence for one day work, i.e. less than the cost of using pesticides (20). Children attending primary school are significantly decreased in areas of land grabbing. Deputy Head of a school (Tigaba Tekle), near the Karuturi farm said that only 5 out of 60 students are sometimes attending a class, because most of them are working at agricultural fields of Karuturi (20). Land commercialization will never establish sustainable and safe employment opportunities for rural peoples of Oromia & Southern regions, because colonial governance system never takes into consideration security and dignity of oppressed peoples. Therefore, unsustainable and unsafe employment conditions can not compensate loss of livelihoods of rural communities forcefully evicted from ancestral land.

2. Political function of land grabbing policy of the TPLF regime

Governance authorities of imperial, military, and TPLF regimes are highly centralized with absolute land ownership right to sustain rule of dictatorship through chains of colonial agents at regional, provincial, and local levels of Ethiopia. Gebar land tenure system in the South as well as the Rist tenure system of North Ethiopia during imperial regime shows some resemblance to the current land tenure system and with some reservations also it resembles that of the military regime, with the exceptions that the communal Rist system is replaced by the organs of state, i.e. the peasant associations. Land grabbing is the major source of military, political, and economic powers of successive regimes of Ethiopia. Government of Ethiopia (the TPLF regime) is owner of the land, but the rights of individuals and communities are ‘holding (use) rights’ (Proclamation No. 456/200550). Though ethnic equality is now legally recognized, in practice, emergent regions are still politically marginalized and permitted less autonomy, partly due to the federal development strategy, which requires central control of local land resources and changes in livelihoods (14).

Centralization of land governance politics of successive regime of Ethiopia is manifested through the following five levels of land use rights: owner-ship, management, sanction, full accessibility right, & limited accessibility right (Table-1). Land tenure politics of both imperial and military or TPLF regimes are generally sharing similar political goal, i.e. manipulation of land use rights to maintain monopoly of governance powers. The commercialization of land has served as a political advantage for the state, because it enhances greater concentration of authority in the hands of the governors. A woreda (district) or an urban administration shall have the power to expropriate rural or urban landholdings for public purpose where it believes that it should be used for a better development project to be carried out by public entities, private investors, cooperative societies or other organs, or where such expropriation is decided by the appropriate higher regional or federal government organ for the same purpose (Proclamation No. 455/200558).

Table 1: Two types of land use rights in Ethiopia since 1889
Table-1: Two types of land use rights in Ethiopia since 1889

The TPLF regime is intentionally violating the land accessibility right of rural communities of Oromia and Southern Ethiopia to achieve political goals of maintaining its brutal & savage governance system. The regime has already institutionalized practices of human right violations through manipulation of constitution. It formulated politically motivated proclamations to limit humanitarian activities of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) using charities proclamation and to crash political opponents through manipulation of anti-terrorism law in order to protect its monopolistic ownership of military, political, and economic powers (18). The regime is not hesitated to practice arbitrary arrest, long detention, or extrajudicial killings of tens of thousands, and torturing peoples suspected to be supporters of opposition political organizations to sustain fears in civil societies. The regime is systematically escalating the level of insecurity by aggravating poverty, expanding borders of food insecurity, manipulating conflicts, degrading safety of ecosystem, and escalation of violations of human rights in order to produce the poorest of poor peoples mainly in colonized regions of Ethiopia. Thus it is intended to use victims of poverty as political animal through manipulation of land use right. The regime easily regulates support of rural communities for the opposition political parties by threatening subsistence livelihoods of about 80% of 95 million people. The rural communities are directly controlled by the regime and they cannot freely vote opposition political parties during election, because they will be deprived of land use right if they do so.

The regime […] uses food aid as an instrument to achieve political objectives, and to protect its governance powers.

The very existence of governance powers of the regime is possible only with external aids. Foreign aid was essential for birth of the TPLF regime and it is also very essential for growth and expansion of the regime, as oxygen is essential for lung. During the 1974 – 1991 financial, material, & technical supports of the international donor communities were channeled through political NGOs organized by the TPLF to areas under its control to support both military and emergency programs (17). The aids were resulted in increase of peasant-based supports, legitimacy expansion among the civilian population, use of aid resources to support organizational structures, and quantitative capability in feeding the armies (26). Since 1991, the regime received very huge sum of financial aids. It received at least a sum of US $ 50 billion in development aid as of 2015. However, majority of peoples in Ethiopia remained in the most wretched poverty, despite decades of development aids. The regime is manipulating foreign military and development aids as instrument to suppress peaceful transfer of governance powers since 1991 through marginalization of legitimate opposition political parties or fronts. The government of Ethiopia used donor-supported programs, salaries, and training opportunities as political weapons to control the population, punish dissent, and undermine political opponents—both real and perceived, that the local officials deny these people (i.e. supporters of opposition parties) to access seeds and fertilizer, agricultural land, credit, food aid, and other resources for development (9). Policies of aggravating poverty through destruction of livelihoods of rural communities are systematically implemented by the regime to sustain political manipulation of aids, because either emergency or development aids are political instrument of the regime to enforce political support. Therefore, increasing level of poverty is tactical increase of enforcement of peoples electing the regime.

The regime is frequently manipulating food aid distribution to crash supporters of political opponents. It uses food aid as an instrument to achieve political objectives, and to protect its governance powers. Land grabbing policy of the regime is systematically intended to increase size of people dependent on food aids in order to secure political support using food aids. For example: “Despite being surrounded by other communities which are well fed, a village with a population of about 1700 adults is starving. We were told that in the two weeks prior to our team’s arrival 5 adults and 10 children had died. Lying on the floor, too exhausted to stand, and flanked by her three-year-old son whose stomach is bloated by malnutrition, one woman described how her family had not eaten for four days. Another three-year-old boy lay in his grandmother’s lap, listless and barely moving as he stared into space. The grandmother said, we are just waiting on the crop, if we have one meal a day we will survive until the harvest, beyond that there is no hope for us (2).” The affected families were supporters of opposition political party participated in 2010 election in Southern Ethiopia. The regime intentionally increases climate of insecurity and fear in society that for those depend on food aids they must support the ruling party in order to survive threat of systematic assassination. Therefore, political loyalty to the ruling party (the TPLF/EPRDF regime) governs the existence of rural communities of Ethiopia.

3. Conclusion

The review indicates the genocidal plan systematically designed by the TPLF regime using the unfair land use policy as a tool in Oromia and Southern Ethiopia to achieve the political goal of complete ownership of the land through silent eradication of the indigenous communities in the long-term. “Genocide Watch considers Ethiopia to have already reached Stage 7, genocidal massacres, against many of its peoples, including the Anuak, Ogadeni, Oromo, and Omo tribes” (7). The people of Oromia in particular, and all oppressed peoples of Ethiopia in general, are struggling to reverse this policy of systematic genocide waged on them by successive regimes of Ethiopia.

International and local human rights organizations have frequently produced reports of violations of constitutional rights of peoples of Ethiopia… However, the defenders of successive regimes of Ethiopia have not paid attention to any of the independent reports.

The effort of human rights organizations to defend victims of the evil policy of land grabbing in particular, and the politically motivated human rights violations in general, are full of challenges, because the transformation of the global business into unfair economic development is mostly to the advantage of the strongest. Both international and local human rights organizations have frequently produced reports of violations of constitutional rights of peoples of Ethiopia by the TPLF/EPRDF regime since early 1990. However, the international communities and defenders of successive regimes of Ethiopia have not been paid attention to any of the independent reports.

The United Nations in particular, and the international community in general, should actively engage in establishing independent commissions of justice both at regional and global levels to investigate negative effects of unfair land grabs that threaten the existence of indigenous human communities in order to enable victims of land grabbing to access fair justice. I would like to close with a song of King David. “God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgement among the `gods`: How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless, maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.” (Psalm 82: 1 – 5)

Article source: Finfinne Tribune

Women News Network: ETHIOPIA: Merciless land grab violence hits women who want peace April 13, 2017

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ETHIOPIA: Merciless land grab violence hits women who want peace

Ethnic Oromo students rally together as they demand the end of foreign land grabs marching with placards on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2014. Image: FlickrCC

(WNN FEATURES) ETHIOPIA, EAST AFRICA: She spoke to me with tears in her eyes describing the calculated execution of her own people.

Even though Atsede Kazachew feels relatively safe as an ethnic Amharic Ethiopian woman living inside the United States, she is grieving for all her fellow ethnic Ethiopians both Amharic and Oromo, who have been mercilessly killed inside her own country.

“There is no one in the United States who understands,” outlined Atsede. “Why? Why?” she asked as her shaking hands were brought close to her face to hide her eyes.

The Irreecha Holy Festival is a hallowed annual celebration for North East Africa’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo people. Bringing together what has been counted as up to two million people, who live near and far away from the city of Bishoftu, the Irreecha Festival is a annual gathering of spiritual, social and religious significance. It is also a time to appreciate life itself as well as a celebration for the upcoming harvest in the rural regions.

Tragically on Sunday October 2, 2016 the event ended in what Ethiopia’s government said was 55 deaths but what locals described as up to .

“The Ethiopian government is engaged in its bloodiest crackdown in a decade, but the scale of this crisis has barely registered internationally…,” outlined UK Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) David Mepham in a June 16, 2016 media release published by the International Business Times.

“For the past seven months, security forces have fired live ammunition into crowds and carried out summary executions…” added Mepham.

So what has the U.S. been doing about the present crisis situation in Ethiopia?

With a long relationship of diplomacy that spans over 100 years beginning in 1903, that builds up the U.S. to consider Ethiopia as an ‘anchor nation’ on the African continent, corrupt politics and long range U.S. investors in the region are an integral part of the problem. All of it works a head in the sand policies that pander to the status of the ‘’quid pro quo’.

Spurred on by what locals described as Ethiopia military members who disrupted the gathering by threatening those who came to attend the holiday event; the then makeshift military threw tear gas and gun shots into the crowd. The voices of many of those who were present described a “massive stampede” ending in numerous deaths.

“This has all been so hard for me to watch,” Atseda outlined as she described what she witnessed on a variety of videos that captured the ongoing government militarization and violence in the region. “And there’s been little to no coverage on this,” she added. “Western media has been ignoring the situation with way too little news stories.”

“Do you think this is also an attempt by the Ethiopian military to commit genocide against the ethnic Oromo people?” I asked.

“Yes,” she answered. The Amharic and the Oromo people have suffered so very much over many years, outlined Atsede. Much of it lately has been about government land grabs, on land that has belonged to the same families for generations, Atsede continued.

The details on the topic of apparent land grabs wasn’t something I knew very much about in the region, even though I’ve been covering international news and land grabs in Asia Pacific and China’s Tibetan Autonomous Region, along with the plight of global women and human rights cases, for over a decade.

One lone woman stands out surrounded by men during her march with Ethiopia’a Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a national self-determination organization that has worked to stop atrocity against rural ethnics inside Ethiopia beginning as far back as 1973. Today the Ethiopian government continues to classify the OLF as a terrorist organization. In this image the look on this unnamed woman’s face says “a-thousand-words.” Image: Jonathan Alpeyrie/Wikimedia Commons

In spite of destructive crackdowns by the government against rural farming communities, numerous ethnic women living inside Ethiopia today are attempting to work toward peace in both the northern and southern regions of the country.

Under conditions of internal national and border conflict, ethnic Ethiopian women can often face pronounced stress under forced relocation, personal contact with unwanted violence including domestic abuse and rape, and discriminatory conditions for their family and children. These deteriorating conditions can also cause destabilization under food insecurity with greater malnutrition.

Increasing land grabs also play an integral part in high levels of stress for women who normally want to live with their family in peace without struggle. But corruption in leadership levels inside Ethiopia are encouraging land acquisitions that ignores the needs of families who have lived on the same land for centuries.

As Ethiopia’s high level business interests continue to be strongly affected by insider deals, under both local and global politics, the way back to peace is becoming more complex and more difficult.

Even foreign government advocacy agencies like the World Bank, DFID, as well as members of the European Union, have suffered from ongoing accusations of political pandering and corrupt practices with large based business interests inside Ethiopia.

With the new release of the film ‘Dead Donkeys / Fear No Hyenas’, by Swedish film director Joakim Demmer, the global public eye is now beginning to open wide in understanding how land grab corruption works throughout the regions of East Africa. Outlining an excruciating story that took seven years to complete, the film is working to expand its audience with an April 2017 Kickstarter campaign.

“Dead Donkeys / Fear No Hyenas was triggered by a seemingly trivial scene at the airport in Addis Ababa, six years back. Waiting for my flight late at night, I happened to see some tired workers at the tarmac who were loading food products on an airplane destined for Europe. At the same time, another team was busy unloading sacks with food aid from a second plane. It took some time to realize the real meaning of it – that this famine struck country, where millions are dependent on food aid, is actually exporting food to the western world,” outlined film director Demmer.

It’s no wonder that anger has spread among Ethiopia’s ethnic farming region.

“The anger also came over the ignorance, cynicism and sometimes pure stupidity of international societies like the EU, DFID, World Bank etc., whose intentions might mostly be good, but in this case, ends up supporting a dictatorship and a disastrous development with our tax money, instead of helping the people…,” adds Demmer during his recent crowdfunding campaign.

“What I found was that lives were being destroyed,” said Demmer in a March 28, 2017 interview with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute. “I discovered that the World Bank and other development institutions, financed by tax money, were contributing to these developments in the region. I was ashamed, also ashamed that European and American companies were involved in this.”

“Yes. And yes again,” concurred Atsede in her discussion with me as we talked in person together about big money, vested interests and U.S. investors inside Ethiopia, including other interests coming from the UK, China, Canada, and more.

As regional farmers are pushed from generational land against their will, in what has been expressed as “long term and hard to understand foreign leasing agreements,” ongoing street protests have met numerous acts of severe and lethal violence from government sanctioned security officers.

Ironically some U.S. foreign oil investments in the region vamped up their purchasing with land deals as former U.S. State Department Deputy Secretary Antony Blinken showed approval of the Dijbouti-Ethiopia pipeline project during a press meeting in Ethiopia in February 2016.

As anger among the region’s ethnic population expands, Ethiopia leadership has opted to run its government with a four month April 2017 extension announced as a “State of Emergency” by President Mulatu Teshome Wirtu.

“How long can Ethiopia’s State of Emergency keep the lid on anger?” asks a recent headline in the Guardian News. Land rights, land grabs and the growing anger of the Oromo people is not predicted to stop anytime soon.

The ongoing situation could cost additional lives and heightened violence say numerous human rights and land rights experts.

“The government needs to rein in the security forces, free anyone being held wrongfully, and hold accountable soldiers and police who used excessive force,” outlined Human Rights Watch Deputy Regional Africa Director Leslie Lefko in a HRW report on the situation.

“How can you breathe if you aren’t able to say what you want to say,” echoed Atsede Kazachew. “Instead you get killed.”



For over a decade United Nations panelist and human rights journalist Lys Anzia has reported news covering the latest on-the-ground conditions for global women. Her written and editing work has appeared on numerous publications including Truthout, Women’s Media Center, CURRENT TV, ReliefWeb, UNESCO, World Bank Publications, Alternet, UN Women, Vital Voices, Huffington Post World, The Guardian News Development Network and Thomson Reuters Foundation Trustlaw, among others. Anzia is also founder of Women News Network (WNN). To see more about global women and news check out and follow @womenadvocates on Twitter.


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 Addis Abeba, Jan. 18/2017 – When Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn indicated last week that a draft law was prepared on the “special interest” of Oromia in Finfinnee (aka Addis Abeba), discussions have resurfaced on the issue of the status of the city and its relations with Oromia. Last week, I had the privilege of discussing the matter in a couple of radio interviews where, inter alia, I was asked what the content of the special interest is, what I anticipate the content of the draft law will be, and whether passing the law would address the concerns raised in the Oromo protests that has rocked the country for over two years now. What follows is a set of reflections on some of these issues.[1]

This announcement about the draft being prepared on the ‘special interest’ comes at a time when the country is under a state of emergency the end of which is indefinite even according to the Prime Minister.[2] The announcement comes at a time when, in the wake of the Oromo protests against the Master Plan, at least over 700 people are killed by the regime and thousands more are injured. In particular, it comes after key Oromo political leaders—such as Bekele Gerba and Dr Merera Gudina–and tens of thousands of protestors have been sent to jail and military detention centers, respectively, for demanding the right to ownership of their Oromo land including Addis Abeba. The announcement comes at a time when the Oromia and Amhara regions are chiefly being administered by the Command Post in charge of implementing the state of emergency law. The Master Plan, which was once said to be repealed, is reportedly being implemented within Addis Abeba. The boundary between the city and its Oromo suburbs that are still within the administrative jurisdiction of Oromia is not delimited. The repression of all forms of dissent continues. This immediate political context is not without a precedent. In fact, one can say that it is only the continuation of a long-drawn historical context.

Before the advent of Art 49(5)…

Historically, it is now a well-known fact that the notion of Oromia’s ‘Special Interest’ entered the Ethiopian legal universe in 1992 through the instrumentality of the Proclamation that established National/Regional Self Governments (Proclamation No. 7/ 1992). This is the proclamation that set the blue-print for what came later to be the constituent units of the Ethiopian Federation. Adopted to give effect to the decentralization that was envisaged in the Transitional Charter – and to valorize the right of ethno-national groups to self-determination – it established 14 self-governing national regions. Accordingly, Oromia became one of the 14 self-governing States. Addis Abeba, like the City of Harar, was also a region in its own right. Oromia’s ‘special interest’ over both cities was first recognized in this piece of legislation (1).In Article 3 (4), it is provided that:

“The special interest and political right of the Oromo over Region Thirteen [Harari] and Region Fourteen [Addis Abeba] are reserved. These Regions shall be accountable to the Central Transitional Government and the relations of these Self-Governments with the Central Transitional Government shall be prescribed in detail by a special law.”

Very much like the provision in Art 49 (5) of the Constitution that came later, it envisaged a ‘special law’ (meant to clarify the relation of accountability to the Central Government), but such a law was never promulgated. It is interesting to observe that, unlike in the constitution, in this transitional period law, the Oromo has not just a “special interest” but also a political right over the two self-government regions. It is also important to observe that there is no attempt to delimit the boundary of the city. As a result, it was not clear as to where exactly the jurisdiction of the government of Addis Abeba ends and that of Oromia commences.

While it looked like a city-state in a federation, Addis Abeba was also seen as a city within a larger state, i.e., Oromia. In other words, administratively, it was an enclave falling outside of Oromia while also housing the Government of Oromia as its capital. In a sense, Addis Abeba is in Oromia, but not of Oromia. Oromia was a State governing from Addis Abeba without, however, governing Addis Abeba itself. While the meaning of ‘special interest’ was understood to mean much more than having a seat for the Oromia government in the city, for the entire period of the transitional times, this remained to be the only ‘interest’ Oromia could obtain.

The concept of Oromia’s special interest was thus injected into the language of public law in the country accompanying the shift away from a formerly unitary state to what was subsequently to become a ‘multinational federation’. Acutely sensitive to the rights of sub-national groups (called ‘Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’) in Ethiopia, this ‘ethno-federalization’ was a reaction, and a push back, to the goings-on in history. We can thus see its immense historical import in its potency to speak both to the past and to the future. The ‘special’ in the ‘special interest’ phrase hails not only from the mere fact of geographic location of Addis Abeba in Oromia but also from the implicit recognition of the essentially Oromo identity of the city. Historians have routinely described the fact that, until it was violently raided and occupied by the forces of the Shoan Kingdom in the 19th century, the city was inhabited by the Oromo.

When it was ‘founded’ as the capital of the modern Ethiopian Empire in 1886, it was set as a launching pad for the campaigns of imperial conquest on the peoples of the Southern, South-Eastern, and South-Western peripheries. With a violent beginning marked by conquest and occupation of the land; raid, massacre, and displacement of the population; and transformation of the cultural and environmental terrain by the soldiers, it started as a garrison town. A cursory glance at writings by William Harris[3], Alexander Bulatovich[4], and even Evelyn Waugh[5], indicates that the State operated in Addis Abeba as an occupying force of settler colonialists bent on pushing out and displacing the indigenous Oromo peoples. Because the settlers generally spoke Amharic and confessed the Ethiopian Orthodox faith and because of the disproportionate concentration of modern urban facilities in Addis Abeba, it became increasingly different culturally from its surroundings.

Consequently, it projected a cultural life that is different from that of the Oromo. The culture, identity, and language of the Oromo became the constitutive outside of the cultural life in the city. In time, the Oromo were effectively marginalized and otherized. For most of the 20th century, the Oromo, although historically the host, was forced to live like the alien and the guest in what was their own homeland. Informed by this memory and propelled by years of national liberation struggles, the politicians that negotiated the Transitional Charter (Proc. 1/1991) and made the law (Proc. 7/1992) sought to emphasize the need to acknowledge the Oromo presence in the city’s affair through the ‘special interest’. The ‘special interest’ package was thus a way of making up for the artificial (created or intentionally produced) absence of the Oromo. In other words, it was a method of presenting the absent, a way of bringing back the Oromo to its own.

What does the Law Say about the Special Interest?: The Legal Context

When the constitution of FDRE was finally adopted in 1995, the ‘special interest’ clause was more or less carried over into art 49(5). To understand the full textual context of the special interest package in art 49 (5), it is important for us to reproduce the entirety of article 49 in full. Accordingly, the provision in art 49 reads as follows:

  • Addis Abeba shall be the capital city of the Federal State.
  • The residents of Addis Abeba shall have a full measure of self-government. Particulars shall be determined by law.
  • The Administration of Addis Abeba shall be responsible for the Federal Government.
  • Residents of Addis Abeba shall in accordance with the provisions of this constitution, be represented in the House of Peoples’ Representative.
  • The special interest of the state of Oromia in Addis Abeba regarding the provision of social services, or the utilization of natural resources and other similar matters, as well as joint administrative matters arising from the location of Addis Abeba within the State of Oromia, shall be respected. Particulars shall be determined by law.  

Owing to the unclarity of the clause in art 49 (5), coupled with the lack, to date, of the law constitutionally envisaged to enunciate the content, it became imperative for people to ask “just what is the ‘special interest’?” And what is so special about it? In this section, we make a close reading of the provision to explore what could be in the package.

Developments: Toward Articulating the Content of the ‘Special Interest’

It is important at the outset to underscore that Addis Abeba is a Federal capital city within a State. In this, it is more like Berne (of Switzerland) or Ottawa (of Canada). It is not a city-state (in the style of Berlin or Brussels). Nor is it a federal capital territory or a federal district (in the style of Abuja, or Canberra, or Washington DC). Once that is recognized, i.e., that Addis Abeba is a city in Oromia, one should have an explicit discussion and mutual understanding about what it means to be a federal capital because that automatically indicates that the Federal Government does not have a ‘natural’ right to be in the city. Unfortunately, that discussion did not happen. That was a historical blunder about a city mired in several historical misdeeds and mistakes.

That it was made accountable solely to the Federal Government was the second big blunder committed at the time of adopting the constitution. Given the fact that the city is Oromia and that it is also a ‘natural’ capital of the government of Oromia, it should have been made accountable to Oromia. Or, at the very least, it should have dual accountability to both the Federal and Oromia Governments. That did not happen. Commanding exclusive say on the administration of the city (in the name of ultimate accountability), the federal government ‘banished’ the Oromia government at will in 2003 and allowed it back into the city in 2005. In this, the federal government expanded and re-enacted the original violence of dispossession and displacement of Oromos from the city thereby perpetrating a new wound before the historical wounds could heal. Had it not been for this contemporary constitutive mistake, this ‘original sin’ of constitutional drafting in 1995, there wouldn’t have been anything special about the special interest of Oromia. If there would be ‘special interest’, it would have been that of the Federal Government or the non-Oromo residents of the city. These twin mistakes of recent history led to events of dire consequence that continue to claim lives and limbs to date.

The Host made a Guest

Having made a guest out of the host through the legal fiction of excision, i.e., by excising the city out of the political and administrative jurisdiction of Oromia, it became necessary for Ethiopia, almost as an afterthought, to ‘concede’ a lame ‘special interest’ to Oromia in Art 49(5). Over the years, the government of Oromia and Oromos in general hung on this provision more as a symbolic rallying point to interrogate Ethiopia for what is actually beyond the specific content of the Oromo interest in the city.

To the Oromo public, the city became the metaphor for what Ethiopia has made of the Oromo in general: an invisible, non-speaking, non-acting other who inhabits the interior of the territory but the exterior of the polity. It became the concentrated expression of the ‘life’ and the agony of the Oromo in the Ethiopian polity: their present-absence and their absent presence at a time.

Today, the Federal State presided over the coalition of four parties that make up the EPRDF became the new empire in a federal form, and the leaders became the new emperors in a democratic-republican garb. This forced the quip from many commentators that in Ethiopia ‘plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’ (‘the more it changes, the more it remains the same’).

Hence, the wide Oromo discontent over the whole arrangement with regard to Addis Abeba. Taking advantage of the historic asymmetry in power, the city administration, mostly prompted by the federal government, has consistently acted in complete neglect or wilful defiance of the interests of Oromia and Oromos.

Legal Silence Exploited

Taking advantage of the undefined territorial boundary of the city, the administration continued to expand its competence over the suburbs surrounding Addis Abeba. Routinely, the Federal and the City Governments exploited the legal silence on the matter of special interest. Thus, the Addis Abeba Land Administration office often acted as the authority in charge of land administration in areas such as Labbuu, the Laga Xaafo-Marii continuum, Bole-Bulbula, Buraayyuu, Sabbata, Sululta, and districts beyond the Aqaqii-Qaallittii corridor (such as Galaan, Dukam, etc). The Federal Government continued to implement its industrialization policy by reserving Industrial Zones, Recreation Parks, and designated investment sites (much like Special Economic Zones). In doing all these things, the Federal Government and the city never took the trouble to consult with Oromia, much less the Oromo people. Evictions of farmers with little or no compensation became a routine practice.

Pollutions, Waste, Deforestation, Evictions

Pollutions from industrial emissions were sustained with no sense of accountability from the part of the city. Waste was dumped recklessly causing massive health risks. Deforestation and soil degradation was intensified in the neighboring districts, especially after the rise of investment in flower farms, dairy farms, and poultry farms. Homelessness of the evicted farmers and residents started to be felt among the people.

Oromia and Oromos Respond Resentfully: #Oromorprotests Emerges

The response from the Government of Oromia was late, but it did come in the form of a 2009 Caffee Oromia proclamation that established a Special Zone of 17 districts and 36 towns in the area. Its attempt at legislative articulation of the ‘Constitutional Special Interest of Oromia over Addis Ababa’ remained a draft to date. Its demand for enunciation of the content of the ‘special interest’ by the Constitutional Inquiry Council (CIC) was rejected on the ground that the CIC and the House of Federation do not give an advisory opinion in the absence of litigation.

Also, Oromo residents of the inner city resented the absence of Schools and cultural centers that operate in Afaan Oromo. The fact that the city has become anything but Oromo over the years made Oromo residents lament the complete cultural insensitivity to the needs of the Oromo in the city. Increasingly, the demand for schools in Afaan Oromo and cultural centers began to be vocally expressed in the last decade or two (resulting in efforts to construct an Oromo Cultural Centre and to open public schools that operate in Afaan Oromo)[6].

While such demands were gaining momentum steadily over the years, the Integrated Regional Development Plan (alias the Master Plan) was announced to the public in 2014. Immediately, it provoked a resistance in all corners of the Oromia region.

The day-to-day encroachment of Oromia’s jurisdiction with the informal expansion of the city; the general spill over effects of the city; its becoming the dumping ground for Addis Abeba waste for no gain; the pollution of the rivers, the soil, and the general environment of the surrounding districts and towns; the evictions with ‘compensations’ whose lower limits are legally left unregulated; the insensitivity to the cultural and linguistic needs of Oromo residents; the temperamental behaviour the Federal Government showed vis-à-vis Oromia’s claim to Addis Abeba as its capital city; these and other resentments fed the anger that emerged in the wake of the revelation of the Master Plan.

Apart from its violation of the principles of federalism and a healthy intergovernmental relation that should exist in a working federation, one of the reasons given for resisting the Master Plan was that it liquidates the ‘special interest’ of Oromia. As was noted above, the particulars envisaged to ‘be determined by law’ were never determined.

Giving Content to the ‘Special Interest’

According to art 49 (5), the articulation of the content of the ‘special interest’ is hoped to revolve around the meaning of four broad phrases:

  1. ‘Provision of social services’
  2. ‘Utilization of natural resources’
  3. ‘Joint administrative matters’
  4. ‘Other matters’ similar to provision of social services or utilization of natural resources.

In the endeavor to give content to the special interest clause, one is expected to interpret these phrases in a judicious manner that can also satisfy the popular discontent that was ignited into full manifestation in the protest to the Master Plan.

Social Services

In particular, we must identify the kind of social services that Addis Abeba should provide to Oromia. Normally, ‘social services’ connote services such as access to housing, education, health, water, transport, and other matters needed for achieving adequate living standards. From experience, we know that one of the unmet needs of Oromia in Addis Abeba is access to public buildings and properties for their offices and residential places for their officials and civil servants. And the need for designated plots of land on which to build houses for the employees of the state.

Organizing public schools that operate in Afaan Oromo is another kind of social service seen as a pressing need. Related but not often articulated is the need for building or making spaces for public libraries run in Afaan Oromo, exhibition centres, concert halls, theatres, museums, galleries, cinema halls, printing presses dedicated to the nurture and development of Oromo cultural lives, shows, performances, plays, memories, arts/paintings, movies, books, etc. This need to give attention to culture also requires the need for memorializing personalities and historical moments of the Oromo through naming streets, places, squares; and erecting statues. In addition, subsidizing Oromo arts and printing and publications as part of making the Oromo presence felt to anyone who comes to and inhabits the city is an important aspect of social service. In other words, the provision of social services also extends to the cultural representation of the Oromo in the life of the wider city.

Similarly, health facilities and other utilities such as public transport services that operate in Afaan Oromo should be considered part of the social services to be provided to Oromos. One way of addressing this could be making Afaan Oromo the co-equal working language of the City Government. The move to make Afaan Oromo and other languages to become working languages of the Federal Government will also help curb part of the problem of access to social services and facilities such as public transport, celebration and registration of vital events (birth, marriage, death, certification, authentication, licensing, etc).

 Natural Resources

The proposed law must also clarify the type of ‘natural resources’ Addis Abeba has, resources that Oromia uses, and identify the modes in which it continues to use them. The effort to give content to this phrase becomes confounding when we note the fact that there is hardly any natural resource that the city offers to Oromia. Anything ‘natural’ in the city is ipso facto that of Oromia because the city itself is of Oromia anyway. The city actually is dependent on the natural resources of Oromia. Water, forest products, hydroelectric supply, minerals, sand, cement products, precious stones, food products, and everything else that Ethiopia (beyond and above Addis Abeba) needs come from outside of the city, Oromia and the other regions.

In the course of articulating this interest, one needs to consider the benefits Oromia should get from the delivery of these resources. One way of doing this is to agree on the percentage of income that should go back to Oromia’s revenue based on what is often called the principle of derivation in federal countries. If the federalism was properly functioning, this would have been handled through a negotiated channel of financial intergovernmental relations.

Joint Administration

The proposed law to be prepared must determine the scope and method of exercise of the envisaged ‘joint administration’. For this, we will first need to identify what tasks are matters for joint administration. Secondly, we need to decide who is responsible for what aspect of the administration. In the area of inter-jurisdictional roads (say maintenance); border management; managing trans-boundary forests, rivers, etc.; inter-jurisdictional legal cooperation (whose police takes responsibility for cross-border criminal activities); these and some such activities need to be spelt out.

One obvious area of joint administration is management of land. Because legislative power over land issues is a matter for the federal government and administration is for the States, issues such as town planning, mapping, cadastre, land redistribution among residents, designing construction regulations, etc should have been a matter for states, districts, and local/municipality governments. And in these areas, local governments of Oromia and the city administration (i.e., sub-cities and districts) could find some collaboration. Accordingly, the government of the state of Oromia and the government of the Addis Abeba City could coordinate their activities as they have overlapping jurisdictions (i.e., Oromia has a territorial jurisdiction while the city has a self-administrative jurisdiction) because the city is also the capital city of Oromia.

Ideally, ‘joint administration’ could have happened if the city was made accountable to the Government of Oromia rather than to the Federal Government. At the very least, joint administration could have been achieved through making the City government accountable to both the Federal and the Oromia governments. Settling on one of these options would mitigate the injustice of the original constitutional arrangement that: a) made Addis Abeba the capital city of the Federal government without the consent of Oromia and Oromos; and b) made the city’s self-government accountable exclusively to the Federal Government.

‘Other issues’

The meaning of the ‘other issues’ over which Oromia has a special interest is to be decided contextually on the basis of issues that rear their head in the course of day-to-day life experience. One cannot be definitive about the list of things to be included in this category.

However, twenty years of experience should have brought forth several such issues that may need to be specified while leaving others to the discretion of administrators subject to judicial review.

Who Takes Initiative?

Even assuming that the content of the ‘Special interest’ is clear, there is another issue left for us to determine: who comes up with the law that “determines” the “particulars”? Is it the Federal Government, the City Government, or the Government of Oromia? So far, the federal government had hesitated to legislate on the matter even in the face of a repeated demand by the government of the state of Oromia. That is of course because the federal government wants to exploit the ambiguity that remains because of the legal vacuum.

Legal silence is strategically deployed by the Federal and Addis Abeba Council to avoid their part of the obligation and to continue to enjoy what doesn’t rightfully belong to them in the absence of a law that proscribes it. Oromia’s attempt in the past (2006) to legislate on the matter could produce only a draft piece of legislation that couldn’t ultimately be presented to and passed by the Caffee Oromia.

Beyond the Content: Reconciled Relationship between the City, the Region, and the Country-Redemption via Relocation?

If there was an inclusive participatory constitutional moment that acknowledges the presence of the Oromo in the polis-to-be between 1992 and 1994, one or more of the following scenarios might have been negotiated:

a) Find a (new) site that is commonly agreed upon by all the constituent members of the Federation to be the Federal District Territory;

b) Designate another city in another State or in Oromia as the seat of the federal government accountable to that state;

c) Designate different cities that can serve as seats for the different branches of the Federal Government;

d) Agree to have a roving capital city for the federal government every decade or so;

e) Designate Addis Abeba as the capital city with a self-governing council ultimately accountable to Oromia—an essentially Oromo city in which the federal government may have some form of ‘special interest’

f) Designate Addis Abeba as a federal capital city whose self-governing council will be accountable to both the federal and the Oromia governments.

 Towards a Redemptive Discourse

We all know that the constitution-making process was less ideal than one would hope for. It was marked by lack of legitimacy on procedural and substantive accounts.[7] The work required now, while attending to the immediate needs of giving content to the ‘joint administrative issues’, is to identify potential areas of constitutional amendments that would overcome the problems caused by original flaws in the constitution. This will force us to engage in—and engage the public with–what I called, elsewhere, a ‘redemptive constitutional discourse,’ a discourse that overcomes the deficits in original legitimacy, a discourse that ‘corrects’ the imperfect beginnings of the constitution by also attending to the trauma caused by inaugural violence with which the city was incorporated into, and made the capital of, the modern imperial Ethiopian state.

Relocating the Capital

While that is being done, the search for a lasting solution to the violent Ethio-Oromia relations, especially regarding Addis Abeba needs to begin and continue. In particular, it is imperative that we consider the possibility of relocating the Federal Government elsewhere. Removing the Federal government will help undo the trauma of the violent occupation at the moment of ‘founding’ and subsequent displacement of the Oromo through the ‘settlement’ of others. Relocation has the advantage of:

  1. Dissolving the altercation over ownership of the city;
  2. Securing the socio-cultural interests of the Oromo in the city;
  3. Restoring full jurisdiction of Oromia over its territory;
  4. Rescinding the legal excision of the city from the administrative jurisdiction of Oromia through the provision of article 49;
  5. Enhancing the Oromo’s right to exercise of ultimate political power in the city;
  6. Restoring the host, the Oromo, to its rightful position and securing the rights of the guests, the non-Oromo inhabitants, in a context of mutual recognition;
  7. Arresting the continued lawless expansion of the city and the concomitant land grab, eviction, and ethnocide thereof;
  8. Responding to, and thereby dissolving, the question of the so-called ‘special interests’ within the context of Oromia and Oromia alone;
  9. Comprehensively responding to the demands of the #Oromoprotests whose rallying cry has been “Finfinnee belongs to Oromo” (“Finfinneen kan Oromooti!”).

The legal relocation of the Federal capital has more transformative potential for the entire polity than the obvious advantages outlined above. It is a restoration of Oromo agency and authority over the decision on what matters to their life in their land and in the wider country. The issue of choosing a negotiated site for a federal capital city is an opportunity to help the wider country to agonize over its history, its state system, its capacity to deal with historical injustice, and its hope of re-building the state on a fairer, more just, and more plural foundation. In short, it allows for a redemptive constitutional discourse to emerge.

It has to be explicitly stated however that to remove the Federal Government is not synonymous with removing the inhabitants of the city. The inhabitants will be part of Oromia and like all other people living in the wider Oromia, their rights shall be respected. Yes, there may be some people who work for the federal government institutions that may have to commute to and from work if they choose to continue living in Addis Abeba after the relocation of the capital. Yes, there will also be people who might move to the new capital altogether. But they don’t have to. No one has to. It is important to remember, incidentally, that not all the inhabitants of the city are employees of the Federal Government as such. The federal Government is merely its institutions, agencies, and its workers. That is not the (entire) population of the city.

Pending Redemption…Shift Accountability

Until that is done through constitutional revision or amendment, it may be necessary to consider the shift of accountability of the city government from the Federal to the Oromia government. It may be imperative for the Federal Government to start paying rent to the Oromia government as a token of acknowledgement to their being hosted by Oromia.

The quest for a lasting solution should start with identifying unconstitutional laws and policies that violate Oromia’s rights and special interests. Laws such as the one that promulgated the Addis Abeba Charter of 2003 (Proc. 361/2003, especially its article 5), the Investment Amendment Proclamation of 2014 (Proc. 849/2014, especially its provisions regarding ‘Industrial Development Zones), and projects like the World Bank sponsored Industrial Zone Projects (such as the Resettlement Action Plan [of] the Qilinxo Industrial Zone (April 2015) should all be rescinded.

New laws may need to be issued. An example is a proclamation that governs the lowest threshold for rates and modes of compensation awarded to a farmer in the event of eviction from her/his land. To be sure, there was a 2005 Proclamation (Proc. 455/2005) that provides for expropriation of land holdings and compensation. However, this proclamation, apart from enhancing the dispossessive regulatory and police powers of the Ministry of Federal Affairs, federal and local governments, and of several other agencies, it says little about the substance of the compensation, especially for collective landholdings (about which it says nothing). Needless, to say, as the actual practice of expropriation has routinely demonstrated, even the normative gesture in the law of providing a replacement remains to be more a legal rhetoric than an actual reality, more a juridical promise than a political practice.

Not so Special

Recognition of special interest is exception-making. Through a ‘special interest’ package, a rightful entity extends some rights, as part of underserved acts of grace, to another that cannot lay claim to these rights. To Oromia and Oromos, there is hardly anything special about the ‘special interest’. The city is naturally and intrinsically part of Oromia. As such, Oromos and Oromia have pre-eminence over the city. They lay claim over the city as their own natural territory. Oromo interests are not supposed to be granted to them by others as some kind of favor. They have the more fundamental right of an owner. As such, they do not need others to make exception in their favor in order to guarantee the protection of the interest of the Oromo in the city. If anything, it is the Oromo that should make exception to the other inhabitants in granting them, for instance, the right of self-government at the municipal level.  In other words, if anything was to be ‘special’, it was the ‘interest’ of other peoples who live in the city that should have been so designated as to constitute the ‘special interest’ of non-Oromos in this inherently and primarily Oromo city.

However, owing to the legacy of imperial conquest and violent occupation of the city and the consequent dispossession and displacement of the Oromo from the city, it is now the guests that are extending (and so far denying) the ‘special interest’ of the hosts. This is a testament to the total lack of self-awareness on the part of the Federal and City Governments about the land they stand on. It is a testament to their moral blindness and (and the consequent incapacity) to pay attention, to see the original owners of the land, and to recognize their natural rights thereof. The result is the failure to understand the pain of dispossession and relentless quest of the Oromo for restoration.

The more consequential result is that this moral blindness is blocking the redemption of the relationship between the city (Addis Abeba), the Region (Oromia), and the Country (Ethiopia). That is why it comes as no surprise that the contestation over the city is pivotal to the making or breaking of the Ethiopian state in our own time. AS


ED’s Note: Tsegaye R Ararssa, Melbourne Law School. Email: tsegayer@gmail.com.

Cover Photo: Partial view of Addis Abeba

Photo Credit: Dereje Belachew

End Notes:

[1] The substance of most of these reflections were extensively discussed elsewhere. Here, in most sections, I present a rehash of those reflections. See Tsegaye Ararssa, “The Special Interest in Addis Ababa: The Affirmation of Denial,” Addis Standard (Jan 18, 2016) available at http://addisstandard.com/the-special-interest-the-affirmation-of-denial/.

[2] Technically speaking, this government which needed a special—emergency–measures to secure peace and stability, does not have a legal mandate to enact a law before repealing the emergency declaration and calling the army back to its barracks. Nor does it command a moral authority to make a legislation for the people it killed, maimed, arrested, detained, and tortured unaccountably only because they protested.

[3]William Harris, The Highlands of Ethiopia (1844).

[4] Alexander Bulatovic, Ethiopia through Russian Eyes: A Country in Transition, 1896-1898 (Richard Seltzer, Tr), (2000).

[5] Evelyn Waugh, Waugh in Abyssinia (1936).

[6] Note that the Oromo Cultural Center in Addis Abeba was built and inaugurated only in 2015.

[7] See, for example, Ugo Matei, ‘The New Ethiopian Constitution,’ Cardozo Review (1995), http://www.jus.unitn.it/cardozo/Review/constitutional/Mattei2.html; and  Tsegaye Regassa, ‘The Making and Legitimacy of the Ethiopian Constitution,’ 23 (1) Afrika Focus (2010), 85-118.

Ethiopia: Millions of dollars squandered in fraudulent land loan December 22, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in Corruption, Uncategorized.
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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

The TPLF Corruption network


Ethiopia: Millions of dollars squandered in fraudulent land loan

ESAT News (December 21, 2016)

Nearly 400  of the 623 investors who took land for development in the Gambella region, western Ethiopia, have reportedly taken multiple loans  on a single plot of land. Most of the so-called “investors” have reportedly been from Tigray region.

A report issued by a team to probe into the case concluded that 381 investors have taken multiple loans on 45,000 hectares of land. The Development Bank of Ethiopia also said it is investigating cases where multiple loans were issued on a single plot of land.

The report did not say how much money was squandered in the scheme but data shows about 200 investors have taken over 50 million dollars in loans from the Development bank of Ethiopia.

Only about 300 of the close to 600 tractors imported duty free were actually seen on the location of the development.

The report also said 29 investors who took loans to develop land have not reported yet. The team said in a report that it actually could not put faces on the files of the said 29 investors.

The government sponsored study also revealed that only 15% of the 630,000 hectares of land has been developed as of this year.

Last week, over one thousand Tigrayan businessmen who took land for agriculture in Gambella, displacing the locals, complain of lack of additional loans from the Development Bank of Ethiopia.

Critics say the complaint by the Tigrayan businessmen only revealed that they were actually favored by the ethnocentric government and that they were the only ones with access to land and loans.

Several local and Indian investors have disappeared after taking millions of dollars in land loans in Gambella, Benishangul and other naturally endowed regions of Ethiopia.

The National Interest: Ethiopia Opens a Pandora’s Box of Ethnic Tensions October 13, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests.
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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

The seizure of large tracts of land is a process of re-concentration and of the marginalization and disempowerment of Ethiopia’s (non-Tigray) ethnic groups.

The EPRDF’s governing ideology, “revolutionary democracy”—a curious concoction of Marxist, Maoist, and ethno-regionalist thought—demands Soviet-style submission to the Tigray-dominated state. It calls for communal collective participation and democratic centralism. Through gim gima, nationally publicized government evaluation sessions, the regime weeds out dissidents and indoctrinates citizens. Following the regime’s violent clampdown during the disputed 2005 elections, the EPRDF published a booklet entitled Democracy and Democratic Unity that it used nationwidegim gima to explain away its brutal response. The booklet gave Ethiopians a “clear choice between dependency and anti-democracy forces” (i.e. opposition parties) and “revolutionary democracy (peace and developmentalism).” Rather than participants in a liberal order, then, Ethiopian citizens are mobilizing apparatchiks for the vanguard party. And since 1991 they have been subject to the diktats of one ethnic (minority) group. Resistance has been met with imprisonment, or worse.


Ethiopia Opens a Pandora’s Box of Ethnic Tensions

At the heart of the protests is the fundamental question of how to build a modern nation-state on the back of ethnic fault lines that have been exploited over centuries.

Since November 2015, Ethiopia has been beset by an unprecedented wave of protests. They began as a rebuke to a government plan to expand the municipal boundaries of the capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromia Region. They have since expanded to the neighboring Amhara Region, underscoring decades of grievances against ethnic marginalization and authoritarian rule by the governing Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The regime has responded aggressively. Human Rights Watch reports upwards of five hundred people have been so far killed in what the United States has decried as an “excessive use of force.” Tens of thousands more have been detained. An unexplained fire on September 3 in Kilinto prison in which hundreds of political prisoners are housed killed at least twenty-three. Rather than backing down, however, the protesters are gathering steam. The unrest has opened a pandora’s box of institutional and ideological contradictions that strike at the heart of contemporary Ethiopian statehood. Understanding these issues is essential for an understanding of the unrest now gripping the country.

“You cannot remove the ethnic issue from Ethiopian politics,” Eskinder Nega, a now-imprisoned Ethiopian journalist and democracy activist, told me in 2010. At the time I was an overeager doctoral student living in Addis Ababa and researching Chinese investments in the country. I had been introduced to Eskinder by a university professor, and he was kind enough to indulge (and endure) the inquisitive pepperings of a graduate student. Ethiopia is made up of nine dominant ethnic groups and approximately eighty others. Historically, the Amhara people—of which Eskinder is a member—were the country’s governing force. Emperor Haile Selassie, Emperor Menilek (1889–1913) before him, and Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Derg regime (1974–89) after him were all Amhara. Each sought to establish a unified Ethiopia with Amharic as the official language and the Amhara culture as the foundation of Ethiopian identity. All other identities were to be eliminated—either by way of assimilation, or by force. In this the Derg was especially merciless. It perceived ethnic diversity as a threat to state unity; through its Red Terror campaign, it brutally slaughtered over five hundred thousand people—all, in its eyes, enemies of the Amhara state. The policies of the Derg were especially damaging to the population of Tigray, a tiny region in the northernmost part of Ethiopia along the border with Eritrea. Today, the Tigray make up a mere six percent of the population. Government brutality, lack of economic opportunity, and prohibitions on labor migration left the Tigray ethnically and economically isolated.

Years of repression ultimately gave way to resentment of the Amhara and, by extension, the state. It also gave rise to what Ethiopian historian Gebru Tareke calls “dissent nationalism,” and the emergence of ethno-nationalist groups like the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). For the TPLF, the state was an oppressive and colonizing force from which the country’s ethnicities had to be liberated. In 1975 the group waged what amounted to a secessionist struggle: its 1976 manifesto established “the first task of the national struggle will be the establishment of an independent democratic republic of Tigray.” When in 1989 the TPLF, then already under the direction of Meles Zenawi, successfully overthrew the Derg and in 1991 merged with three other political factions to form the EPRDF, Ethiopia was subdivided into nine mostly ethnic regions, each with the right to independent lawmaking, executive, and judicial powers. Enshrined in Article 39.3 of the constitution is the right of all ethnicities to “self-government.” Ethnic communities ostensibly inherited Ethiopia. The catch, of course, is that the EPRDF believes the only mechanism capable of ensuring sovereignty for each of the country’s ethnicities is the EPRDF itself. Relations between the central government and the regions have over the years become so centralized, and local authority so emasculated, that the de jurepremise of the modern Ethiopian state—ethnic federalism—is meaningless. Contemporary Ethiopia is a shining example of the ancient dictum, repeated throughout the ages, dīvide et īmpera—divide and rule. Further complicating the narrative is the fact that the EPRDF—in which the TPLF remains the dominant force—has never fully surrendered its vision of an independent Tigray. The 1976 manifesto has never been revised.

In this way, decades of Amhara control have given way to decades of Tigray control. The presidential office, the parliament, central government ministries and agencies—including public enterprises—and financial institutions have since 1991 all been controlled by the TPLF. So too the military. 99 percent of Ethiopian National Defense Force officers are from Tigray; 97 percent are from the same village. Only the prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, is not Tigray: he is Wolayta, an ethnic group that forms the majority of the population in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR). His historically close ties to Meles, first while President of SNNPR, then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, have, however, effectively rendered him Tigray by association.

The EPRDF’s governing ideology, “revolutionary democracy”—a curious concoction of Marxist, Maoist, and ethno-regionalist thought—demands Soviet-style submission to the Tigray-dominated state. It calls for communal collective participation and democratic centralism. Through gim gima, nationally publicized government evaluation sessions, the regime weeds out dissidents and indoctrinates citizens. Following the regime’s violent clampdown during the disputed 2005 elections, the EPRDF published a booklet entitled Democracy and Democratic Unity that it used nationwidegim gima to explain away its brutal response. The booklet gave Ethiopians a “clear choice between dependency and anti-democracy forces” (i.e. opposition parties) and “revolutionary democracy (peace and developmentalism).” Rather than participants in a liberal order, then, Ethiopian citizens are mobilizing apparatchiks for the vanguard party. And since 1991 they have been subject to the diktats of one ethnic (minority) group. Resistance has been met with imprisonment, or worse. If, as William Davidson writes, today’s protests “seem to be taking on a worrying ethnic tinge,” that is because they have been ethnic from the start. Politics in Ethiopia is inherently ethnic.

Of the EPRDF’s most beloved methods of centralizing control is through the centralization of land—land grabbing—which has become a rallying point in the current turmoil. While it is foreign firms in Ethiopia who are generally accused of expropriating land, the blame in fact lies with the EPRDF. A 2009 government regulation gives the EPRDF full control over all aspects of land investments over five thousand hectares (approximately 12,350 acres), including the right to expropriate land from the country’s regions and transfer it to investors. Under Ethiopian law all revenues, taxes, and associated infrastructure resulting from the investments now accrue to the EPRDF. Previously, real estate transactions had been handled by each of the country’s nine regional governments. As Chatham House, a London-based think tank, notes, “it is the state that stands to reap the most significant gains.” But the factors underpinning the government’s land grabs extend beyond simple economics: they are also a means for the TPLF-dominated EPRDF to realize some version of an independent Tigray. The seizure of large tracts of land is a process of re-concentration and of the marginalization and disempowerment of Ethiopia’s (non-Tigray) ethnic groups. Theoretically at least, it is intended to forge greater dependence on the central state and to render it increasingly difficult for rebel groups to emerge and operate in lowland areas. Most projects are concentrated in Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella, SNNPR, and northern Amhara—remote regions of the country where government processes of assimilation and integration are ongoing. By commandeering the land, the EPRDF hopes to speed them up.

Violent attacks carried out by Ethiopian protesters on Dutch, Israeli, Indian and Belgian-owned farms in Amhara in early September therefore did not target foreign interests in the country per se, but EPRDF efforts to strip Ethiopians of land and identity. Foreign firms were the unfortunate middlemen.

For the better part of the last quarter century the EPRDF has attempted to whitewash its ethnic ambitions with its economic development agenda. Ethiopia is at the heart of the “Africa rising” narrative and has succeeded in lifting millions out of extreme poverty, cutting child mortality rates, and overseeing an impressive decline in HIV/AIDS-related deaths by 50 percent. Some argue that rather than ethnic tensions, the protests reflect mounting frustrations with an uneven distribution of the economic pie. This is undoubtedly part of the story. Yet as unrest engulfs places like the Amhara capital, Bahir Dar, and Adama, Oromia’s most vibrant city, which have benefitted from economic growth, it is clear that economic grievances are secondary. When in 2010 Eskinder told me, regrettably, that Ethiopia has become “the world’s star backslider,” he did not mean this economically. He meant in terms of governance and in terms of statehood. “Meles’ rule,” he said, “is not only that of the party but of the ethnicity. Meles’ relatives, friends, et cetera are putting pressure on him not to give up control because he would be giving up the control of the entire Tigray people.” This rings true of the TPLF today.

This is what makes the Ethiopian unrest so significant—and potentially dangerous. At the heart of the protests is the fundamental question of how to build a modern nation state on the back of ethnic fault lines that have been exploited over centuries. Through its formula of ethnic federalism and revolutionary democracy the EPRDF has merely succeeded in repeating the errors of its predecessors through different means. In many respects the state-building question has gone unresolved; Ethiopia’s crisis is largely an existential one. In the coming weeks Hailemariam Desalegn will likely attempt peace by announcing a redistribution of government investments. Most—if not all—political and economic power will remain vested in the TPLF. While this may quell the protests for a time, without genuine attention to the country’s conflicting institutional and ideological challenges—central to which is the dominance of the TPLF and the Tigray—the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. All that is at stake, is everything.

Aleksandra W. Gadzala is an independent political-risk consultant based out of Boca Raton, FL and an Africa contributor with Oxford Analytica. She holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Oxford.

Take Your Hands Off The Earth! October 1, 2016

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When we think of land grabbing in Africa, all too often we think of China or the Gulf States as being the principal actors, but this is far from the truth. “Development agencies, universities, pension funds, Norwegian churches, banks and private equity funds are all involved.” There is also a common perception that the lands grabbed are then turned over to monoculture production of soy, corn or palm oil, products which sustain unhealthy Western diets with lots of sugar and meat. But in fact, a lot of the time something even worse happens. The lands are not used to grow any food at all, but left completely fallow. “This is true for the majority of the hundreds of land contracts we have studied,” Mittal tells us. “They grow nothing at all, but simply speculate on the land in order to sell it at a profit later.” The consequences for the previous residents of these lands are internal displacement, hunger, and violence if they try to resist. In cases, where lands are used for agricultural production, furthermore, the nature of social relations is changed, as the new owners create seasonal jobs, meaning the people who once farmed the land freely are reduced to being sharecroppers, inevitably increasing profits for the new owners.


Take Your Hands Off The Earth!


On September 24th, we were joined by activists from six countries as well as Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Anuradha Mittal, the founder of the Oakland Institute, who moderated the Terra Madre Forum on land grabbing, “Take Your Hands Off The Earth”.

As Mittal pointed out in her opening speech, food prices have risen both in nominal terms and as a percentage of spending for people in the developing world since 2008, with the amount of household expenditure on food up by as much as 50%. The capacity of poor people in developing countries to grow their own food and feed themselves without reliance on imports or supermarkets is more important than ever, insofar as it represents people’s ability to withstand the whims of the free market. When we think of land grabbing in Africa, all too often we think of China or the Gulf States as being the principal actors, but this is far from the truth. “Development agencies, universities, pension funds, Norwegian churches, banks and private equity funds are all involved.” There is also a common perception that the lands grabbed are then turned over to monoculture production of soy, corn or palm oil, products which sustain unhealthy Western diets with lots of sugar and meat. But in fact, a lot of the time something even worse happens. The lands are not used to grow any food at all, but left completely fallow. “This is true for the majority of the hundreds of land contracts we have studied,” Mittal tells us. “They grow nothing at all, but simply speculate on the land in order to sell it at a profit later.” The consequences for the previous residents of these lands are internal displacement, hunger, and violence if they try to resist. In cases, where lands are used for agricultural production, furthermore, the nature of social relations is changed, as the new owners create seasonal jobs, meaning the people who once farmed the land freely are reduced to being sharecroppers, inevitably increasing profits for the new owners.

There are harrowing stories of lands being bought at unbelievable prices, Mittal continues, citing the example of South Sudan, which gained statehood in 2011. Though for the Western media, the creation of the new country signaled a settlement to a decade-long civil war, the problems are far from over. “In South Sudan, the country with the most transnational land acquisitions, land has been sold for as little as US$0.025 cents per hectare.”

Nyikaw Ochalla of the Anywaa Survival Organization in Ethiopia told us of the country’s vague anti-terrorism laws which allow the government to arrest and imprison anyone who dissents from the State’s policy. There activists such as Yonatan Tesfaye who are facing the death penalty in Ethiopia simply for criticizing the government’s crackdown on anti-landgrabbing protests on Facebook.

Mamy Rakotondrainibe, a key activist in the Collectif pour la Défense des Terres Malgaches in Madagascar, told us how the South Korean company Daewoo had bought over a million hectares of land there in 2009 to create an enormous palm oil plantation, the product of which would have been exported back to South Korea. The deal represented half the country’s arable land, and the Collectif pour la Défense des Terres Malgaches petitioned the government to stop it. At first the government ignored the petition, and it was only after violent protests which left over 100 people dead that country’s President Ravalomanana fled to South Africa, and his replacement stopped the deal. Nonetheless, smaller but less-publicized deals continue to go ahead in Madagascar, slowly stripping the population of their ancestral lands, in a country where 65% of the population live from agriculture.


Andrew Orina from Kenya told us how the construction of hydroelectric dams on Lake Turkana (the fourth largest in Africa, and the world’s largest alkaline lake) threaten its very existence, and it will likely be split it in two. This will force massive migrations, loss of arable land, destruction of fisheries, and an ecological disaster.

Edward Loure, a Goldman Prize winner from Tanzania, is pioneering a fightback against land grabbing in his country through deeds which recognize indigenous communities’ collective right to their ancestral lands, rather than and instead of any one individual’s propriety. Despite this, Tanzania continues to be a prime target for foreign direct investment in land, and it will require a sustained struggle against the investors to secure the rights of these indigenous peoples.

Helpme Hamkhein Mohrmen of Northeast India told us how in that region, it is a change in thinking about land brought about through modern legal structures which is to blame for tensions over land. In the past, the indigenous clans saw themselves as “custodians” of the land, that is, not having inherited the land from their ancestors, but borrowing them from their children. This idea of custodianship is dying out, replaced by ideas of propriety, which has mainly been exacerbated by the recognition of the value of the region’s mineral resources (including Uranium) which were once irrelevant.
Néstor Joaquín Mendieta Cruz of Colombia, who is also a Slow Food convivium leader, recounted how since 1990, the amount of land available for agricultural production in Colombia was 2.5 million hectares, which has now been reduced to 1.5 million. Half of this land, 500,000 hectares, is now used for the production of palm oil, and despite Colombia already being the number one producer of palm oil in South America, the government plans to increase the amount of land dedicated to its production to a million hectares. In some regions of the country, private security forms create checkpoints along the roads to stop local people from occupying their lands.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz brought a message of hope to the audience, and clearly conveyed her conviction that the fight for indigenous peoples’ land rights is an essential part of the struggle for global food security. As UN Special Rapporteur for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, she wants to see laws still in force from the colonial era which consider indigenous lands to be empty (as happened in Australia and the Philippines) revoked, and is leading the charge by tackling governments directly, around the world. Though many of the large industrialized countries, particularly the United States, Australia and New Zealand ignore or deny her reports, progress is being made. We need a concerted, collaborative effort, which Slow Food can proudly take part in, in order to reverse these trends and shift government policy around the world in recognition of land rights, and against land grabbing.

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The Oakland Institute: Miracle or mirage? Manufacturing hunger and poverty in Ethiopia September 27, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests, Ethiopia's Colonizing Structure and the Development Problems of People of Oromia, Afar, Ogaden, Sidama, Southern Ethiopia and the Omo Valley, Land and Water Grabs in Oromia.
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Oakland Institute


Miracle or mirage? manufacturing hunger and poverty in Ethiopia

Oakland Institute, 27 September 2016


As months of protest and civil unrest hurl Ethiopia into a severe political crisis, a new report from the Oakland Institute debunks the myth that the country is the new “African Lion.” Miracle or Mirage? Manufacturing Hunger and Poverty in Ethiopia exposes how authoritarian development schemes have perpetuated cycles of poverty, food insecurity, and marginalized the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

A key government objective is to make Ethiopia one of the largest sugar producers in the world. Several sugar expansion plans are underway, including the colossal Kuraz Project in the Lower Omo Valley, which will include up to five sugar factories and 150,000 hectares of sugarcane plantations that rely on Gibe III Dam for irrigation. Studies show that Gibe III could reduce the Omo River flow by as much as 70 percent, threatening the livelihoods of 200,000 Ethiopians and 300,000 Kenyans who depend on the downstream water flow for herding, fishing, and flood-recession agriculture.

Miracle or Mirage? offers lessons from the deadly impact of sugar and cotton plantations in the Awash Valley in the Afar Region, established in the 1950s. The projects drastically reduced land and water availability for people and cattle, undermined food security, destroyed key drought coping mechanisms, and stirred up violent conflicts between different groups over the remaining resources. The establishment of plantations was a critical factor in the 1972-1973 famine, resulting in the deaths of nearly 200,000 Afar people. These findings raise serious questions about the government’s logic behind sugar expansion, with $11.2 billion to be invested by 2020, and much more for irrigation schemes and dams – Gibe III alone cost Ethiopia $1.8 billion.

Using quantitative evidence, the report also details how plantations established in the Awash Valley have been far less profitable than pastoralist livestock production, while carrying massive environmental costs including the depletion of vital water resources.


Konso: #KonsoProtests Alert! #OromoProtests Alert! Fascist Ethiopia’s regime (TPLF) is conducting genocide against Konso people (indigenous people in Southern Ethiopia). September 17, 2016

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The current  fascist Ethiopia’s regime also known as TPLF (Woyane), a criminal group from minority Tigray tribe,  in northern Ethiopia is conducting genocidal mass killings against Konso people.  TPLF  has occupied Konso land, killing the people and burning the entire town and villages. The Konso are one  of the very ancient people in East Africa and their historical villages are UNESCO World Heritage.





Agazi’s new tactic, burn homes to ground along inhabitants. This was done to Konso people in Aylota-Dokatu & Lulito towns yesterday September 13, 2016. Hundreds homes were destroyed and death is reported. All the Konso people are asking to be granted zonal status which their right enshrined within the constitution. The federation council accepted their appeal last week yet the federal army in burning their homes. Jawar Mohammed

Xiixaa Buubaa Sardaa• with Darajjee M. Billii

Yesterday, we heard (Listen to VOA Amharic & Afaan Oromoo, transmitted on 9/15/2016 17:30-19:00 GMT), over the past 1 month, both the elected local Konso District leaders & leaders of the Regional State of Southern Ethiopian Peoples Nations & Nationalities (SEPNN) are counter-blaming one another for what they call “genocide on the Konso people”. The Konso People speak Afaan Oromo in its other southern Ethiopian Kushites accent/dialects and still retain the ancient Gada Socio-politico-theological System and Qaalluu Ancestral Spirituality. Moreover, they retain the eschatology of preserving in sarcophagus of the Spirits of the dead that we know in Ancient Kemet/Egyptian turned to a battle ground, the Konso District’s UNESCO registered world heritage site was burned into ash by government security forces of Ethiopia. Konso Cultural Landscape is a 55km2 arid property of stone walled terraces and fortified settlements in the Konso highlands of Ethiopia. It constitutes a spectacular example of a living cultural tradition stretching back 21 generations (more than 400 years) adapted to its dry hostile environment. The landscape demonstrates the shared values, social cohesion and engineering knowledge of its communities. Stone steles in the towns express a complex system of marking the passing of generations of leaders.

On April 2016, William Davidson wrote on the guardian as Protests sparked by the arrest of Konso leader Kala Gezahegn underlined growing tensions between Ethiopia’s central govelrnment and many ethnic populations. Now it has been over a period of 7 months since the Konso people has started protesting against the injustice and maladministration by the forcefully established Zone- Segen Area People’s Zone. The Konso people who were formerly administered under a Special District status in SNNPRS, had been unconstitutionally forced to form a zone with other neighboring ethnic groups, dropping from a ‘Special District’ status to a District in the newly formed zone. That sparked complaints from the people but no one gave an ear to the people that time. The zone government then grabbed three Kebeles from Konso to create a new city structure in Sagan town. This was also followed by the deduction of annual budget allocated to Konso District without being approved by the District council representing the people. This gave momentum to the silent and peaceful popular protests in every corner in Konso since then. Despite the loyalty of the people to the constitution of the country, the government in power at all levels has failed to give a constitutional answer to the people appeal for establishing a self-governed Zone as per the law of the country.
Now, the Konso people is under military siege some months ago. No freedom of movement, no education for children… all offices closed. Worst the innocent farmers are being shot to death by security forces. Konso cultural landscapes tell the incremental story of human progression—how regular people have taken the sum total of their knowledge and applied it to living in their natural surroundings. They are another way in which history comes alive through the built environment, and their importance is recognized by UNESCO. Beside their ten months long protests the indigenous people of Konso now lost both their life and heritage. After 400 years of conservation now Konso-world heritage site is destroyed with fire set by security forces of Ethiopian government, world community have to take part in identifying the cause and take measures on guilty body.


OMN: Collaborative public forum by Oromo Community of MN March 17, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests, Africa, Ethiopia's Colonizing Structure and the Development Problems of People of Oromia, Afar, Ogaden, Sidama, Southern Ethiopia and the Omo Valley, Oromia, Oromo, Oromo and the call for justice and freedom.
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Oromia: In Ethiopia, anger over corruption and farmland development runs deep. #OromoProtests January 18, 2016

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In Ethiopia, anger over corruption and farmland development runs deep
Despite the government ending plans to build on Oromo land around the capital, clashes continue, as lack of transparency and maladministration fuel dissent

William Davison, The Guardian, Global Development, 18 January 2016


#OromoProtests  block the road in Wolenkomi, in the Oromia State, Ethiopia. Photograph by William Davison
Protesters block the road in Wolenkomi, in the Oromia region of Ethiopia
Protesters block the road in Wolenkomi, in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. All photographs by William Davison

Two years ago, on the edge of Chitu in Ethiopia’s unsettled Oromia region, local officials told Chamara Mamoye his farmland might be developed when the small town expanded. He hasn’t heard anything since.

“Losing the land would be a big problem for me, but if the government forces us, we can’t do anything,” the father-of-five says outside his compound.

Last month, Chamara, 45, saw the bodies of two protesters lying on the road after demonstrations rocked Chito. The dead were among up to 140 people killed by security forces during region-wide protests triggered by claims of injustice and marginalisation from the nation’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo.
Bolstered by US-based social media activists, the protest movement coalesced around opposition to a government plan to integrate the capital, Addis Ababa, with surrounding Oromo towns. After weeks of protests, the ruling coalition in the Oromia region said last week that it was cancelling the planned expansion.

Protests, however, go on, and the roots of popular unease and anger in Oromia run much deeper.

Dissatisfaction with corruption, maladministration and inadequate consultations on investments are fuelling dissent. This patchwork of grievances presents a fundamental challenge to an authoritarian government aiming to rapidly transform Ethiopia from an agrarian society to an industrial powerhouse. And the discontent is a national issue.

Urban expansion is causing clashes across the country as investors, officials and farmers protect their interests, says Seyoum Teshome, a lecturer at Ambo University.

“The villagers who have been asking for basic services and infrastructure rush to sell their farmland at market rate before it is expropriated at low rates of compensation,” he says.

As all land is state-owned in Ethiopia, houses are rapidly built on the edge of towns without official permission, to give plots value, Seyoum says. Investors may bribe corrupt officials to formalise illegal transfers, causing anger among dispossessed farmers, he adds.


Workers near Chitu in the Oromia

Workers near Chitu in the Oromia region

Chamara was not among the mostly youthful protesters who took to the streets in Chitu, but he shares their concerns about an unresponsive ruling system. He’s frustrated by repeatedly broken official promises to tarmac the main road that runs through Chitu. Although the area has electricity and a mobile-phone signal, he is disappointed with the rate of progress since the government came to power 25 years ago. “There is no big development considering the time they had,” he says.


He is also upset by a lack of information and consultation over land policies, as well as concerned by suspicions of corruption – though officials do not flaunt ill-gotten gains. “The corruption is done in a secret way. It’s a silent killer,” he said.

In elections last May, Ethiopia’s ruling coalition and allied parties won all 547 seats in the federal parliament and 100% of legislative positions in nine regional councils. Despite the result, the government acknowledged widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of public administration and levels of corruption.

“In many areas, personnel said to be involved in massive corruption that led to sudden outbursts of anger are being dismissed,” government spokesman Getachew Reda said in an interview last week.

One of the deadliest incidents last month took place in Woliso town, about113km south-west of Addis Ababa. Six protesters were killed by security forces after thousands of people from surrounding villages took to the streets to protest over planned expansion of the town.

A group of young Oromo, who had gathered next to the Walga river a few miles from Woliso, spoke of community fears of evictions and poor compensation. But nobody seemed to know anything specific about government plans. “The government does not discuss in detail. They do not have consent,” one said.

Ethiopia has long been a darling of the international donor community, which has appeared willing to ignore its poor record on human rights because high growth rates over the past decade have delivered some development goals. But the Oromo protests illustrate the vulnerabilities of this strategy.

To the north of Chitu, at Wenchi, which boasts a spectacular crater lake popular with tourists, grievances are almost tangible. Soldiers are still in town and, as elsewhere, the authorities have arrested people suspected of involvement in the protests. While some seem cowed by the crackdown, Rabuma Terefa is not.

His friend was shot in the leg on the edge of Chitu as he marched with other protesters from Wenchi.

When an elite military unit told elders the protesters must turn back, the group refused, arguing they had a constitutional right to peacefully demonstrate, said Rabuma. Within minutes, soldiers opened fire, killing people, including Birhanu Dinka, who was leading the crowd at that moment.

“They did not say anything, they just pointed the guns at us. We were begging them not to kill us,” Rabuma, 27, says. While abuses may have occurred, security forces are told to protect civilian lives, according to Getachew.

It is not only lives at stake: around the time of the protests in Wenchi, the property of a Dutch agricultural company, Solagrow, was torched by hundreds of people. Rabuma says the investment angered locals as it fenced off 100 hectares of prime communal grazing land, leased by the government. Solagrow says community relations were healthy and the valley was waterlogged until they drained it.


A cow on Solagrow land near property burnt down in a protest in Chitu, Oromia

A cow on Solagrow land near property burnt down in a protest in Chitu

The project was collateral damage of the political dispute, according to manager Jan van de Haar. “[The protesters] became angry and they said there was only one way to continue, and that’s our farm, because we’re the only investment in that place,” he says. The attack destroyed $300,000-worth of machinery and potato seeds.

Rabuma had no sympathy for Solagrow, which he says was complicit in the government’s oppression of the Oromo. He is instead focused on the struggle ahead.

In Chitu, Chamara speaks for many Oromo as he implores the government to better manage investments and urban sprawl. “No one is opposing the development of the city, but it should not be at the expense of farmers’ lives,” he says.

This article was amended on 18 January 2016 to correct the spelling of Chitu.


Tensions rise as students in Oromia accuse government of land grab December 9, 2015

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Say no to the master killer. Addis Ababa master plan is genocidal plan against Oromo peopleStop killing Oromo StudentsOromoProtests @Finfinnee University  Dec. 7, 2015Oromo students Protests, Western Oromia, Mandii, Najjoo, Jaarsoo,....

“Ethiopian police have moved in to suppress this united demonstration of protest.  Government sharpshooters are firing into crowds and killing students again.”

Protesters say the central government is trying to evict Oromo farmers from their land under the auspices of urban development, with little or no compensation, essentially turning them into street beggars and daily laborers.


Tensions rise as students in Oromia accuse government of land grab


Activists claim security forces have killed at least seven students in more than two weeks across Ethiopia’s Oromia state, where students have been protesting a government plan to expand the area of the capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromia.

Oromia police have confirmed three fatalities in what it termed provocations by “anti-peace elements.”

Images of severely injured students have been posted on social media, and hundreds of other protesters have reportedly been rounded up in a crackdown on those demonstrating against several state-led development projects.

Oromo students, the opposition and diaspora activists liken the proposed Addis Ababa and the Surrounding Oromia Special Zone Integrated Development Plan, or the Master Plan, to a land grab. They fear that it will displace Oromo farmers and undermine Oromia’s interests by expanding Addis Ababa’s boundaries.

Addis Ababa is in the state of Oromia and serves as the regional and federal capital. In theory, the Ethiopian constitution protects Oromia’s “special interest” in Addis Ababa in the provision of social services and use of natural resources and on joint administrative matters.

While the city, home to 4 million people, has experienced massive growth over the last decade, Oromo activists have long decried the lack of social facilities for its Afaan Oromo speakers, including schools, hospitals and cultural institutions.

The protests broke out in November Ginci, a town about 50 miles west of Addis Ababa. Students from universities, high schools and even some primary schools continue to stage sit-ins and demonstrations around the country.

Oromia, the largest of Ethiopia’s nine ethnically based states, is home to close to half the country’s population of 100 million. The Oromo people have long had a contentious relationship with the national government.

“Many Oromos have felt marginalized and discriminated against by successive Ethiopian governments and have often felt unable to voice their concerns over government policies,” Felix Horne, the Horn of Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch, wrote in a Dec. 5 blog post.

He called for an immediate halt to the excessive use of force by security personnel, an independent and impartial investigation into the killings and the prosecution of security forces involved in the violent crackdown.

‘Long-simmering grievance’

Protesters say the central government is trying to evict Oromo farmers from their land under the auspices of urban development, with little or no compensation, essentially turning them into street beggars and daily laborers.

The government says its plan is mutually beneficial, will enhance cooperation and will make the area globally competitive by remedying its disorganized spatial growth.

Addis Ababa serves as landlocked Ethiopia’s primary gateway to the outside world. Last year the New York–based consultancy A.T. Kearney named Addis Ababa “the third-most-likely city to advance its global positioning,” adding, “the Ethiopian capital is also among the cities closing in fastest on the world leaders.”

Modest economic growth and the lack of opportunities in rural areas have fueled massive rural-to-urban migration. The Master Plan is part of an effort to mitigate the city’s resulting rapid expansion. But critics contend that the proposal focuses mostly on attracting investors and will ensure the continued erasure of Oromos’ historical and cultural values from the city.

The Oromo students’ protests are not new. They been demonstrating against the central state for most of the last two decades.

In April and May 2014, Ethiopian security forces fired live ammunition at unarmed protesters, killing dozens of students and wounding many others. Hundreds of students were arrested and charged under Ethiopia’ssweeping anti-terrorism law, and many remain incarcerated.

A federal court last week convicted five students for participating in those protests. In the early 2000s, Ethiopia saw similar protests and violence over a government plan to move Oromia’s capital from Addis Ababa. The decision was reversed in 2005 amid a public outcry.

There has been limited media coverage of the ongoing protests. There are strong restrictions on the free press in Ethiopia, one of the most censored countries in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Government critics and the independent press face increased scrutiny.

Analysts warn that continued violent responses to peaceful protesters could bode ill for Ethiopia’s future.

“The Oromo have long been humiliated with their still marginal status in Ethiopia’s power arrangement,” said Hassen Hussein, an Ethiopian-born university professor in Minnesota. “These almost annual student protests give voice to these long-simmering grievance and perhaps a harbinger of what is to come. The authorities cannot forever count on an aggrieved nation remaining docile.”

Oromo activists and community leaders in North America, Western Europe and Australia are planning solidarity rallies for next week, when more violence is anticipated.

Bonnie Holcomb, an author and anthropologist based in Washington, D.C., said the current situation mirrors the violence of 2014. “The international media were silent when Ethiopian police opened fire into crowds, killing 68, permanently disabling hundreds and arresting thousands. Now the next stage of the Master Plan is being implemented,” she said.

“Ethiopian police have moved in to suppress this united demonstration of protest.  Government sharpshooters are firing into crowds and killing students again,” she said.

Oromia: #Landgrabs: Stolen Land, Stolen Livelihood, Stolen Freedom: In Jimmaa Arjoo, people are resisting the land grabs of Tabba Arjoo: In Abbaay Cooman, Horroo Guduruu Wallaggaa, Oromia, 3000 indigenous Oromo families to be evicted from their native land. December 1, 2015

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Ethiopian-land-giveawayLand grab inOromia

Wallagga, Anaa Jimmaa Arjootti Bulchiinsi Aanaa fi Bulchiinsi Magaalattii Uummatis Bulchiinsota Kana Wajjin Waliitti Bu’uun Wallolaa Jiru.

Muddee 1, 2015 Arjoo Wallagga

Arjo (Jimmaa Arjoo), Wallagga Bahaa, Oromia, Qarree Arjoo irraan  Dachaa Nageessoo Gara Nuunnuutti

 In Jimmaa Arjoo, W. Oromia,  people are resisting the land grabs of Tabba (Qarree) Arjoo.

Qeerroon Jimmaa Arjoo akka hubachiisetti waliitti bu’iinsi kun kan uumamuu danda’eef sababa BOSONA TABBA ARJOOTI jedha.

Bosona Tabba Arjoo bosona uumamaatti dabaluun kan dhaabe uummata naannoo tabba kanaa jiraatu yeroo ta’u, bulchiinsi magaalaa Arjoo immoo kaartaa pilaanii Magaalaan itti qaba jechuun,bosonicha gurgurate Wayita uummanni Bosonni Oromiyaa guutuu mancaasaa jirutti callisnee hin ilaallu jechuun bosona Arjoo ciramaa jirutti ba’an bulchiinsi Jimmaa Arjoo kana girguruun nu ilaala jechuun bulchiinsa magaalattifi uummaticha wajjin wal dhabuutu himame.

Uummatichi yeroo ammaa kana Bosonni tabba Arjoo gonkumaa hinciramu jechuun mormii jabaa dhageessisaniin achuma aanicha keessa bakka leenjii humna waraanaa wayyaaneetii loltuu bobbaasuun uummaticha ba’aaf gala dhorkachaa fi uummaticha akka jeeqa jiran beekameera

Uummatichis humna loltuu kana jalaa utuu hin dheeffin,mee muki tokko bosona kana keessaa haa cittu jedhee eeggachaa akka jiru qeerroon gabaaseera.

Aanaa Abbaay Coomanitti abbootii Warraa 3000 buqqisuuf qophaa’an.

Abbaay Cooman, Horroo Guduruu Wallaggaa, Oromia

 In Abbaay Cooman, Horroo Guduruu Wallaggaa, Oromia, 3000 indigenous Oromo families to be evicted from their native land.

(OMN:Oduu Sadaasa 30, 2015): Godina Horro Guduruu Wallaggaa aanaa Abbay Coomanitti abbootiin warraa, kuma sadii gahan  akka qe’ee isaanii gad dhiisuun bakka  biraa qubatan ajajni darbe.

Jiraatonni aanichaa gama isaaniin bakka deemnu hin qabnu jechuun mormaa akka jiran OMN tti himan.

Godina Horro Guduruu Wallagaatti jiraataan aanaa Abbay Coomman Magaalaa Kuyyisaa tokko akka OMN tti himanitti warshaan shukkaara Finci’aa waan babbalataa jiruuf jiraatooni Aaanichaa kuma sadii gahan akka bakka biraa qubataniif yemmuu mariisisuuf yaalametti ummanni waltajjii dhiisee bahuu himan.

Gaaffiin jiraatoota kanaa bakka  itti  qubbattu  jedhame sana  bu’uuraaleen misoomaa waan hin jirreef  akkamiin jiraanna kan jedhuu dha.

Umamnni Magaala Kuyyisaa fi naannawa ishee jiraatan walgayii sana irratti yaada kennaniin hanga Mootummaan bakka itti quubatan kennuufitti akka qe’ee isaanii irra hin buqqaanne beeksisuun walgayii sana dhiisanii akka bahan jiraataan kun OMN tti himaniiru.

Alamaayyoo Qannaatiin.

Want to double world food production? Return the land to small farmers! November 26, 2015

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???????????Coffee (Buna) originated from Oromia2Study on Agroecology (OAKLAND INSTITUTE) in Africa Sweet potato harvest. Credit to Aminah Jasho, KHCP.

Want to double world food production? Return the land to small farmers!

GRAIN, Ecologist

22nd November 2014

All over the world, small farmers are being forced off their land to make way for corporate agriculture, writes GRAIN – and it’s justified by the need to ‘feed the world’. But it’s the small farmers that are the most productive, and the more their land is grabbed, the more global hunger increases. We must give them their land back!

The data show that the concentration of farmland in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day.

The United Nations declared 2014 as theInternational Year of Family Farming. As part of the celebrations, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released its annual ‘State of Food and Agriculture‘, which this year is dedicated to family farming.

Family farmers, FAO say, manage 70-80% of the world’s farmland and produce 80% of the world’s food.

But on the ground – whether in Kenya, Brazil, China or Spain – rural people are being marginalised and threatened, displaced, beaten and even killed by a variety of powerful actors who want their land.

A recent comprehensive survey by GRAIN, examining data from around the world, finds that while small farmers feed the world, they are doing so with just 24% of the world’s farmland – or 17% if you leave out China and India. GRAIN’s report also shows that this meagre share is shrinking fast.

How, then, can FAO claim that family farms occupy 70 to 80% of the world’s farmland? In the same report, FAO claims that only 1% of all farms in the world are larger than 50 hectares, and that these few farms control 65% of the world’s farmland, a figure much more in line with GRAIN’s findings.

Just what is a ‘family farm’

The confusion stems from the way FAO deal with the concept of family farming, which they roughly define as any farm managed by an individual or a household. (They admit there is no precise definition. Various countries, like Mali, have their own.)

Thus, a huge industrial soya bean farm in rural Argentina, whose family owners live in Buenos Aires, is included in FAO’s count of ‘family farms’.

What about sprawling Hacienda Luisita, owned by the powerful Cojuanco family in the Philippines and epicentre of the country’s battle for agrarian reform since decades. Is that a family farm?

Looking at ownership to determine what is and is not a family farm masks all the inequities, injustices and struggles that peasants and other small scale food producers across the world are mired in.

It allows FAO to paint a rosy picture and conveniently ignore perhaps the most crucial factor affecting the capacity of small farmers to produce food: lack of access to land. Instead, the FAO focuses its message on how family farmers should innovate and be more productive.

Small farmers are ever more squeezed in

Small food producers’ access to land is shrinking due a range of forces. One is that because of population pressure, farms are getting divided up amongst family members. Another is the vertiginous expansion of monoculture plantations.

In the last 50 years, a staggering 140 million hectares – the size of almost all the farmland in India – has been taken over by four industrial crops: soya bean, oil palm, rapeseed and sugar cane. And this trend is accelerating.

In the next few decades, experts predict that the global area planted to oil palm willdouble, while the soybean area will grow by a third. These crops don’t feed people. They are grown to feed the agro-industrial complex.

Other pressures pushing small food producers off their land include the runaway plague of large-scale land grabs by corporate interests. In the last few years alone, according to the World Bank, some 60 million hectares of fertile farmland have been leased, on a long-term basis, to foreign investors and local elites, mostly in the global South.

While some of this is for energy production, a big part of it is to produce food commodities for the global market, instead of family farming.

Small is beautiful – and productive

The paradox, however, and one of the reasons why despite having so little land, small producers are feeding the planet, is that small farms are often more productive than large ones.

If the yields achieved by Kenya’s small farmers were matched by the country’s large-scale operations, the country’s agricultural output would double. In Central America, the region’s food production would triple. If Russia’s big farms were as productive as its small ones, output would increase by a factor of six.

Another reason why small farms are the feeding the planet is because they prioritise food production. They tend to focus on local and national markets and their own families. In fact, much of what they produce doesn’t enter into trade statistics – but it does reach those who need it most: the rural and urban poor.

If the current processes of land concentration continue, then no matter how hard-working, efficient and productive they are, small farmers will simply not be able to carry on.

The data show that the concentration of farmland in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day.

According to one UN study, active policies supporting small producers and agro-ecological farming methods could double global food production in a decade and enable small farmers to continue to produce and utilise biodiversity, maintain ecosystems and local economies, while multiplying and strengthening meaningful work opportunities and social cohesion in rural areas.

Agrarian reforms can and should be the springboard to moving in this direction.

To double global food production, we must support the small farmers

Experts and development agencies are constantly saying that we need to double food production in the coming decades. To achieve that, they usually recommend a combination of trade and investment liberalisation plus new technologies.

But this will only empower corporate interests and create more inequality. The real solution is to turn control and resources over to small producers themselves and enact agricultural policies to support them.

The message is clear. We need to urgently put land back in the hands of small farmers and make the struggle for genuine and comprehensive agrarian reform central to the fight for better food systems worldwide.

FAO’s lip service to family farming just confuses the matter and avoids putting the real issues on the table.



The Socio-Political and Governance Dimensions of Hunger:Exploring Ethiopia’s Crisis November 8, 2015

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???????????Famine in Ethiopia 2015Ethiopian-land-giveawayTigrean Neftengna's land grabbing and the Addis Ababa Master plan for Oormo genocide

Ironically, while Ethiopia is facing a hunger crisis and making urgent appeals for aid, tonnes of food are actually leaving the country. This illogical development is due to the fact that the regime in Addis has sold large tracts of arable land to a range of foreign investors and corporations in transactions described as “land grabs.” The process also involves “villagization,” a government-led program which entails the forcible relocation of indigenous communities from locations reserved for large, foreign-owned plantations. Reports by rights groups list a plethora of human rights violations, including murders, beatings, rapes, imprisonment, intimidation, and political coercion by the government and authorities. A report by the Oakland Institute (OI), a prominent international human rights organization, vividly describes how via “strongarm tactics reminiscent of apartheid South Africa, the Ethiopian regime has moved tens of thousands of people against their will to purpose-built communes that have inadequate food and lack health and education facilities to make way for large, foreign-owned commercial agricultural projects.”  Notably, the program has also led to food insecurity, a destruction of livelihoods and the loss of cultural heritage of ethnic groups.

The Socio-Political and Governance Dimensions of Hunger:Exploring Ethiopia’s Crisis

By Fikrejesus Amahazion,  africabusiness.com

Food insecurity is one of the most pressing humanitarian issues in the Horn of Africa, and the situation is expected to deteriorate further over the coming months. Ethiopia, in particular, is faced with a massive crisis. According to the European Commission, “the situation in Ethiopia is at present the most alarming, where the number of food insecure people has increased from 2.9 million at the beginning of the year to 8.2 million by early October. It is foreseen that these numbers will further rise up to 15 million by the end of 2015. Rates of acute under-nutrition are well above emergency thresholds in many parts of the country, while the response to this situation is hampered by an important shortage of nutrition supplies. In the worst affected areas in the Northern, Central and Eastern regions of the country hundreds of thousands of livestock deaths are reported.” Moreover, UNICEF warns that a large number of those facing hunger will be children; approximately 5 million children will “require relief food assistance during the last quarter of 2015,” with hundreds of thousands urgently requiring treatment for acute severe malnutrition.

The crisis is largely being attributed to the El Niño weather phenomenon and the underperformance of two consecutive rainy seasons, which have combined to negatively affect the country’s agricultural harvest cycle. During the last two months, prolonged, erratic and insufficient rainfall has led to poor vegetation conditions in southern Ethiopia, and widespread drought, which has severely impacted ground conditions.

However, although environmental factors have been significant, it is important to examine the crisis within a broader framework. The roots of hunger are multidimensional and complex; beyond immediate environmental causes, hunger involves a variety of factors including, amongst others, socio-political and governance dynamics. According to scholar Tim Hitchcock, “famines aren’t about the lack of food in the world. They aren’t about the lack of aid. We know that the harvest is going to fail in Eastern Africa once every 12 to 15 years. If you have a working state and your harvest fails, you raise the cash and you buy food and ship it in, and you make sure it is distributed. You don’t allow people to starve.” In Ethiopia, “[hunger and] food insecurity stems from government failures in addressing major structural problems” (Siyoum, Hilhorst, and Van Uffelen 2012).

The European Union (EU) has provided over €1 billion in humanitarian aid to the Horn of Africa since 2011, much of which has gone to Ethiopia. Annually, Ethiopia receives hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from a variety of bilateral and multilateral sources; across the 2004-2013 period, the country was the world’s 4thlargest recipient of foreign assistance, receiving nearly US$6 billion, while in 2011 alone, its share of total global official development assistance – approximately 4 percent – placed it behind only Afghanistan. However, even while it has long-been one of the leading recipients of foreign, humanitarian, and food aid in the world, the country continues to face crises. Why? One influential factor is the debilitating mix of domestic corruption and poor governance. According to prominent development scholar and international economist Dambisa Moyo (2009), aid is often closely linked to corruption and poor governance, and “aid flows destined to help the average African…[get] used for anything, save the developmental purpose for which they were intended.” Moreover, “a constant stream of ‘free’ money is a perfect way to keep an inefficient or simply bad government in power.” In the 1980s, during widespread famine and drought, Ethiopia’s brutal Dergue regime, led by Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam, diverted millions in humanitarian aid to the military, while under the despotic rule of Meles Zenawi, aid was frequently utilized as a political tool of manipulation and repression. Several months ago, leaked emails revealed that the Ethiopian regime, which is now making appeals for aid and external support, was paying the Italian surveillance firm, Hacking Team, to illegally monitor journalists critical of the government.

Corruption and poor governance remain deeply embedded within Ethiopia’s socio-political structure, and the country consistently scores extremely poorly on the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators, especially within the areas of corruption, rule of law, and governance (Kaufmann, Kraay, and Mastruzzi 2010; World Bank 2014). The indicators, based upon a variety of perceptions-based data sources, provide measures for various states, with scores ranging from around –2.5 (low) to around 2.5 (high). Table 1 illustrates that corruption, rule of law, and governance are significant problems within Ethiopia.

Another area of considerable concern is democracy and civil liberties. Ethiopia has been consistently criticized by an array of international rights groups for its broad range of human rights abuses including its harsh repression of minorities and journalists, press censorship, draconian anti-terror laws that are utilized to silence all forms of dissent, and brutal crackdowns upon opposition groups and protestors.

According to the Polity IV Project (Marshall and Gurr 2013), which is widely used in international comparative analyses of democracy, governance, and human rights practices, Ethiopia is one of the most authoritarian, autocratic states in the world. The Polity IV Project codes the political characteristics of states, using an array of data sources, to rank states from –10, representing least democratic and most autocratic states, to 10, representing most democratic states. Table 2 displays that Ethiopia’s scores place it within the autocratic, authoritarian category. The applicability of this categorization is underscored by the fact that, mere months ago, the government in Addis Ababa won 100 percent of parliamentary seats in a widely discredited national election that involved massive irregularities and intimidation, crackdowns, and arrests of the opposition.

Importantly, scholars and analysts have pointed to the existence of an intricate relationship between democracy, civil liberty, and hunger or famine. According to internationally renowned development and human rights scholar Amartya Sen, “no democracy has ever suffered a great famine” (1999: 180-181). Specifically, Sen notes that throughout history famines have been avoided in democratic states because these states’ promotion of political and civil rights afford people the opportunity to draw forceful attention to their general needs and to demand appropriate public action through voting, criticizing, protesting, and the like. Authoritarian states, which curtail democracy and free press, sustain much less pressure to respond to the acute suffering of their people and can therefore continue with faulty policies. Sen’s discussion of many of the great famines within recent history – including those in Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, China, the former USSR, and North Korea – helps emphasize the fundamental relationship between democracy, civil liberties, and widespread famine and hunger (Sen 1999).

Ironically, while Ethiopia is facing a hunger crisis and making urgent appeals for aid, tonnes of food are actually leaving the country. This illogical development is due to the fact that the regime in Addis has sold large tracts of arable land to a range of foreign investors and corporations in transactions described as “land grabs.” The process also involves “villagization,” a government-led program which entails the forcible relocation of indigenous communities from locations reserved for large, foreign-owned plantations. Reports by rights groups list a plethora of human rights violations, including murders, beatings, rapes, imprisonment, intimidation, and political coercion by the government and authorities. A report by the Oakland Institute (OI), a prominent international human rights organization, vividly describes how via “strongarm tactics reminiscent of apartheid South Africa, the Ethiopian regime has moved tens of thousands of people against their will to purpose-built communes that have inadequate food and lack health and education facilities to make way for large, foreign-owned commercial agricultural projects.”

Notably, the program has also led to food insecurity, a destruction of livelihoods and the loss of cultural heritage of ethnic groups.

Essentially, the Ethiopian regime’s participation in “land grabs” represents a dire lack of leadership, prioritization, and proper governance. It has caused terrible disruption to local communities and greatly harmed food security in the name of economic development. Such failure is reminiscent of previous humanitarian crises in the country. As described by Mosse (1993), during the 1960s and 1970s, the nomadic Afars of Ethiopia were displaced from their pasturelands in the Awash valley. The Awash River was controlled in the 1960s to provide irrigation for Dutch, Israeli, Italian, and British firms to grow sugar and cotton. Consequently, the annual flooding of the river, which covered the valley with rich soil and provided grazing lands for the Afars, was disrupted. The Afars went in search of new pastures and attempted to make a living on the ecologically fragile uplands, which were poorly suited to their nomadic lifestyle. Cattle found less to eat and the Afars began to starve. Subsequently, when drought struck Ethiopia’s Wollo region in 1972, between 25 and 30 percent of the Afars perished. The problem was not due to particular inadequacies of the Afars – who had flourished for centuries; rather, the problem was with the attempt to develop the Afar lands and bring them into the mainstream economy, without any regard for their actual needs. Ultimately, the pursuit of economic growth or development, if not sensitive or responsive to local needs, can so damage existing local populations and communities that substantial harm, poverty, deprivation, and hunger are created as a result (Mosse 1993).

Ethiopia’s hunger crisis is an important humanitarian issue meriting immediate attention and concern. In order to fully understand the crisis it is imperative to recognize that while the environment has been an important contributing factor, a range of other structural socio-political and governance dynamics, including corruption, the lack of rule of law or democracy, poor governance, failures in long-term planning, and misplaced national and development priorities have also been highly influential.

The ‘Brazil of #Africa’: How development institutions are financing land grabs in the DRC July 23, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Land Grabs in Africa.
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Image Credit: Belgeo Revue

Below is an audio interview I conducted with Devlin Kuyek, Senior Researcher at GRAIN. GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems. In the interview, Devlin talks abouta recent report they put out that reveals how a Canadian agribusiness company, Feronia — financed by American and European Development Institutions, is involved in land grabbing, corrupt practices and human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kuyek traces the colonial origins of palm oil plantations in the DRC along the Congo River, dating back from the time of King Leopold and the Lever Brothers (which became Unilever), to present-day land grabs funded by Development Finance Institutions and sanctioned by the World Bank; a process which has occurred as part of a re-orientation of aid from poverty alleviation to straightforward investment in private companies.

Community members interviewed as part of the report claim that their land was never ceded to the company and that conditions on the plantations are abysmal. According to Kuyek, this type of large-scale intensive agricultural model that is expanding in different parts of Africa is deeply problematic, taking away valuable land and water resources from small farmers and pastoralists, and creating greater food insecurity in places that are suffering most from the global food crisis.

Here is an excerpt of my interview with Devlin:

Your recent report looks at what you call ‘agro-colonialism’ in the DRC, and specifically at a Canadian company, Feronia, that’s investing in palm oil plantations in the Congo. We think of agribusiness and land grabs more in a contemporary sense on the continent, but in the DRC there’s a whole history to palm oil. Can you go back a bit and give some historical context to palm oil plantations in the DRC?

Yes, many of the current land grabs are actually new companies taking over old plantation concessions. This is the case in the DRC with Feronia. These plantations go back over 100 years and were set up by the Lever brothers at the time, which became Unilever, now one of the largest food multinationals in the world. They were given an enormous concession by King Leopold along the Congo River, which is a beautiful area of forest. Palm oil is a traditional crop of the people and has hundreds of different uses.  They started forcing people to collect and harvest palm oil for them. So initially it wasn’t plantation agriculture, but it quickly moved to a plantation model. Their concessions were for around 100 000 hectares. It was the most severe and grave forms of colonial plantation exploitation you can imagine. Most of the local people would describe it as slavery and this is how it was for about 80, 90 years. Then into the 90s, with war in that part of the Congo, Unilever’s activities started to decrease and they put their plantations up for sale. And you now have this new investor, Feronia, set up by financial players that have no experience in the agricultural sector, but were interested in taking advantage of the new push into agribusiness in Africa. They set up Feronia and were going to turn the DRC into the new Brazil of Africa, introducing a Brazilian model of GMO, intensive monoculture, large-scale farming in the Congo, which is a mainly a country of small-scale production.

In your report, you gave examples of people who have been intimidated by the company for harvesting palm oil in specific areas where there are plantations. There was also a case of a young man who disappeared. Can you talk about some of those incidents?

Whoever we spoke to, one of the first complaints they had was about the local company security. These concessions are like states within a state. The company controls everything – the roads, the social services and their own police force. All of the people that we spoke to had stories of intimidation or abuse from these company security agents. What often happens is, given the poverty and lack of access to land and forest, people will occasionally collect nuts that have fallen in the plantations and apparently, if they are caught by the company security forces with nuts in their hand, they are severely treated.   We’ve heard cases of people being whipped, arrested, brought to local prison and in this one case, we were told of a boy who was caught with oil palm nuts and was detained, put on a company vehicle and was supposed to be brought to the local police station, but never made it. He has not been heard of since. The family was afraid that they would be targeted and harassed so they fled as well and have been in hiding ever since.

Listen to the entire interview below:


Africa’s Land Grabs: An Opportunity Or A New Form of Colonialism? September 25, 2013

Posted by OromianEconomist in Colonizing Structure, Economics, Land Grabs in Africa, Uncategorized.
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‘From hopeless continent to investment darling of the world – are land investments in Africa an answer to worldwide food insecurity or a dangerous new form of colonialism?’  Aljazeera, on its  South2North talks to former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, Nigerian politician and Oxfam trustee Nkoyo Toyo and Philippe Heilberg, a land investor from the US. Here is the the details of interesting debates and the video:

‘Escalating energy and food prices have triggered a global scramble for Africa’s land and water resources. Eager to feed their growing populations, countries are buying up prime farmland in Africa at rock bottom prices. Land eight times the size of the UK has already been bought up by hungry investors.Redi asks Chissano if this investment is a new scramble for Africa.”‘The scramble for Africa is never good. We have known that since Berlin and we fought against it. But investment is welcomed if it is done in a win-win situation when people benefit from this investment.” Toyo explains that the trend towards buying land in Africa has come from the 2008 spike in food prices, a concern about global food security as well as an impending energy crisis. However, she warns that investments might not be as good as they seem, and that UN records show alarmingly rapid sales of African land.”The problem with this type of investment is not that we do not want to see investment. It’s that we see investments that are increasingly not addressing the needs of the continent. We hear that at least 33 million square hectares of land are lands which have been acquired in just less than 10 years.”Heilberg argues that the statistics from the UN are highly distorted because they are not closed or officialdeals. He says that his own figures have been doubled in some accounts.”Land is cheap in Africa, but there are many reasons why it’s cheap. In many parts of the continent there is little to no infrastructure whatsoever …. The frontier markets offer incredible risk-reward opportunities. Because when the growth happens it’s exponential.” Toyo disagrees that these deals have always been above-board and that they benefit local communities.’