News / Africa

    Rights Group Criticizes Ethiopia over Farmland Leases

    A tribesman near the Omo River in Ethiopia. Rights and environmental groups say traditional life in the area would change for the worse if the controversial Gibe III dame is built.
    A tribesman near the Omo River in Ethiopia. Rights and environmental groups say traditional life in the area would change for the worse if the controversial Gibe III dame is built.
    Joe DeCapua

    A human rights group has accused the Ethiopian government of leasing some of its most productive farmland to foreign companies. Survival International said the Omo River region is the traditional homeland of some 90-thousand indigenous people.

    The group said Malaysian, Italian and Korean companies are buying leases; and that large areas are being cleared for state-run plantations.

    “The government announced that it was going ahead with the huge sugar cane plantation known as the Kuraz Project. We know that there are leases given out to other foreign companies. For example, an Italian company, which is leasing 30,000 hectares to grow palm oil,” Fiona Watson, Survival International’s field and research director.

    Allegations

    Survival International said the government has failed to consult the indigenous people, who would be affected. “Leasing of their land without their knowing about it,” said Watson, “is going to create enormous problems for them.”

    The government rejected the group’s allegations. Spokesman Simon Bereket said it was official policy to inform and consult with local populations.  “That is the normal practice in Ethiopia,” he said, “mandated by the constitution to be discussed by all peoples.”

    Bereket called the group’s accusations “baseless.”

    He added, “As far as I know the indigenous people are very supportive of the government. These are indigenous people who had been neglected for centuries, never been considered to be Ethiopians. It’s only now or last 20 years that their identity has been recognized and protected.”

    Watson said the projects threaten to destroy the way of life for the indigenous people near the Omo River.

    “By and large, the tribal peoples of the Omo Valley are self-sufficient people, who have perfected techniques to live reasonably well in what is a difficult environment. If the leases go ahead…they’re going to lose all the ability to be self-sufficient.”

    Many are nomadic cattle herders. Others rely on the seasonal flooding of the Omo River to deposit silt on the farmland, making it more fertile.

    Who owns the land

    However, the government said private property is not an issue in the Omo valley or elsewhere in Ethiopia.

    “Technically, land belongs to the government. Land is not private property in Ethiopia. So, it is basically the government who owns the land of the country.”

    Watson said, “It’s true that the government says that. That doesn’t necessarily make it right. And under all sorts of international conventions and laws, it is recognized that indigenous and tribal peoples should have the right to collectively own their land. In fact there is a clause in the Ethiopia constitution, which says that nomadic pastoralist peoples, which includes most of the people in the Omo Valley, have the right to use land freely to practice their pastoralism.”

    Survival International said government plans for relocating the people to villages would create more poverty and hunger. It said a similar project in the 1980s by a former government, “had an incredibly negative impact.”

    Gibe III

    Survival International has also been a long time critic of the Gibe III damn under construction on the Omo River. It said the dam would end the seasonal floods benefiting farmlands and adversely affect water access in the region.

    “If you look at the land leasing in conjunction with the dam it’s like a double whammy.” Watson said.

    Bereket disagrees. He said, “There is no way, no way that this government would trample upon the rights of such indigenous groups.”

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora