News / Africa

HRW: Ethiopians 'Forced Off Land'

A Karo tribesman of the remote lower Omo valley guards his goats on a bank of the Omo, Ethiopia, April 2002.
A Karo tribesman of the remote lower Omo valley guards his goats on a bank of the Omo, Ethiopia, April 2002.
Selah Hennessy
LONDON - A report published Monday by Human Rights Watch says the Ethiopian government is forcing tens of thousands of people from their land in order to set up sugar plantations.

According to Felix Horne, a consultant to the New York-based rights group who was in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley researching the report last June, approximately 245,000 hectares of land will be cleared for planting sugar.

"Studies show that approximately 200,000 people live on that area, so we can expect 200,000 people to be impacted in the lower Omo Valley," he said. "Across the border, in Lake Turkana, another 300,000 people rely on the lands around Lake Turkana for their livelihoods."

Irrigating the plantations, he added, will impact the flow of water from the Omo River to Kenya’s Lake Turkana, a move that comes amid disruption caused by construction of a dam that is set to open in 2014 and will aid in irrigation.

"In Lower Omo, this is just part of an integrated development plan that also considers the massive Gibe III dam, which [includes] a lot of road infrastructure," said Horne. "There is also drilling for oil and gas in the region now, so a lot of changes are happening to indigenous people at once."

The changes are exacerbating tensions between the government and the region's traditional inhabitants, agro-pastoralists whose livelihood depends on the ability to wander with their cattle.

"They are being told that they will have to reduce their cattle numbers, that they will have to settle in villages that the government is planning for them, is building for them, and there is a lot of frustration in the region because of this," said Horne.

While the report says the plan's Ethiopian opponents have experienced intimidation, arrest, and violence, the government denies the charge, saying that communication lines are open and that no one is being forced from their residence.

Government spokesman Bereket Simon, who calls the report "biased" and "patronizing," says the rights group is trying to “micromanage” Ethiopia, in part by continually opposing development.

"It's true that we are conducting investment in sugar plantations that we need badly, and it is based on human considerations in consultation with respective indigenous people," said Simon, adding that planning officials have considered the population's needs.

"It's an ongoing project, which will benefit all Ethiopians, with particular attention to the indigenous peoples, the historical and cultural treasures being maintained as well," said. "Land has been allocated for them to do their houses. So everything is line with the plan and it is a democratic, humanist approach that is exercised."

In May, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said that four million hectares of land had been made available to agricultural companies.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Sabrina from: US
June 18, 2012 11:44 PM
The above commenter need to understand that it is because people like him, native Ethiopians, fail to stand with their brethren that Human Rights Watch is doing what it is doing. It is a commendable job. HRW may still be working with the regime too, we don't have information indicating otherwise. Please make sure you know what you are saying before starting to criticize. And most of all please desist from using that old tired excuse, "you are dictating, ...you are patronizing,...its because you are rich ...etc"
It doesn't work anymore.

In Response

by: Gideon from: Washignton, DC
June 20, 2012 3:21 PM
I agree that basic human rights are essential pillars of society and its quest for development; however I have grown increasingly suspicious of the real intentions by HRW. There isn’t a single development activity that HRW hasn’t opposed to. We are not building nuclear weapons but anything Ethiopia does is being criticized as if we are building nuclear weapons. Does the world want to condemn us to poverty forever? We build roads they criticize us, we build dams they criticize us, we allow commercial farming they criticize us, we build railroads they criticize us. What do these people want for us? Do they want us to be condemned to poverty, famine and begging forever? I don’t understand.

In Response

by: Mekdes Hagos from: Boston
June 19, 2012 5:45 PM
This comment is for Sabrina, we are not naive Ethiopians. You are the one who is being naïve by interfering in our country affairs. And you have the audacity to tell others to stop expressing themselves. We know what is best for our country and the people of Ethiopia are with the government on this. We are sick and tired groups like HRW crying crocodile tears. Stay way from our country, we don’t need you. You can talk about this and that until the cows come home. You cannot deter us what we want to accomplish for our country.


by: Ethiopian from: US
June 18, 2012 4:01 PM
The fact that the International community is concerned with the affairs of the indigenous people of the Omo Valley is great. However, how the community chooses to address and possibly resolve the issue is a matter I disagree with. Publishing articles implicating the government will not solve the problem. I am for the protection of the indigenous people, but I feel this article will contribute nothing that is positive for the locals. It will only aggravate the matter. As hard as it is, you need to work with the government in mediating and finding a solution that is mutually beneficial there is always a mid point where everyone can meet and resolve problems. But being from the rich countries, it sounds like you are planning to dictate your wishes on a country.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid