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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs