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[Dehai-WN] Independent.co.uk: Ethiopia 'forcing out thousands in land grab'

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2012 21:16:36 +0100

Ethiopia 'forcing out thousands in land grab'

Aaron%20Maasho%22%29&displaySearchString=Aaron%20Maasho> Aaron Maasho

Addis Ababa

Friday 20 January 2012

Ethiopia is forcing tens of thousands of people off their land so it can
lease it to foreign investors, leaving former landowners destitute and in
some cases starving, Human Rights Watch has said.

The country has already leased three million hectares - an area just smaller
than Belgium - to foreign farm businesses, and the US rights group said
Addis Ababa had plans to lease another 2.1 million hectares. The United
Nations has voiced concern that countries such as China and Gulf Arab states
are buying swathes of land in Africa and Asia to secure their own food
supplies, often at the expense of local people.

Human Rights Watch said 1.5 million Ethiopians would eventually be forced
from their land and highlighted what it said was the latest case of forced
relocation in its report, Ethiopia: Forced Relocations Bring Hunger,
Hardship. "The Ethiopian government under its 'villagisation' programme is
forcibly relocating approximately 70,000 indigenous people from the western
Gambella region to new villages that lack adequate food, farmland,
healthcare and educational facilities," it said. "The first round of forced
relocations occurred at the worst possible time of year - the beginning of
the harvest. Government failure to provide food assistance for relocated
people has caused endemic hunger and cases of starvation."

Government officials deny the charge and say the affected plots of land are
largely uninhabited and under-used, while it has also launched a programme
to settle people in more fertile areas.

"Human Rights Watch has wrongly alleged the villagisation programme to be
unpopular and problematic," said a government spokesman. "There is no
evidence to back the claim. This programme is taking place with the full
preparation and participation of regional authorities, the government and

Ethiopia says its intention in leasing large chunks of land is technology
transfer and to boost production.


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