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Ethiopia clears swathes of land, displacing thousands: HRW

AFP , Wednesday 19 Feb 2014
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Ethiopia is clearing large swathes of land and forcibly displacing populations to make room for state-run sugar plantations in the Omo Valley, according to Human Rights Watch.

The rights watchdog said 500,000 people are affected by the land clearance, which covers "virtually" the whole valley in southern Ethiopia. The reports are based on recently released satellite imagery.

"Ethiopia can develop its land and resources but it shouldn't run roughshod over the rights of its indigenous communities," said HRW's Africa director Leslie Lefkow.

There are several large state-run sugar plantations in the Omo Valley and several new projects under way. Sugar production, mainly for export, is a key source of revenue for Ethiopia.

HRW said communities -- mainly pastoralists -- are being forcibly moved under the government's "villagisation" program, which Addis Ababa says will help rural citizens access key services such as education and health care.

"As has been seen in other parts of Ethiopia, these movements are not all voluntary," said HRW.

The lush Omo Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to several indigenous tribes, including the 7,000-member Bodi group, often photographed in traditional beaded dress and with lip plates.

Several rivers run through the valley, including the Gibe River, which the government is using to build a number of large hydroelectric dams.

The main tributary for Kenya's Lake Turkana is the Gibe River, and environmental groups have said the dam constructions will dramatically decrease water levels.

With an average income of less than $2 per day, Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, but also has one of the globe's fastest growing economies.

The Horn of Africa nation is seeking to industrialise its economy, notably in the agricultural sector, in order to boost exports and reach middle income status by 2025. 

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Harmonica
20-02-2014 05:04am
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Is HRW against development in Ethiopia?
What an irony!! Ethiopia like any sovereign country can develop its land and resources within its territory for the sake of its people. After all, there is no country in the world that developed without affecting its indigenous community including in North America. The issue should be these Ethiopians should get the compensation they deserve. After all, they are children of Ethiopia it is their home.I am sure the government is treating them very well.They should not be living in a bush forever.They deserve better. It is always painful for HRW to see development in Africa. Long live Ethiopia!!!
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LM
20-02-2014 12:06am
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Very deceptive people...
I seriously believe "civil" society groups like HWR, International Rivers, Oakland Institute, and the like, are racially motivated. They have a very condescending view of Africans, for sure, but more than that, they disguise their resentment for blacks beneath the guise of compassion - and quite pathologically. I always found that to be one of, if not the most insidious form of racism, which fools others into recognizing it as some charitable philosophy, even sometimes fooling the practitioner into thinking he is not being racist. But I tend to think; especially in this case, there is a consciously racist agenda. Their argument seems to be, "you are more pure and noble if you remain in a hunter-gatherer lifestyle" or "you should avoid modernity because it will corrupt you". Not to mention these "civil" society groups deliberately exacerbate racial politics in black African countries, spreading hear say, pitting one ethnic group against another, then stepping back and watching the sparks fly, and proclaim triumphantly "Aha, you see? All of this development caused conflict for resources, just as WE predicted".
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Jasmine
19-02-2014 03:16pm
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Do people have to live in bushes just for aesthetic value?
I don't get the HWR's objective in objecting what Ethiopia is doing. Do people have to stay in the bush for their well being? What a contradiction is that when you prefer your own modern life that you are advocating bush life and total savagery?
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LM
20-02-2014 12:03am
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Well said...
Exactly. Their motto is "Do what we say, not what we do". They act like Africans who live a very ancient way of life are more important than the Africans who want to a modern life. Divide and conquer. It never gets old.
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