Villagization of indigeneous people in Ethiopia is a threat to their livelihood

According to Human Rights Watch, the Ethiopian government is forcibly relocating approximately 70,000 indigenous people of the Gambella region to new villages that lack “adequate food, farmland, healthcare, and educational facilities.”According to the Villagization Program, the Ethiopian government plans to relocate over 1 million indigenous people from the Gambella, Afar, Somali, and Benishangul-Gumuz regions by 2013. These people will be relocated to villages that have infrastructure, assistance to ensure alternative livelihoods and have better access to government services .  The program is also supposed to be voluntary.

Unfortunately, the reality of the plan is nothing like what it looks like on paper.

The relocation of the indigenous people are supposed to be voluntary, but in reality it is anything but voluntary.  According to HRW, there have been reports of the Ethiopian army beating residents who did not want to relocate.

Also, the government services that were promised have not shown up.  Those who have been relocated had to abandon their crops and cattle- which were their livelihood.  At a time when harvest season was about to begin, this was dangerous for survival. The area they were moved to did not have adequate soil for them to cultivate anything. So, without food, and a way to survive, these people fear a hunger epidemic is about to begin- with the government providing no assistance (assistance they promised).

The reason the government is doing this (though they deny it): to provide the land to investors to grow cash crops because the government felt the indigenous people were not using the land properly. They did this without a proper legal process.

WOW! This is crazy.  The power of greed motivates all.  It is sad to see so many lives disrupted, and so many human rights violated, just so a country can make some money.

It is one thing to relocate these people- in a proper legal process- and compensate them for their troubles (and really compensate them), but it is a totally different thing to relocate them – absent of a legal process- and promise them compensation, but deliver nothing.  The government has basically left these people on their own, without any concern for their livelihood.

The human rights violations taking place here a numerous, one being the international human rights of indigenous people. Indigenous people have a right to their land and their livelihood, just as much as anyone else.

I guess all that goes out the window when it comes to making money.

But my question is, what will the government do when these people die? Are they willing to have this much death on their hands?  Something must be done to make the livelihood of those relocated better- whether it is compensation or showing these people how to live in this new area.  Because if something isn’t done, they will perish.


About Haley Behre

I graduated from Syracuse University in December 2011 with majors in newspaper journalism and women and gender studies. Using these majors, I aspire to become a journalist who writes about human rights issues. I have held internships at the Syracuse New Times, Dash Media PR Firm, Syracuse Post-Standard and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. I also had an internship at the Not For Sale Campaign Syracuse chapter, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking. I was born in Seoul, Korea on September 30, 1990 and moved to the United States before I was one year old. When I was 8, my family and I moved to Norwich, England for three years. While I was here I was immersed into a new culture and got to experience many things other children my age do not get to. Over the three years, I visited Ireland, France and the Netherlands several times, and Belgium, Wales and Sweden once. In the winter of 2010, I got an amazing opportunity to visit Kenya for a month. This was by far the single most eye-opening experience of my life thus far. The natural beauty of the landscape and its people do not compare to anything I have seen. I currently intern for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press in the hopes of getting a full-time job at a newspaper or non-profit after.
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One Response to Villagization of indigeneous people in Ethiopia is a threat to their livelihood

  1. Pingback: [Announcement] Manna from Heaven, Livelihood for victim-survivor of trafficking – CATW-AP « Human Rights Online Philippines

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