The ruling minority regime in Ethiopia has recently announced that it has set aside nearly 3 million hectares of land for sale to foreign companies and governments. The land that is put aside for sale constitutes a substantial amount of the nation’s fertile land, which is owned and operated by the Ethiopian people. This contemptible transfer of land to foreigners is taking place in a country [Ethiopia] where more than 85 percent of the population directly depend on farming for their livelihood. Ethiopia, the second most populace country in Sub-Saharan Africa, is a country that has suffered years of corrupt agricultural and poor environmental policies that has resulted in a high degree of environmental degradation.
Currently, Ethiopia’s rich bio-diversity is very fragile, and its eco-system is in a precarious condition. Therefore, the proposed large scale agricultural mechanization and chemicalization of soil by foreign governments that ignores the nation’s current and future integrated agricultural and environmental needs is an extremely dangerous move that accelerates the ecological disaster already in progress mainly due to negligence by the irresponsible regime ruling the country.
Following the “Auction Notice” posted by the regime; Ethiopia has become a very attractive destination for Middle Eastern and Asian interests. Under the guise of “Foreign Investment”, the ruling Tigrai People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has embarked on a large-scale land selling spree, disregarding the advice of economists, environmental experts, entrepreneurs and concerned citizens. In fact, many Ethiopian land experts, policy analysts, agricultural researchers, and the World Food Programme (WFP) have warned that large-scale land acquisition by foreign interests negatively impacts the immediate and long-term economic interests of the people of Ethiopia.
Obviously, the powerful global interests and the countries involved in this neo-colonial land grab with the full consent of Zenawi’s corrupt regime, are not interested in overcoming Ethiopia’s recurring famine and perennial food shortage, their sole interest is to produce agricultural products to alleviate food shortages in their respective countries. Moreover, this illicit land sale will not end poverty as claimed by Zenawi’s regime; it will rather disenfranchise millions of poor peasant farmers who cultivate small pieces of fragmented land (0.09 hectares).
As late as July 2009, the WFP announced that it requires a total of 744,000 metric tons of food to help 9.7 million Ethiopians that need urgent food assistance. Owing to the prevalence of bad governance and faulty economic policies, it is already clear that Ethiopia is far from achieving its Millennium Development Goals. Evidently, the Millennium goals will never be attained if Ethiopian farmers, whom the goal is intended to benefit, are uprooted from their ancestral land.
According to many economic analysts, the TPLF regime’s perfidious foreign land sale deals have far reaching negative economic consequences that hamper agricultural transformation and industrial development in Ethiopia. In many developed and developing countries [including the U.S. and China, one of the land acquiring countries], government policies protect domestic agricultural producers. In Ethiopia, the unpatriotic TPLF regime is doing the exact opposite, which is protecting the interest of foreign producers at the expense of poor Ethiopian farmers.
For example, Ethiopia is a major sesame exporter to China. But, with the new land deal China will have the opportunity to produce sesame and other agricultural products on the cheaply acquired fertile Ethiopian land and ship it directly to its domestic market. If this very troubling “land grab” deal is allowed to continue, in the coming three to five years, Ethiopia’s import earnings will contract, and most importantly, the livelihood of millions of Ethiopian farmers that depends on sesame farming will be endangered. In the long run, Ethiopia’s national security will be severely impacted as foreign interests make more and more agricultural decisions.
Ginbot 7 supports foreign investment in Ethiopia and encourages foreign companies, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to invest in one of Africa’s largest markets. However, deals shrouded with corruption, limited democratic participation by the society at large and non transparent bi-lateral deals with the notoriously opaque Zenawi regime, will not facilitate agricultural and industrial transformation that will be beneficial to the people of Ethiopia.
Ethiopians have harbored exceptionally strong sentimental attachments to the land owned by their ancestors for millennia; and generations of Ethiopians have fought to protect their land. Any attempt at transferring these ancestral lands to foreigners will most definitely provoke strong national resistance.
The Zenawi regime is engaged in this “land for cash” deal with foreign interests to benefit its corrupt ethnic cronies in the ruling party. The Ethiopian people understand that this new wave of foreign land acquisition is neither an investment in their future nor protects the national interest of their country. Furthermore, it needs to be underscored that there is no land in Ethiopia that has no rightful owner. The Zenawi regime can only make these deals by dispossessing and forcefully evicting the rightful owners of the land.
Ginbot 7, strongly condemns this unlawful action by the illegitimate regime of Meles Zenawi and calls on the international community and friends of Ethiopia to denounce the unsavory trend of land acquisition that compromises the food security and land sovereignty of Ethiopia with the concomitant effects on the fragile ecosystem in the country.
Ginbot 7, unequivocally believes that Ethiopian sovereignty trumps contractual obligations. Therefore, all foreign interests that are turning to Ethiopia, in particular, as a food security blanket for their growing population, need to be reminded that the primary and sacred duty of a future democratically elected government of Ethiopia is to protect the welfare of the Ethiopian people.
Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice Freedom and DemocracyGinbot 7 PR Office
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