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Ethiopia to Press on with Controversial Forced Resettlement

July 19, 2013
Africa Review

The Ethiopian government has vowed to continue with its often controversial rural settlement programme in the coming years despite strong criticism.

The programme, which the central government has been implementing over the last decade, has benefited citizens residing in the poorer regions, a Ministry of Federal Affairs spokesman said.

During the last two years the ministry has moved 200,000 households in 388 resettlement centres, Mr Abebe Worku said.

The forced resettlement has often been to make way for huge agricultural investments in what many critics have likened to land grabs.

Addis Ababa argues that the programme is totally voluntary and targets ending food aid dependency of millions of rural Ethiopians.

"Citizens involved in the programme have comprehensively benefited from services such as potable water supply, access to primary education and health centres," said Mr Worku.

"An intensive discussion has been conducted prior to the implementation of the programme about a detailed action plan with the local communities and administrations."

According to the officer, development services such as agricultural extension plans are included to help the displaced communities jumpstart new production.

Donor concern

Ethiopia has been criticised by international human rights groups and scholars for its resettlement programmes, with donors also expressing concern.

Among others, a delegation of the European Parliament which visited Ethiopia this week "underlined the importance of adequately consulting the populations concerned, and ensuring that such resettlement programmes do not lead to human rights violations". (Read: Ethiopia rights record alarms European MPs)

The Oakland Institute of the United States, which has released a report on the negative effects of the allocation of vast rural land to huge agricultural investments by the private sector and the state, also criticised the resettlement.

"Bottom line, our research shows unequivocally that current violent and controversial forced resettlement programmes of mostly minority groups in Ethiopia have US and UK aid fingerprints all over them," Anuradha Mittal, the Institute's executive director, said.

"It's up to the officials involved to swiftly re-examine their role and determine how to better monitor funding if they are indeed not in favour of violence and repression as suitable relocation techniques for the development industry," she said after releasing the ‘Development Aid to Ethiopia’ report on July 17, 2013.

Ethiopia is a major recipient of aid from international donors.