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Foreign Investment Driving Ethiopians off Ancestral Lands

April 16, 2015

The Ethiopian government is driving communities from their homes to make way for commerical agricultural projects to benefit foreign investors.

Ethiopian villagers, who refused to leave their ancestral homes to make way for large scale commercial agriculture, were “forced with gunshots” by the government, a damning first-person account has revealed.

California-based think-tank the Oakland Institute published the first-person testimony, “We Say the Land is Not Yours: Breaking the Silence against Forced Displacement,” Tuesday, to highlight the issue of Ethiopia pushing residents from their villages, usually to the benefit of foreign investors.

According to the account, Ethiopians relocated to new communes are unable to farm or access education and health services, the Guardian reports.

“My village refused to move,” says one villager. “So they forced us with gunshots. Even though they intimidated us, we did not move – this is our land, how do we move? They wanted our land because our land is the most fertile and has access to water. So the land was promised to a national investor.

“Last year, we had to move. The promises of food and other social services made by the government have not been fulfilled. The government gets money from donors but it is not transferred to the communities.”

Not only are foreign investors starting commercial agricultural projects, one interviewee said, but are also mining for minerals and gold, at the expense of communities.

“The government receives money from donors, but they fill their pockets and farmers die of hunger,” one victim explained.

Other community members speak of intimidation and the crushing of opposition.

“One of the government officials was opposed to the government. They wanted to put him in prison. He escaped and is now in Kenya, living as a political refugee,” the study reports.

The accounts are sure to smear the reputation of Ethiopia as a beacon of development. The extent of how marks of social development, including basic human rights, are abused are all too apparent.

“This is not the way for development. They do not cultivate the land for the people. They grow sorghum, maize, sesame, but all is exported, leaving none for the people,” said one interviewee.

A government worker told investigators,  “When people are free, they talk. When they are afraid of repercussion, they stop.”