Response to the Report Entitled “Engineering Ethnic Conflict: The Toll of Ethiopia’s Plantation Development on the Suri People”  

14 Nov 2014

The Ethiopian Embassy in London has noted with dismay that a report containing wild allegations against Ethiopia, has once again been published by the Oakland Institute (OI). As usual, OI’s report is characterized by outright lies, distortions and exaggerations.

Oakland Institute’s previous reports have been repeatedly refuted by independent investigations undertaken by development partners and NGO’S operating in Ethiopia that have the full grasp of the reality on the ground.

 In its report, OI alleges that the allocation of land for commercial farming activities in Bench Maji Zone, south western Ethiopia has caused clashes between two communities which left over 50 people dead. Incongruously, it accuses the Government of Ethiopia of “engineering” the clashes leaving the reader wondering how to piece together the allegations it makes against the government.

Ethiopia has 76 million hectares of arable land and has so far utilized only 16 million hectares out of that. While much of this is being used by small holder farmers, there are large swathes of vacant land that are suitable for large scale farming. Currently, the government has at its disposal 3 million hectares of vacant land out of which it has so far allocated about 400,000 hectares for large scale agricultural development. It is a clearly stated policy of the government to only earmark unoccupied land for large scale farming. Indeed there is no political or economic rationale to displace small-holder farmers for the purpose of expanding commercial farms. The validity of OI’s allegations must therefore, be scrutinized in view of these realities on the ground.

The political and economic transformation unfolding in Ethiopia today is an all- inclusive and participatory development, which seeks to improve the livelihood of all nations and nationalities of the country. The ongoing development and modernization drive in Ethiopia has resulted in improved access to education, shelter, clean water, health facilities and other social infrastructures in all parts of the country. This is particularly true of those parts of Ethiopia which were considered peripheries and were marginalised under previous regimes. Clearly, like their compatriots in other parts of the country, the Suri (Surma) are also fully entitled to benefit from development. OI, however, seems to be thinking that those parts of Ethiopia should forever stay in the same socio-economic condition as they have always been.  The people of Ethiopia, from whichever part of the country they may be, are capable of making decisions for themselves and don’t require self-appointed guardians living thousands of miles away to make decisions for them.

The report was timed to coincide with the Inaugural Conference on Land Policy in Africa which is being held in Addis Ababa from11-14 November 2014. OI failed to understand why the conference is taking place in Ethiopia. Ethiopia was selected as a venue for the conference because of its sound land and resource management strategy that is currently under implementation. Ethiopia has no lesson to learn from OI about Environmental protection and the preservation of indigenous cultures …etc, since these are cardinal principles that are enshrined in the Ethiopian Constitution. The fact that OI has chosen to stand in diametric opposition against every positive feature of Ethiopia’s socio-economic development process indicates that it is on a mission of a malicious campaign.

OI’s ultimate objective is to drive a wedge between Ethiopia and its development partners and slow down the pace of rapid economic development. We live the judgement to the public as to why this group has targeted a country that is highly acclaimed for its pro- poor development agenda and the achievements it has made so far. We call on members of the international community not be swayed by this unfounded allegation but continue to support to Ethiopia, which is working relentlessly to make poverty history.

***ENDS***

 

For further information, please contact the Embassy’s Press Office on 020 7838 3880/3; info@ethioembassy.org.uk

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