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EU diplomats reveal devastating impact of Ethiopia dam project on remote tribes –

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source:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/03/eu-diplomats-reveal-devastating-impact-of-ethiopia-dam-project-on-remote-tribes

Lives of semi-nomadic tribespeople being irreversibly changed by relocation into poorly planned settlements to make way for sugar plantation, says released report

The controversial Gibe III dam under construction in Ethiopia’s Omo valley in 2012.

A controversial World Bank-funded scheme to dam a major Ethiopian river and import up to 500,000 people to work in what is planned to be one of the world’s largest sugar plantations has led to tens of thousands of Africa’s most remote and vulnerable people being insensitively resettled.

According to reports, released this week, by two teams of British, American and EU diplomats who visited the resettlement areas in the Lower Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia last year, the lives of 20,000 Mursi, Bodi and other semi-nomadic tribespeople are being “fundamentally and irreversibly” changed by the mega-project.

The $5bn (£3.3bn) Gibe III dam, which towers 243 metres high and will generate 1,870 megawatts (MW) of electricity when completed later this year, will irrigate up to 175,000 hectares of land previously used by herders and small farmers. Constructed with money from the World Bank it has already been linked by human rights groups and anthropologists to conflict and widespread abuses by the Ethiopian government.

But the UK government, which is Ethiopia’s largest donor, twice rejected freedom of information requests to release the findings of the diplomats’ field visits to the resettlement areas on the grounds that publication could jeopardise relations between the countries.

“Releasing the information requested could significantly damage the UK’s ability to deliver government policy and to protect and promote UK interests,” it argued.

However, two documents from the Donor Advisory Group released to Survival International by the European commission this week suggest that the Ethiopian government insisted that indigenous communities living downstream of the dam had no choice but to quit their ancestral lands to make way for the plantations.

In over 30 pages of reports of meetings held with communities and individuals last year, the diplomats say that the Ethiopian government did not obtain the full prior consent of the tribes as recommended under international law. Many of the tribes had no idea that the dam would effect them, they said.

People from one un-named village were said to have been: “placed in a muddy and isolated site, in inferior huts. Their situation was deplorable; the absence of sanitation means [they] are suffering diseases such as bloody diarrhea and malaria. Services are unavailable, it takes a two-hour walk to the nearest canal for bad quality drinking water while the nearest health post is eight hours on foot. Residents say the government does not allow this group to move out.”

The diplomats reported that the remote Omo Valley has been totally transformed since the river Omo was blocked and irrigation canals built. They said they expected the influx of 500,000 workers, mainly from the Ethiopian Highlands, would lead to ethnic conflict and widespread social destabilisation.

A second group of British, EU and other diplomats who visited groups of resettled Suri people heard evidence of corruption, financial mismanagement, land grabbing, inter-tribal raiding, and poorly planned settlements.

The diplomats, who were accompanied at all times by government officials, said they found no evidence of forced migration but stated that the government was not offering the semi-nomadic communities any alternative to permanent settlement and had not fully consulted groups before evicting them.

They also found that the giant sugar plantations would deny the tribespeople access to grazing and farming lands on which they depend for survival. Around 200,000 people in the Omo Valley are likely to be affected by the dam in some way.

“It seems clear that local government and plantation have decided that resettlement is necessary. Government is not offering communities any alternative but to settle permanently,” said one report.

While some communities and individuals said they welcomed a more sedentary life with better access to health and education in the new villages, many others fiercely rejected the government scheme and have sought to remain independent.

The diplomats said they were not confident that they were getting a clear picture from communities whose testimonies were translated by government officials who appeared “anxious and distracted”. It was only when interviews were conducted without interpreters that they felt confident they were receiving an accurate impression of the situation.

“Security is a major concern linked to an increase in the proportion of armed men and the use of alcohol. Traditional systems of conflict resolution are declining … these cultural trends tend to increase the number of killings,” one report said.

Britain’s Department for International Development (Dfid) has denied any responsibility for resettling people in the Lower Omo Valley but said it had contributed money for education, health, road projects and basic services across Ethiopia, potentially including the valley.

The reports are embarrassing for the UK government because Britain was the largest of 21 international donors to a $4.9bn World Bank-organised funding program called Promoting Basic Services (PBS). This was designed to pay for health, road and water provision for people in resettlement areas across Ethiopia. Earlier this year it pulled out of the scheme having contributed an estimated £750m.

In a statement, Dfid said: “The UK has never funded Ethiopia’s resettlement programmes. Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world. UK aid to Ethiopia is improving the lives of millions of people by supporting health, water and education programmes, promoting job creation and improving people’s nutrition.

“Our previous support to the Promoting Basic Services programme paid for health, education, water, roads and agricultural services provided by local governments. It did not support Ethiopia’s resettlement programmes.”

The two teams of diplomats made 37 recommendations to the Ethiopian government. These ranged from ensuring that all resettlement programnmes are voluntary, to guaranteeing water and latrines in villages, consulting people before moving them, and offering people alternatives to becoming sedentary.

The diplomats’ missions to the Omo Valley followed a damning report by Human Rights Watch and the World Bank’s inspection panel. Although the World Bank rejected its panel’s findings, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim admitted to serious flaws with its resettlement programmes.

Survival International accused Britain of trying to cover up abuses by the Ethiopian government. “It took Dfid almost two years to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations. The two reports which it tried to prevent the public from reading show just how far it will go to cover up abuses by a regime which receives hundreds of millions of pounds of UK tax payers’ money,” said spokeswoman Elizabeth Hunter.

The Ethiopian government said in a statement: “Last year’s Donor Advisory Group (DAG) report was generally positive, but where recommendations were made, or when the government itself noted that there was obviously a need for improvement, it has taken remedial action and improvements have been made, and continue to be made on an on-going basis.”

The downstream impact of the dam is also hotly contested. Some hydrologists have predicted that Ethiopia’s expansion of water-intensive sugar and cotton plantations on the Omo river, which the Gibe III dam allows, could reduce flow to Lake Turkana by up to 70%. This would kill ecosystems and greatly reduce the water level of the lake, on which tens of thousands of herders and vulnerable communities depend.

This, says International Rivers, could make the difference between marginal livelihoods and famine for the tens of thousands of already vulnerable people who depend on the lake for their livelihoods.

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One thought on “EU diplomats reveal devastating impact of Ethiopia dam project on remote tribes –

  1. Ethiopians continue to starve to death because they are loosing their fertile lands , their water resources , educated and not educated work force to foreigners.

    What good is economic growth when very few benefit from it while the rest is left to be voiceless treated less than the animals in the country by their own government elites?

    Ginbot7 and ONLF are working with all to dismantle the TPLF sponsored mercinaries in the areas and bring back Mursi , Bodi and others to their ancestoral habitat. Patriotic Ginbot 7 strongly believes that democratic elections are the only sources of political power, but it also believes that all elections are not democratic. Democratic elections are participatory, fair, free, and contested where the outcomes of the election are decided by the free will of the electorate. Ethiopia under the TPLF/EPRDF regime has never had a fair and free election, and all election results were decided before a single vote is casted.

    The electoral process, elections and the regime that controls elections through an election board, which is not free from the political control of the regime, have proved time and again not to be free and utterly undemocratic. It is after acknowledging this undemocratic nature and the abysmal track record of the TPLF regime during past elections that the Carter Center and the EU decided to not send election monitors to Ethiopia. In addition, many governments and credible international organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), Freedom House, Amnesty International and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have concluded that the preconditions for a fair and free election are nonexistent in Ethiopia.

    If Ethiopia was a democracy as stated by Madam Wendy Sherman, the entire Ethiopian opposition and Patriotic Ginbot 7 in particular would have participated in the election and happily accept the verdict of the people. In fact, we are primarily in the struggle to make sure that the Ethiopian people are the only sources of political power at all levels of government, and they exercise this power through no other way but through fair and free electoral process.

    Patriotic Ginbot 7 would like to point out that all third party elements including the United States government that have the leverage and influence on the TPLF/EPRDF regime need to use their power and energy to push the TPLF regime to accept a meaningful and genuinely free, fair and an all-inclusive election than warning an already embattled opposition and, in the process, emboldening a neo-totalitarian minority regime in Ethiopia.

    As clearly reported by the US Department of State Annual Human Right Reports and many other organizations; the economic and political disenfranchisement of the majority of the people, the mass detentions in many parts of the country, the gross violations of human rights, the torture and the arbitrary killings of citizens, the blatant domination of political power and economic resources by a minority group at the expense of the majority have pushed the Ethiopian people over the limit. Patriotic Ginbot 7 strongly believes these are acute problems that need immediate solution. History has repeatedly showed us that trading justice, freedom and democracy for growth and stability leads to popular resistance and which may lead to insecurity and instability.

    Ethiopia’s geopolitical location, large population size, and both its ethnic and religious diversity makes it a strategically placed country in the Horn of Africa. A democratic Ethiopia that ensures justice, equality and freedom to all of its diverse ethnic groups and all citizens can be a critical force for the greater good in the Horn of Africa and in the African continent at large. Unfortunately, a minority dictatorship that enjoys the blessing of the great democracies of the world has robed Ethiopia of its potential.

    Durable peace, stability, and prosperity could only come only by democratizing Ethiopia, where a genuinely pluralist democratic order is established, the basic human rights, political liberties of all citizens are respected, and the equality and freedom of all ethnic and religious groups are guaranteed and protected. It is high time that the US and other democracies that have been supporting the minority regime recognize the grim socio economic realities, deep rooted fault lines along political, religious and ethnic divides that have been created by the current minority dictatorial regime in Ethiopia. Unless these conditions are addressed in an all-inclusive political process by all stakeholders, peace, stability and prosperity in the Horn of Africa will remain unattainable.

    We believe the relationship between Ethiopia and western democracies has to be reconstituted on the basis of shared values of democracy, justice, and promotion of mutual interests. The Horn of Africa is a volatile region characterized by political instability, and it is no secret that the TPLF regime is the major source of instability in the region. To secure peace and stability and deny terrorism safe haven in the Horn of Africa; Europe, the United, and other democratic countries need a strong democratic partner in the Horn of Africa.
    Ogaden Liberation movement (ONLF), which was founded in August 15, 1984 has waged an armed struggle against the Ethiopian imperialism or Tigray People’s Liberation Front, Ethiopia’s current ruling ethnic group since 1994 after TPLF ousted the first Ogadeni legitimate President, Abdullahi Mohammed Sadi to supplant Tigray-controlled political system in the oil-and-gas-rich Ogaden region.
    Ethiopia have never given a chance to Ogadenis to elect leaders of their choice except a short period of time i.e 1992 and then killed, arrested and hunted down the Ogadeni truer representatives at the time.

    TPLF came to power after it toppled the Derg regime with the help of the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front , which gave Eritrea’s people to vote for referendum that Eritreans vote in favour of independence and resulted in the birth of the Powerful Eastern African state of Eritrea.
    In Ethiopia-Eritrea war (1998-2000 ), Ethiopia seized territory and still occupies Eritrea’s fertile land along with the border town of Badme.
    Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s TPLF easily deceived many other Independent movements in a bid to prolong the subjugation of the nations of Ogaden, Gambella Oromia, Benishangul, Sidama, Afarland et al.
    Recent days, the flag of the ONLF decorated the towns and cities of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, US, South Africa, Yemen, Saudi Arabia,Kenya and many others. And Ogadenis hope to walk on the streets of Werder, Jigjiga, Degahbur, Harar, Dire Daba, Fiq, Kebri Daher, Gode, and Kelafo with liberty and dignity without fear waving their national flag-the green, red and blue, with the five-pointed white star.

    They are giving their own blood for the sake of their Independence so that they can hold their next or future celebrations in their homeland to honour all who have fallen in fight for the return of the Republic of Ogaden without fear of execution, arrest or humiliation. Ogaden, which is politically and economically marginalized was handed over to Ethiopia in 1954 by the Great Britain.
    Ogadeni expats are important assets to ONLF leadership-they contribute to the struggle financially and morally (at least-seventy-nine communities around the World) that’s why they are doing enough to organize and mobilize them.
    Ethiopia tried to challenge ONLF with its own powerful diaspora yet failed after many of them who previously ate the bait eventually disappointed when they saw the Somali regional state President Abdi Mohamoud Omar or Abdi Iley’s gross human rights violations specially relatives of the Ogadeni diaspora jailed in the TPLF’s concentration Camp better known as ‘Jail Ogaden’ in Jigjiga, the current regional Capital of Somali regional state of Ogaden.
    The Ethiopian Security Forces receiving orders from the Commander-in Cheif President Abdi Iley conducted widespread arrests in the village of Dig around the Aware district in the Degahbur Provincelast Friday . Among of them are Rooda Mohamed Akhtar, Suad Sheikhg Abdi, Fadxi Muhumed Deeq , Hassan Mohamed, and Mi’raj Sharif Abdullahi.
    The reason behind this fresh arrests remain unknown unless it is the usual Ethiopian crackdown on Ogadenis that happens on daily basis in many parts of the Ogaden territory.
    Just last month 5 Chinese Petroluem engineers and 12 Ethiopian soldiers were killed in an ONLF skirmished in Dalad, about 12 kilometers east of the city of Kebri Dahar, however, neither Ethiopia nor ONLF officially reported the incident. I could not verify the claim, which was posted by many Ogadeni Websites such as Qorahay Media, Ogadentoday Press, Ogaden News Agency, Ogaden24 and many others.

    The struggle for justice, liberty and democracy in Ethiopia shall prevail!!

    Like

    Posted by Dimamit | September 5, 2015, 5:35 pm

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