Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi met with President Obama and the other G8 members along with three other African leaders on May 19th to discuss food security on the African continent. On Friday, Obama pledged $3 billion in private-sector pledges to help feed Africa’s poor. Our campaign partners, the Oakland Institute and the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) along with over 8,000 signees are calling on President Obama to “reassess the terms” of U.S. aid to Ethiopia during weekend talks with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and to address what may be the single largest man-made contributor to food insecurity on the continent today: large-scale land investments by foreign investors.
The Oakland Institute’s field research in Ethiopia revealed a grim picture of violence, coercion, and unrealized benefits by relocated communities. These findings are confirmed by Human Rights Watch’s independent study involving 100 interviews and sixteen site visits this year. The objective economic growth of the Ethiopian government will happen at the detriment of the Indigenous Peoples of the Gambella and Lower Omo Valley. The U.S. bears direct responsibility in these issues as they have given $1 billion a year in aid to the Ethiopian government since 2007.
Under President Meles’ rule, Ethiopians have enjoyed relative stability and steady economic growth, but human rights groups say this growth has come at the expense of democracy and good governance, and it has especially come at the expense of Indigenous People’s rights. Despite this, The U.S. has rarely criticized Meles, as he is a “key ally in the war on terror in the Horn of Africa,” explained the Washington Post.
Meles has stated, "There is no direct relationship between economic growth and democracy, historically or theoretically,’’ he told the World Economic Forum in Ethiopia last week. “I don’t believe in bedtime stories, contrived arguments linking economic growth with democracy.’’
Our hope is that President Obama will take leadership in responding to an international call asking him to put the brakes on land deals that disrespect Indigenous People’ right to free, prior and informed consent, and contribute to food insecurity.
Please see our Action Alert on this issue, and send an email, here.