Overview: Land Grabbing and Villagization in Ethiopia
Ethiopia receives more foreign aid than any other African nation—upwards of $3 billion a year. Western governments see Ethiopia as a strategic bulwark in the “global fight against terrorism” and point to its progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, an international program to end poverty and hunger.
But Ethiopia’s policies are deliberately making some of its citizens poorer and hungrier. The government is forcing the Indigenous Peoples of the southwest off their ancestral lands and leasing these lands to foreign companies. Bulldozers are destroying the forests, farms, and grazing lands that have sustained Anuak, Mezenger, Nuer, Opo, and Komo peoples for centuries. While the foreign companies are planting food crops and agrofuels like oil palm, mainly for export, soldiers are forcing thousands of Indigenous people into state-created villages, simultaneously robbing them of their livelihoods and their cultural identity. Their protests are being met with intimidation, extra-judicial killings, rape, incarceration, and torture. Journalists and human rights advocates in Ethiopia who speak out against these abuses are silenced or exiled.
“[The] government brought the Anuak people here to die. They brought us no food, they gave away our land to the foreigners so we can’t even move back.” -- Anuak elder forcibly moved to a state village (from the Human Rights Watch report, “Waiting Here for Death.”)
Ethiopia’s deliberate policies of forced relocation, discrimination, repression, and environmental devastation are enabled, at least indirectly, by foreign aid. It’s time for donor nations—especially the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union—to use their influence to halt these abuses.
Cultural Survival’s role
Anuak refugee organizations based in Kenya and North America asked Cultural Survival to organize an international campaign with the goal of halting the abuses that forced them to leave their home country. Cultural Survival offers a citizen-action portal, where people can send letters to policy makers in donor countries (the US, UK and EU), urging them to intercede with the Ethiopian government.
For nearly 40 years Cultural Survival has partnered with Indigenous communities around the world to defend their lands, languages, and cultures. We publicize Indigenous Peoples' issues through our award-winning publications; we mount letter-writing campaigns and other advocacy efforts to stop environmental destruction and abuses of Native Peoples' rights; and we work on the ground in Indigenous communities, always at their invitation. Our work is predicated on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our board of directors includes some of the world's preeminent Indigenous leaders, and our staff, headed by Navajo/Santa Clara Tewa environmental advocate Suzanne Benally, includes both Indigenous and non-Indigenous members. Our headquarters is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and we have satellite offices in Guatemala and Colorado. Cultural Survival has consultative status with the United Nations.
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