September 09, 2012
An Ethiopian farmer could sue the British government after being evicted violently from his home as part of a villagization project that receives funding from a UK development institution.
The farmer, who is using the pseudonym “Mr. O,” is from Gambella, Ethiopia, where 1.5 million people are being forcibly resettled to make room for massive land acquisitions by foreign agricultural companies. Part of a worldwide trend in what is known as “Land-grabbing” the land is being used to grow food mainly for export to wealthy countries. Cultural Survival launched a campaign last February to stop the abuse of the Indigenous peoples in Gambella who have traditionally occupied this land for generations.
Mr O, a father of six children, told lawyers at London firm Leigh Day & Co that his family was forced from their farm in November 2011 by soldiers from the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF). The family was made to resettle in a new village where they were given no replacement farmland, food, or water and could not earn enough money to live. When he tried to return to his former home, he claimed he was hit repeatedly with a rifle butt and taken to a military camp by ENDF soldiers, then gagged and subjected to further beating.
The lawyers say the project receives funding from the UK Department for International Development (Dfid) through the Ethiopian Protection of Basic Services program. The law firm has asked the International Development Secretary of the UK, Justine Greening , for the release of several documents and further information about the role of Dfid in the villagization process.
Rosa Curling, from the Leigh Day & Co team representing Mr O, said the government has "a responsibility for transparency", as reported by the BBC. "The UK spends a considerable amount of money on international aid and Dfid has a responsibility to ensure that this money does not contribute in any way to human rights abuses such as the ones suffered by our client," explained Curling.
Ethiopia receives more foreign aid than any other country in Africa, more than 3$ billion a year, this aid mostly comes from the U.S. and the U.K.