Ethiopia: Pastoralists Forced off Their Land for Sugar Plantations

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Watch this video about abuses against the indigenous peoples of Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley

Nairobi (Huffington Post) – The Ethiopian government is forcibly displacing indigenous pastoral communities in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo valley without adequate consultation or compensation to make way for state-run sugar plantations, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report contains previously unpublished government maps that show the extensive developments planned for the Omo valley, including irrigation canals, sugar processing factories, and 100,000 hectares of other commercial agriculture.

The 73-page report, “‘What Will Happen if Hunger Comes?’: Abuses against the Indigenous Peoples of Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley,”documents how government security forces are forcing communities to relocate from their traditional lands through violence and intimidation, threatening their entire way of life with no compensation or choice of alternative livelihoods. Government officials have carried out arbitrary arrests and detentions, beatings, and other violence against residents of the Lower Omo valley who questioned or resisted the development plans.

A South Omo resident describes: “Our great, great, great grandmothers and grandfathers lived in this land. Our fathers lived here and me I live here… The men take a fish hook and go to the river and catch a fish and bring it to me to eat. They also go and hunt to bring food for the children. Whose land is this? It belongs to me.”

“Ethiopia’s ambitious plans for the Omo valley appear to ignore the rights of the people who live there,” said Ben Rawlence, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “There is no shortcut to development; the people who havelong relied on that land for their livelihood need to have their property rights respected, including on consultation and compensation.”

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