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Soldiers Poisoning Water Sources, Forcing Thousands Off Ancestral Lands and Killing Wildlife

April 22, 2012

By Cultural Survival Press Release -April 18, 2012 (CAMBRIDGE, MA)

On-the-ground reports from Ethiopia reveal the government is stepping up its violence against Indigenous Anuak people. In the past week, sources say the military has attacked civilians in the Gambella region and poisoned water sources, forcing thousands of Indigenous people to leave their homelands. Wild animals are dying as they drink the poisoned water.

The Ethiopian government is forcibly removing some 200,000 Anuak people from their ancestral lands and then leasing their forests and farms to foreign agro-industrial companies. Human rights organizations, including Cultural Survival, charge that Ethiopia’s “land grabbing” from its own people increases poverty and hunger, even as the country continues to receive more U.S. and foreign relief aid than any other African nation.

Cultural Survival, a nonprofit organization that defends the rights of Indigenous people, is asking citizens of donor nations—the United States, the United Kingdom and countries of the European Union—to take action today to urge their governments to persuade Ethiopia to halt this forced relocation program. Concerned U.S. citizens can send letters to the U.S. State Department via Cultural Survival’s website, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/take-action/

The Ethiopian government’s programs of land grabbing and forced relocation of Indigenous people in the Gambella region violate Ethiopia’s constitution and international human rights laws, according to Cultural Survival Executive Director, Suzanne Benally. Driven from their forests, fertile river valleys, and farmlands with no compensation, Anuak families are forced into government-built villages where they have no means of survival; the promised jobs, farmland, healthcare and schools have not appeared. The relocated Anuak families must depend on the government for food aid, most of which comes from Western governments. Foreign companies’ bulldozers are not only destroying Indigenous people’s farms, they are also destroying Gambella’s last remaining forests and wetlands, even inside Gambella National Park.

Now, new reports indicate that the government has deployed more than 20,000 troops to Gambella. Cultural Survival has received reports of extra-judicial killings of unarmed Anuak youth. Hundreds of young people are fleeing to neighboring South Sudan and Kenya, fearing that another genocide like the one that occurred in 2003 may be coming. Obang Metho, an Anuak refugee who directs the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, based in Canada, says the Anuak people are subjected to increased military harassment, reminding them of a similar escalation of violence that culminated in the 2003 massacre of more than 400 Anuak men.

“We are very alarmed by these reports of increasing state repression in the context of land-grabbing and forced relocation of Indigenous people,” says Paula Palmer, director of Cultural Survival’s Ethiopia campaign. “It is shameful that U.S. tax dollars could be directly or indirectly supporting such devastating human rights violations,” she says.

Cultural Survival is monitoring the situation in Ethiopia. For updates or to send letters to governments of the U.S., the U.K., and the E.U, visit http://www.culturalsurvival.org/take-action. Cultural Survival is a nonprofit organization that has partnered with Indigenous Peoples for 40 years to defend their lands, languages and cultures.

Paula Palmer, Director, Global Response Program, culturalsurvival.org paula@culturalsurvival.org; 303.444.0306 and 303.335.8629 (cell)

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