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‘UNWANTED TAKINGS’: TPLF Fingers on the trigger Against poor Ethiopian Farmers


‘UNWANTED TAKINGS’: TPLF Fingers on the trigger Against poor Ethiopian Farmers

After my stay in USA for a little while, I started to ask myself why my country Ethiopia failed to develop at least to the extent to satisfy the basic human needs of the citizens for survival.  Unfortunately I have got to understand we Ethiopians are missing the basic factor ‘democratic nation builder’, a government which stands for its people and development rather than which just pretends to be, like that of the existing shameful  pseudo-democratic Ethiopian government.  

(Tesfahun M Endeshaw, Masters OF Law student in Sustainable International Development Law, University of Washington, School OF Law)

After the downfall of Derg regime in 1991 through Coup d’etat, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) assumed leadership of the country, and through the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), still dominates national politics throughout Ethiopia. The then prime minister Meles Zenawi was a key figure in the guerrilla campaign against the communist Derg Regime.

In 1995 the EPDRF government promulgated pseudo-Democratic constitution which promised Ethiopians protection of human and democratic rights and freedoms. Instead they continue to be oppressed by dictatorial rules of leading political power. It did not take long for TPLF to betray its own people and start the systematic oppression which is mainly based on racial discrimination, arbitrary detention, torture, humiliation among other things.

“Land to the tiller” was a turning point in Ethiopia land tenure history in which the communist military junta regime start to follow the footsteps of communist countries by abolishing the  pre-existing landlord – tenant system. The military Derg Regime, which ruled the country from 1974 until 1991, major land reform legislation, was enacted by Proclamation 31/1975. This law vested ownership of land in the State. Farmers were entitled to free land through their respective farmers’ associations at their places of residence to a maximum of 10 hectare per family.

Land is an essential and basic factor for survival of human being. More importantly in country where almost 85% of the population lives from essentially subsistence farming, the necessity of individual plot of land is unassailable. Moreover secure land tenure system in one way or another hasten the struggle towards self-sufficient food security and fight against poverty in the country. 

Consequently land tenure issues are essentially the focus of development experts and policy makers. Most likely land tenure issues were the main topic in political debates in the last decade in Ethiopia no matter how the results of such debate and the new awareness of the people had been forgotten because of election irregularities and post- election violence against the opposing party leaders.

On December 8, 1994 after the oppressive TPLF government adopted the pseudo-democratic constitution, among other things the constitution on its preamble requires full respect of individuals and people’s fundamental freedoms and rights. Ignoring the mandated respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms, Woyane TPLF government recently has been seen evicting thousands of innocent people from their small plots of land and even from their home in violation of their basic Human rights.

The existing EPRDF government which has been ruling the country for the last two decades without any change or modification to the government power has declared under Article 40(3) and 89(5) of the constitution government ownership of land, both rural and urban land, as well as all natural resources. Furthermore the implementing Rural Land Administration and Land Use Proclamation No. 456/2005 which came into force by repealing the previous Federal Rural Land Administration proclamation (No. 89/1997) clearly provides a limitation on the farmers’ rights to their own land. Farmers have only ‘hold’ or ‘use’ right without any time limit for such tenure system. This is typically similar to the pre-existing Derg regime land tenure system with a little bit of modification on the right to transfer land by lease contract. Bare use right without any tenure security from dispossession would result in the recent Ethiopia land grabbing situation in which thousands of farmers were forced to leave their land and relocate as a result of the oppressive TPLF land lease contract with foreign investors.

It has been a recent phenomenon that the government of Ethiopia started leasing thousands hectare of land to foreign investors. These landlease deals are mainly made with investors from China, India and Arab states. The investors are leasing such huge hectares of land in response to the 2007–2008 booms in food prices and the subsequent period of relatively high and volatile prices. The situation alerted many import-dependent countries of their vulnerability to food insecurity and prompted them to seek opportunities to secure food supplies overseas.

These blindfolded continuous land grab deals of the Woyane TPLF regime resulted in human rights violation of Ethiopian people. These land lease contracts will be effective for the coming 5o years with the possibilities of extension. The people are forced to work for the investors below living wages. The situation looks like the oppressive TPLF government is offering colonization of the whole country in near future and condoning slavery for the benefit of the foreign investors. The Ethiopian government plans to make available some 3 million hectares of land to investors in the next 3 years. This amounts to about 20 percent of the total land area currently under cultivation in the country. However the shout for help of poor Ethiopian farmers cannot be heard as long as the Woyane rule pretends to be as a sole protector of those people to the outside world. This land-grabbing threatened food security and human rights to food and land of the poor Ethiopian farmers who have no say in whatever oppressive actions of the shameful TPLF government.

 Since the TPLF government came to power in the name of federal democratic republic and with the well written constitution which is intentionally made to cover their deceitful actions, all the promises vanished. The people 0f Ethiopia are still hungry for equity and justice keeps experiencing the horrors of backstage deal that are meant to completely evict the populations from their own small plot of land. Unfortunately no one has the right or authority to argue with dictators. The most politic response is to keep silent, because the dictatorial Ethiopian government does anything they want to promote their politics and preserve their power. No one wants to deal with 21st century killers while pretending to be Survivors.     

Land-lease deals have attracted international attention. Although they are condemned by international organizations, including the media, no help has come to the impoverished farmers. So should we Ethiopian people still turn our backs on the pain of our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers shouting for help?

Whether we like it not every human being in the world is responsible to fight and stop the horrors of dictators on innocent people. Remember the famous quote by Martin Luther King Jr. in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963, Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Recently the world has become one small neighborhood. The speed of information sharing and networking, the environmental threat  of 3-degrees global warming, and the interrelationship of commerce and resource sharing between states in the world force us to conclude that we cannot turn our backs on the horrors of dictator governments in the world like that of the Woyane TPLF.

The TPLF regime has been heard advertising that land-lease deals will help the development of the country. This has been and continues to be the guideline to broaden the horizon of TPLF’s investment, which is meant to strengthen the financial capacity of each TPLF leader’s pocket. One thing that should be pointed out is that not even a penny of those agricultural products is intended to help reduce food insecurity in Ethiopia. The Woyane Dictators does not care about the poor thousands of families whose lives are in peril. Their main concern is grabbing the money from the land deals. So who is there for poor Ethiopian farmers?


By: Tesfahun M Endeshaw , can be reached at

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