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The Never-ending Land Grab Saga

By Leul Maru
Tigrai Onlne - February 20, 2014

What I am presenting in this article is the same old hoax story scripted by ‘Human Right watch’, stalked by ‘Amnesty International’ and ‘Oakland Institution’, played (acted) very well by the renown novelist Helen Apeston; basically the never-ending and tiring story of  ‘Land Grab’.

Ethiopian commercial farming transforming the country's economy

Recently the US congress, based on these heaps of lies (which is what this article will look in detail), has passed a new bill copying these false multipliers’ (story as it is), just to appease some extremist politicians and anti-Ethiopian institutions like the lights of “Oakland Institution’.

According to Aiga forum recent article, the new bill revolves around American support to Ethiopia. It entails that the Washington administration will stop its support to Ethiopia, as long as two conditions are left unfulfilled.

The first condition demands for the “stop” of forced displacement of people living around Omo valley and Gambella region, while the second condition has to do with improving the justice system and human rights handling. However, the motif of the bill mainly revolves around the bogus narration entitled ‘land grab’, which is concocted by extreme neo-liberalists.

Although, the bill is yet to be passed by the US senate (as the website indicated) I don’t think the US government should be the judge of our country’s development and democratic progress; as there are no international laws that allows for it to meddle in other country’s politico-economic evolution. It shouldn’t hinder peoples’ effort (struggle) to break free from poverty using its own natural resources, and to force their own envisioned democracy upon us.

All in all, it’s important to note here that the Washington administration give aid and support for development and humanitarian purpose through institutions like USAID, it doesn’t give aid and support directly to the Ethiopian government. 

As far as I can understand, the government of US doesn’t directly give billions of dollars to our country’s military, as it would to the Egyptian army. It doesn’t matter anyway as our military establishment has a culture of using its low budget (the people’s money) efficiently. So, unless the bill is planned to appease some ideology extremists, it’s not clear to me how it’s helpful to the country.

The Gilgil Gibe III hydro-power dam project that’s being constructed around Omo valley and the mechanized farming project that’s being carried out in Gambella and the surrounding are not as what the neo-liberal extremist are propagating or as what the American government congress is led to believe. These projects are part of the five years Grand Transformation plan set to further strengthen our peoples’ benefit and growth, and it has nothing to do with “land Grab”.

I believe the reason behind this new bill has to do with the motive ‘It should be us who benefit, not the Asians’; just like it was in the days of World War II. Thus, it should be known that; whatever the American congress say, at a time where our country under the guidance of our developmental and democratic government is fighting toe-to-toe to win against poverty, developing our own lands is not up for debate.

In this globalization day and age where the world is moving so fast, we can’t go on just singing ‘our land is so fertile and fresh’ without developing our lands, just like the previous regimes used to do.

So, it’s obvious that in order for the grand developmental plan t be realized, we should use the barren land at our disposal that we cannot develop with our capabilities. Although the American congress; either knowingly or spoon-fed by neo-liberal extremists, has passed this bill now, it’s important to state here that the realities that I raised above are supported by modern economics. The science of Economics states that for a country to record an economic growth, it has to widely use its abundant natural resource and save its scarce ones.

And the realities on the ground suggest that Ethiopia has an abundant wealth of land and labor, while its scarcity lies with capital. So, if the country can use its (abundant wealth) land effectively, while accumulating its scarce resource (capital), it’s inevitable that the country will join middle–income countries.

Thus, the government by employing tested land and other related economic policies (which their success has become evident during these past ten years); by effectively using its abundant natural resource (as much as possible) and by mobilizing the public (from border to border); it has been able to record rapid and sustainable growth.

By enabling both local and foreign investors to develop (work on) our natural resources, the government has been and still is benefitting part of the society which dwells around the areas. Through its effort to develop lands which had been undeveloped; due to lack of capital and technology, and by giving most of it to Asian investors, it has been able to benefit the people who live near Omo, Gambella and other states through investment related gains.

However, in an act that contradicts this national and public benefit, driven by an immoral and illogical attitude and a colonialist-plastered mentality, the recent ultimatum (bill) ‘if the forced displacement of people in OMO valley and Gambella Region don’t stop, we will stop our support’, is both not right and acceptable in every level.

Calling our developmental work as ‘land grabbing’ cannot be anything more than not wanting our country’s development. The bogus narrative of ‘land grab’ does not correspond to our country. The Asian (and other) investors that have entered in our country (much to the dismay of the American congress) to get involved in farming investment, are only there to work on huge farming lands, not to grab or scramble the land of Ethiopia.

So, if the congress’s qualm is ‘why is Ethiopia (which is becoming a benchmark for African development) growing?’, then I believe they should convey this request through other means, not by passing laws or bills.

As we all know former colonialists who have illegally (forcefully) scrambled the continent’s natural resources had at one point had taken up to 400 million hectares of land, while this happens the people of the continent were forced to sit idly and watch. And this has led the continent to find it hard to come out of the vicious circle of poverty.

This also has a negative impact on the continent’s ability to carry out developmental undertakings that’s in sync with its own realities. So, considering these former colonialists had directly and forcefully invaded the continent and looted its natural wealth, they don’t have the moral grounds to pass a bill, especially considering the Asians are taking the lands based on a principle of mutual benefit and the fact that they’re taking a few undeveloped lands in a lease agreement.   


These forces are known to wage a smear campaign towards the continent through extremist neo-liberal propagandist concocted bogus story like ‘Human Rights Watch’ and ‘Oakland institute’, when they watch the countries of the continent create any kind of relation with Asian countries, as their intention is to benefit themselves forcefully.

The way Aljazeera television program aired “there is a land grab going on Ethiopia” right before this recent bill was made official goes out to show the elaborate plot that was involved in this situation.

This isn’t the first time where neo-liberal extremist forces tried to impose their ideological and political interests on our country. I remember these entities going as far as claiming “the fact that Ethiopia leased huge farming lands to foreigners in an area where millions of people have settled is dangerous” using the famine that occurred due to bad weather four  and five  years ago in East Africa.

In hindsight, it’s not even surprising they passed this bill, considering what the western used to impose their agenda not only wrongly represents our country, it doesn’t even come close. All in all, we can safely see this hoax story which has nothing to do with the country’s reality, has to do more with their own political and ideological persuasions.

As we all know, our country’s constitution states that land is the people’ and the governments. This has enabled the farmer to be the owner of his own land our country’s reality does not allow for land to be sold or transferred.

This is because if this was to be allowed, it would create a huge hindrance to the aspirations of establishing a very strong democratic order. If land is allowed to be sold or transferred, on one side people with money will buy (huge quantity) of land, while on the other hand the poor farmer will be left with nothing  after selling all his lands.

Thus, it will all be left in the hands of very few riches. And this will not only create an unequal and unjust wealth distribution, but it will also be a hindrance to the public’s step-by- step benefit it would have gotten from any kind of economic growth the country may run into in the future.

Not only this. If land is allowed to be sold (or transferred), it will be impossible to maintain our country’s targeted rapid and sustainable economic growth.

The reason, as I have tried to mention it earlier, has to do with saving (accumulating) scarce resource, which a country has to do if it has targets of developing. Thus, if very few people with money are allowed to stack land by buying them, our scarce resource (which is capital) instead of being allocated on projects that can add value, it would just be wasted on transferring ownership from one person to another. It will inevitably be a hindrance to our development by forcing us not to use our scarce resource (i.e. capital) effectively and efficiently.

So, our country’s land policy which emphasized on this public and government realities, not only enabled the farmers to be owners of their land, but it has afforded us to save our scarce resource, i.e. capital. Although both the neo- liberal proponents and the American congress; who passed a bill following the neo-liberalist bogus stories, propagated that the government of Ethiopia is displacing its citizens through the ‘land grab’ process, the truth is the country’s land policy does not displace: it makes them the owner of their own land.

The developmental and democratic government of our country aim to continue the rapid and sustainable growth of the country which is in the first place triggered by the land of these farmers. This is its only plan. So, there are no displaced farmers or pastoralists. And in a situation where no one is displaced, there can’t be no ‘land grab’.

The government outside of villagizing some citizens with their consent to a better fertile place (village), it hasn’t and is not currently doing any of the things told on the bogus stories.

All in all, the congress despite its passing of a new bill which is based on a fabricated lies that was spoon-fed by the neo-liberal extremists, it should be aware that there isn’t any forced re-villagzation process going on in the country, any displaced citizen as a result of it.

There hasn’t been any act taking place in Ethiopia that resembled to the bogus stories planted by some gossipers, which the so-called gathers of the information congregated as an information sitting afar from abroad.

The government hasn’t done any inhumane acts like forced displacement in a name of development. It doesn’t have this kind of nature. I think the up to now unprecedented work it done in the economy is an evidence that, it’s indeed a government that’s concerned for it citizens, not the other way around.

As if their pseudo-concern for Ethiopian isn’t funny enough, when the congress warned the Ethiopian government to improve its human rights handling, it didn’t mention anything on ‘How’ or ‘When’ the so-called violations took place.

The so-called evidences were taken from the bogus database of some of the so-called advocacy organizations and human rights groups who branded Ethiopia as an enemy. As we all can understand, the whole villagization program that was taken in Ethiopia were and are not forcefully done. And this truth is better known by US Ethiopians, rather than bogus multiplying foreigners.

One can easily notice that the villagization (took place) based on consent and it has its own rule and law. So the truth is citizens who are involved in the villagization process have done so, with their full consent and willingness.

It’s not how the congress information depicted, and we the citizens can attest to that fact. And it should not be forgotten that the other objective of the villagization program is to create a suitable environment where citizens can benefit from infrastructures.

Villagizing citizens, based on their consent of course, from sterile places to undeveloped places not only curb desertification, but it will also create a good opportunity for them to access infrastructures and other developmental projects.

I think it’s better to understand that our country’s developmental and democratic government is an agent to the people who through this (villagizaiton) program is benefitting citizens, who are villagized through their consent by enhancing the infrastructure. But, as the objective of the bill is not to benefit our country, it’s not surprising that the congress does not care about these realities of the country.

However, as far as I can understand, there is absolutely no reason to hold the Ethiopian government from respecting its people’s human right, while it’s undertaking developmental works like villagization program. The concept is even contradictory. It’s not acceptable in any way.

This kind of action cannot be exhibited even by a random group of people with no kind of sense about citizen’s basic rights, let alone a developmental and democratic government which had struggled to realize the human and democratic rights demand of its people; and which also for the last 22 years (as a government) has been gaining positive results in this regard.

So, the congress and the bogus propagandists’ neo-liberal extremists both should know this reality (fact) of the country. This will enable the congress to understand the fact that all of the government’s developmental projects involve human rights; and it’s not like as what’s talked about.

There have been great efforts made to strengthen and establish human and democratic rights institutions; to establish a good justice system; to strengthen the peoples’ democratic culture, to setup transparency, accountability and public service delivery as procedures in every level of the government’s bodies, and to guarantee rule of law etc …

The reality of the country with regards to human and democratic rights is not as what the congress mistakenly thought it is. Considering the country’s beginners status with regards to establishing human and democrat right culture, it can be safely said that the country has been able to garner positive results. And we Ethiopian can only be the judge of that, not an outsider. It isn’t possible to assess a certain country’s human rights handling through unconfirmed and unsubstantiated rumor. It’s not sorcery after all.

 First of all the American government and other donor institutions lend their hand to Ethiopian not because they feel sorry for us. The fact that Ethiopian has become the go-to country for UN with regards to peace keeping missions is not by chance. And I think be it the congress or the aid institutions understand this fact.

Donor institution decided Ethiopia needs support not because they want to waste their capital senselessly; UN chooses the country on very difficult missions not because they want to waste their resources- they all do these things because they are seduced by the country’s developmental, democratic and human rights work being done.

They have come to see a responsible people and government for themselves. They have also come to realize that if the country is supported today, it’s highly likely that we all will see a fully self sufficient country and, a whole generation of people.

I would like here to present one think that baffles me. That is, why the American congress chose to appease extreme neo-liberalist like the lights of ‘Human Rights Watch’ and ‘Oakland institute’, when they could have used the information from the thoroughly researched report of ‘Development Assistance Group (DAG)’, in which its own agent USAID is part of .

Because this development agency following the bogus accusation of ‘Human Rights Watch’ had done investigative work by going as far as Gambella, and have concluded that “to not have found or seen any evidence to suggest ‘human right violation’ did take place’.

Thus, it’s the easy to see the motivation behind the congress bill lies with a desire to appease some political and ideological fanatics’ objective; it is not out of concern for us the people or our country.

This bill passed by the American congress, based on extremist’s bogus story entitled ‘land grab’, not only don’t correspond to our country’s reality, but it’s a shameful vilification of our country and government.

So, what I am saying is that our country should not be involved with an issue that doesn’t speak truth to its reality, and it certainly should not be the target of this recent senseless bill.

The fact that the congress of a super power nation like American passed a bill based on a hoax story planted by extremist neo-liberalists like ‘Human Right Watch’ and ‘Oakland Institute’ is embarrassing.

I don’t think it’s expected out of a congress, which is part of a country that claim to be a benchmark for proper human and democratic rights handling, to diminish developing countries who are on their way of building a strong human and democratic culture - as it doesn’t help anyone.

All in all, as the basic premise of this bill is driven by an antique colonialist thinking, and a covetous ‘why does the Asians get land?’ attitude, on top of the fact that it aims to force neo-Liberal politico-economic ideology (which doesn’t fit with the country), it can’t be acceptable.

This is also because the duty exclusively falls upon the nation, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia. Issuing a bill that meddles with others affair, is the same as being concerned about someone more that himself/herself. However, I don’t think this kind of approach have any benefit other than lessening the progress made on the developmental and democratic path started by the people based on their own realities on the ground.

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