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A Brief Look into the Land Debate in Ethiopia

By Hailu Mamo
Tigrai Onlne - June 13, 2014

It was before four years. Our country was in preparation to formulate its policy and strategy that would lead it for the next five years. During this period, the ruling and opposition parties were all debating on various Medias, while also presenting their programs to the general public. At that time, during the fourth election run on, contending parties put on an unconvincing argument on agriculture and land policy. They wanted to use this opportunity to work and manipulate the public to their advantage by disseminating unfounded rumor with regards to “Land”. Nevertheless, their position is self-contradictory and was riffed with incoherent and illogical ideas; basically their usual ‘opposing for opposing sake’. They were seen during these debates, using narrow-minded and bigoted condemnation, instead of presenting a genuine alternative option to the table. Instead the voters turned up to the election and clearly send the message that it does not fancy the oppositions program through its vote.

These people, who are only reminded of Ethiopian people during election time, are making their voices heard in time for election 2007, four years after they were defeated in a free and democratic election. Of course making noise is not a bad thing by itself as long as they’re carrying a better alternative for the Ethiopian people, what’s messed up though is the fact that they are doing this not out of care for the public but their power-crazed motto of ‘the end justifies the means’. These people, who did not learn anything from the results of the past four fair and democratic elections, are seen trying to prompt the public for riot and havoc, instead of looking into the reasons responsible for them losing the people’s vote.

And recently opposition parties like the confused ‘Andinet’, who are continuing with its rambling  ways, are gracing us with their same old tactics, in which this time their worn out antics includes ‘voices of millions be respected’, ‘howl day’ and ‘land for millions’. Although they didn’t get anyone that’s swayed to their sinister agenda, they are still seen trying in vain to stir the public, that’s deep in developing its country, in wrong direction. In this doggedness of theirs, they are trying to formulate a new land agenda through the neo-liberal extremist forces.

Here we can look at the self-contradictory ideas the oppositions raise with regards to land issue.  They claim that they don’t accept article 39, the article that guarantees the constitutional right of nation, nationalities and people right to sucsed. On another side, its obvious why these people are asking for land to be sold and exchanged at will. It has to do with their wishes of rent-seeking through exploitive liberalism thinking.  

One can easily understand how much this puts a weigh on our country’s developmental path, on top of the economical and administrative decadence it creates. This is because if land is made to be sold or exchanged, it will stop the development from being rapid and sustainable by lowering the opportunity to use labor hugely and extensively and the opportunity to save capital. However, it’s quite telling that the oppositions are concerned by this judging from their actions. If things go as they say (their way) its obvious how much hard it will be to the Farmers whose lives depends on the lands. If land is made to be sold and exchanged, the problems that would follow the farmers, especially after they sold theirs to cover their momentary troubles, will be very hard. When the farmers could solve their problems by selling the products they produce from their land or through loan giving institutions that are established around the corner to where they live, by selling their land they stretch their problem for good. In other side, if land is sold or exchanged, the parasitic investors and maybe the oppositions who are behind the idea could have a huge opportunity to rent-seek by buying lands. We can understand from this is that selling or exchanging land is an opportunity for the parasites, whilst being damaging to the farmer and to the economy – basically it’s a harmful thinking for our country. That’s why it is baseless argument; only a joker card to be used by the oppositions every time election times comes to the corner. That’s also the reason why they are seen flaunting the liberalism position, which benefits the parasitic wealthy, unable to present their own alternative outlook.

Of course the farce that’s made up by our country’s politicians is becoming more ridiculous and their acting gets amazing by the day.  When they are faced with the question, “how come you say land should be allowed to be sold or exchanged, are you willing to make the farmer be empty-handed?” they answer by saying, “what we are saying is that the farmers right to sell or exchange land should be respected” – an answer more in the vain of ‘  …..’. However, there’s one truth these parasitic people do not understand. That is, if a law is to be upheld, it should not be mere words on paper.

If there is a wish for right to sell and exchange land to be respected, then the law should be there just to do this, not to be mere words on paper. Thus, their statement that goes like ‘we are saying only for the right to be respected, and not for land to be sold or exchange’, is nothing but a system used by the parasitic opposition to hide their anti-farmer and anti-development positions. It’s nothing but a sugar coat to their ultimate goal.

Let us now look into the other self-contradictory argument put forward by the opposition camp. These people are heard asking “why are foreign investors are involved here?”, whilst criticizing the government for adhering to socialist policies. With this they try to present two different issues as one. The thing is funny. The opposition camp which claims to adhere to liberalism thinking is seen criticizing attracting investment, which is the main description of the thinking, whilst accusing the government for adhering to socialism order at the time … What kind of confusing “strategy” is this?

As any reader of this article knows, socialism does not accept any kind of investment that comes from the outside. In fact the system follows strict guidelines to amass any investor’s (wealthy) profit that passes a certain quota that is set by the government. But, the developmental and democratic government of Ethiopia has been able to produce plenty of domestic investors. When the facts are like this, the way they try to make their point by linking socialism to the developmental government of our country is not clear for anyone else except for themselves. Nevertheless, this is not surprising considering the fact these people does not have the courtesy to even admit to the good things that are going on the country.

Seeing opposition parties like ‘Andinet’ trying to instigate the public to riot makes it clear, the twisted desires they have for their country, and the contempt they have for their people. When our country is recording positive results on various economic sectors to which even those who used to associate our names to famine attested to, it’s disappointing and even shameful to see these opposition “parties” that claim to stand for the country denying this fact.

As the science of economics clearly indicates, a certain country can achieve development by utilizing the development potential it have in abundance, while saving the resource that are scarce to the country. When we come to our country’s realities, it obvious that there’s a huge abundance of labor force, while there’s a scarcity of capital. However, despite the fact its through the government’s formulated agriculture led development policy that would be possible to utilize the abundance labor force while solving the capital deficiency problem; the oppositions does not even have the courtesy to admit countries (those without natural resources) from east to west adhere to this developmental model, and that there are some countries that are developed through this method. Their goal is to lie their way to power in the name of liberalism.

Its not really difficult to understand that our country’s successful results are garnered through the support of sound policy and strategy, and not by cheap talk unlike what the oppositions are claiming. Had it been an alternative program like the oppositions are claiming it to be, the country’s economy would have stuttered and stopped at the middle. However, this people should know that the government’s adhered ‘the land is the governments’ and the peoples’ policy is responsible for the country’s economic growth and step-by-step benefit of the public.

These oppositions, who when it is fruitful states that ‘there is no country that developed through agriculture’, whilst promising to ‘develop the agriculture and the industry together’, objective is t confuse everybody else by presenting such kind of contradictory issue. This is also because telling the oppositions the base of those countries with huge economy today like china and Korea is agriculture led, is doing the obvious.

Let us now look into our country’s agriculture to industry path that it’s currently taking place. As its known, our country before the formulation of the growth and transformation plan had been going through seven consecutive years with not less than 10% economic growth. Basing on the public’s huge support amassed in the wake of election 2002 and by taking the plan’s future role on the development in to account, the country went down on its path by formulating a five year growth and transformation plan. And this successful path had showed that the agriculture is a springboard for the industry. In relation to this, making appear as if the power shortages that occur as a consequence to the infrastructural and developmental works that are undertaken in the country as a deliberate act of the government taken to muddle the public’s living is one of instances of the opposition’s effort to incite the public to violence by disseminating bogus rumors. However, as the public are very well aware of the schemes of the opposition parties, they do not take them seriously.  

I don’t think a party that claims to stand for the benefit of the people should deny the positive things the public is gaining if it doesn’t chose to lend a hand on the developmental works that are done in the country. All in all since the public fully knows this truth, we’ve seen their repeated cry mount to nothing. The developmental transformations that are clearly seen makes their cry all the more futile.

Here it important to raise one issue. That is, when it is said that the agriculture will lead the industry, it means on top of the growth that’s recorded by the agricultural sector, the majority of the capital I in this sector as more than 85% of the labor force of Ethiopia is farmer. Thus, the reason why these parties are clinging on the industry has to do with their wish to exploit the labor of the majority of the people and to impose neo-liberalism ideology on the country. Nevertheless, the country’s economy; the agricultural sector leading the industry, is able to garner huge results, unlike what they are saying. The main reason why the oppositions are saying ‘we should follow the industry path’ has to do with their wishes to grab on the shares of the government’s spending on rural development. Also when they propagate ‘we will bring foreign capital’, it’s because they want to spoil the shares when foreign investment comes.

These people objective is to flaunt parasitic tendencies whilst harming the country’s development and the public’s benefit. So, I am sure any sensible reader would understand that the opposition’s agenda has no benefit except to confuse and to bewilder the public. Generally it can be said that the opposition camp; which praises and are nostalgic to previous regimes that are dead and buried through the armed struggle of the people, want to profit by dislocating the farmer from its land, as if they are saying ‘we will give land to the farmer’.

These people are also heard saying small scale farming lands cannot bring change, except for large agricultural mechanization. And to setup large scale farming mechanization, many farmers are going to have to sell their land move into the city. And if the farmer fled into the city, how is it going to be ‘land to the farmer’? ... I will leave the answer to the reader.

In parallel to this, it should be known that this kind of contradicting and incoherent thinking will increase the number of the unemployed, both in the city and the rural, by dislocating the farmer from its land. And this will inevitably weaken our development by wasting a huge quantity of labor force, which is hugely valuable to our economy. However, the oppositions til’ now don’t want to accept this truth. As long as they are beneficiary from the land that’s sold, they don’t care if whether the farmer is dislocated from his land or not. Also as long as it enables them to oppose the ruling party, they’re not concerned with the other issues.

As anyone would clearly understand, today the farmer has become the beneficiary of its land. It can inherit or, if it wants, rent its land. Rapid growth is being recorded; land being in the hands of the government and the public. That’s why it’s been able to record two digit growth for consecutive years. The government has moved with strong commitment to guarantee the farmer’s right to use its and to freely use its own product unlike the previous regimes. And this effort has enabled us to reach to our current growth.

Nevertheless, the random and usual bogus propaganda of these parasitic parties has continued to date by changing its tune every time. All in all, as I have tried to mention it earlier, the oppositions on top of claiming ‘land should be the persons’ (which emanates from their own personal gain), they are heard saying land is given to the Sudan. The parties like their previous antics are trying to get a rise out of the public by disseminating bogus rumors. Yet as the public is fully aware of their shenanigans, it hasn’t followed their path, nor it will in the future. All in all, they should know that there’s nothing to be gained by disseminating unfounded and bogus rumors. For this I think it’s appropriate to look into the briefing the FDRE Prime Minister Ato Hailemariam Desalegn gave to journalists with regard to the issue. He was asked “there talks that are going around that Ethiopia is about to give its land to the Sudan, what is the government’s response to this claims?’ The premier answered by saying recently there was high level commission meeting between the two countries. In his answer he said that this meeting was not spontaneous or did not take place in special circumstance and has nothing to do with the countries’ borders, and that the meeting is a gathering where economical and international issues are raised to be discussed. The Premier further added that similar type of rumor was raised by the oppositions a year prior to the last two elections, in 1996 and 2001, and that the issue was given detailed response at both times.

What we can understand from this is that our country’s oppositions are trying to get a rise out of the public through random rumor and gain cheap recognition in the process. This is why we see them trying to play with the public’s emotion and create an itchy issue by disseminating bogus rumors every time election comes around the corner. In addition to this, we all can understand that the oppositions are operating with the belief that a short cut to power outside of peaceful election competition and through instigating riot is possible by confusing the public with unfounded and bogus rumors. And Prime Minister Hailemariam has assured the public that there is no reason for the Ethiopian Government to give land to Sudan, and to sign a new border demarcation treaty. All in all it would be behoove of the oppositions to know that calling for demonstration every time by formulating an agenda they believe will prompt the public to  the streets is not profitable – as the issue is ‘dead and buried’.

Generally, it’s true that the oppositions have lost when they presented contradictory and incoherent ideas like ‘land should be of the person’ and ‘the rights of the farmer should be respected’. And by waiting election times, we have also heard them say that land is give to Sudan.  We have also seen them, by citing splinter neo-liberalism ideas and canoodling with the west, likening our country’s developmental with land grabbing on their media, and including “Aljazeera”. All these noises is due to one thing – that is, it has been a pain for them to see our country rapidly develop by utilizing its land resource, despite the fact that the country’s natural limitations to develop through short cut means like abundant natural sources.

Although the opposition camp is blabbering whatever they want by condoling with foreign powers that don’t want to see our country’s development, by resisting these forces propaganda the country have been able to produce model farmers that amassed large capital from their small farmlands. It can be said that this is part of their defeat. So, despite the fact that the baseless oppositions of our country are trying their might to distract the public through their unfounded and bogus rumors, the public is still focused in its work. Realizing its number one enemy is poverty, its working hard for its tomorrow bright future. This is why the public seen working hard for its development by utilizing the infrastructures the government opened. It’s the mass that’s benefitting.

I would like to use this opportunity to tell the opposition one thing – that is it’s a wise thing to learn from past mistakes. Learning from past mistakes will make the future bright. The people is busy in his work to achieve self-growth and don’t have time for bogus and unfounded rumors. By learning from its past mistakes, the public want to continue with the peace, development and democracy fruits that were bestowed upon it.

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