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Ethiopia to press on with controversial forced resettlement

 By ANDUALEM SISAY | Friday, July 19 2013 at 15:56

 A herder walks with his camels, which are hauling blocks of salt from desert mines up the winding tracks for sale, in Ethiopia's Afar highlands, in this file photo. Ethiopia's forced land resettlement programme continues to attract criticism.

 The Ethiopian government has vowed to continue with its often controversial rural settlement programme in the coming years despite strong criticism.

 The programme, which the central government has been implementing over the last decade, has benefited citizens residing in the poorer regions, a Ministry of Federal Affairs spokesman said.

 During the last two years the ministry has moved 200,000 households in 388 resettlement centres, Mr Abebe Worku said.

 The forced resettlement has often been to make way for huge agricultural investments in what many critics have likened to land grabs.

 Addis Ababa argues that the programme is totally voluntary and targets ending food aid dependency of millions of rural Ethiopians.

 "Citizens involved in the programme have comprehensively benefited from services such as potable water supply, access to primary education and health centres," said Mr Worku.

 "An intensive discussion has been conducted prior to the implementation of the programme about a detailed action plan with the local communities and administrations."

 According to the officer, development services such as agricultural extension plans are included to help the displaced communities jumpstart new production.

 Donor concern 

 Ethiopia has been criticised by international human rights groups and scholars for its resettlement programmes, with donors also expressing concern.

 Among others, a delegation of the European Parliament which visited Ethiopia this week "underlined the importance of adequately consulting the populations concerned, and ensuring that such resettlement programmes do not lead to human rights violations". (Read: Ethiopia rights record alarms European MPs)

 The Oakland Institute of the United States, which has released a report on the negative effects of the allocation of vast rural land to huge agricultural investments by the private sector and the state, also criticised the resettlement.

 "Bottom line, our research shows unequivocally that current violent and controversial forced resettlement programmes of mostly minority groups in Ethiopia have US and UK aid fingerprints all over them," Anuradha Mittal, the Institute's executive director, said.

 "It's up to the officials involved to swiftly re-examine their role and determine how to better monitor funding if they are indeed not in favour of violence and repression as suitable relocation techniques for the development industry," she said after releasing the ‘Development Aid to Ethiopia’ report on July 17, 2013.

 Ethiopia is a major recipient of aid from international donors.

  

 

Did West ignore rape charges related to Ethiopia land grab?

 

USAID officials are accused of ignoring reports of profound human rights abuses by Ethiopia, a strategic ally in the Horn of Africa. They deny it.

  By Mike Pflanz, Correspondent / July 18, 2013

  Nairobi, Kenya

 The US and British governments are “turning a blind eye” to human rights abuses carried out to force Ethiopian nomads off their land so that it can be leased to foreign farming companies, a new report has claimed.

 The Christian Science Monitor

 Weekly Digital Edition

 US aid officials who traveled to Ethiopia's southern Omo Valley in January, 2012 heard direct accounts of rapes, beatings, and intimidation from the alleged victims, according to the report, released by the Oakland Institute, a California think tank.

 But more than a year later, in an annual State Department report on Ethiopia, officials wrote instead that “partners did not find evidence” to support claims of state-sanctioned harassment, mistreatment, and arbitrary arrest.

 The US team was accompanied by two aid workers from Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID), which 11 months later circulated a report with the conclusion that the allegations of rape and harm “could not be substantiated.”

 US and British officials were looking into an Ethiopia's resettlement of 260,000 nomadic peoples by putting them in new villages and clearing the land for mostly foreign-owned mega-farms that grow crops including sugar cane and cotton.

 “During their investigation, the DFID and USAID representatives were given first-hand accounts of human rights abuses but the agencies have subsequently claimed, and still claim, that these accounts have not been substantiated,” the report’s author, Will Hurd, wrote.

  “The blind eye turned by USAID and DFID to the human rights violations and forced evictions that accompany the so-called development strategy of Ethiopia is shocking,” he said.

 It was “difficult not to conclude” that the US and Britain had chosen to support Ethiopia’s policy because it was “a strategic” ally in Africa, said Mr. Hurd, who knows local Ethiopian dialects and acted as a translator for the US and UK teams.

 A USAID spokesman denied the claims, saying in an email that US officials on the trip, "did not come into contact with any of the victims of the alleged abuses."

 A spokesman for the British aid agency said that, “We condemn all human rights abuses and, where we have evidence, we raise our concerns at the very highest level,” but did not directly address whether its field staff in this case reported up the chain of command and what the response had been.

 The spokesman also said: “To suggest that agencies like DFID should never work on the ground with people whose governments have been accused of human rights abuses would be to deal those people a double blow.”

 Hurd of the Oakland Institute concluded his report by accusing the US and UK agencies of being, “…willful accomplices and supporters of a development strategy that will have irreversible, devastating impacts of the environment and natural resources and will destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people.”

 Ethiopia’s so-called “villagization” policy, which is also being pursued in the western Gambella region, will allow children to go to school, sick people to see doctors, and clean water to be provided, Ethiopia says.

  The policy has been implemented simultaneously with Ethiopia's effort to lease large chunks of land, and has been colloquially described as a “land grab.”

  Villagization has also been widely criticized for forcing people to move against their will, and of failing to provide social services in the new villages.

  The January 2012 USAID and DFID field mission to South Omo was in part designed to investigate such allegations.

  Hurd has lived in southern Ethiopia for close to a decade and is fluent in local languages. 

  His transcripts of audio recordings of meetings between the aid staff and elders from the Mursi and Bodi tribes were included in his report.

 “Many vehicles came driving through our area when we were sitting in the shade,” one Mursi man told the aid workers, according to the transcripts.

  “When they got out of the cars they were carrying their guns in a threatening manner. They went all over the place, and they took the wives of the Bodi, and raped them, raped them, raped them, raped them.

  “Then they came and raped our wives here.”

  Forcing people used to living off their cattle into settled villages would slowly starve them, another said.

  “We are waiting for death, we are only waiting for death,” he said. “There is no food anywhere. The only things we have to put in our stomachs come from our cattle.”

  One of the British representatives told the meeting that “beatings and rapes and lack of consultation and proper compensation...are totally unacceptable” and would be raised “very strongly” with officials in Addis Ababa, according to Hurd’s transcripts.

  But the subsequent DFID report was shelved for 11 months.

 “It’s up to the officials involved to swiftly re-examine their role and determine how to better monitor funding if they are indeed not in favor of violence and repression,” said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute.

 An electronic comment by USAID officer Raphael Cook states that, "To date, the observations of the Embassy and the donor community as a result of these visits do not support allegations that the Government of Ethiopia villagization process in South Omo involved coercion or was accompanied by systemic and widespread human rights abuses."

 In the January 2012 trip the email continues, "The information collected by the team was second- and third-hand information and despite best efforts, those interviewed did not have any specifics on the names or whereabouts of the victims."

 

The New Wayane Spy Agency Power Extended

Ethiopian Intelligenc, Security Services Power Extended

July 4, 2013

 By African Defence Admin

 The Ethiopian government has announced plans to transform the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) into an autonomous federal government office.This is expected to strengthen its ability to act on national security issues and ensure it can respond to issues today and in the future.

 The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) was established in 1994/95 as the Security, Immigration and Nationality Affairs Authority. Its name was changed to the NISS in 2006/07.On Tuesday, the plan to re-establish the NISS was presented to the House of People’s Representatives.

 Three reasons were given: To strengthen the NISS to allow it to protect and defend the sovereignty of the country, the constitution and constitutional order; to determine the power, duties and accountability of the NISS to promote peace, development, democracy and good governance; and build a modern and strong NISS, loyal and resilient to the constitution and constitutional order of Ethiopia and conscious of national and international interests The aim of the NISS is to protect national security by providing quality intelligence and reliable security services. Under the plans presented, it is accountable to the Prime Minister.

Persecuted Oromo demand UN protection in Egypt amid dam dispute.

 Leyland Cecco Last Modified: Jun 2013

 Leyland Cecco/Al Jazeera

 

 Cairo, Egypt - For months, Gutama Gallatobati, a proud farmer and mechanic of Oromo descent languished in an Ethiopian prison over accusations he burned an Ethiopian flag. While inside, guards physically abused him.

  Sada Ahmed, a mother of five children and wife of a wealthy husband lived a good life in Ethiopia until she was accused of financially supporting the rebel group Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Her husband disappeared in Sudan and she was forced to flee to Egypt.

  The Oromo make up 40 percent of the Ethiopian population. However, the minority Tigray government has persecuted the Oromo people, jailing more than 20,000 suspected OLF members. As a result, many have been forced to flee, leaving behind family, friends and jobs.

 Ahead of World Refugee Day on Thursday, the Oromo who have fled to Egypt are again endangered.

  "Our case cannot be resolved with lawyers and judges and courts … We don't want legal protection, we want physical protection."

 - Mohamed Zein, Ethiopian journalist

 Over the last few weeks, there has been an emergence of xenophobic attacks against Ethiopians on the streets of Cairo, motivated by Ethiopia's goal to build the "Grand Renaissance Dam".

 The Ethiopian government is planning to dam the Blue Nile for hydroelectric power, a move Egypt worries will affect its water supply.

  In response to the project, Egypt's government has reached a new level of bellicose rhetoric. In a televised meeting of key government officials recently, former presidential candidate Ayman Nour suggested Egypt launch air strikes to stop construction of the dam. Others proposed destabilising the Ethiopian government by funding rebel groups.

The Oromo in Egypt are now caught in the middle here and say they're facing increased hostility from Egyptians.

 In response, hundreds of Oromo refugees have staged a sit-in outside the Cairo office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) demanding safety. They’ve refused to leave, sleeping on the grass outside the building, near leaking sewage from a surrounding apartment complex.

 Jeylan Kassim, head of the Oromo Sons/ Daughters Refugee Association, has played a leading role in organising the protests. "We will not leave until the UNHCR will protect us," he told Al Jazeera.

 A heavy silence blankets the Oromo as they sit on scraps of cardboard listening to members of the community discuss in frustration fruitless meetings with UNHCR representatives.

 The UN says it cannot provide temporary shelter or food outside the UNHCR building because they do not have authority over the land, nor the resources to supply those camping out for the nearly two weeks.

The UN has offered a phone hotline for refugees to call with their problems, as well as legal assistance.

But the Oromo say this is not enough. "Our case cannot be resolved with lawyers and judges and courts … We don't want legal protection, we want physical protection," says Mohamed Zein, a journalist from Ethiopia. 

 He fled to Egypt after he was falsely accused of providing secret government information to NGO Human Rights Watch and the Eritrean government.

 The UNHCR acknowledges the situation is a difficult one but says its options are limited. "The outcome is not in your hands. As the United Nations, you don't get involved in [internal] politics," says UN press officer Ahmed Aboughazala.

 The Oromo in Egypt are united not only by their heritage, but also by a collective sense of uncertainty.

When 33-year-old Gutama Gallatobati arrived in Cairo a month ago, he thought his biggest troubles had been left behind. A week ago, however, his landlord evicted him from his apartment and his belongings were taken. When asked what reason he'd been given, he sighed: "The Nile."

 "They said if you take our water, we will take your blood," recounted Abdi Harboury, a lanky youth shy to make eye contact.

  According to the Oromo community, Abdi was the first person to have been attacked over the dam issue. He was beaten by three Egyptian youth, they say.

Hussein Ahmed, an asylum seeker who has been in Cairo almost two years, admitted he lies when asked about his origins. "I was at the barber and he asked me, 'Where are you from?' I said Nigeria. I am scared to say I am from Ethiopia."

 Even outside the UNHCR office, the refugees say it is not safe. Ahmed said he was beaten recently, and a woman was groped on her way to find a toilet. They claim the police did nothing to stop the attacks. 

 Some police officers have told locals passing by that the refugees are not suffering, and are being paid by the American government to protest, the Oromo say. "They protest in the day and then at night they're paid and many of them leave," said a young officer, who declined to give his name because he was not authorised to talk to the press.

 Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, meanwhile, arrived last Sunday in Addis Ababa to meet with his Ethiopian counterpart in an attempt to find a political and economic solution over the dam issue.

 Ethiopia and Egypt agreed to hold further talks on the impact of a huge Ethiopian dam project to quell tensions between the two countries over water-sharing.

  Until it gets resolved, however, the Oromo who fled persecution in Ethiopia say they will continue to face threats to their safety in Egypt.