The once starving socialist utopia is opening up the market and ending some coerced monopolies….but officials may hanker for the good old days of mass starvation as the atmosphere remains uneven, as it bans Skype with draconian 15 year sentences for ‘national security’ and to aid the ‘War on Terror’ but actually both de facto phone monopoly protection and trying to silence activists like the small LI group there–and allows favored dam-building crony capitalists and state sugar monopolies to seize pastoral lands and wreck eco-zones in actions reminiscent of enclosure acts from centuries ago.
Farmers are being forced to sell their farms at fire-sale prices and pay taxes besides, say activists, and 300,000 people once self-sustaining may face starvation to accomodate international companies and enrich officials who ban their protests while EU and US taxpayers foot the bill…
Ethiopia: Privatisation Board Okays Two Offers
By Elleni Araya, 10 June 2012
The board of the Privatisation & Public Enterprises Supervising Agency (PPESA) approved offers made for Caustic Soda SC and the warehouses of Faffa Foods on the evening of Friday, June 8, 2012.
MCC Imports is to get the country’s only caustic soda manufacturing company for 14.8 million Br, while Ethio-Canadian businessman Nejib Abba Biya will acquire the warehouses of Faffa Foods for 414,100 dollars.
The public tender for the two companies was floated on May 4, 2012, along with Batu Construction SC, Hamaressa Edible Oil, the warehouses of the Ethiopian Fibre Products Factory, and Commercial Printing Enterprise.
The 28 million Br offer made by SUHA Plc for Commercial Printing Enterprise was rejected by the board because it was way below the 58.7 million Br that the Enterprise had asked for the company.
Batu and Hamaressa had failed to attract any offers when the tender was opened in May 28, 2012, whereas, a court order initiated by Hawassa Textile Company prevented an offer for Ethiopian Fibre Products Factory from being opened.
Because it only had three offers to consider, the bid committee had promised to make decisions quickly. Indeed, decisions came in less than three weeks.
Neither MCC Imports nor Nejib representatives have been informed by the PPESA because the decisions were made late Friday evening.
Paris — Ethiopia has banned Skype and other use of Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) services that offer audio and video related communications.
The new law was passed late last month and breaking the law is punishable by 15 years in prison.
According to Reporters Without Borders, the Horn of Africa country endorsed the law national security reasons.
Internet-based phone calls have been a popular means of communication for government opponents and their supporters abroad. Addis Ababa’s actions are interpreted to be a attempt to cut off these lines of communication with Ethiopians abroad, from which the opposition secure most of their funding.
However, it is also believed that the new law is intended to protect the state’s monopoly over telephone communications.
Nairobi — The Ethiopian government is forcibly displacing indigenous pastoral communities in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo valley without adequate consultation or compensation to make way for state-run sugar plantations, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The report contains previously unpublished government maps that show the extensive developments planned for the Omo valley, including irrigation canals, sugar processing factories, and 100,000 hectares of other commercial agriculture.
The 73-page report, “‘What Will Happen if Hunger Comes?’: Abuses against the Indigenous Peoples of Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley,”documents how government security forces are forcing communities to relocate from their traditional lands through violence and intimidation, threatening their entire way of life with no compensation or choice of alternative livelihoods. Government officials have carried out arbitrary arrests and detentions, beatings, and other violence against residents of the Lower Omo valley who questioned or resisted the development plans.
“Ethiopia’s ambitious plans for the Omo valley appear to ignore the rights of the people who live there,” said Ben Rawlence, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “There is no shortcut to development; the people who havelong relied on that land for their livelihood need to have their property rights respected, including on consultation and compensation.”
The Lower Omo valley, one of the most remote and culturally diverse areas on the planet, is home to around 200,000 people from eight unique agro-pastoral communities who have lived there for as long as anyone can remember. Their way of life and their identity is linked to the land and access to the Omo River. The Omo valley is in Ethiopia’s Southern Peoples, Nations, and Nationalities Region (SNNPR), near the border with Kenya, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980.
The significant changes planned for the Omo valley are linked to the construction of Africa’s highest dam, the controversial Gibe III hydropower project, along the Omo River. Downstream, the sugar plantations will depend on irrigation canals. Although there have been some independent assessments of the Gibe dam project, to date, the Ethiopian government has not published any environmental or social impact assessments for the sugar plantations and other commercial agricultural developments in the Omo valley.
“What am I going to eat?” a man of the Mursi ethnic group told Human Rights Watch. “They said to take all my cattle and to sell them and to only tie one up at my house. What can I do with only one? I am a Mursi. If hunger comes I shoot a cow’s neck and drink blood. If we sell them all for money how will we eat?”
The evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch since its visit demonstrates that in the past year regional officials and security forces have forcibly seized land from indigenous communities living and farming within the areas slated for sugar production. Reports of forced displacement and the clearing of agricultural land have gathered pace.
Access to the Omo River is critical for the food security and way of life of the pastoralists who live in the valley. Several community representatives said that state officials had told them, without any other discussion, that the communities would need to reduce the number of their cattle and resettle in one place, and that they would lose access to the Omo River.
As of June 2012, irrigation canals have been dug, land has been cleared, and sugar production has begun along the east bank of the river. Government maps photographed by Human Rights Watch indicate that the area where sugar cultivation is under way is a fraction of what is labeled as “Sugar Block One.” Two additional “blocks” of land that will be taken for sugar cultivation are to follow. Ethiopia’s existing assessments of the impact of the Gibe dam do not include the impact of sugar cultivation and irrigation on the flow of the Omo River, or the downstream impact on Lake Turkana. The massive network of irrigation canals indicated on the maps suggests that the previous assessments are insufficient.
The full implementation of the plan could affect at least 200,000 people in the Omo valley and another 300,000 Kenyans living across the border around Lake Turkana, which derives up to 90 percent of its water from the Omo River. Human Rights Watch said Kenya should press for new environmental and social impact assessments that examine the cumulative impact of the Gibe III dam and the irrigated commercial agriculture scheme.
These developments – which threaten the economic, social, and cultural rights of the Omo valley’s indigenous inhabitants – are being carried out in contravention of domestic and international human rights standards, which call for the recognition of property rights, with meaningful consultation, consent, and compensation for loss of land, livelihoods, and food security, and which state that displacement, especially of indigenous peoples from their historic homelands, must be treated as an absolute last resort.
The rights of indigenous peoples are addressed by Ethiopia’s own laws and constitution…
The Ethiopian government relies on international aid for a significant percentage of its budget. Security forces and officials from the regional and district administrations are implementing the plans for the sugar plantations and telling local residents they must move, without any consultation or recognition of their rights. A multi-donor funded program called Protection of Basic Services (PBS) provides hundreds of millions of dollars to support health, education, and other sectors and funds the salaries of district government officials across Ethiopia, including SNNPR region. The main donors to PBS are the World Bank, the United Kingdom, the European Union, the Netherlands, and Germany.
Human Rights Watch called on the Ethiopian government to suspend the construction of Gibe III and the associated sugar plantations…
Selected Accounts from “What Will Happen if Hunger Comes”
“People disagree with the government on the sugar, but are afraid of the possible use of force to resettle people and so do not say much. [We have a] big fear of government here. If you express concern, you go to jail.” – Bodi man, June 2011.
“There will be a problem during the dry season. Now there is water, but when there isn’t if we do not go back to Omo we will need government to bring water. If they do not, [we] and our cattle will die. We will go to Omo anyway, if not, we will die, they can kill us there if they want.” – Mursi villager, June 2011.
“What am I going to eat? They said to take all my cattle and to sell them and to only tie one up at my house. What can I do with only one? I am a Mursi. If hunger comes I shoot a cow’s neck and drink blood. If we sell them all for money how will we eat? When we get married we marry with cattle. What will we marry with? What will we eat? When hunger comes what will we feed our children with? If we just keep chickens will we eat soup or milk them…? ‘This land is my land,’ say the highland Ethiopians. ‘Run to the forest like a baboon.'” – Mursi man describing the importance of cattle, December 2011.
“They [the government officials] cleared out their [Kwegu and Bodi] gardens. They cleared far and dug up their sorghum. The sorghum was near ripening; a truck plowed it and cast it away. The Kwegu gardens were plowed and some Kwegu are now without anything. If their sorghum is plowed what are they going to eat? What will they give to their kids?” – Man describing what happened to Bodi and Kwegu farmland that was cleared in December 2011.
“There will be big problems in the areas if all the cattle are given to the government. What will these people eat, now the drought is really badly affecting the Horn of Africa? Now the dam has been built, no water in the river, land has been taken away, the cattle given to the government, what will happen to the poor people in time of the famine? Those people who want to wipe out the pastoralists eat three times a day. What will happen if hunger comes?” – Mursi man, May 2011.