A New Climate for Peace: Ethiopia
Land grabs and the global farms race
Between 2004 and 2009, the Ethiopian government leased or sold more than 1.2 million hectares of farmland to foreign investors. More than 800 foreign-financed agricultural projects were approved, leasing fertile farmland at less than US$1 per acre per year. While the land deals were presented as beneficial to Ethiopians, the promises of new technologies, employment, and agricultural modernization have not materialized. And though Ethiopia has large areas of arable land, when the acquisitions took place, a large part of the population—7.5 million—was already food insecure.
These land deals often lack transparency, preventing the public and displaced populations from learning the value of the deal or the land. The authoritarian Ethiopian government systematically marginalizes indigenous communities, ignoring national and international law, human rights standards, basic needs, and minority rights during these land acquisitions. In 2003, more than 400 people were killed by government forces for resisting foreign investment projects, leading to conflicts with local communities and indigenous groups. The Anuak community in the Gambella region was violently relocated to state-created villages that lacked public services, and the Ethiopian military was reported to have committed murder, rape, false imprisonment, and torture while clearing the land. Such forced resettlement programmes may have troublesome knock-on effects, fuelling inter-ethnic resource competition in new settlement areas and clashes between agro-pastoralists and working migrants from the highlands. They may also have regional repercussions as pastoralists flee to Kenya or South Sudan, which could lead to increased resource pressure in these areas. These types of movements have already triggered conflict in the contested Ilemi Triangle.
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