State land-grab in Ethiopia

By Dessalegn Rahmato

Putting the rights of land holders — and in this country these are almost all small and impoverished farmers and herders — at the center of the discussion enables us to bring in the state and the question of governance since embedded in the concept of land rights are relations of power between the state on the one hand and individuals and communities on the other. The land transfers that have taken place on an unprecedented scale in the last ten to twelve years has brought to the surface several issues of public concern. First, it is the first time in this country that so much land — perhaps as much as a million hectares at present and expected to increase substantially in the coming years — has been put in the hands of foreign investors. Total transfers from the late 1990s to the end of 2008 to both domestic and foreign capital reaches almost 3.5 million hectares according to the database compiled by MOARD (2009a). The significance of this is that the state is now redefining the {www:agrarian} structure of the country as well as the future course of agricultural production in a manner that will increasingly marginalize the rural population. Secondly, since, by law, the state has juridical ownership of the land and in contrast peasant farmers and pastoralists have the right of use only, it is the state which in effect has been responsible for land grabbing: it has used its statutory right of ownership to alienate land from those who have customary rights and rights of longstanding usage, and transferring it, without consultation or consent, to investors from outside the communities concerned as well as from outside the country itself. The {www:commercialization} of land has served as a political advantage to the state since it enhances its power vis-à-vis rural communities, and leads to the greater concentration of authority in the hands of public agents and local administrators. The presence of large farm operations with their modern technologies in rural communities will be a constant reminder of the danger hanging over small farmers and pastoralists and their way of life… [read more]

4 thoughts on “State land-grab in Ethiopia

  1. Yemane on

    The solution is we have to raise a gun against the woyane regime. There is no other solution.

  2. Anonymous on

    THE Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt is one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, tracing its roots to St. Mark the apostle and the first century A.D. Coptic Christians have survived persecutions and conquests, the fall of Rome and the rise of Islam. They have been governed from Constantinople and Ctesiphon, Baghdad and London. They have outlasted the Byzantines, the Umayyads and the Ottomans, Napoleon Bonaparte and the British Empire. But they may not survive the Arab Spring. Apart from Hosni Mubarak and his intimates, no group has suffered more from Egypt’s revolution than the country’s eight million Copts. Last week two dozen people were killed in clashes between the Coptic Christians and the Egyptian Army, a grim milestone in a year in which the Coptic community has faced escalating terrorist and mob violence. A recent Vatican estimate suggests that 100,000 Copts may have fled the country since Mubarak’s fall. If Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood consolidates political power, that figure could grow exponentially. This is a familiar story in the Middle East, where any sort of popular sovereignty has tended to unleash the furies and drive minorities into exile. From Lebanon to North Africa, the Arab world’s Christian enclaves have been shrinking steadily since decolonization. More than half of Iraq’s 1.5 million Christians have fled the country since the American invasion toppled Saddam Hussein. More important, though, this is a familiar story for the modern world as a whole — a case of what National Review’s John Derbyshire calls “modernity versus diversity.” For all the bright talk about multicultural mosaics, the age of globalization has also been an age of unprecedented religious and racial sorting — sometimes by choice, more often at gunpoint. Indeed, the causes of democracy and international peace have often been intimately tied to ethnic cleansing: both have gained ground not in spite of mass migrations and mass murders, but because of them. This is a point worth keeping in mind when reading the Big Idea book of the moment, Steven Pinker’s “Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.” Pinker marshals an impressive amount of data to demonstrate that human civilization has become steadily less violent, that the years since 1945 have been particularly pacific, and that contemporary Europe has achieved an unprecedented level of tranquility. What Pinker sometimes glosses over, though, is the price that’s been paid for these advances. With the partial exception of immigrant societies like the United States, mass democracy seems to depend on ethno-religious solidarity in a way that older forms of government did not. The most successful modern nation-states have often gained stability at the expense of diversity, driving out or even murdering their minorities on the road to peaceful coexistence with their neighbors. Europe’s era of unexpected harmony, in particular, may have been made possible by the decades of expulsions and genocide that preceded it. As Jerry Z. Muller pointed out in a 2008 essay for Foreign Affairs, the horrors of the two world wars effectively rationalized the continent’s borders, replacing the old multi-ethnic empires with homogeneous nation-states, and eliminating — often all too literally — minority populations and polyglot regions. A decade of civil war and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia completed the process. “Whereas in 1900 there were many states in Europe without a single overwhelmingly dominant nationality,” Muller wrote, “by 2007 there were only two, and one of those, Belgium, was close to breaking up.” Along the same lines, the developing world’s worst outbreaks of ethno-religious violence — in post-Saddam Iraq, or the Indian subcontinent after the demise of the British Raj — are often associated with transitions from dictatorships or monarchies to some sort of popular rule. And from Kashmir to the West Bank, Kurdistan to Congo, the globe’s enduring trouble spots are usually places where ethno-religious communities and political borders can’t be made to line up. This suggests that if a European-style age of democratic peace awaits the Middle East and Africa, it lies on the far side of ethnic and religious re-sortings that may take generations to work out. Whether we root for this process to take its course depends on how we weigh the hope of a better future against the peoples who are likely to suffer, flee and disappear along the way. Europe’s long peace is an extraordinary achievement — but was it worth the wars and genocides and forced migrations that made it possible? A democratic Middle East would be a remarkable triumph for humanity — but is it worth decades of sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing? I don’t know the answer. But maybe we should ask the Copts. –NYT

  3. Anonymous on

    It’s about time, good job people, change is a part of life and at this point we definitely need some. We need to reform the system completely, we must help the poor and the less privileged, we should also limit the role of foreigners in our country “foreigners or multi-national companies from my experience don’t have the best interest s for the people or the country”. Furthermore, we all need to realize were the same and that we should all strive for the betterment of our country and its people, regardless of their ethnicity. We also need to reform the land ownership laws in the country; everyone (Ethiopians) should be entitled to own their land (Landownership only for Ethiopians or from people of Ethiopian descent). I also believe that we need to invest in our youth, we have to prepare them for the 21st century, we have to educate them and provide them with good jobs. I honestly have mixed feelings about this government; I believe that they have done some good although they still have a long way to go. It is said “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. We need a gradual change in Ethiopia, I do think this is a positive step in the right direction.

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