Ethiopian superstar athlete Haile Gebreselassie had been observed squeezing tears from his eyes on the day dictator Meles Zenawi’s death was officially announced on August 21. We all understood that Haile was faking it, and we suspected the reason. Did he really feel sorry for the death of the monster? We believe otherwise, because we have been getting information over the past few years that Haile has been trying to expand his business empire in Ethiopia, but he was facing obstacles from the ruling junta, until he showed up at the EPRDF conference 2 years ago and gave his endorsement. Suddenly, all his problems started to go away, and he completed his resort hotel in Awasa without a hitch.
Haile did not stop there. Recently, he has received 1,500 hectares of forest land (1/10th the size of Washington DC) from the Woyanne junta to grow tea in Sheka Zone, south-western Ethiopia over the objection of local residents.
The local community is terribly saddened by Haile’s plan to convert the forest into a tea plantation, which they believe will cause great harm to the local environment. After quietly, but unsuccessfully, trying to convince Haile to withdraw his plan, representatives of the local population contacted Ethiopian Review with a plea to voice their concern to the people of Ethiopia and the international community. The following is one of the letters they sent to Haile Gebreselassie:
We […] received a head-knocking telephone call from Sheka Zone with a disheartening news that you have leased 1500ha of forest land for coffee and tea plantation. The location of your project is Sheka Zone, Yapo Kebele Peasant association, where the mentioned land has never been touched for generations. It is one of few areas that escaped the catastrophe of extinction for centuries. Having been devastated with what we heard and read, we made a call to the mentioned Kebele (Yapo), and one of us were able to speak to one of the community members over the telephone. The community member told us that you have been handed-over a total area of 1500 hectares of land and that you were planning to start the project soon. He also shared with us the reaction of the community. The community clearly told you that they do not want the project and neither are happy with your approach. They refuted the economic benefit of the planned 14 kilometer road and two bridges proposed in your investment project.
We are in total disbelief that you plan to cut down our forest for a short term economic benefit. We hope you will take more time and think seriously about the matter. Please do not cause misery and despair for the people of Sheka Zone. […]