, ADDIS ABABA, Jan 17 – Ethiopia has forced thousands of villagers from their land to make way for commercial farming developments, leaving people impoverished and hungry, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report Tuesday.
At least 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) — an area larger than the Netherlands — have been leased to foreign and state-owned firms since 2008, with state security using force to drive people from off their land, HRW said.
“The Ethiopian government under its “villagization” program is forcibly relocating approximately 70,000 indigenous people from the western Gambella region,” the report by the New York-based group read.
However, the new villages people are sent to “lack adequate food, farmland, healthcare, and educational facilities,” it added.
“State security forces have repeatedly threatened, assaulted, and arbitrarily arrested villagers who resist the transfers,” the report added, titled “Ethiopia: Forced Relocations Bring Hunger, Hardship.”
Ethiopia plans to lease a further 2.1 million hectares (5.1 million acres), the report added.
“Mass displacement to make way for commercial agriculture in the absence of a proper legal process contravenes Ethiopia’s constitution and violates the rights of indigenous peoples under international law,” HRW said.
Ethiopia has previously rejected similar accusations, claiming that anyone displaced receives fair compensation, and says that movements are voluntary.
Driven by recent food, energy and climate crises, investors from richer nations have been acquiring rights to vast tracts of land in several African nations to meet demand for bio-fuels, crops and mining resources.