June 29, 2011

Oromo: Germany Threatens Withholding Development Assistance in Ethiopia Without Human Rights

In trying to address concerns about mass resettlement in Ethiopia, Germany’s approach to force human rights development by threatening to withhold assistance is misguided.

Below is an article published by Society for Threatened Peoples:

In view of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), the forthcoming government negotiations with Ethiopia about development assistance from Germany, that are to be held on Tuesday (28th June), are to be seen as a test for the Federal Government's new Africa-strategy. "If human rights are supposed to become more important in the Federal Government's Africa policy, then Berlin will have to insist on significant improvements regarding human rights at the Horn of Africa, before giving development assistance to Ethiopia," urged the STP's expert on questions regarding Africa, Ulrich Delius, in Göttingen on Friday. "Unfortunately, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation (Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit - BMZ) does not seem to critically reflect its policy regarding Ethiopia or credibly demand the observance of human rights so far." 

In Ethiopia, more than 700.000 people are to be resettled soon. The government's alleged objective is to improve supply of the rural population and to give foreign investors access to large agricultural areas. The STP does not only fear that the local population will be displaced. The human rights organization is also concerned, that large companies might not try to help the regional food supply but would mainly produce for export. In addition, the authorities are putting pressure on farmers and nomads in order to stifle any resistance against the resettlement plans. In the Afar region – in northeastern Ethiopia – 260 village elders were arrested, because they refused to promote the resettlement-plans. Also, in the southwest of the country, dozens of nomads were arrested in resettlement areas, because they were considered to be "troublemakers". 

The police presence was massively intensified so that a climate of fear has now spread among the nomads. A local police chief announced at a town meeting, that "the government is like a bulldozer, and anyone who opposes the development projects will be crushed like someone who gets in the way of a bulldozer." 

"Arbitrary actions like this cannot be justified by the principles of human rights and citizen participation the BMZ calls for," said Delius. Nevertheless, the State Secretary of the BMZ, Hans-Jürgen Beerfeltz, wrote a letter to the STP on the 10th June 2011, assuring that – according to the Ethiopian government – there is no connection between large-scale resettlement and land investment. Ethiopia's Prime Minister had promised that there would be no involuntary resettlement. According to Beerfeltz, even local research done by donor nations showed no signs of forced relocation. 

"It would be unrealistic of the Federal Government to wait for the Ethiopian authorities to admit own human rights violations," said Delius. "If this is what Germany's Africa policy is about, then human rights will continue to play a rather small role." 

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