Pastoralists in southern Ethiopia forced off their land for sugar plantations
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that the Ethiopian Government is forcibly displacing agro-pastoralist communities in the Lower Omo Valley without adequate consultation to make way for state-run sugar plantations. The 73-page report What will happen if hunger comes? contains previously unpublished government maps that show the extensive developments planned for the Omo Valley, including irrigation canals, sugar-processing factories and 100,000 ha of other commercial agriculture. Government security forces are relocating the agropastoralists from their traditional lands through violence and intimidation, threatening their entire way of life with no compensation or choice of alternative livelihoods. Government officials have carried out arbitrary arrests and violence against residents of the valley who questioned or resisted the development plans.
The sugar plantations are linked to the construction of Africa’s highest dam, Gibe III, on the Omo River for hydropower and will be downstream from this dam. Full implementation of the plan could affect at least 200,000 Ethiopians of several ethnic groups in the Omo Valley and another 300,000 Kenyans living across the border around Lake Turkana, which derives up to 90% of its water from the Omo River. HRW called on the Ethiopian Government to suspend the construction of Gibe III and the associated sugar plantations until developments can be carried out in a manner consistent with national laws and international human rights standards. Read more here.