Thursday, June 16, 2011

day light robbery in ethiopia: “doing business” with african dictators

abugidainfo | Dear People of India:

I greet you in peace and hope that the good people of India, who have yourselves thrown off the shackles of colonialism only 63 years ago, will join with Ethiopians and other Africans in confronting the hundreds of Indian companies who are now at the forefront of colluding with African dictators in robbing the people of their land, resources, lives and future! As either prospective buyers or simply as justice-loving Indians, you deserve to have full disclosure regarding the nature of these Ethiopian “business deals,” the impact it is having on “real people” on the ground, and the risks of “doing business” in Ethiopia with the current dictator of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi.

On June 8, 2011, Oakland Institute (OI) and the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) released a joint investigative report on Ethiopia, Understanding Land Investments in Ethiopia, part of a larger study of nine African countries affected by the new phenomenon called land-grabs. In Ethiopia, these “land-grabs” are being carried out as foreign investors make deals to lease some of the most fertile agricultural land for up to 99 years at negligible prices. Because private land ownership is prohibited in Ethiopia, “land deals” are being negotiated in secret agreements between these foreign investors and the Ethiopian government; without any consultation with the people.

My name is Obang Metho and I am writing this to you on behalf of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), a non-violent, grassroots social justice movement of diverse Ethiopians committed to bringing truth, justice, freedom, equality and the respect for human and civil rights to the people of Ethiopia and beyond. Our guiding principles are based on putting “humanity before ethnicity,” or any other distinctive that dehumanizes other human beings; and secondly, that “no one is truly free until all are free,” meaning that ignoring or contributing to the injustice, exploitation and oppression of our neighbors, near or far, creates greater insecurity and disharmony for all of us in this global world.

I come to you first and foremost as a fellow human as I call you to join our effort to stop the plundering of Ethiopia and Africa by African dictators, their cronies and their foreign partners—some of whom are Indian—who are hungry for our resources but care little for our people. An indigenous Ethiopian man described it this way: “This regime is one of the most hated regimes in Ethiopian history… they kill the people like they are nothing and with no remorse.” In light of this, I must warn you that those who are “doing business” in Ethiopia, are partnering with an illegitimately elected dictator and his authoritarian regime built on the brutal suppression of the rights of its citizens. The intent of my open letter is to expose the dark underside of these “deals” with the hope of joining forces with those in India who demand justice and human rights for all.

Ethiopia is controlled by a repressive regime, posing as a democracy, which maintains its power not by the ballot, but by the bullet; clearly shown by its99.6% claim to victory in the 2010 election and complete closing off of any political space. All sectors of society are tightly controlled by a one-party minority regime (TPLF), which politicizes all benefits—including business opportunities, education, jobs, agricultural supports and even food aid (see recent Human Rights Watch report)—and punishes any dissent; creating a silenced Ethiopian society.

Ethiopians are pro-business and pro-investment; particularly as Ethiopia is reported to be the second poorest country in the world with 90% of the people living under the poverty level. What we oppose is the daylight robbery of Ethiopia by modern day bandits who are willing to make secret deals with a corrupt government that would be illegal in India and other more developed countries. Abundant resources; combined with a disenfranchised public, few protective regulatory mechanisms, a lack of transparency, duty-free deals and regime promises of cheap labor have brought opportunists from all over the world—from India, China, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Egypt, Turkey and beyond—all hungry to eat off the weakened carcass of the future hopes of the Ethiopian people.

Into this environment, have come over 500 Indian companies—more than from any other country in the world—to capitalize on this “goldmine of opportunity.” One Ethiopian from the Oromia region protested: “Our land is being given to the Indian companies and anyone who speaks out against it is labeled as a terrorist who is not supposed to have any rights or question any actions by the government.”

Why would any Indians be part of this? Any who resent the colonial past of your own country, should know that it began through the British East India Trading Company; where some of the more unscrupulous often colluded with corrupt indigenous government officials. What would Gandhi say today were he to know that Indians, who were only freed from the shackles of colonialism in recent history, were now at the forefront of this “land-grabbing” as part of the race for foreign control over African land and resources; currently being called the Neo-Colonialism of Africa?