“Suspends!” This one word really signifies a great
accomplishment by hard-working activists, both Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians, who
have sought to stop the rapid-paced land grabs going on in the country. We all
should be rejoicing at this news, revealed earlier this week in The
the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) will suspend land allocations for investment
purposes until they better assess their own internal structures and the
compliance of investors! This is a “battle”
won and should be a source of great encouragement to us! It should strengthen
our resolve to win the greater “war” for truth, freedom and justice in Ethiopia!
This move by the MOA is a definite sign of
retreat from the regime’s previous strong denials of the facts and its misguided
hope that they could successfully repress the information from getting out or
avoid the consequences of deporting hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians from
their homes and indigenous land by intimidating and terrorizing the people.
Meles regime has known all along that what they have been doing is illegal,
immoral and incendiary, but what exactly brought this abrupt “suspension” of
this TPLF/EPRDF leasing scheme into being may be the result of a number of
complex factors; some of which we may never know, but probably include exposure,
international pressure, resistance, regime survival and even possibly, the
afflicted consciences of some within the ranks.
Nevertheless, we give credit to the MOA for taking this step forward for the
people and for the future of Ethiopia, but much more is needed.
land grabs strike at the very heart of life and survival in Ethiopia and without
significant change they have the potential for destabilizing all of Ethiopia,
region by region, and eventually, as a whole, until the entire country could
explode. Up until now, the resistance from those affected has been mostly
passive due to pervasive fear of repercussions; however, from what we hear on
the ground, this may not continue to be the case unless the TPLF/EPRDF makes
very major adjustments and this move is not nearly enough.
thank the countless people who did take the risk of providing testimony to
international civic organizations, human rights groups and international media,
all giving the facts from the ground that are diametrically opposed to previous
regime propaganda. The MOA’s sudden admission that these land deals might not
be “working” on the ground, supports the findings of Human Rights Watch’s
recent report http://www.hrw.org/reports/2012/01/17/waiting-here-death,
the land investment study co-sponsored by the Oakland Institute and the SMNE http://www.solidaritymovement.org/downloads/110608UnderstandingLandDealsInAfrica.pdf,
the PBS report http://video.pbs.org/video/2203388630,
John Vidal’s report http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/21/ethiopia-centre-global-farmland-rush?CMP=twt_gu for the Guardian, Al Jazeera report http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embeddedv=Mr2xzRS73Bw and many others.
know these land grabs, which are essentially regime-sponsored robbery, are not
in the best interests of the people; but neither are they in the best interests
of the investors. These investors now find themselves in a very vulnerable
position as they face new scrutiny to determine whether or not they have
utilized the land as per their agreements.
The TPLF/EPRDF may likely name some of them as
the new scapegoats, especially those who are “less useful” to the regime;
however, from its conception, the entire
land-leasing program was a precarious “set-up” for the weakest and most
disadvantaged players, which means everyone but Meles and his cronies. In this case, it is no longer only the
people, but now includes the investors whose investment security is at the fickle
whim of the regime. If this new suspension of land allocations is an image-saving
tactic, certain investors may be conveniently blamed in order to absolve the
regime of any responsibility.
lessons do we learn from this? First of all, it
shows that the work of those trying to ensure protection for the people and
compliance with the Ethiopian Constitution and international laws achieve their
goals only through commitment, hard work and persistence. Some people are afraid of change and end up settling for less than they
should or even are so afraid of challenging the status quo that they
accommodate what is clearly wrong. We cannot afford to do this!
if some of our greatest heroes of justice had done the same? During slavery, Wilbur Wilberforce, a
well-positioned and influential statesman in England would not rest until slavery
was outlawed in Britain. He faced great resistance for decades but his efforts
persisted until he achieved his God-given mission for humanity.
it came to Ghandi, he persisted for many years and sacrificed immensely to achieve
greater equality in India. He
summed up his experience in the following memorable statement: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule
you, then they fight you, and then you win.” What if he had given up too soon and had settled for less?
Luther King faced resistance, even from other African Americans who said that
the country was not ready for change and that he should not push for equal
civil rights. What if he had given up his dream and not accomplished his
God-given calling for humanity?
South Africa, some did not agree with apartheid but yet they felt it was not
the right time to push for equality among people. What if Nelson Mandela and Archbishop
Desmond Tutu had given up on their God-given mission for equal civil rights for
Our world has too
many dictators where the majority has sat on the sidelines; yet, some have
refused to settle for less than the truth and what is right. As a result, they have
pushed until there was a forceful shift of power. Look at the founding fathers of America who only became a great
country by refusing to accept unfair domination and taxes from Britain. Some
resisted them, siding with the British, yet because the love of freedom and
justice could not be forced out of the hearts of these activists, with God’s
help, they prevailed.
the independence movement in Africa, many countries achieved their independence
and Ethiopia was able to resist the Italians in their efforts to claim Ethiopia
as theirs. Many other examples come to mind where dictatorships have fallen;
like Pinochet of Chile, Pol Pot of Cambodia, Milosevic of Yugoslavia and even Mengistu.
More recently, no one would have thought Mubarak would fall nor the other
casualties of the Arab Spring; yet, it is likely to claim others like Bashar
al-Assad of Syria or our own dictator, Meles of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia, this suspension of land allocations is a sign that when people
persist, they will ultimately make the decision. Could the TPLF/EPRDF be feeling the heat
and be panicking; fearing that the land grabs will be what brings them down and
that is why they are backing off?
During the last
few months, the TPLF/EPRDF had attempted to pass a new law, further undermining
basic rights by giving Ethiopians ownership of only their actual homes, but not
the land on which they were built. After a significant public outcry, they
backed down. Could this suspension of
land allocations be another example? Land issues are extremely sensitive. It is
what brought down Haile Selassie.
If the TPLF/EPRDF pushes, how much more will it take before the scales
tip? A government that gives away its peoples’ land to foreigners so that a
foreign nation can feed their people while its own remain hungry, it is
literally giving away a nation and the future of its people. What living thing
does not somehow resist if the very means of life are taken away? Perhaps, out
of such fear of rising resistance, the Meles regime is now trying to pacify the
people and this is the reason we are now hearing the word “suspend.” This is
exactly the time when we Ethiopians must work all the harder in our struggle
and it may come from different directions.
Could the scales be tipped by the teachers who are now rallying throughout
Ethiopia because they have not been paid for a long time or by the business
owners who are being pushed aside or by public servants, who, like the teachers,
have not been paid?
Could the scale be tipped by the food shortages or high inflationary
rates that are making life unbearable for Ethiopians? Only God knows these answers,
but a government that discards its own citizens, favors its own ethnic group
and cronies, who uses a mafia-style godfather billionaire to support them while
robbing the country and then a military junta to kill resistance to all of the
above, can never last. History has shown us that a government that fears its own
people will eventually implode and then collapse.
God give us the faith, wisdom, strength, courage and self-control to bring that
day closer in a way that is pleasing to God so that what replaces this regime
becomes a blessing to not only Ethiopians but also to other nations. For this to happen, we must be honorable
and righteous people who seek a New Ethiopia where we
care about the humanity of each other, “putting
humanity before ethnicity” as we uphold the rights of others, for “no one is free until all are free!” This includes all people, including Tigrayans who
are our brothers and sisters and who the TPLF wants to alienate from us. We
refuse! May Cush reach its hands out in
submission to God so He might bless our precious people and beautiful land!
by Meron Tekleberhan, The Reporter, Ethiopian Business News, Monday, March 19,