Ethiopia, which is deemed an "important regional security partner" by the US government and one of the largest recipients of US aid (over $1 billion a year since 2007), is forcibly relocating 70,000 people from Gambella to make land available for investment in agriculture. In doing this they are also aggravating current hunger while laying the groundwork for future famine in Ethiopia, as people are losing their livelihoods and being moved to areas where they cannot readily feed themselves.
Incredibly, the US ambassador to Ethiopia Donald E. Booth visited Gambella in January 2012 and said he witnessed "the people of Gambella benefiting from the fruits of development in the state." Mr. Booth seems unwilling to acknowledge any of the abuse, violence, or coercion human rights groups and the media have reported.
Through 100 interviews and 16 site visits, HRW documents how the relocation of 70,000 people from Gambella is far from voluntary and that promised improvements of food, farmland, health clinics, and schools are far from realized. Oakland Institute and its partner Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) confirm the worst details of brutality that HRW puts forth.
While the Ethiopian government is planning to relocate a total of 1.5 million people, its financial backers--especially USAID, one of the largest donors to the Ethiopian regime--need to take a closer look at what they are funding with taxpayer money.
We ask for your help to pressure President Obama and USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah to take a step back from supporting a repressive regime involved in the forced relocation of long-term and nomadic residents of the area of Gambella and to stop aid to Ethiopia until due diligence is taken to ensure that the well-being and livelihoods of local and indigenous people are valued at least as much as foreign investment.
The Oakland Institute's research in Ethiopia shows that not only do large-scale investments disrupt and destroy communities and ecosystems, they do not deliver on promises of job creation, economic development, and food security.
Ethiopia is the largest recipient of US food aid. In FY 2010, the US government provided $932.6 million in assistance, including more than $451 million in food aid. The US should become better-informed as we may well be creating the next famine in Ethiopia by taking valuable food-producing lands from productive small farmers and pastoralists and handing them over to foreign investors to grow flowers, fuels, and other exports.
Let President Obama and USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah know that it is not too late to put the brakes on, change course, and reevaluate US policy in Ethiopia. US support to the repressive Ethiopian regime and the repercussions of forced relocations will have a great impact on Ethiopia's future food security and poverty in the nation.
Dear President Obama and USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah:
By continuing to provide huge amounts of aid to Ethiopia, the US is in partnership with a repressive regime that puts large-scale agricultural investment and for-profit access to Ethiopia's fertile lands over the well-being and land rights of indigenous and local people.
The forced relocation of residents of Gambella has caused great hardship to tens of thousands including rape, other violent acts, coercion, and intimidation. We do not believe that USAID should support such endeavors and ask for due diligence in respect to the human rights of the people of Gambella.
The US government should not condone these horrific acts as the price Ethiopians must pay for development and food security in Ethiopia. We ask you to look at the facts regarding the kind of investments occurring in Ethiopia and to ensure US assistance actually benefits local communities and not just the interests of a minority.
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