Saturday, September 22, 2012

land grab explained

Obang Metho, Executive Director, Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, in an address to the 1st Africa Congress on Effective Cooperation for a Green Africa in Bremerhaven, Germany.

 "One of the greatest threats Africa has ever faced is the impact from this new phenomenon of land-grabbing. In many places, these land grabs are going on without any input from stakeholders and without any compensation for lost lands, homes, crops and livelihoods. Small farmers are ill-prepared for the sudden dispossession of their land and with it, the means to their livelihood. Lacking education or training for other jobs, some have become a source of cheap labor as they are left without alternative means for survival. These foreign investors, countries and regime cronies are often making secretive leasing agreements with authoritarian regimes that give them millions of hectares of land for next to nothing for periods of time as long as 99 years in some cases.

With the current concerns for food security, especially in a changing climate where our soaring world population is expected to reach nine billion inhabitants by 2050—only 38 years from now, unused and underutilized land, with access to water for irrigation, has become the new "precious commodity" sometimes called "green gold." Add to that the ever-increasing global need for resources like minerals, oil, natural gas and commodities in general and where do eyes turn but towards Africa, a continent with great reserves of rich, untapped resources. This is what is driving the second scramble for Africa.

During the first scramble for Africa, foreign slave-traders trafficked African human beings with assistance from partners on the inside, Africans themselves, who were wanting to profit from the betrayal of their fellow African brothers and sisters, especially those from competing tribes. Divide and conquer policies made it easier for outsiders to align with some African opportunists, the powerful among them, who then became complicit with these outsiders in the exploitation of other Africans. Colonialism, while making some genuine contributions to Africa, is still broadly considered one of the darkest of times in the history of humanity, marked by the ruthless, exploitive and dehumanizing pursuit of slave labor, economic profit and power from Africans and Africa.

This pursuit of Africa's people as marketable commodities and of Africa's many resources led to foreign-led minority rule, which was maintained through divide and conquer strategies, later adopted by African strongmen. The continent has not recovered. These African strongmen, with their "tribal-based groups" continue today. Even in Ethiopia, where colonial efforts failed, feudalism succeeded—with similar results. Whether colonialism or feudalism, both systems fed off of the manipulation of tribalism or its weaknesses. Now, "one-tribe-take-all" politics, with its "colonial" or "feudal" strongmen, has infected much of Africa and can be seen in the ethnic-based, one-party regimes typical of most dictatorships on the continent. Conflict never resolves as one group thrives—usually a minority of the population—while everyone else struggles. If another group comes into power; the pattern is oftentimes repeated. Strong institutions for checks and balances do not exist or when they do, they are pseudo-institutions, controlled by those in power. These non-representative governments continue to epitomize what happened at the Berlin conference of 1885, held only a short distance from where we are today, when Europeans met to divvy up the continent of Africa based on their self-interests. No Africans were present.   Now, modern-day African dictators are doing the same.

Thirsty for power, material wealth and privilege, and empowered by foreign and crony partners and heavy-handed militaries, they are divvying up the indigenous land and resources of the African people, without consulting the people or providing compensation for losses, as required under international law and many national constitutions. The people are disempowered, intimidated or "bought off." The environment has never been at greater risk as short-term interests and quick gain trumps the political will to give oversight to ecological concerns surrounding development projects.....

....For a better world, it requires all of us to remember that "none of us will be free until our brother and sister—our fellow human beings in this world—are free." Our humanity does not have boundaries. We have to preserve it, protect it and be part of it. Do not be bystanders. We have to reach out, take action, love our global neighbors and be the ones to do your share from wherever you are."

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