Statement by the Arid Lands Institute given out and read at the 56th regular session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in Banjul, Gambia, on April 26, 2015
Poverty is today defined not just in terms of material or food deprivation but also deprivation at the level of freedom, social and cultural rights. The UN came out with its HDI indicators; and according the globally respected institution, The Oxford University, the Oxford University Poverty and Human Development Initiative Global multi-dimensional Poverty Index Databank has categorized Ethiopia as the second most impoverished country in the world for two years in a row, 2013 and 2014. Will that surprise us? Not the least.
If the economic and human rights situation in Ethiopia is really as rosy as it is painted to us by the periodic report (by the EPRDF government at the 56th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights), how come hundreds of thousands of its youthful population are risking their lives to flee the country and die in the deserts of the Sahara, Sinai and Arabia, beheaded by fundamentalist lunatics in Libya and killed in South Africa? Why? This only indicates that life in Ethiopia is absolutely horrible that its youth sees no bright future at all. It all looks doom and dark.
The right to development as a universal principle was all about those whose livelihood system is not within the bounds of the so-called modern sector of the economy such as those of pastoralists. In Ethiopia, the pastoralist livestock production system is not considered as a viable economic activity and is subject to wither away. Thus the land they occupy is also considered idle, a construct borrowed from colonization, and is subject to grabbing. In recent years the government in Ethiopia has dished out a huge tract of land more than the size of Belgium to mainly foreign investors and evicted pastoralists and other farmers. Forests and vegetation have been cleared and an alarming rate of environmental destruction has taken place. In all these, there is no sizable dividend for the country or for the evicted community as all the produce is destined to abroad. As if inserting a stick in the wound, one of these foreign companies by the name Karuturi of India, went bankrupt after all these environmental destruction. That much for the strategy of transformation and the claims of double digit GDP growth.
Despite the claims of federalism, in Ethiopia, political and economic power is dominated by one political party of one ethnic group, the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF). Key political, economic, military and security positions are all occupied by party members of TPLF. This is a dangerous exercise as it can backfire into negative ethnicity which can be dangerous in the future.
Political, economic, social and cultural lives are suffocated due to repression and excessive control that people do not see any bright future for their children and that is why the youth is desperate to flee the country to define its future. As such, the people of Ethiopia are now living through their darkest ages.