ESAT Bezhisamint : Land grab in Gambella as a story of corruption

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December 26,2016

This edition of ESAT Bezhisamint takes a close look into unimaginable corruption related to land distribution in Gambella region of Ethiopia.

Research based report conducted by the ruling party itself unveiled a striking information regarding land distributed to “investors.” Of the total 630,000 hectares of land distributed, only 16 percent of it is developed by the “investors”.

In the first place, it is important to remember a study by US based Oakland institute regarding land grab in Gambella region.Land made available to “investors” was acquired by government through compulsory and dehumanizing dislocation of local residents and farmers. In instances where peasants and local farmers were given “compensation,” , what they’ve received constitute, in most cases, much less than 1 percent of the real value of land they lost through compulsory dispossession. Hundreds of lives have been lost.

Most of the “investors” who were given land in Gambella region were from Tigray region. The Federal government was directly involved in the allocation of land in Gambella region and perhaps in the arrangement of loan itself. Under the current constitution of Ethiopia, the task of distributing land to “investors” was supposed to be within the jurisdiction of regional governments – in this case Gambella. So the issue of constitutional breach is well noted Sisay and his guests.

Apart from land distribution, what arrangements were made for “investors” ?

4.9 billion Ethiopian birr loan arrangement was made available from development bank often without collateral holds.

It appears to be the case that 84 percent of “investors” who benefited from the loan arrangement, as can be deduced from statistics from government’s own fact finding research, did not invest the fund on the land they were given by the Federal investment. Mind you they also benefited from tax free importation which was meant to be for machinery but was instead used for importing some other stuff.

Yet, Tigraieans who are majority of agricultural “investors” in Gambella and who are beneficiaries of the loan arrangement complained last week that they have been targeted because of their “identity.” Cleary, it represented an attempt to veil the grand corruption.

Ironically, one of the recommendations from the research team does appear to be transferring land given in investment back to the regional government of Gambella so that the “investors” will pursue the matter with the government of Gambella. So Tigrians could play more of identity politics card. The truth is Tigrayeans exploited dominance of Tigray People Liberation Front over government to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of Ethiopians.

Of course, it should be remembered that land given for “agricultural” investment is entirely useless when it comes to contributing to food security in Ethiopia. Simply because the investment is motivated by profit making and the product will end up to markets where it can fetch better price.

There is more into this grand story of corruption. Ermias Legese, Sisay Agena and Dr. Semahegne delved into it in the video above.
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