Human Rights Watch at it again!
By Tesfaye Ayalew
In its most recent report titled “What Will Happen if Hunger Comes?” the Human Rights Watch (HRW) yet again came out with another groundless allegation of “forceful eviction of indeginous people in the Lower Omo Valley.” Judging from its prior reports on Ethiopia, including one released in May this year, the allegations may not come as a total surprise for many in the country or elsewhere.
Owing to the repeated and relentless damning reports against the Ethiopian government and its people, a friend jokkingly referred to the organization as Ethiopia Watch. Of course, no one has any objection in its persistent and frequent watch at the country, neither has the government. The bone of contention is the fact that it never watched the country. Neither has it visted the people about whom it reports, rather it has been reporting based on heresays and rumors.
The target of last week’s report, like its predecessors, is a development project currently underway in the Omo Valley. As stated in the report, the Ethiopian government has ambitious plans to transform the Lower Omo Valley and the livelihoods of the people that live there. Hydroelectric development (Gibe III), irrigated commercial agriculture (specifically sugar plantations), major road infrastructure, and oil exploration are some of the plans for the region. Taking all this plan at face value, it, in no way, should be seen as a sin but a noble plan expected from a developmental state. At what cost is the issue.
Well, HRW says no environmental and social impact assessments have been conducted in relation to the projects. It is the reality and has been reported many times and about environmental impact assessments made by the Ethiopian government before the construction began. Despite that fact, HRW insisted as if an assessment has never been done. It goes on to allege that indigenous populations have not been consulted. These are white lies. There were a serious of public dialogues with various sections of the society and levels of government. That is why it became possible to go ahead with the project, which otherwise would have been impossible.
The donors in the Development Assistance Group (DAG) have carried out a fact finding mission, but never came out with similar allegations. But the HRW insists, to the point of insult, saying “donors in the DAG appeared to have little knowledge of development plans in the Lower Omo, or knowledge of any of the violations described in this report”.
In contradiction to its own reports mentioned above, it appreciated an assessment undertaken in the Lower Omo by donors led by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID). This is a program facilitated by and carried out with the will of the Ethiopian government.
In its futile attempt to taint the image of the Ethiopian army, the HRW also threw appalling allegations against the military. It is enough to remind the guys at HRW that they are not in a position both morally and politically to speak a word about the Ethiopian army or its reputation. The decipline of the Ethiopian army has been read as a book by the international community since time immemorial. All the reports of UN Security Council in connection to this fact confirms that Ethiopia’s military is highly disciplined. The military, let alone carrying out the silly accusations labelled by the HRW against its own people, is engaged in peacemaking missions across the continent. It has not been long since the international media reported the warm welcome reception the military received from the people of the countries where it was in duty.
The recommendations forwarded by the HRW are clear indications of the motives of the organization. Instead of promoting human rights, the organization calls for suspension of development projects that ensure basic rights to the people of the country. It also calls for an end to any form of support, including financial, diplomatic or technical, from international partners. It makes a call for commercial agricultural investors to refrain from agricultural development activities in the country. With such anti-development recommendations, questionable methedologies, unverified facts, unreliable “researchers” or “informats”, the series of reports are affirming the Ethiopian government’s persistant claim that the HRW mission in Ethiopia is more political and ideological than part of any genuine concern for human rights.
Why would a government antagonize itself from its people for development projects that involve huge investments and that ultimately benefit the people? This is a simple question the guys at HRW, or any rational person, should ask themselves. What good will these projects be if the people are not backing it. It is foolish to think the government would persue with such projects unless the people are fully behind it, as it is the case at the moment. These projects are pushing forward because all the allegations on the report are baseless. There is no forcefull eviction or arbitrary arrests, detentions and all other meaningless allegations thrown at the government.
Taking the headline they used in their report I also ask What will happen if hunger comes? Well, it is development projects like these (agricultural developments, hydroelectric projects, infrastructural expansions…) that will help the Ethiopian people fight poverty and hunger. Only development can lift the region and the country out of hunger, not empty foul cries by an organization with an agenda. By now, it has become evident that HRW is on a smear campaign against Ethiopia and its people. Last week’s report has gone without much of a hype given to it, as was the case in previous reports of the organization. This is a good indication that HRW is loosing its credibility.
The guys at the HRW should know that the right to food, clothing, education, health or the right to development, in general, are Human Rights too. People in these areas in particlular and people of Ethiopa in general have these rights. But the HRW is violating these rights - the very rights they were supposed to promote, which vividly indicates that the organization is not caring for Human Rights issues. It rather uses Human Rights as a pretext to achieve its hidden agenda.
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