What is unrevealed about HRW? (Part II)
By Tesfa Baye
In part one, we saw the persistent negative reports on Ethiopia’s mega development projects by HRW under the pretext of Human Rights. The reports were simply opinions of individuals and couldn’t be considered as study even not as a balanced report. And this part focuses on the recent HRW report on the Ethiopian Sugar Development projects and the Ethiopian army in comparison with the reality on the ground.
HRW reported, “The Ethiopian government is forcibly displacing indigenous post pastoral community in the lower Omo Valley without adequate consultation or compensation to make way for state-run sugar plantations.”
The key words in the accusation are forcibly displacing, indigenous community and inadequate consultations.
In the first place, the pastoralists in lower Omo Valley have no permanent settlement. They have been moving from one place to another place to look for water and grazing land. What the government is doing currently is settling those people to a place where they could live permanently. Bringing them to a village where there are schools and health services; bringing them to permanent settlements. There is no displacement of people but settling the nomads who have no permanent specific village in a permanent place.
Once we understand there is no one to be displaced from his/her permanent settlement and there is an effort of establishing a permanent settlement, it will be advisable to understand how the settlements have done.
No settlement has taken place without consultation and discussion with the people. In all the sugar development projects, consultation and discussion have done with the people around the project areas. The people are aware of the benefits of the development projects in their area and cooperate with the government for their completion.
HRW wrongly said that the government is forcibly displacing the people without any consultation. The reason is quite clear. HRW doesn’t know the people about whom it reports; neither does it talk to them about these development projects and settlements; it is simply reporting unfounded story.
HRW also reported the government is doing injustice as it has been exerted tremendous efforts to change the lives of pastoralists. If they settle in a permanent area, they could get all the necessary services: schools, health services and the like. They could modernize and the area will be changed to urban. According to HRW, this is violating the rights of the people. It argued that these people should remain in poverty and backwardness as they contribute to anthropological researches and tourist attractions.
When the sugar development projects will complete, job opportunities for about 400 thousand people will be created. Besides, the area will be completely changed. There will be 24 hours electricity, schools and health centers will be constructed. Generally speaking, the rural will be changed to urban. This, according to my opinion, is respecting the very rights of the people which the so called HRW opposes.
One could judge this from common sense that the basic agenda of HRW is to jeopardize the development of the pastoral areas and pays little care for their rights for education, health service and access to facilities like road, electricity, potable water and telephone. HRW is opposing the rights of the people to get better and improved life. Rather it insisted on keeping the pastoralists in poverty and backwardness for the sake of researches and tourism.
The plantations will bring benefits to the indigenous populations in all aspects. In recognition to the historical heritages of the Omo valley, the government has engaged in series meaningful discussions on how to reserve them.
In the last two decades, the government of Ethiopia has been striving to alleviate the poverty and ensuring sustainable economic development; accelerating the development of the pastoral community being one of the major segments in the development agenda.
In the pastoral areas, Ethiopia has given due attention to sugar development projects as there is large farm lands and convenient temperature for sugarcanes in those areas along with training the pastoralists modern husbandry and farming.
The attention to sugar development was given since the last five years after a study about the potential of the country was conducted. Developing this sector could contribute to country’s economic transformation.
Despite this fact, HRW is disseminating fabrications in connection to the sugar development projects blaming the government of Ethiopia of causing huge destruction to the indigenous society, its cultural and religious heritages.
HRW and its allies need the pastoralist community remain the same for their income generation through anthropological researches. Look! This is the so called Human Rights Watch.
These sugar development projects, more particularly, are intended to change the lives of the pastoralist communities in the areas. The people are well aware of it. As a result, the residents take part in various activities to back the completion of the projects.
The government has given priority for transforming the lives of the pastoralist community. To this end, after securing the consent of the residents, resettlement and village construction program is being carried on. In the program a number of resident houses, schools, health centers, veterinary clinics, and electricity and telecom services are included.
Unlike the allegations of controversial and gigantic resettlement and mass expropriation, the government is spending huge amount of money in the settlement program. The program emanated from the fact that the government wants the lives of its pastoralist community to be changed. It doesn’t keep them as they are for the sake of tourist attraction and researches.
Moreover, the government strongly believes that the pastoralist communities need to have access to education, health and clean water. In addition to this, the localities will benefit from the employment opportunity of the sugar projects. The government has preconceived the job opportunity to foster the social transformation of the pastoralist community in to the semi-industrial community. The project will also provide the society on irrigational land. For this the government has prepared irrigable land for the resettled community.
In contrast to this fact, HRW has been campaigning on these development projects. HRW has been politicizing it. It also tends to use the church as an instrument for its ill-conceived political objectives having propagated the destruction in the Holly Orthodox monastery in Waldiba. Its intension is to create hostile relations between the government and the church.
In doing so, HRW has on purpose explained as if the impact of the sugar development on the monastery is negative. However, the allegations on destruction of grave yard, properties of the convent, the intimidation and coercion of the monks were all fabrications.
The forces tend to externalize the non-existent problems by widening the scope of their fable story. Some religious fundamentalist and parasitic politicians try to give the development a false allegation as if it is an action of defiling the religion.
All these allegations have emanated not from misunderstanding and misjudging the significance of the projects but on a purpose to jeopardize the development of the country. The government has in advance discussed with the residents in the areas of the projects with the monks of the Waldiba Monastery resulted in good understanding in the importance of the projects.
As the same time the government is equally concerned to the cultural and religious heritages of its people. To this end, careful studies have been conducted before starting construction and it is confirmed that no damage occurs to the religious heritages of the monastery.
Despite all these facts, HRW and other enemies of Ethiopia under the pretext of environmental and human rights activism are fabricating unseen problems in the areas.
The government respects the religious and cultural heritages of the people. The blames come from few political extremists and anti-developmental forces from home and abroad. These forces tend to create tension between the government and the people by widening and politicizing their fabrications.
HRW has failed to do justice to Ethiopia by coming up with lots and lots of glaring misrepresentations concerning the Ethiopian soldiers accusing them of stealing, killing cattle, forcibly seizing land from indigenous communities.
However, HRW is neither legally nor morally capable to talk about the Ethiopian army. Reports released by the United Nations Security Council in connection to Ethiopian arm witness how they are well disciplined in respecting the rights of the people and supporting them in their difficulty. The people in countries where the Ethiopian soldiers have been in duty have also witnessed the kindness and loyalty of the Ethiopian soldiers, for get their loyalty to their own people. In this regard, what HRW reported is pure fabrication.
The Ethiopian people and government are ready to learn from genuine reports on Human Rights and other issues in connection to the country’s political, economic and social issues. They want researches on various performances of the country and want to learn from problems and strengthen the best practices. Any organization including HRW is welcomed in this regarded.
But the major concern or the bone of contention is the fact that HRW doesn’t want to conduct its research at home with tangible observation, incorporating the feeling of the people and using first hand information. It rather preferred composing its reports based on hearsays to hit its unrevealed very targets.
As a result, all the reports by HRW so far contribute nix to improve either the Human Rights situation or the ongoing democracy in the country. Neither does it help the government to learn from its mistakes if there is any. As the reports aim at creating a crack between the Ethiopian people and development partners of Ethiopia through fabricated stories, they lack accuracy, balance, objectivity and social responsibility, which is believed to contribute nix to bring an enduring peace, democracy and respect of human rights in the country.
In many respects, the methodology is fundamentally flawed. For instance, it doesn’t tell of the adequacy of the number and amounts of interviews as well as of the sufficiency of the time spent on on-spot researching. Can the responses from 35 individuals enough to inform the kind of such rash and sweeping generalizations as made in the report. Does it suffice to give a comprehensive summary and recommendations entirely dedicated to jeopardize the development efforts of a nation of emerging democracies in the world? The report is invalid as the sampling is far too small to allow for any feasible prorating of pros and cons, one can also find a huge imbalance in the ways in which claims and counter claims are placed, as well as in the space given to either side of the story in the report for prominence.
In a nut shell, HRW has unrevealed agendas behind the curtain. The major one is jeopardizing the development of the country that is why it has focused on the mega development projects including sugar development projects.
For the past two decades HRW has been working harder and harder to hit its hidden targets. The worst is it usually comes with fabricated and baseless stories to break the development between Ethiopia and its development partners. However, that unrevealed agendas are revealed. Not only the Ethiopian people but also the international community has had enough awareness of HRW. As a result, no matter how frequent HRW reported, its efforts bear no fruits.
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