Monday, July 26, 2004

Ethiopia: problems with the resettlement project

The government of Ethiopia is moving two million people from drought-prone areas to the relatively unpopulated fertile lands in the south and west. The project started a bit over a year ago and problems were reported almost immediately. The core of the complaints is that the government appears to have planned poorly ... eg. the people are being resettled in a malaria zone and the government doesn't have the health care facilities in place to deal with the resulting malaria cases. The government also didn't have enough grain/food stocks to see people through to their first harvest. There is also the lack of schools, water and sanitation.

This article in the San Francisco Chronicle goes through some of the issues mentioned above. But here is what jumped out at me ... one of the people the reporter spoke to at Baleti, a resettlement site, said she and her family had been forcibly moved. This resettlement is supposed to be voluntary.
"We came here by force," [Marea] Hussein said. "We said, 'We don't want to go,' but the local officials told me, 'If you don't go, we'll burn your houses.'"

[...] Unlike in Baleti, settlers in Hare Chachisa said they volunteered to come. But in the first week, 500 of the 6,000 to 8,000 resettled villagers returned home. The air is hot, diseased, bitter with despair.
I'm guessing here ... it's possible that some local authorities might be forcing people to move. The central government's policy is that this is a voluntary resettlement.

The former military dictator, Col Mengistu Haile Mariam, tried forced resettlement in 1980s ... and it was a tragic failure.

Previous post ...
  • Ethiopia: relocating a million people

    Also .... EthioPundit has a post on the issue.