THE Oakland Institute applauds the US Congress for adopting language in the 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that ensures US funding to Ethiopia will not be used to support forced evictions in the country.
This provision in the bill acknowledges the ongoing crisis of human rights abuses resulting from forced evictions and land grabbing in Ethiopia and prevents US assistance from being used to support activities that directly or indirectly involve forced displacement in the Lower Omo and Gambella regions.
Furthermore, it requires US assistance to be used to support local community initiatives aimed at improving livelihoods and be subject to prior consultation with affected populations. The bill also opposes US funding to international financial institutions such as the World Bank for programs that could lead to forced evictions in Ethiopia.
Several reports from the Oakland Institute have exposed the scale, rate, and negative impacts of large-scale land acquisitions in Ethiopia that will forcibly displace over 1.5 million people. This relocation process through the government’s villagization scheme is destroying the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and pastoralist communities. Ethiopian security forces have beaten, arrested, and intimidated individuals who have refused to relocate and free the lands for large-scale agricultural plantations.
Ethiopia’s so-called development programs cannot be carried out without the support of international donors, particularly the US, one of its main donors. Oakland Institute’s on-the-ground research has documented the high toll paid by local people as well as the role of donor countries such as the US in supporting the Ethiopian policy.
With this action, the US Congress clearly sends a message to both the Ethiopian government as well as the US administration that turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in the name of development is not acceptable. The new Bill reiterates provisions already contained in the 2014 Appropriations Bill, however, to date no evidence has been made available to demonstrate how US agencies and International institutions have implemented the provisions of the previous Bill. As the oversight authority of the State Department, Congress must ensure that the law is fully upheld and implemented. This warrants thorough scrutiny of USAID and World Bank programs to Ethiopia and their role in the forced resettlements and human rights abuses.Other human rights abuses – including the unlawful extradition and detainment of two Ethiopian-born individuals holding citizenship in Britain and Norway – abound, making strong action by the US Government imperative.
Thus, while the Oakland Institute applauds the US Congress for continuing its commitment to funding meaningful development work in Ethiopia, we believe that more needs to be done. We are calling on members of the Congress to demand that monitoring and reporting from the US State Department, Treasury, USAID, and other involved institutions begin immediately.