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Land grab fears for Ethiopian pastoralist communities

24 January, 2011 : A controversial new farms policy has led to a political clampdown in a remote lowland region of Ethiopia, the BBC has been told. Opposition activists claim that a number of arrests and the killings of 10 local farmers are as a direct result of the new policy.

"You cannot speak freely about the land issue now," one local man told me on condition of anonymity."You can be arrested or even killed for this." "This is a dark period for all indigenous people living in the south-west of the country."

The government of Meles Zenawi is pioneering the lease of some three million hectares of land over the next five years. The policy is targeting massive lowland areas mostly in the west and south-west of the country. These are regions populated by smaller minority ethnic groups.

The Ethiopian government says it is only allocating idle land for investment.
However, local protesters insist that all the land is already in use, mostly by pastoralists. There are an estimated four million such farmers in Ethiopia, who often cross hundreds of miles a year to find fresh pasture for their cattle.


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