Post Meles Ethiopia: Ethio-Eritrea, Land Grab, Amhara Ethnic Displacement and Abay Dam
By Gezaee Hailemichael
It has been awhile since I have stopped writing articles; I guess about three years now. However, I have been following up all episodes that have been taking place in Ethiopia on daily basis. I am writing in reference of four issue which I believe are very relevant to the context of Ethiopia. These includes Ethiopia after Meles, Ethio-Eritrea, land grab issue, the displacement of amhara ethnic from the southern part of Ethiopia.
I have to be quite frank that I never liked Meles Zenawi in his life time due to merely the way he had handled the Ethio-Eritrea issue before the war and after the war, even worse all the EBBC, Alger’s agreement. I used to detest Meles Zenawi because of those things only. However, my heart completely flipped towards Meles Zenawi after the uncivilized way treatment of Meles Zenawi by Mr. Abebe Gelaw. Unfortunately, Meles did not stay long and he died.
Thereafter, I was not sure what was in store for Ethiopia. But to my surprise, I have been impressed by the way EPRDF handled Ethiopia after Meles. Now the dust has settled. All the doom day prophesy and oracles proved wrong by EPRDF. However, the issue of Ethio-Eritrea still remains in the same state of no peace no war. I do believe the no war no peace state of affaires between Ethiopia and Eritrea is not a durable solution and it is not sustainable.As an Ethiopia who love both people equally and do not even believe in the independence of Eritrea due to the fact I am against anything that is related to colonialism. The fact I do not endorse Eritrea as independent state is not because I hate Eritreans. It is because I do believe it is not relevant and in the interest of the both people. I do not see the benefit 4 million deki Bahri Negash or deki Mereb Melash isolated in the north. I just do not see the benefit even for them. Eritreans will better off working in a huge 94 million people market consumer Ethiopian than isolated like now. Time has proved me right that Eritreans did not get anything from independence than more suffering. My hope now is the after Meles EPRDF will end the Ethio-Eritrea issue a different way than before. In my opinion, I envision two solutions for Ethio-Eritrea problems:
Put aside the past, and reunion of Eritrea with its motherland and work for better and democratic Ethiopia and eliminate all conflict, bias , hate , prejudice, war forever and the people live in peace as one people . That is a durable solution. It will benefit all people. Imagine, middle class Ethiopians spending weekends in Massawa Gurgusom beach all year round? Who benefit? It will be Tigrai and Eritrea. Because the rest of Ethiopians will shuttle through mekelle to massawa. Imagine the local tourism which benefit Tigreans and Eritreans in particular. This is the best scenario I think of as durable solution due to the fact that no peace no war is neither peace nor war. It is just keeps the problem forever. Problem must be solved, but not postponed with no peace no war.
The second solution, if the above does not work, another durable solution can be portioning the red-sea into two: giving the third of the redsea to Ethiopia because Ethiopia owned the entire red sea for millennia and are entitled to own part of the Red sea. In my opinion, it must have 2/3 of the Red Sea and Eritrea must have 1/3 of the Red Sea. Thereafter normalize relation and let Eritrea determine its own destination. This is a durable solution. You can have a durable solution by appeasing only one side. Durable solution must satisfy both parties and then both parties must be in peace after settling outstanding issues. I hope EPRDF will choose of these strategies. Then EPRDF has to deal with land grab issue another problem.
I have red a lot of history books, the bible is my good resource. In biblical time, land used to be rented for share or rented up to ten years. The renter must pay rent and returned the land to the owner after the contract is ended. If someone failed to pay the rent, the owner used to take back the land and the renter. The renter used to become slave for the landlord when he failed to pay the rent money. Apart from that, I never came across in biblical or modern time, land leased or rented for 100 years. There is no record in human history land rented or leased for 100 years.
It is weird EPRDF which claims it fought to liberate citizens engaged in this unholy business of taking away land from land owners by removing people from their ancestral land. The government does not have a right to take away land from land owners to give it to foreigners. This is not hate of foreigners. In every country land is reserved for citizens. You do not lease or give away land to people form another continent who has nothing to do with welfare of the people. Even in biblical time, the land used to be leased up to 10 years only for locals. EPRDF has done a second blunder on this.
While we were crying the way EPRDF handled the Eritrean issue, they kept on adding more mistakes by inviting water, land thirst Arabs, Indians,… and giving them other people land. I think this requires a consorted protest and opposition from citizens. When government do blunders like this, citizens must stand and say no this wrong. I hope we will do this in a civilized manner and give back the land to our people in Gambela. This is unholy business which will not benefit anyone. In turn, the land issue brought another concatenated problem, the displacement of amhara ethnic from the south is also something weird.
While the government is claiming that Ethiopia has more land and inviting foreigners and give them land. The government removes Ethiopians by claiming there is no land for other Ethiopians. This is really heart-breaking. I never expected this to happen. I have to be also honest,I have a lot of information on this. I know land ownership through inheritance has a long history. I am not sure even locals are claiming ownership which was taken by settlers, amhra ethnic. If that is the case, the government must have had a law that protects citizens and also addresses claims. For instance, in South Africa, the whites now own the land. But the land belonged to the local blacks. When the whites settled in Southern Africa, they removed the people and put them in designated area and they took the land away from them. Then they have been using the land as their own for 400 years. But now after 400 or 500 years, the blacks wanted back their ancestral land. Who owns the land? The people who took over or who settled there, that is the white have no right of ownership. In Zimbabwe, the land is returned to the owners.
In South Africa, the issue is still outstanding and the local craving to take the land back. I do not know the history of the amhara ethnic in Benshangul zone or state. I was just puzzled and I was thinking that may be the amhara ethnics were settlers and the locals are claiming the land back. I do not see any other good reasons to evict 5000 people? It is very sad such happens to our people. Anyway, whatever the reasons are, anything illegal is illegal. One can not remove 5000 people from where they live without any reasons and without any legal procedure. That Amhara ethnic removal has exposed EPRDF ethnic policy weakness. It is good to have the ethnic federalism to ensure equality of ethnics, but it is not good not to have a law that enable citizens to live and work across the country.
It is my hope the government will address this issue and such thing must never happen again.
About the Abay Dam, whether we like it or not, Meles has passed but he has made history. Abay will be harnessed and only because of Meles Zenawi laid the corner stone.
Diasporas who oppose the Dam are lost; and those people who oppose the dam leave alone to help Ethiopia? They can not help themselves. Abay will be harnessed and no one can stop it. All those who oppose the Dam are nothing but losers of all time. I do not believe even they have Faculty to think. .EPRDF has a big time on this Dam; they need to be applauded on this. We will defend the Dam and even die for it. Being political opponent is one thing, but opposing development is insaneness at its ugliest level.