Back to Front Page

When the diplomats shading the truth.


When the diplomats shading the truth.

By:W.Yilma                     9/5/15

A response to the Guardian “EU diplomats reveal devastating impact of Ethiopian dam project on remote tribes”

We have been hearing for the last 10 and more years a coordinating campaign against the Ethiopian socio-economic plan, and its foreign relation choice to have economic partners. One of the driving forces what western media outlets, and others the so called Human Right watch, Amnesty International, individual western diplomats, organization such as the Oakland Institute, International Rivers and many others is ideology (neoliberal concept). As long as countries who received financial assistance from them should abide by their rules and norms, they coordinated their efforts to conduct a smear campaign to destabilize the country. This is what is going on in the 21st century, replaced the physical colonialism. Look what is going on in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, how irreversibly destroy the fabric of these countries.

 I read in Aigaforum website a report in title “EU diplomats reveal devastating impact of Ethiopian dam project on remote tribes” posted by theGuardian. As we know theGuardia is becoming the mouth piece of local and international groups venomously opposing the Ethiopian government. I wish I take more time to go deep to the issues raised by the report, but due to shortage of time I will limit my comment in short.  Instead of choosing silence it is better to contribute something, in particular when outsiders are acting like a King maker by interfering in your country internal affairs.  In short I can say the report is based on mere opinion and no logic or facts in it! What are the issues that sensitized the diplomats to come into this conclusion? In fact some of the issues raised are old repeatedly orchestrated by the same group. Let me focused on few issues as follows:

1.     What I understood from this report is that the diplomats are totally unaware of about the culture, tradition belief and the psychological make up of the people in question. It is hard to comprehend what they mean when they said   “Security is a major concern linked to an increase in the proportion of armed men and the use of alcohol. Traditional systems of conflict resolution are declining ... these cultural trends tend to increase the number of killings,” one report said.

I am sure the same as those invisible “diplomats” most of their advocates do not know anything about those people and the area they inhibited (Musrsi, Bodi, Suri, Geleb and others). Simply they relied on the “rush submit” type of field trip report to come into their own conclusions (appreciation) without having any idea about the area and the people. Even it is vague how they calculated the “proportion” of armed men and the use of alcohol.  Do they have enough data to infer that due to the settlement armed group and alcohol increased? As far as I knew arming conflict between different tribes in this area is rampant and sometimes goes out of hand for the respective government to control or to diffuse (this conflict have a nature of cyclical internal as well as cross-boundary).Having arms after the youth grown-up is a life and death issue for the people whom the diplomats are talking about.  Due to competing for grazing and water, tribal conflict is a norm for the people living in this area. Cattle rustling are also the main cause for conflicts, in particular among the youth who want to marry. The youth are out of control, unwilling to follow elders order. Whether you believe it or not the people are well armed with modern weapons and this is not happen now because of settlement as the “honorable” diplomats claimed. In tribal area, in particular those areas mentioned above, having a weapon and involving in fighting with another tribe is a norm in pastoral areas. I am out of the country for the last 15 years and I do not know what the current situation is, but for those who do not know the area, the fact of the matter is that all tribes are looking each other as enemy, and waiting a favorable time to go for war mainly for cattle rustling.

 This is the main reason for cycle of endless conflict between, Geleb and Hammer, or Mursi, Geleb or Mursi, Suri, etc.. Alcohol use in particular men is not because of settlement (females have the burden to do most of the job in this area including agriculture, and the role of men is sitting under the tree and talking about security and other men issues). Alcohol drinking will be there and will be a problem unless and otherwise cultural and work ethics change through education which needs long term efforts. Saying drinking habit increase among the local due to the rise of town may hold water. But saying drinking habit increase as a result of settlement and introduction of modern agricultural practice is completely false. What I know is that in Europe where the diplomats came from drinking habit is by far greater than Mursi  or Geleb tribal area.

The other issue is misplacing of the word “conflict resolution”. Unless and otherwise they want to apply here the word conflict resolution between Israel and Palestine, I have never seen an organized conflict resolution activities initiated by the local tribes(except, organizing a seminar or meeting by some NGO’s to avoid intra or cross borders tribal conflicts, which manly failed to bring results). Either the conflict stops by one side win or it stops with the government intervention (in most case when the conflict spill- over to neighboring countries). Simply the diplomats use the words “conflict resolution” to attract attention for their report.  

2.      The other very interesting comment is “The diplomats reported that the remote Omo Valley has been totally transformed since the river Omo was blocked and irrigation canals built. They said they expected the influx of 500,000 workers, mainly from the Ethiopian Highlands, would lead to ethnic conflict and widespread social destabilization.

It is not clear what they mean when they said “the Omo valley has been transformed since the river was blocked and irrigated canal built” Are they appreciating what they saw? Or they are saying the area completely degraded, and become a Sahara desert? Do they know the area before? If they do not know how do they compare the past with present? Do they use satellite imaging to make a conclusion? What should be clear her is that it is naivety to think that no social change has happened with such project. Certainly there will be a big change. However, the question is should the problems arises due to the project avoidable and manageable for correction? Instead of attempting to condemn the ongoing project it is wise to concentrate to the remedy, to make a correction.  But in general, I personally do not believe the notion that pastoralist mode of life is a culture that does not be changed. It a mode of life people adopted through time to overcome the brutality of nature. The crime is the notion that Ethiopia should leave alone these tribes in the name of human right simply to amuse Europeans tourists.

 The other interesting issue the diplomat has raised is the expectation of half a million people movement to the area in question. Is this number true? My short answer to the diplomats is please, leave us alone, and unless you ignite conflict by interfering (as your ancestors has done to divide Africa) we Ethiopian know how to live together in peace and harmony. This is why you are trying to destroy this tradition. You are the trouble makers all over the world and your intention is to create conflict as you did in Iraq, Syria and Libya. But I am certain that the “probability” you can create mistrust among us is very slim. Previously, you tried to create confusion to stop the ongoing developmental activities in the name of environment, and now you wake up abruptly from your hibernation state by changing the slogan, as if you concern more to the “indigenous tribes” better than us. This is absurd! Our people have the right to move wherever they want within our territory; it is not your business to raise the question why people from other part of Ethiopia move to this place. If it is true the half million Ethiopian who will move to the area in question are not to colonize, or for land grab or to kill indigenous people as your ancestors has done to many countries around the world.  They move to this area to develop their country as you developed yours without outsider intervention.  

3.     Last, but not least, theGuardian report include the following “They, the diplomats  also found that the giant sugar plantations would deny the tribes people access to grazing and farming lands on which they depend for survival. Around 200,000 people in the Omo Valley are likely to be affected by the dam in some way”.

I am not sure if 200,000 people are living in the Omo valley, but it seems that the numbers are exaggerated. Regarding farming land area it is better to say the outsiders do not know clearly the area. Do they know the agricultural activities practicing in Mursi, Bodi, suri or Geleb? And how many acres of land the people cultivated? If they know they will not raise the issue of farming land by local tribal people.

What I know is that few local people living around the periphery of Omo River use seasonally the delta to grow sorghum or corn, but not self-sufficient. But what the report missed to understand is that the sugar plantation land could produce more livestock feed than what the pastoralist could get from the same size of grazing land, both in mass and quality. Beside this I am sure irrigation land will be available for the local people to grow agricultural product, and to feed half a million newly arrived workers I do not think they will waiting food from Europe!

In conclusion, it is not clear why always both outsiders and local oppositions are focusing and mercilessly condemn any activities the current government is doing. Because it becomes apparent that this trend is deliberate and this kind of showdown will not be the last.  It will continue in our efforts to alleviate poverty. Therefore, let’s take it as “cry crocodile tears”. However, the Ethiopian government should take into consideration every comments and criticisms coming from any directions. It is clear, large scale agricultural practices and hydropower dam have social, geological as well as environmental implication. A careful and continues approaches is necessary to correct anomalies.

Long Live Ethiopia!

Back to Front Page