Top human rights watchdog investigates Ethiopia and Botswana

November 27, 2013

The Ethiopian government has started evicting tribes such as the Mursi from their land to make way for large-scale plantations. © Survival

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The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the region’s top human rights body, has called for the forced relocation of thousands of tribal people in Ethiopia to be halted, and has raised concerns over the denial of rights of Botswana’s Bushmen.

The Commission urged Ethiopia to stop the forced resettlement of the Lower Omo Valley tribes to make way for vast plantations, while it investigates allegations of human rights violations.  

Ethiopia’s policy of ‘villagization’ is enforced by the military, and numerous reports of killings, beating, rapes, and imprisonment of local tribal people have surfaced – which both Ethiopia’s largest single donors, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and USAID, are aware of.

A recent report, ‘Ignoring abuse in Ethiopia: DFID and USAID in the Lower Omo Valley’ by the Oakland Institute, revealed that despite investigations by the donor agencies which uncovered grave human rights violations, the agencies failed to take any action and have called the allegations ‘unsubstantiated’.

The report further states, ‘These agencies give virtually unconditional financial, political, and moral support to the Ethiopian government and DFID currently spends a larger proportion of its overseas aid budget on Ethiopia than any other country … they are wilful accomplices and supporters of a development strategy that will have irreversible devastating impacts on the environment and natural resources and will destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people.’

Botswana has barred the Bushmen's lawyer from entering the country, denying them their right to legal counsel. © Survival International

The ACHPR has also sent an ‘urgent appeal’ to the President of Botswana for denying the Bushmen their right to legal counsel. The Bushmen’s lawyer Gordon Bennett was barred in July from entering the country ahead of a vital court case concerning the Bushmen’s right to their land.

The Botswana government is doing everything in its power to drive the Bushmen from their land: as a result, Survival International has called for tourists to boycott the country. Recent revelations of large-scale fracking concessions on Bushman land have reinforced fears that the government is clearing the area for natural resource extraction.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘If they won’t listen to international protests, perhaps Ethiopia and Botswana may at least listen to what the African Commission has to say. Otherwise both countries risk becoming pariahs in the public’s eyes.’

Note to editors:

- Download the report ‘Ignoring abuse in Ethiopia: DFID and USAID in the Lower Omo Valley’ (pdf, 3.1 MB)

Omo Valley Tribes