Displacement and “Villagization” in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region.
The Ethiopian government is forcibly moving tens of thousands of indigenous people in the western Gambella region from their homes to new villages under its “villagization” program. These population transfers are being carried out with no meaningful consultation and no compensation. Despite government promises to provide basic resources and infrastructure, the new villages have inadequate food, agricultural support, and health and
education facilities. Relocations have been marked by threats and assaults, and arbitrary arrest for those who resist the move. The state security forces enforcing the population transfers have been implicated in at least 20 rapes in the past year. Fear and intimidation are widespread among affected populations.
By 2013 the Ethiopian government is planning to resettle 1.5 million people in four regions: Gambella, Afar, Somali, and Benishangul-Gumuz. The process is most advanced in Gambella; relocations started in 2010 and approximately 70,000 people were slated to be moved by the end of 2011. According to the plan of the Gambella regional government, some 45,000 households are to be moved over the three-year life of the plan. Its goals, as stated in the plan, are to provide relocated populations “access to basic socioeconomic infrastructures … and to bring socioeconomic & cultural transformation of the people.” The plan pledges to provide infrastructure to the new villages and assistance to those being relocated to ensure an appropriate transition to secure livelihoods. The plan also states that the movements are voluntary.
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