14 February 2016
Agrarian reform and rights of peasants, farm workers and fisherfolk
The International League of Peoples’ Struggle Commission No. 6 vehemently condemns the massive landgrabbing and human rights abuses being done by the government of Ethiopia under the foreign-backed Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Consequently, we stand with the millions of farmers and rural peoples of Ethiopia in their bitter struggle to reclaim their lands and hold the EPRDF regime accountable and its imperialist backers.
Recent reports point to the EPRDF for being responsible for the killing of over 140 students, teachers and farmers since November 2015. This is part of a crackdown on anti-government protests by farmers who are demanding to stop the implementation of the Addis Adaba Integrated Master Plan, which will displace people from their ancestral land. In 2014, more than 70 students were gunned down for demanding the government to stop the implementation of the plan. The EPRDF regime has for more than two decades implemented neoliberal policies in investments and trade especially in agriculture, resulting to massive landgrabbing, displacement of farmers and rural peoples by the thousands, and deforestation of vast tracts of lands in Ethiopia. In fact, between 2003 and 2009 alone, the EPRDF has transferred about one million hectares of land to 500 foreign investors. In the last two decades, the EPRDF has transferred at least 7 million hectares of agricultural land to investors.
The people of Ethiopia remains as one of the ten poorest peoples of the world with roughly 30% living below the official poverty line, about 75% depend on subsistence agriculture, and a third plunged in intense hunger. Ironically, most of the vast tracts of lands sold or leased to foreign investors were used for food production to be exported for international markets. Some of the displaced farmers, now landless, fell to being agricultural and farm workers for companies which took their lands, subjected to worse conditions of labor. In investments paid by Indian company Karuturi Global, agricultural workers are paid with a minimum wage of 8 birr ($0.48) per day.
Despite the adverse effects of the immense cash-crop landgrabbing to the people and the country’s food security, the EPRDF government – led by President Meles Zenawi – has launched brutal attacks to the just opposition of the peasantry and rural peoples. The regime has practiced arbitrary arrest, detention, and extrajudicial killings of tens of thousands of opposition leaders and sympathizers to instill fear among them. In the countryside, landgrabbing and militarization had always come hand in hand in uprooting peasants from their lands to give way to foreign interests.
The EPRDF has been foreign-backed despite a long history of election fraud and anti-people policies, receiving more than $3B annually from OECD countries alone. The United States have supported and funded the EPRDF in the context of “regional security”, doling out $2.3B in food and military aid between 1991 and 2003 alone. US imperialism and allies such as EU has shaped the debt-dependent Ethiopian economy and undemocratic political climate through World Bank loan and loan cuts, African Development Bank, and free trade agreements. The militarist and undemocratic EPRDF is being sustained by imperialist aid and investments, and stands as the bulwark of US and NATO allies’ intelligence and military station in Africa.
In the face of open state terrorism and imperialist interventions, the peasantry and rural peoples of Ethiopia continue the struggle for land and justice. A genuinely redistributive land reform remains not just a tool for the redistribution of wealth concentrated in the hand of landlords and corporations; but a weapon of social justice directed against feudal exploitation and oppression, and against imperialist domination and plunder.
We, therefore, call upon the peasantry, fisherfolk, agricultural workers, rural women, and rural peoples of the world to stand with the Ethiopian people in their struggle for land and social justice. Moreover, we must stand united to combat imperialism and fight all forms of state oppression and terrorism.
Fight landgrabbing and imperialist plunder in Ethiopia and the world!