Discussing politics with friends and social gatherings is such a roller coaster ride. There is no warning what kind of ideas you going to hear. Constructive, impressive, misguided, flat out crazy and “OMG! what the hell they talking about” are some of the way I characterize them. This is not to say my idea and points are better and I am sure the recipient of my comments can also use the same categories about my comment.
One of “OMG! what the hell they talking about” comment I heard in one of my discussion was “if the fascist Italians stayed longer than 5 years in Ethiopia, they might build better infrastructures for us” I kid you not, when I heard this comment uttered by a person of Ethiopian origin, I felt so sick and disappointed I was about to throw up. I asked myself, did this person know what it means to be colonized? the pain, abuse of human right, being downgraded to subhuman and dealing with aftermath even after hundreds of years? did this person understand, with all the lack of infrastructures, the only reason Ethiopians walk with there heads up is because of freedom our forefathers died for. In any case, after a heated discussion, I find out this believe is shared with others too. The idea of some foreign element to rescue us from our “uncivilized” life and save the day. Even if their definition of civilization is servitude and being second citizen in our own land.
Well, my friends, it seems to me the same people with the “OMG what the hell they talking about” idea is running the country as we speak. Let me explain.
Meet Karuturi Ltd, Bangalore-based Karuturi Global Ltd, founded by Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi, is the worlds largest producer of cut flowers. Ethiopia and Karuturi signed an agreement in November 2010 for a long-term lease on 11,000 ha (27181 acres) in the Oromia Region and a 50-year lease on 100,000 ha (247000 acres) in the Gambela Region, with an option for another 200,000 ha (494000 acres) if the company completed the project within two years. Besides being known as a iconic landgrabber, Karuturi Ltd is known for its inhumane treatment of its employees. In Kenya, according to farmlandgrab.org, “workers have been living in inhumane conditions without pay, water or electricity since months. In the last six months, their medical services have been shut down and the school for their children has been closed. On top of this, Karuturi owes the Kenyan government millions of US dollars in unpaid taxes that it hid through doctored invoices and transfer pricing.” Later, On April 22nd, 2013, the Kenyan government found Karuturi guilty of tax evasion for nearly $11 million.
This is a company Ethiopian leaders invited to produce food in Gamblla region. According to report by the human rights organization the Oakland Institute, more than 70,000 families are forcefully moved from their ancestral land by the Ethiopian government “villagization’ program to make way for Karuturi Ltd. The report clearly shows some of the sufferings by the local and how the staff of Karuturi call locals “non-people”
This year, Ethiopian Government find out the company only used 5% of the land its given and the government took 98000 ha (242000 acres) from the company. The CEO of the company said, he will sue the Ethiopian government in international court and bragged about his close ties with the Prime Minsters office in the interview he gave the reporter newspaper. What is not clear is what the government do with the land it acquired back from Karuturi. Time will tell if another so called investor will snatch the land while the locals languish without land.
As it stands today, the people of Gambella are displaced from their land. Some languishing in refugee camps, some struggling in the new locations they settled and some work for Karuturi and being called “non-people”. The land that the government wished the foreigners will develop as a high scale farms is just a wet dream. Yet, no one is held accountable. The idea of high scale farming by foreign investors so the success trickles down was just a myth.
Look very carefully the picture featured in today’s Reporter news paper. The owner of Karuturi and his Indian workers. In the background, the Gambella’s as second citizen in their own land. I am sure, I will run into someone who want to tell me “if only Karuturi stayed longer..” but the difference between us is, I don’t want Ethiopian’s to be second citizens in their own land.