Ethiopia Relocates 150,000 People in Eastern Somali Region in Five Months
In the next seven months, another 70,000 households, or 350,000 people, will move into “communes” in the arid region, Shiferaw said. Similar programs are taking place in other states. About 45,000 households will be moved in Gambella, almost three-quarters of the population; 45,000 in Benishangul Gumuz; and 50,000 to 80,000 in the Afar region.
“It’s a very ambitious program,” Shiferaw said. “We don’t want anyone to be left behind” as the government targets economic growth of between 11 percent and 14.9 percent, he said.
The projects in the western Gambella and Benishangul Gumuz regions are three-year schemes to improve service provision, while the one-year programs in the Afar and Somali regions are primarily to resettle people in less arid areas near the Wabe Shebelle and Awash rivers, Shiferaw said.
The policy in Somali region was not designed to assist the government’s campaign against ethnic Somali rebels, although “it may help in the long run,” Shiferaw said. Neither is it related to the national plan to lease 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of “untouched” land for large-scale agriculture over the next 5 years, he said.
“Some people think the communes are to clear land to give to someone else, but this is not the case,” he said. “We have excess land for investors.”
People won’t be forced to move and have the right to return home, Shiferaw said. The government will not claim their old plots for at least two years.