June 21, 2012

Ethiopia: Fertilizer Debt Costing Farmers Their Liberty, 200 Already in Jail

More than 200 farmers are thrown to jail for failing to pay a fertilizer debt In the Amhara Regional State, Alefa Taqusa Locality. The ruling EPRDF affiliated companies offered and in some instances forced farmers to take various quantities of fertilizers at the height of the 2010 election cycle. Since the last couple of months the government cadres doubling as extension workers are harassing farmers to pay the whole debt in one installment. Most are subsistence farmers who have hard time to feed their own family. The government is now embarking on a campaign of whole sale imprisonment of those farmers who couldn’t pay back their debt at a short notice.

One farmer who chose to remain anonymous told our reporter that a lot of women and senior citizens are in jail right now as a result of this campaign.  Able men usually abandon the area and move somewhere else to avoid the harassment. The law enforcement officers usually take the wives or parents to prison until the men submit themselves.

In related news, several farmers in the southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples State, Gurage Zone are thrown to jail for up to six years.  The farmers are accused of blockading development, inciting people for a revolt, and acts of terrorism.

The controversy between the farmers and the state government arose from the fact that the local government tried to force the farmers from their common grazing land to give it to a new agri business called Ferejat Gutober Agricultural Development Pvt. Ltd. that the farmers allege is politically affiliated to the ruling party.

There has been a report of skirmishes between the farmers and the local police in the Goto Mendesa Locality where one police was killed and numerous officials of the local government were wounded.

Eight of the farmers that participated in the conflict are at large as of yet. Four of them are apprehended and are now sentenced to six years of rigorous imprisonment.

Wuloto Tula, Adore Kilom, MusTe MUTans and Zeni Abas are accused of blockading development in the region. Observers say the prosecutor hasn’t supplied enough evidence in the litigation, and by no means would the accused deserve a six year imprisonment.  One farmer who talked to our reporter believes the legal measure is to intimidate the locals from resisting takeover.

The same farmer said the local people aren’t frightened by the government’s heavy handed handling of the matter. Instead the people are squatting on the land and the local government officials are dithering to enforce their removal order they issued.


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