Ethiopia Relocates 150,000 People in Eastern Somali Region in Five Months

The Ethiopian government has
relocated about 150,000 people in the eastern Somali region to
more fertile areas in the past five months, the Minister for
Federal Affairs said.

Scattered households have been brought together into
villages to raise their “quality of life,” Shiferaw
Teklemariam said in an interview today in the capital, Addis

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.

To contact the reporter on this story:
William Davison in Addis Ababa via Johannesburg at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Antony Sguazzin at