In February we produced a story for the PBS NewsHour about a controversial resettlement plan in southwestern Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government had launched a program to resettle tens of thousands of residents in the Gambella region at the same time that it was opening up the area to large-scale land investments. The plan was protested by members of the Anuak ethnic group, who have farmed the land for generations.
Our story, part of the “Food for 9 Billion” project, focused on a rice plantation owned by Ethiopian-born Saudi billionaire Mohammed Al-Amoudi. The Saudi Star farm has been granted a large amount of land and access to critical waterways.
Just recently, we received news of a violent attack at the Saudi Star rice plantation. There have been conflicting reports as to the number of people killed, ranging from five to 10, with between eight and 11 others wounded. The victims included foreign agricultural experts from Pakistan hired by Saudi Star, Ethiopians and an Anuak police officer. There have also been reports of retaliation attacks following the April 28 shooting.
The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, a group that lobbies against the land deals, issued a detailed statement soon after the April 28th attack. The group noted that just a week before the shooting, news had been released about Saudi Star’s plans to irrigate their rice fields with water from the Alwero River, a key water source for the Anuak people.
The Ethiopian government is planning to resettle 1.5 million people by 2013 in four regions of the country. In Gambella alone, according to government documents, 42 percent of the land area has been leased to investors or is actively being marketed for lease.
Watch the original report: