Anuak People of Ethiopia, Case Study Example
Words: 1781Case Study
Modern progress is destroying the land of the native Anuak people in Ethiopia. Forced off ancestral lands they are being condemned to extinction.
The Anuak People of Ethiopia
The Anuak are one of the indigenous people of Ethiopia in Africa. They have worked the fertile land of the Gambella area of S.E. Ethiopia for centuries. Ethiopia receives more than $3 billion of Western Aid each year and the West has viewed the Ethiopian Government as a key ally in the war against terrorism. In addition they state they are committed towards improving the state of poverty and hunger in the country.
Nevertheless, the Government’s policies are deliberately making certain sectors of society poorer. In the case of the Anuak people it is almost a crime against humanity and a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing by the Ethiopian Government. They have faced an extreme force of brutality being pushed off their land and being forced out as refugees into neighboring Sudan. Their agricultural lands have been destroyed and those resisting have faced being killed, tortured or raped. Their land sustained the Anuak and they were major producers of Palm Oil in the region.
The displacement of the Anuak people came about in 1985 when the Ethiopian Government resettled 17,553 people from the area of Tigray onto the fertile Anuak lands of the Gambella in S.E. Ethiopia. The Anuak were a small community numbering between 30-40,000 people. It was a self-sustained community and the Anuak had farmed this land for centuries. The resettlement of the Highland people of Ethiopia into the Anuak land made the Anuaks a minority population and they were persecuted by the new settlers and Government officials. The Government wanted to get rid of the Anuak people and many viewed this as a policy of ethnic cleansing with a view towards extermination of the Anuak people and culture.
The plight of the people was such that they fled as refugees into war torn Sudan with little help of recognition or food aid. There was little hope for those who fled into Sudan who were dealing with their own domestic refugee problem resulting from the war
Ethiopian Policy of Genocide
The Anuak had little choice available to them. They could stay in the Gambella and face death and persecution from the new arrivals. They could flee to other less fertile land and risk the threat of starvation or flee as refugees into Sudan hoping that they would receive help and aid in order to make a new life there. None of these were really viable long term options and the reality is that the Anuak were facing extinction.
Some moved to Khartoum in order to set up passive resistance groups to the Government and raise attention to the plight of the Anuak people. Despite their protests these people were often arrested and often nothing heard from them again. Those that survived in Khartoum were forced to live in conditions of abject poverty and were denied access to medical treatment.
Resettlement Destroys Anuak Land
The Government stated that the Gambella region was required in order to support its relief against famine and provide a new home for the highland people. They had no concern about the rights of the native Anuak people and wanted them gone. They were perceived as a barrier to progress by the Ethiopian Government. The Government went about deliberately destroying the Anuak agricultural lands, destroying their houses and destroying the river tributaries of the White Nile which the Anuak relied upon for fishing. Ironically the Highlanders from Tigraya failed in their attempt to fertilize the Anuak land as they grew the wrong type of crops. Equally the Anuak were refused the right to hunt game and the new people wrecked the Forest habitats were the Anuak used to hunt. So in addition to displacing the Anuak people the Government and new settlers destroyed the very environmental conditions that had made the Gambella successful
Focus on Gambella Region
The Government wanted the Gambella region because they thought it would be easy to resettle people from the poverty ridden areas of the North. They could simply eliminate the local Anuaks and take over the land which offered:-
- Rich Fertile Valleys of Agricultural Land
- Destroy the Forest areas for rebuilding programs
- Destroy the agricultural crops of the Anuak in favour of Corn and Grain crops
- Take over the Palm Oil business
- Get rid of the Anuak irrigation systems and fishing industry
- Get rid of the American Missionary teachers
- Force the Anuak to leave or face persecution.
The Government knew that the Anuak people were few in numbers and unable to take action against the armed troops supporting the resettlement program.
Death and Disappearance in Gambella
The Anuaks were ordered to evacuate the Gambella in order to allow for the intake of the new settlers. They brought in Soviet help to build a new dam creating a water supply for the new settlers. This stopped many rivers and flowing waters that supported the fishing needs of the Anuak. Refusing them permission to hunt and destroying their crops virtually starved them into submission. Many felt they had no choice but to flee as refugees into war torn Sudan.
This caused the death and disappearance of the Anuak people. The refugees scattered throughout the Sudan so they effectively disappeared as a tribal race. The Sudan already had millions of unemployed destitute refugees to cope with. The Anuak merely added to this number of those with little hope for longer term survival. It was recognized that the small tribal units of the Anuak had little chance of survival in the Sudan. They were marked for extinction.
Impact of Resettlement
It was the all-round policy of the government that left the Anuaks with little choice but to flee to Sudan. Their dwellings had been destroyed, the agriculture was destroyed, the irrigation systems destroyed, not allowed to fish or hunt for food, deprived of Education for their children ( which the Anuak held in high regard). Those that resisted were either arrested or killed. There was no intention of a peaceful outcome from the Ethiopian Government, they were bent on destruction of the Anuak people.
The mass fleeing into Sudan was not organized and the people just left in groups and wandered into the new land mixing amongst the other large refugee population in the Sudan. Many Anuaks were drafted into the Ethiopian Military and deliberately placed in harm’s way . Many Anuaks just disappeared into the Forest and headed for the Sudan, never to be heard of again.
Fleeing Into Sudan
Between the Anuak lands and Sudan the Anuaks had to trek through dense jungles that contained many dangerous predators and wild animals. If they made it through this hostile terrain they entered war torn Sudan. They then had to deal with areas that had been mined ( landmines) and dealing with groups of nomadic fighters that had little regard for the lives or wellbeing of refugees. Many were simply used for target practice.
Those that have survived in the Sudan have been subject to extremely miserable conditions and poverty. This has prevented them from speaking out on the persecution they received in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Government stating that resettlement continues on the unoccupied lad of the Gambella in S.E. Ethiopia and they have disguised their policy of genocide towards the indigenous people of the region. It looks like nobody is taking up the cause of the Anuak or coming to the aid of these displaced people.
The Current Situation of the Anuak
The real situation of the Anuak in Sudan looks bleak. There is little chance of them being repatriated to their native lands in Ethiopia. The fact that they are now so widely dispersed over the Sudan offers little prospect for long term survival as a race of people. Although the Sudan has now divided into two countries there remains a strong tribal element of war lords who continue to hold skirmishes in both countries. The UN have not really got involved with this, primarily because the Sudan remains a very dangerous place in which to operate and they are limited in terms of what action might be taken on the ground. The Anuak may ultimately just integrate into other Sudanese tribal life or might just disappear forever.
Response of the International Community
The international community has not responded to this situation at all. Mainly because they have been distracted by other world events. For example the Arab Spring and all the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have overshadowed what is taking place with a minority people in Ethiopia. The situation in Syria has equally shown the impotence of the international community in dealing with acts of genocide. The Sudan has complicated this situation because we are dealing with a vast area that is controlled by local militia groups. Hence it is almost impossible to obtain a global solution to the problem and plight of the Anuak people.
The international community, via the United Nations appears tired of having to deal with corrupt Governments and human rights issues. There are those like Amnesty International however that will continue to lobby for change and remedial action to these acts of Genocide taking place throughout the world.
Anuaks Are an Endangered People
The Anuaks are truly an endangered people:
- They are slowly being ethnically cleansed from the region
- They are endangered to the point of becoming an extinct race
- They have little change of long term survival in the Sudan
- Nobody cares – Nobody is coming to the rescue
- Starvation and famine will be the greatest threat
- There is no real land identified to which they might move and reconsolidate
- The Ethiopian government wants them gone
- The Sudan views them as intruders rather than refugees
International Aid Solutions
There is little hope for increased international aid for the following reasons:
- The wide geographical dispersion of refugees in Sudan
- The ongoing tribal war in Sudan
- Lack of dialogue with Ethiopian Government
- Distractions in other parts of the world
- No policies for repatriation
- Sudan remains a dangerous area to operate
- Not high on UN priority list
- The Sudan already has a large uncontrollable Refugee problem of its own
Hope for the Future
There is not a great deal of hope for the Anuak in the future:
- The international community has shown no real concern
- The Ethiopian Government wants them gone
- The Sudan Governments will not help them as they do not recognise them
- The area of Sudan remains unsafe to operate in
- The area still remains a conflict zone
- No real hope for repatriation
- The Anuak have scattered all over the Sudan
They cease to exist as an indigenous race of people
Cultural Survival (1984), The Anuak a threatened culture, Cultural Survival Quarterly, Vol 8(2) pp75-76
Clay and Holcomb (1985) The Anuak- Politics and the Ethiopian Famine pp 232-234 Steingraber, S (1986)
Ethiopia’s policy of genocide against the Anuak of the Gambella, Cultural Survival Quarterly Vol 10(3) pp 1-6
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