Ethiopian Heritage Society Alarmed by Government Plans
EHSNA Press Release / March 29, 2012In yet another egregious assault on its own Ethiopian citizens, the regime of Prime Minister Melees Zenawi and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) are preparing to raze 18 ancient churches, to bulldoze the surrounding forests and pastures, and to force the indigenous people to relocate to substandard environs far from their heritage homelands. The regime wants the land to lease to large international corporations from China, Saudi Arabia, and India.
Deeply concerned about preserving the heritage of the Ethiopian people, the Ethiopian Heritage Society of North American (EHSNA) is especially troubled to discover that the Waldba Monastery in Gondar is among the church-lands chosen for demolition. One of the oldest monastic teaching institutions in Ethiopia, countless religious leaders have been educated within its walls for over 1000 years. Waldba also holds an important archive of scriptures and texts in ancient Ethiopian languages, many of which are very important to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Ethiopian religious and cultural history.
“Villagization” and Theft of Millions of Acres
At least 8.8 million acres of land in Ethiopia have already been leased to foreign and state-owned firms since 2008, and the bandit regime will lease another 5.1 million acres presently. Ancestral pastoral and forest lands and church properties are among them. According to a recently released Human Rights Watch report, around 70,000 people from western Ethiopia have already been forcibly relocated under the government’s “villagization” program. The people are forced to move to environs that lack adequate food, farmland, healthcare, and educational facilities.
Any leasing money will go directly to the Ethiopian regime; none will go to recompense the displaced people who are torn from their heritage forests and pasturelands. The prime minister and his ruling elite will benefit directly from the betrayal of their homeland and the betrayal of their fellow citizens. Much of the lease monies will eventually be funnelled into off-shore bank accounts held by elite members of the regime.
The Ethiopian regime has denied any human rights violations and says “villagization” is vital to the nation’s development plans. In most cases the indigenous people who have lived on these lands for generations have not been consulted about the land leases. Water rights regarding these lands may have implications beyond the borders of Ethiopia and seemingly beyond the concern of the present regime. The leasing companies need large tracts of land to exploit without any ecological oversight. The bull-dozed heritage lands will be used to grow soy, sugar cane, and other soil-depleting crops.
P.M. Melees, Church Primate, and TPLF Cadre Suspected of Arson in Church Burning
Recently, the important Ziuala Monastery burned to the ground and the fire originated under suspicious conditions. The fire department of the local government was said to be unavailable while the chapel turned to ashes. People in the area speculate that the fire was set by TPLF cadre.
The current head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Aba Paulos offered no regret and no condolences for the loss of the religious heritage site. Claiming to be the patriarch of Ethiopia, the primate shares the same district background of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and it is suspected that he is in collusion with the corrupt regime. The Ziquala Monastery was in one of the many areas marked secretly for “villagization” by the bandit regime and its TPLF party. The war against religion is not limited to Christians and Christianity, the TPLF government interfering unjustly with Ethiopian Muslims as well.
Horrific Assault on Ethiopian Christian Heritage
Ethiopia has a long-held religious tradition tracing back to the biblical Queen of Sheba and the Judaic King Solomon. Ethiopia has many monasteries. There are Zuquala Abo and Debre Libanos monasteries in Showa Province, Wegeg Asobot Gedam monastery in Hararge Province, Waldba (previously mentioned) and Mahbere Selassie monasteries in Gondar Province, to name some among many others.
Over 1000 monks live in the Waldba region and their displacement alone will cause a sizeable upheaval for the local population; not to mention the disruption in the religious expectations of their followers and the destruction of their places of worship. Many of the churches and monasteries have been designated World Heritage Sites by the United Nations due to the religious art and archives preserved therein.
Crimes Against Ethiopian Humanity
The land leasing schemes by the government will produce an ecological disaster that has already been played out in other areas of the globe where forestlands have been stripped. According to the legitimate Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church in exile, the government’s assaults on its own Ethiopian people, their freedom of speech, their heritage, their ancestral homes, and their religious and national histories, could make the regime hard-pressed to ever defend itself against charges pertaining to crimes against humanity – Ethiopian humanity.