Will Abiy Ahmed place “lazy” political prisoners in farm camps like the Derg

Ethiopian farmers methods of farming and the agricultural system as a whole is very primitive. This photo of farmers in Lalibela was presented at an agricultural transformation meeting with the Nordic African Institute in 2019 after Abiy Ahmed came to power where many ideas where discussed but not carried out.

Rather then accept Ethiopian government responsibility for lack of attention and investment in agricultural development now worsening due to severe drought Abiy Ahmed decided to call Ethiopians “lazy” as the cause of hunger.  Curiously he complained that lack of food would be detrimental to the young causing “stunting” and the elderly while he continues to mandate a blockade against Tigray. He also called upon private banks to make loans to farmers and pastoralists.

He seems to be repeating the same mistakes from the 1980s when the Derg regime Ethiopian dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam, paid little attention to agricultural realities. Haile Mariam wasted millions of dollars of foreign donation on buying weapons rather then for agricultural development. The Derg leader came up with the strange idea of transplanting farmers from Northern Ethiopia to areas with better growing conditions without modernizing farming techniques. This resulted in the worst famine in Ethiopian history. Historians have noted that the Derg may have done this as a way to quell protest and insurrection rather then to truly help food production. A lesson no doubt not lost in Abiy Ahmed’s thinking.  One can not help but wonder if Abiy Ahmed is beginning to imagine making farm work prison camps for opponents of his oppressive regime.

For sometime many agricultural experts have encouraged the Ethiopian government to modernize and commercialize food production, commence water projects, improve food transportation, and make more investments in production. The ability of food export is decreasing as the population increases but food production does not. Instead of modernizing and improving agriculture, funds that could used were funneled to Addis Ababa beautification projects costing millions in dollar value and then billions in weapons to fight a war which has accomplished nothing for Ethiopia.

Author: Professor Tony Magana

Professor Tony Magana is Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. He directs a neurosurgery residency and training program as well as neuroscience research.

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