Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gambella: Myland Mypeople.

 I developed my land my people, story to look into ourselves, the Anyuawa people, our connection to our land, the general environment in the entire Anyuakland.
Some said, as Anyuak we got look at ourselves first, before we say something, charge, judge other people.  I narrated, the story expressed here, making it fit the local reality. This story I have written, was done in such a way that the language used is understood from the local, indigenous points of views, not another ways.

I will debate the concepts of land use, its belonging using the indigenous peoples thinking about the lands, their rights to occupying those lands, spaces. I will also challenge them about their rigid understanding about the public goods vs. private goods, see if I could shed lights on some of the arguments. I will make sure land developments is understood well, I will seek how to narrow down the gap of perceptions, and misperceptions. I will challenge rejectionist blind allegations, pursued against lands developments, see if I could convince my audiences about the important of land development, its impact on the community.     

 It is a local story, that looks at the natives complains from the indigenous peoples points of views. It is political current challenging government policy toward its ungovernable peripheries, including its invited multinational corporations.

Notwithstanding, the current land grabbing march toward their lands, the indigenous people have been outrage about the ongoing onslaughts, encroachments into what the Anyuawa people of Gambella considered spheres of gods. So the question is did we listen on all sides of the arguments: the state Vs. indigenous peoples. From what we know so far; we have been listening to one side of the story; that was only from indigenous perspectives, not the other way round.  
Historically, in this part of the world, before the influx of the settlers into what the Anyuawa considered, "Ngoma Anyuawa" the land of the Anyuawa people", there have been lots of forbidden lands of our ancestors, considered realms of gods or deities, the stories about these mystic places orally are told, and transmitted from generation to generation: the gods of water, lakes, pools, rivers, tributaries, the god hunting games, fishing, the gods of wars, the gods of crops etc...

Those are important realm of deities in the life of the natives’ people of Gambella. As one travel in the Anyuakland for example one might reached certain areas of the Anyuakland with so many tough, strictest rules.
Travelers were encouraged should they passes some kind of areas possessed by spirited world, to observed, pay tribute as told. For instant when crossing the rivers, walking in certain designated areas of forest, or fishing in certain exclusive areas like: pools or the lakes, or hunting, walking in some burial realms.

The Anyuak are warned when entering, the kind spheres of gods, that one is cautioned not tempers with the environment surrounding or break the laws of the gods when arriving these areas of the spirits, that with without the authorization from the men of the spirits world, who are dully responsible for okaying any actions, that might take place in those realms of gods. That one is punished the unthinkable conditions, one would otherwise have avoided by simply obeying those rules .

 For instant disobeying, not paying respects to the spheres of the spirits world, they say can make the gods angry, forbids one from accomplishing destiny undertaking, that one might endured curse accompanied by threats of bodily damage from the spirits.   
Now we have discussed how the native people see themselves in the realms of lands, their attachment to them. We shall now discuss the politics, socioeconomic part of the puzzles. I would try to make it understandable; it should be from the local points of views. Remember all politics are local, than regional, than national, than international.

In a nutshell the Anyuak, other native people charged, accused our national government, “the Ethiopian government” of land grabbing, land annexation, force or authorized land marketing, selling to Multinational Corporation without consent, consultations, drive from the indigenous people who own primarily the land of Gambella.   

Something must be understood here from regional geopolitical points views that’s the indigenous lands in Gambella are communal owned lands, that for corporations to trespass into previously uncharted territories, depleting, unearthing the natural habitats is the worse crimes one would do against indigenous people, who consider land, everything on land as life line of their living
And that protecting land, safeguarding the environment for the good of the all is the number one duty for them. The notion of land ownership by the communial groups is different from other cultures, who viewed land ownership as private things, devaluing the important communal land ownership, 2nd how lands are perceived by the people of Gambella is quite different from a settlers, or nomadic people views, and mindsets. For the indigenous groups of Gambella the question of land, land-belonging is dear to their hearts. The other world views that, land belong to: gods-gods, not man is dis-in genuine, irrelevant, dangerous as far as indigenous people are concern.  
 For example, some say well land belongs to gods; that no one should claim ownership of the lands. It is a wrong thinking, in the eyes of the native people, it is utterly considered nonsense. But let assume it is true, don’t you think that gods who made man to exist, by same token made  man owns lands he has created also, empowered the man with ownership, stewardship of the land?
Yes of course one must share the land, including everything on it but how, why, by whom? These are important questions, we must seek answers for them. I guess if one is late understanding land questions, their distributions among the god’s peoples, than it is too bad. Because the native people of Gambella  think that there are lands for everyone on this planet earths: that there lands as Nuerland,  Abasha land, Megengerland, Opouland, Ajibaland, Komoland,  Oromo land etc... So which land of the people we have mention one's going to take, sold it to the investors, and for what reasons? These questions also sometimes contradict each other’s because it negate public paradigm of land ownership.

For when I left twenty something years ago I had a land I inherited from my father, but due poverty, poor condition my family went through the land I think I owned was sold to someone and now he own the land but me I am landless, until I buy one.
The Anyuak, the Nuers, the Megengers, the Opou, the Komo, the Oromo, the Amhara, the Tegres, Gurages, own lands in Gambella town but the question is what did they do with the lands they own?

       One cannot just own land, do nothing, develop no something on it, prevented it from being develop by others who had knowledge about land developments. Why should we look at land development in negative terms?
There is one or two example I must give here; if a government want to railways from Dima to Gamnella, the railway track must come throughout one of those Anyuakland right?, inevitably is unavoidable. if I am rights than railway development is not a bad thing for our society, it is a good thing for the people of Gambella, because it eliminates transportation problems. 

In the 80s I live closed or to proximity of one of the crime infested neighborhoods, on Chicago Ave, Franklin Streets, "safe haven" for prostitution, gangbanging, drag pushing, with crimes rampant, threatened  the lives of the common citizen, with spillover of crimes complicating the livelihood of the business people, the peaceful citizens who want to go by with their daily living without threats or fear from outside. As a result of the increased crime rates many citizen left the neighborhoods, the area was left with no body, declared unlivable. But a few years later, let say in the 90s a group of wealthy investors took interest in the investment, revitalization, of the areas, building new infrastructure, repaired, rehabilitated old business enterprises centers with new ideas.

Today as one passes that area one would be very surprised looking,  glancing at the new faces of the business center, of what it has become, with quite residential area, with law abiding citizens living peacefully uninterrupted with daily crimes which was unthinkable in those days. It is different place now, with a different face lift. Nothing scary.

 Now the question I put to everyone is this: did everyone see now what investors can do with their money?  Yes for one to do development one needs capital, technology, capital would always come from privates, public entities. Yes there're dispossessions which come within the new outlook, but it was unavoidable in the history of developments. Nevertheless the new restructured facilities brought back the broken lives of the community, restored community: integrity dignity, honor, respect, to live, to produce.     
The question is, are those investors in Gambella different from the investors I had described, in my writing, in what way they are different?

I have read many literature on multinational corporations, investors investing huge money in Gambella in the area of agriculture, food production, creating jobs security which in return gave the locals: the ability to earn money, restored, dignity, integrity, honor respect, rekindled lost hope to live again, bringing food to the tables for their love ones.  

But nonetheless, these contributions by the multinational organization have been water down by some native elements, Diasporas groups working in ten dame with non-profits organizations, accused multinational corporations for land grabbing, of deletions, of environmental upsets.  

The problem here was no one understood the difference, or the distinction between "Public Goods vs. Privates Goods" for that matter; let me give you few examples, Public Goods: water, minerals, sands, gold’s, diamond, oil, gas, some land, fish, wildlife are public goods can be shared.

 Private Goods:  personal house, car, personal farm, personal oil company, private mineral waters, Cement Company, private land, are private goods, can or cannot be shared. But one can owned human relation, what is mine, mine alone: my wife or my woman, my child, my daughter, my son, my sister, my nephew, my cousin, my niece, therefore these belonging; all  human relations I have mentioned cannot be shared.
As you can see land that are occupied by the native people of Gambella most of them are in public domains, which means the national government had rights to exploit those lands, use them for the benefit of the public consumptions.
 All revenues generated from public goods as always goes to building the infrastructures of the country like: roads, schools, health clinics, water purification, public transportation, telecommunications, security, police, army, fire departments, and defense budgets. Etc...  
Those are the kind of things folks that are not understood by many, I obliged myself to sharing the ideas with my readers, see if had illuminated these distinctions for a better understanding.
By Amhare Gilo
A political science graduate, he can be reach at



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