Anger at government's new resettlement project

November 20, 2004

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Three thousand families belonging to the farming Konso people have been moved onto the territory of the cattle-herding Mursi and Bodi peoples. The Mursi and Bodi live in the valley of the river Omo in the southwest of Ethiopia; the Konso live in the highlands about 500km away, where they have their characteristic stone-built villages and farm terraces.

The move is part of the Ethiopian government's scheme, backed by the World Bank, to resettle 2.2 million people. The project aims to boost agriculture and end the country's dependence on foreign food aid. The government looks down on the Mursi and Bodi, who are generally imagined by outsiders as nomads, wandering from place to place, ’holding on to the tails of their cattle', and wants to make them settle in fixed communities and ’join the modern world' by mixing Konso farmers among them. In fact the Mursi and Bodi already live largely by farming, using rainwater or the floodwaters of the river. The Konso find the lowlands inhospitable, while there is actually unused farmland in their own country. The Mursi and Bodi resent the intruders and are threatening violence, and many of the Konso want to go home, and are evading the police to do so.