Thursday, 3 December 2009

Drought War, and the Politics of Famine in Ethiopia and Eritrea

During almost two decades, beginning in the early 1970s, the Horn of Africa was racked by the ravages of hunger and war. Natural disasters are not new to the region, which historically could count on at least seven major droughts each century, but in the current era they have been increasing, in part due to massive deforestation and the changing pattern of weather.1 It is estimated that in Ethiopia alone, because of soil erosion and deforestation, 30,000 million tons of top-soil
are lost each year.2 A second important factor affecting the seventy of famine has been the dramatic escalation in the level and intensity of civil conflict, nowhere more evident than in Ethiopia. A devastating drought and associated famine contributed greatly to the demise of the imperial régime of H aile Selassie in September 1974.3 The fall of the Old Order, and the failure of the new leaders between then and 1991 to develop a plan for the rebuilding of society that was
widely accepted as legitimate, fuelled an internal war in the Ethiopian heartland, and a struggle for national liberation in the former Italian colony of Eritrea. The latter conflict lasted for over three decades; and during the 1980s, its scale, scope, and intensity increased markedly, culminating in victory for the Eritrea n People's Liberation Front (E.P.L.F.) in April 1991. Concurrently the internal opponents of Ethiopia's revolutionary régime became better armed and organised,
and under the leadership of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (E.P.R.D.F.) they were able to depose President Mengis tu Haile Mariam even as the rebels were claiming victory in Eritrea. Why were those living in the rural areas not able to use traditional techniques of survival to mitigate the ill effects of drought, and avoid
Read more

No comments: