Evictions to clear a park in Ethiopia

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2005:

While land invasions and their aftermath destroy the remnants
of wildlife protection in Zimbabwe, the African Parks Foundation has
reportedly introduced to Ethiopia the heavy-handed relocation of
longtime land occupants in the name of conservation that helped to
create the pressures leading to the Zimbabwean debacle.
“Ethiopia wants a Kenyan-style network of wildlife parks to
serve a Kenyan-style tourist industry,” columnist Fred Pearce
charged in the April 16, 2005 edition of New Scientist. “Following
the model of Kenya, the country’s leaders have been throwing the
locals out of the park to achieve the ultimate safari experience for
western visitors: wildlife without people.”
The African Parks Foundation, summarized Pearce, “was set
up by a leading Dutch industrialist, Paul van Vlissingen. It offers
to take over moribund parks from African governments, find
international funding to spruce them up, and then get the tourists
rolling in. It is building a portfolio of parks across Africa,”
including in Malawi and Zambia as well as Ethiopia, but will not
invest in parks that are jeopardized by human encroachment.

Therefore, Pearce wrote, “In the weeks before the handover
of [Nechisar National Park] in February 2005 to the African Parks
Foundation,” mostly late in 2004, “some 5,000 people from the Kore
tribe were escorted from their thatched huts in Nechisar and dumped
onto distant land owned by other rural communities. No compensation,
no nothing. The Guji-Oromo tribe and their 20,000 cattle are also
being targeted,” Pearce charged. “In January there were reports of
huts being burnt. To make matters worse, the park will be surrounded
by an electric fence that will prevent many of the displaced from
walking through the park to the nearest town, already a day’s walk
away. Local political groups and the human-rights organisation
Refugees International have complained vehemently at this
environmental fascism.”
Responds the African Parks Foundation web site, “Nechisar
National Park was designated in 1962 as one of the original national
parks of Ethiopia. When it was established it was an area known for
wildlife, and unusually for Ethiopia, was completely uninhabited.
Since then, during a period of political turbulence, people invaded
the park with substantial numbers of domestic stock. These people
live without schools, clinics, or other essential services. The
Government is relocating them to suitable areas near the park where
basic services can be provided. The relocation has been negotiated,
and is undertaken with the consent of the people involved.”
The “model of Kenya” that Pearce mentioned was pioneered by
the creation of Kruger National Park in South Africa, beginning in
1898. Many other nations have cleared humans from vast tracts in the
name of conservation, while Tsavo National Park, the largest in
Kenya, was sparsely populated desert before being made a reserve in
1949. Conservation appeared to be the only viable use for most of
But Nechisar is near northern Kenya, and Kenya has often
evicted herding nomads from nearby national parks, after surrounding
land was grazed bare during droughts.
Pearce made plain his philosophical alliance with the
pro-hunting faction in Kenya. He described as efforts to “reform”
Kenyan wildlife management the repeated attempts of the Laikipia
Wildlife Forum et al to repeal the Kenyan hunting ban.
Pearce also vigorously denounced “animal rights activists and
some conservationists, who claim [repeal of the Kenyan hunting ban] would usher in ‘the return of the great white hunter.'”
Regardless of the merits and accuracy of the Pearce argument,
however, if there is a perception among the Kore people that they
have been unjustly dispossessed to make way for wildlife, Nechisar
National Park and the animals in it will be at constant risk from
poaching, renewed encroachment, and political opposition, for as
long as the displacemnt is remembered and resented.

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