Plans for the dam and irrigated land plantations nearby are gathering pace, along with rising repression and intimidation to any opposition.
A policeman reportedly told one indigenous community that the government was, ‘like a bulldozer, and anyone opposing its development projects will be crushed like a person standing in front of a bulldozer.’
Ethiopia is leasing out large tracts of tribal lands in the South Omo region to foreign and state run companies for the growth of sugar cane, crops and biofuel plantations. These will be fed by water from the dam.
But a climate of fear is growing in the region as opposition to these leases is being brutally suppressed by the country’s secret police and military.
Survival has learned that security forces are encircling and intimidating indigenous communities whose grass huts are built on the land proposed for development.
Those with criminal records over the last ten years are being arrested, and anyone caught voicing opposition, beaten or threatened with imprisonment.
There are also reports of women being raped, and herds of cattle stolen.