Flowers in a Time of Starvation | Meles Zenawi

“We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labor that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.” ~ Cecil John Rhodes

Land grabs by giant agricultural conglomerates are occurring all over the world. From Cambodia in Asia to Ethiopian in Africa, large aggro-concerns are making deals with the governments to purchase land to produce food, bio-fuel, horticulture and floriculture produce that are 100% exported in a phenomenon that is a new twist of the old theme of colonialism.

According to a press brief produced by the Ethiopian Embassy in China, “Ethiopia can provide sufficient labor force, which is competitive in terms of cost because of a population of more than 70 million, 80% of whom living in the rural areas. As it is known, the long process required from seedling, cultivating, packing and exporting makes the horticulture and floriculture sector unique in absorbing huge labor force. The cost of labor in Ethiopia is not only lower than some Asian nations, but also African countries such as Tunisia, Mauritius, Kenya, etc.” Source: Ethiopian Embassy of ChinaBranded as neocolonialism, this new form of colonialism has the same objective of exploitation of a weaker country by a stronger country/entity for the use of the weaker country's resources to strengthen and enrich the stronger country. Unlike the mid-1800's when Europe, led by Britain, dominated the land grabs in Africa; today’s non-European nations and corporate entities have garnered a place at the table by virtue of their economic prowess.

This post focuses on Ethiopia because with the exception of Liberia, it was the only other African country to remain independent during the European colonialist period known as the Scramble for Africa. Initially, Ethiopia successfully repulsed European incursion when Italy first tried to invade in 1 March 1986 when Menelik's forces succeeded in defeating the Italian invaders at Adwa.

Then in 1935 the Italians leveraged a border incident between Ethiopia and Italian-Somaliland as an excuse for the ruthless, fascist Benito Mussolini to intervene. This incident is often seen as one of the episodes that prepared the way for World War II. Source: Wikipedia

Although all of the major European powers of the time had also colonized parts of Africa and committed atrocities in their colonies, thehad finished by the beginning of the twentieth century. The international mood was now against colonialist expansion and Italy's actions were condemned. Retroactively, Italy was criticised for its use of mustard gas and phosgene against its enemies and also for its zero tolerance approach to enemy guerrillas, allegedly authorized by Mussolini.

Thus by the end of 1941, during the East African Campaign, Ethiopia was liberated from Italian control by a combination of Ethiopian forces, British, Commonwealth, Free French, and Free Belgian. It is therefore ironic that Ethiopia, a country that was never successfully colonized is now threatened by a new wave of neo-colonial land grabs.

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