Ethiopia is modernizing across the board. The unique ethnic groups that persist in the Jinka region, as well as in other pockets of remote areas throughout the country are all in jeopardy of losing their identities as modernity marches on. This is not a novel event - this is what happened in Canada, countries in Europe, Argentina, China, Australia...we know what happens - take a person's land for profit, and turn them out to different land to make a new way of life. Indigenous groups around the world have just gone the way of the Dodo. Mostly in silence. This is STILL happening in the United States with the indigenous peoples, the Native Americans. Indigenous way of life is under threat and every time we lose a language, an oral tradition, a custom, a joke, a skill contained within these diverse communities, we lose ourselves and the important pieces that add to the story of a complex and beautiful planet.
The story here should not be some journalist giving the Ethiopian authorities the slip - the story had the opportunity to talk about the landscape, the people, what is there and then the contrasting future...
The push for modernity is considered a form of dignity - as the only way for countries to be taken seriously. I don't believe that this push is from some menacing ideas of government officials who don't care about their people - quite the opposite - the officials who sell off land to the highest bidder, who disallow citizens to practice bush medicine or speak native tongues...they want to see modern medicine, safe drinking water, available schools for their people. They just have a funny and intolerant and insensitive manner of accomplishing this. I would challenge though, that how governments in developing countries today are going about modernizing is exactly the Western model - the precedent that development agencies and donors have promoted - systematizing agriculture, moving communities to places where they can get services, supplanting field educations with classroom educations...
I don't agree with this modern progress movement in its current form. I think we can do better collectively as a global community. I am alarmed at the possible loss of knowledge and dignity of peoples who happen to live in a particular political jurisdiction - wherever that modern march is snuffing out diverse and alternative ways of life. But I don't in my mind frame the government and the authorities as buffoons, drunks, and sinister. This is too easy to do - people are flawed. They are just people too, doing what they understand to be correct - and more than not, toward the end of a benefit somehow to someone.
I wish this journalist had focused on the greater story - there is so much to be told here - so much to capture before it is gone. He could have elevated the voices of the Mursi beyond this simple statement of disempowerment. People have agency, and I don't imagine that the people in these unique ethnic groups feel powerless against some government scheme. In fact, there have been murders associated with the land grabs. Maybe that is why the journalist needed special permits. Maybe next time he will take the time to get the right paperwork in order.
5 January 2015 Last updated at 19:04 ET
The people pushed out of Ethiopia's fertile farmland
- Situated approximately 300km south-west of the capital Addis Ababa, the dam is 246m high
- Work started in July 2006 and was estimated to take 118 months (nearly 10 years)
- The government says it will provide much needed-power and help develop the country's economy
- Authorities say no-one has been forced from their home
- About 10,000 Mursi people live in Ethiopia
- Traditionally insert pottery plates known as debhinya in the lower lips of young women
- They live in an area surrounded by the rivers Mara, Omo and Mago, which flow into Lake Turkana
- Mursi territory was incorporated into Ethiopia during the reign of King Menelik II in the 19th Century