SOAS University of London

Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies

The ‘developmental state’ in action: river-basin development in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley

Lovise Aalen and David Turton (Oxford)

Date: 1 February 2012Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 1 February 2012Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G51

Type of Event: Seminar

During the last decade, Ethiopia’s ruling party has promoted a policy of quick, export-led economic growth with the help of active state intervention, as a solution to Ethiopia’s developmental problems. The party has also used ‘developmentalism’ as a way to  legitimise attacks on the opposition and on civil society, and to justify the rapid and heavy-handed implementation of large scale ‘development’ projects, often  involving the displacement and resettlement of local populations. One such project is the Gibe III hydroelectric dam now under construction on the middle basin of the Omo River. This will eliminate the annual flood, thereby destroying the present livelihoods of around 90,000 people in the lower basin and allowing the conversion of their land into irrigated plantations. In the first part of the seminar, David Turton will outline the story of Gibe III and the plantations and suggest that this is likely to become a textbook example of how NOT to do river-basin development. In the second part of the seminar, Lovise Aalen will argue that, despite its impressive economic growth figures over the past few years, Ethiopia lacks some of the fundamental preconditions for becoming a genuine and sustainable developmental state. Instead, ‘developmentalism’ in Ethiopia has become an ideological tool for maintaining central party rule, repressing dissent and mobilising support for the regime in power. Meanwhile, the people of the lower Omo, and of other political and economic peripheries, pay a high price.

Organiser: Paru Raman

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