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Assumptions challenged: Ethiopian famine, and Irish discontent

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Colin Legum's article ``Ethiopia and West Clash over Famine,'' May 6, attributes ``the first independent investigation into conditions of resettlement'' to ``Survival International, a Boston-based association.'' Cultural Survival, a Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit organization was in fact responsible for the study. The study also focused on the causes of famine and the impact of the resettlement program as well as those evicted. Research on the causes of the famine is not allowed in Ethiopia, so it was confined to refugees who fled to the Sudan. Our survey is the largest undertaken by any agency on the causes of famine in Ethiopia. Below are the major findings; a report will be released soon.

Drought is not the primary cause of the famine. Individuals consistently reported that they had lived through drier times without suffering so much. Insects and the agricultural and military policies of the government are the primary causes of famine.

Taxes on small farmers in the north and the southwest have increased by 500 percent since 1977. Forced, voluntary contributions are equal in value or greater than taxes.

In the north, the Ethiopian Army has systematically sabotaged food production by attacking when people are planting and harvesting.

More than 300,000 victims have been resettled. None interviewed went voluntarily and most had produced enough grain and livestock in 1984 to be self-sufficient for the coming year.

The government has not budgeted a penny for the resettlement program. Local, Oromo residents of the resettlement sites, referred to as uninhabited, have been forced to give the newcomers their homes, crops, tools, oxen, plows, and pay three years of taxes and ``voluntary'' contributions in advance.


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