Red roses are perfect to show love and affection. Every year, millions of them are imported from Ethiopia, so that we can buy them as presents for Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, for birthdays or without a specific occasion. For the Oromo, however, the flowers of love are primarily flowers of sorrow. They are driven from their land in order to make room for plantations to grow roses and other plants. Anyone who dares to protest against the land grab is risking his/her life. Since November 2015, more than 140 people have lost their lives in bloody crackdowns on desperate protests of the Oromo already. Many of the victims were young people, students who were outraged by the land grab. Hundreds of Oromo were arrested and have disappeared without a trace.
Certifier of roses from Ethiopia must ask themselves how they can guarantee that the traditional land rights of the original inhabitants are respected.
For the Oromo, the struggle about the roses is a struggle for survival. More and more rose plantations are established on their traditional land in the vicinity of the airport of the capital, Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian government doesn’t care about the fact that the land originally belongs to the Oromo, who live and work there as small farmers. About 150,000 Oromo have already lost their homes – and the formerly independent farmers are forced to find poorly paid jobs as farm workers.
European companies (and we ourselves) have benefited from the mass expulsion: Many of the cut flowers that were grown on the Oromo’s former pastures are flown to the Netherlands and then exported to Germany. But we can change that!