News / Africa

Rights Report on Ethiopia Sparks Fierce Debate

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi addresses a summit on the Millennium Development Goals at United Nations headquarters (file photo - 21 Sep 2010)
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi addresses a summit on the Millennium Development Goals at United Nations headquarters (file photo - 21 Sep 2010)

Multimedia

Audio

A U.S.-based human rights group has raised an uproar with a report arguing that development assistance to Ethiopia may be doing more harm than good by strengthening a repressive government. The report has sparked condemnation in some quarters, praise in others.

The Human Rights Watch report issued last month accuses Ethiopia's government of using development aid to suppress political dissent. The 105-page document alleges that much of the $3 billion a year contributed by foreign donors is used to consolidate the power of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front.

Ethiopian government spokesmen did not answer repeated phone calls seeking comment on the report. The government, however, launched a scathing counterattack online.  Statements posted on the foreign ministry website accuse Human Rights Watch of "unbridled arrogance" and "warped neo-colonialism."

One statement calls the allegations a "make believe" story that is part of a "vendetta" against the Ethiopian people. Another accuses the rights group of trying to bully the international aid community into halting cooperation with Addis Ababa.

A consortium of 25 aid donors, known as the Development Assistance Group, issued a statement saying it disagrees with the conclusions in the HRW report. The DAG, as the assistance group is known, said its own independent study earlier this year uncovered no evidence of widespread or systematic aid distortion.

The full DAG study posted on the group's website, though, paints a different picture. It states that its study was a "desk-top" exercise - not an investigation - and no specific allegations were checked.

The study notes that a fact-finding mission late last year by the U.S. Agency for International Development observed the potential for political bias in the allocation of aid. It recommended further analysis to determine if systematic distortion takes place on the basis of political affiliation.

The United States is Ethiopia's largest individual aid donor, giving an estimated $1.3 billion per year. USAID Country Director Thomas Staal said the types of distortion alleged in the HRW report would be difficult for a donor study to detect.

"To us, the important thing is to make sure the programs are well managed, closely monitored with strict accountability systems, and you're building institutions that can make sure programs are meeting the goals, targets and beneficiaries intended," said Staal. "And you cannot go after individual cases of an allegation here and there."

Authors of the Human Rights Watch report call the Development Assistance Group's response to their allegations "disingenuous." In a telephone interview, HRW Horn of Africa Senior Researcher Leslie Lefkow said the aid community has been timid in confronting Ethiopia's government with charges of misusing aid money.

"This is one of the ironies of research we did, and the discussions we had with officials before we published this report, is that many of them privately acknowledge the characterization of the regime as repressive. They acknowledge these characteristics privately, but publicly there is no appetite for voicing this analysis."

Ethiopian opposition leader Bulcha Demeksa is a former World Bank director and a long-time senior official of the United Nations Development agency. He said the ruling party's access to vast sums of cash during the last election should have been a red flag to donors that aid money was involved.

"I do not understand how they cannot see the huge amount of money that was spent in elections this year," said Demeksa. "Where does this money come from? Ethiopia, all by itself, cannot sustain that. I believe this money was from the various types of aid coming from donors."

Demeksa said political payments were so widespread during the election that anyone not receiving money was socially ostracized. "In my own district I know very well ... and there is no house this has not touched. People are now afraid if they think somebody has not received money, and is not a thorough EPRDF supporter, nobody goes to his house, he is not invited to weddings, social functions."

Lefkow said the ruling party's influence has grown exponentially in recent years. "Between 2005 and 2010, the party increased its membership to between 4 million and 5 million, that is one in seven adults, which means in most families you have a party member, and in most kebeles (village districts) every household probably has a party member.  So I do not think it is an exaggeration to say the party has essentially infiltrated every layer of Ethiopian society."

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi rejects characterizations of Ethiopia as a "one party state." He describes it as a dominant party state.

In parliamentary elections this year, the EPRDF and its allies won 99.6 percent of the seats. In village and regional council elections two years ago, the party won all but three of nearly 3 million seats.              

Ethiopia remains one of the world's poorest countries, though official figures show the economy has grown 10 percent or more in each of the past seven years.






You May Like

Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality

'It is not possible that women can be at par with men' incoming African Union president declares on eve of summit More

Somali Terror Suspect's Light Sentence Raises Questions

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, could have spent 15 years in prison but judge instead sentenced him to a halfway house, and a program to try to integrate him back into the community More

Video Kobani Ravaged Following Kurdish Ouster of IS Militants

Even so, hundreds of refugees sheltering in Turkey seek to return; Kurdish forces hold some back, saying fighting continues More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid