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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid