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

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs