Donors Should Investigate Misuse of Aid Money by Zenawi HRW

December 18th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

National Parliaments and Audit Institutions Should Demand Accountability

Ethiopia’s international donors should independently investigate allegations that its government is using development aid for state repression, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the Development Assistance Group, a coordinating body of 26 foreign donor institutions for Ethiopia.

In interviews with 200 people across Ethiopia, Human Rights Watch documented in a report released in October 2010 how Ethiopian government officials routinely discriminate against people viewed as political opposition supporters. The report demonstrated how the government uses state resources, including programs financed by large international donors, to suppress political dissent by conditioning access to essential services on support for the ruling party.

“Donor governments should open an independent investigation of the Ethiopian government’s manipulation of aid,” said Rona Peligal, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Donor governments have a responsibility to taxpayers at home – as well as to Ethiopians in need – to ensure their aid is not contributing to human rights violations.”

The Development Assistance Group (DAG) released a joint statement on October 21 responding to Human Rights Watch’s 105-page report, “Development without Freedom: How Aid Underwrites Repression in Ethiopia.” The donors’ group denied that political manipulation of aid was widespread, stating: “We do not concur with the conclusions of the recent HRW report regarding widespread, systematic abuse of development aid in Ethiopia. Our study did not generate any evidence of systematic or widespread distortion.”

Human Rights Watch said that the Development Assistance Group provided insufficient basis for its disagreement with the report’s findings. The donors have not begun an independent investigation of the abuses. The study referred to in their statement, a desk-based analysis of the monitoring mechanisms of four aid programs commissioned in early 2010, was an “exploratory” assessment, which noted that field research would be needed to verify how the monitoring works in practice.

“Donors can’t know the extent of abuses if they haven’t properly investigated,” Peligal said. “National parliaments should demand a credible, comprehensive investigation and, ultimately, a thorough review of aid policy toward Ethiopia.”

Human Rights Watch has not called for the suspension of all development programs, but instead urged donors to suspend certain governance programs until critical benchmarks – like the repeal of repressive laws – are met. These include the Democratic Institutions Program, which provides funding and technical support to government institutions, such as the parliament, in an effort to build domestic accountability. Donors should not continue to finance these programs in the absence of the independent institutions, media, and civil society that are critical for accountability, Human Rights Watch said.

“Assistance to Ethiopia’s government has increased while its human rights record has deteriorated,” Peligal said. “Donors are contradicting their own principles on human rights and good governance by increasing funding without adequate safeguards.”

Background

Ethiopia has demonstrated serious, ongoing backsliding on its respect for human rights since the violent and controversial 2005 elections. At least 200 demonstrators were killed and more than 30,000 people detained in 2005 in the wake of election protests. Since then, the Ethiopian government has steadily closed political space, detained political opposition leaders, harassed independent journalists and civil society activists into silence or exile, and routinely violated the rights to freedom of association and expression.

A new law on civil society activity, passed in 2009, bars nongovernmental organizations from working on issues related to human rights, good governance, and conflict resolution if they receive more than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources. The law has forced most independent human rights groups to close, significantly scale down their operations, or change their mandate and activities. Several of the most prominent Ethiopian human rights activists have fled the country.

In May, Ethiopia’s ruling party won more than 99.6 percent of parliamentary seats in an election that “fell short of international standards,” European observers said. The European Union monitoring team, which was refused access to Ethiopia to present the final report on November 8, also criticized in its report the ruling party’s misuse of state resources during the election campaign.

At the same time that Ethiopia’s human rights situation has worsened, foreign donors have ramped up development assistance. Between 2004 and 2008, international development aid to Ethiopia doubled to more than US$3.3 billion annually, making Ethiopia one of Africa’s largest recipients of international aid.

  1. Drama
    | #1

    HRW IS AN ORGANIZATIONS THAT CAN ONLY BLOB ABOUT FRADUALENT ELECTIONS AND MORE. WHERE IS THE UNITED NATIONS WHEN IT COMES TO THE ETHIOPIAN ELECTIONS???????????? IS THERE A REASON WHY THEY ARE QUITE THROUGH TWO HUGE ETHIOPIAN ELECTIONS? DAMN RIGHT. THE 2005 AND 2010 ELECTIONS OF ETHIOPIA ARE SO HUGE… YOU CAN’T JUST PASS THEM BY LIKE THE UN DID. JUST TODAY, THE UN BAN KI MOON SPOKE AGAINT THE INCUMBMENT OF IVORY COAST TO STEP DOWN AFTER THE ELECTIONS. OBVIOUSLY, THE SLAVED INSTITUTE (THE AFRICAN UNION) HAVE ECHOED THE WHITE MAN’S INTEREST AS AN INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY DECISION FOR PRES. GBAGO ( A NON-BUTTLICKER)TO STEP DOWN. WHY HAVEN’T WE HEARD FROM THE UN ABOUT THE ETHIOPIAN ELECTIONS? WHAT CAN THE HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH WHICH HAS NO MILITARY FORCE, CAN DO FOR US? WE ARE TIRED OF THEIR BLOBS. THE ONCE THAT CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT OUR ELECTIONS, LIKE THE UN, HAVE INTENTIONALLY BEEN QUITE, BECAUSE THEY DON’T WANT TO STAND FOR OUR INTERESTS. THEY WANT TO STAND FOR THOSE THAT WILL SLAVE AFRICA, SUCH AS ZENAWI. COLONIALISM IS ON ITS WAY. WAKE UP ETHIOPIANS.

  2. tewbel
    | #2

    Pilfering of Foreign Aid

    march 20, 2010

    In recent day there has been a lot written about foreign aid given to Ethiopia had been diverted to buy arms and for other political objectives by the TPLF. This practice has continued throughout the past eighteen years to the present and will continue until such time the TPLF is in power.

    However the method of pilfering and scamming from foreign aid has been made with refined and sophisticated methods. For example let’s consider some activities:

    a. Transportation: all foodstuff and other goods are carried from Djibouti to Addis Ababa and distributed around the country are transported almost exclusively by a company owned totally by the TPLF. Payment for these services are made and collected in foreign currency.

    b. Fertilizers are imported transported and distributed by a company owned by the TPLF at a price fixed by the same firm.

    c. Import of pharmaceutical is exclusively a monopoly of corporation owned by the TPLF

    d. Sub-contracts for aid financed projects such as dams, roads, buildings and public roads go to TPLF owned companies and affiliates.

    e. Banking of foreign aid projects, NGO’s accounts etc. are with TPLF owned banks and affiliates.

    f. Most local NGO’s are affiliates or altogether TPLF organizations

    g. Employment by foreign projects and activities are of given ethnic preferences and members of TPLF affiliates

    h. Project implementation is exclusively populated by TPLF members and associates.

    i. Equipment, training Military, Police and Security, assistance provided to the regime by some countries reinforces further the dictatorial regime and the means of oppression on the disfranchised and victimized people of the Ethiopia..

    The list can go on and on. TPLF through its own 50 or more corporation and another forty or so associate companies controls almost eighty percent of Ethiopian economy. The government apparatus and state prerogatives is under the complete control of the governing mafia, therefore, the TPLF and its associate parties siphon and scam from any aid or domestic activity all down the line and impose their political will and blackmail the population all the way down to the Kebele level.

    The question is if this practice id done without the knowledge of the donor countries and NGOs operating in Ethiopia???

    Instead of limiting our statement to generalities I believe that our statements be focused and informative for whom we are addressing them. I hope that some of our learned experts amongst our colleagues will undertake the task of making a detailed and instructive survey of these misdeeds, particularly for the knowledge and awareness of public opinion in donor countries.

    The following article is a case in point about these extraordinary happenings.
    Ethiopia: an aid success story or a tyranny?
    March 24th, 2010 No Comments
    Our money is eradicating poverty. But it may also be used to prop up a repressive regime
    I’m talking to an Ethiopian journalist who has fled his country rather than face charges under his Government’s new anti-terror law. Intimidating journalists is a pastime in Addis Ababa; few are left. “The country is very poor, it needs aid,” he says, “but the Government uses aid to repress dissidents.” A former aid worker I talk to goes one step farther. “Aid has become an instrument of coercion,” he says simply.

    These whispers coming out of Ethiopia have been drowned out by the noise about the possible hijacking of some of Bob Geldof’s Live Aid money in the 1980s. The Mengistu regime then was shambolic and venal: it is plausible that rebel leaders did siphon off money to arm themselves.

    But today’s Ethiopia is an aid success story. It is still desperately poor — ten million people live on the brink of starvation — but its urbane leader, Meles Zenawi, is making real progress in training health workers, vaccinating babies and getting more children into school. This potent combination of need and hope has made Ethiopia one of the biggest recipients of foreign aid in the world, and the second-biggest recipient of British aid.

    To international donors Ethiopia is a precious example of poverty alleviation in a land plagued by drought and famine. But to human rights campaigners, and even some Western aid workers, it is a regime of increasingly sophisticated duplicity. Donors say that Mr Meles’s Government is delivering aid more efficiently to the poor than many other African countries. But it looks as though the machine he has built to deliver aid could also be a ruthless instrument of repression.

    Two weeks ago, the US State Department listed a vast range of human rights abuses in Ethiopia, from torture to detention without charge. It also cited “credible reports that the ruling EPRDF used humanitarian assistance to gain support for the party by denying opposition political party supporters access to humanitarian assistance, including relief food, public services, and microfinance loans”. The charge is not that aid is being siphoned off, but that it is being used to entrench one-party rule.

    Those allegations are reinforced today in a report by Human Rights Watch. It describes farmers denied seeds, teachers sent on propaganda training and people unable to get a government job without a reference from a party official. It accuses the Government of building a culture of fear ahead of elections in May.

    The last elections, in 2005, were the most democratic the country had seen. Too democratic: as opposition parties made big gains, the vote descended into violence. Thousands were arrested. Some are still in jail, including the 34-year-old woman who leads Ethiopia’s Unity for Democracy and Justice Party.

    The bloody crackdown shocked the West. Donors suspended “budget support” (direct aid, not for specific projects) to the Ethiopian Government. But not for long. Direct aid soon resumed under a different label, the “Protection of Basic Services” (PBS) programme. Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID), an enthusiastic supporter, says PBS “shifts power from the centre” because it funnels money to the regions.

    But far from decentralising power, Human Rights Watch warns that PBS is reinforcing Mr Meles’s apparatus of control. It says that the Government has jacked up the number of local officials to four million, that these control access to everything from food to microcredit, and that many villages are organised in cells that encourage neighbours to spy on each other.

    Can a Maoist system have been built under donors’ noses? Or are these stories from the disaffected? Having been an aid worker in Bangladesh, I know that there is never enough aid to go round. I have doled out food to hungry people knowing that the queue is too long. The empty-handed can be bitter. But this sounds like something more. Last year Mr Meles passed two draconian laws that strengthen his grip on the country. A terrorism law criminalises many forms of dissent. A charities law so restricts foreign funding for civil society organisations that one aid official in Addis told me: “It will kill human rights NGOs.”

    DfID has launched an investigation into the allegations. Officials point out that Mr Meles has vehemently denied the allegations, and promised to investigate any evidence. But when HRW sent a researcher to meet farmers complaining that they had been denied seeds, the farmers were arrested and the researcher deported. The same thing seems to have happened in January to a Bloomberg journalist.

    Like Yoweri Museveni in Uganda and Paul Kagame in Rwanda, Meles Zenawi won Western approval by talking the language of development. Like them, he has provided stability. Like them, he has improved lives at the expense of freedom. The question for the West is how far we accept that trade-off. There must come a point when cronyism and fear make it harder to pull people out of poverty.

    I know full well that compromises must sometimes be made to keep people alive. Aid workers fear that reducing aid would hurt the poor. What they do not say is that this would also hurt the aid industry, which has so much vested in Ethiopia.

    As Ethiopia has become more repressive, our aid to it has increased, from $1 billion in 2004 to $1.85 billion in 2008. Yet the West has made no meaningful representations against abuses. It is time to challenge Mr Meles to amend his new laws, end intimidation and let the media in. The people who have spoken to me for this article should not have to whisper. Nor should the West.

    Source: Times Online

  3. seifu
    | #3

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