Aid from democracies stifles Ethiopian democracy By Ethiopian America Council

August 16th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Though the Ethiopian people have themselves known it for a long time, it should once again become apparent to the world community that the repressive regime in Addis Ababa is using the long-term aid from democracies around the world to stifle the democratic aspirations of this important but economically deprived African country.

Nations in the Horn of Africa – Eritrea, Somalia, and to a lesser degree, Kenya – are all experiencing another severe drought this year, along with Ethiopia. The repressive regime of Meles Zenawi has been diverting all aid to the country only to those who are supportive of his party, the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), leaving many thousand of his fellow citizens in dire and life-threatening circumstances.

A History of Diverting Aid

As early as a year ago, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) uncovered that much of the money that poured into the country during the famine of the mid-1980′s, by means of the Band Aid Trust, Live Aid, and other organizations, was unfairly diverted only to supporters of the regime’s part y TPLF and much of it went to arms purchases and so-called political education.

At that time, the cold war was at its height and the TPLF was battling an Ethiopian government propped up by the former Soviet Union. Under the American administration of Ronald Reagan, the CIA was operating under an edict to destabilize and limit the Soviet Union and its efforts in the Third World. So the diversion of aid funds to the TPLF, with much of it being diverted away from humanitarian use, was winked at by Washington, London, and other European capitals at the time.

Zenawi Government Denials Do Not Reflect the Truth

In light of the most recent drought plaguing the region, the BBC and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) has again uncovered abuse earlier this summer in that the Ethiopian government is using billions of dollars of development aid as a tool for political oppression. While they were investigating the abuse of aid funding, the BBC and the BIJ also uncovered evidence of ongoing and widespread use of torture and execution by Ethiopian government security forces.

Just as they did in the 1980′s, government officials are once again denying that they use aid from other countries as a reward for backing the Meles Zenawi regime. The denials are tough to back up though, when one travels the country and sees pockets of citizens actually starving to death while surrounding communities seem to be doing comparatively well. Of course, these well-off communities are those that supposedly support and vote for the existing regime, which has been in power since 1991. Understand that these communities were initially persuaded to join the governing party when they also were faced with the starvation of their children and the very survival of the communities themselves.

BBC and BIJ Journalists Disguised as Tourists

Three of the worlds greatest democratic institutions, the United States, the European Economic Union, and the United Kingdom contribute hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Because of the history of abuse, because of the crackdown in 2005 that left hundreds dead and thousands detained, and because of reports from citizens themselves, BBC and BIJ journalists entered the countryside posing as tourists. What they found should be disquieting to all the democracies that contribute so much to what they think is the well-being of all Ethiopian citizens.

The undercover journalists met with a group of farmers in a secret location. One farmer who had failed to support the Meles regime told them that because of his political views, he and others like him face great intimidation and that they are denied the right to fertilizer and seeds because of their politics. They have also uncovered human rights abuse by the government – rape and murder to accompany the famine – in the Ogadan region that has sent thousands of Ethiopians fleeing into nearby Kenya.

Aid Abuse Is Far More Than Terrible

Human Rights Watch has gathered enough evidence to show world donors who are financing the present Ethiopian government that their aid is a major contribution to human rights abuses in the nation. In fact, in some sort of perverse reward system, aid to the government increases as it becomes more intolerant and cruel. The nastiness of the Meles regime grows daily and has become a fact of life. Abuses and atrocities include:

Human rights abuses of murder and rape in areas with opposition parties.
Revenge killings in opposition areas, ten civilians killed for every one security force officer killed.
Extortion for political support by withholding loans, fertilizer, and seed.
High school students, teachers, and civil servants forced to attend indoctrination sessions on ruling party ideology.
Pernicious civil rights laws that close political space and hamper freedom of association and expression.
Harassment of journalists and sending political activists into exile.

No credible reporting agencies have determined the extent of abuse, and many foreign aid workers, in an eagerness to show progress, are shutting their eyes to the reality behind official statistics, said a Human Rights Watch official. Ethiopia is now the largest recipient of World Bank funds and foreign aid in Africa. What is all that aid being used for?

A farmer in the Amhara region pretty much summed it up by saying to the Human Rights Watch: “The safety net is used to buy loyalty to the ruling party. That is money that comes from abroad. Democracy is being compromised by money that comes from abroad. Do those people who send the money know what it is being used for? Let them know that it is being used against democracy.”

Foreign Aid Supports a Plutocratic – a Kleptocratic – Government

Mother nature, a powerful global force, seems to pale when it comes to the ability of the current Ethiopian government to inflict famine on the people of Ethiopia. Mother nature, in her mysterious cycles, has once again visited a drought on the populations that make up the Horn of Africa. The government of Ethiopia, already the largest recipient of foreign aid in Africa, has made sure that aid funding goes only to those who support and work for the Meles plutocracy.

This practice of diverting aid based on political affiliation has allowed the government to enrich a ruling elite that holds title to most of the industry and agriculture enterprise in the country. Citizens find that if they are not supporters of the regime, they cannot compete in the Ethiopian business world. Nor can they tend farms to any degree of fruitfulness. Indeed, the plutocracy owns practically every business the country has managed to raise, and only farms under the thumb of the ruling party are allowed to bear fruit.

In fact, the ruling party’s use of foreign aid to enrich themselves rather than to help their fellow citizens, and their denial of business entrepreneurship to all except party members, can only lead one to understand that the government thrives by stealing from its own people – a true kleptocracy – a government of thieves. The world community of donors should seriously take into account that the International Monetary Fund forgave billions of dollars in Ethiopian debt to the institution in 2005. How the thieves must have rejoiced as they were assisted in thieving even more money from the global community.

A Nation Held Hostage by Famine

The present Ethiopian government, the regime of Prime Minister Meles, the ruling TPLF party, have pulled the wool over the eyes of the global community while they act as pernicious predators on their fellow citizens. Even with all the past aid, the GDP of the nation is among the lowest in the world, but a government elite is sitting atop a mass of wealth and privilege. Indeed, they are happy for the latest drought, waiting for the next boat load of aid money coming in, so they can further enrich themselves and their cronies, while holding the general population hostage with famine.

The Ethiopian Americans Council (EAC)

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