Curbing the baser tendencies of Ethiopia’s strong man By Plain Dealer editorials

February 1st, 2012 Print Print Email Email

The United States, Ethiopia’s biggest donor, needs to pressure Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government to improve its lousy human rights record.

The prime minister deserves high marks for improving the nation’s health indicators, economy and agriculture. Targeted U.S. aid helped achieve these outcomes, reducing Ethiopia’s long-term dependence on outside help.

But human rights organizations say Meles’ government is also turning parts of the country into prison camps, jailing, torturing or hounding into exile journalists and dissidents.

A shocking BBC news report last year found evidence that the government withheld food, fertilizers and seeds from villages that did not support Meles’ political party — a death sentence in this rural country.

The United States provides a significant share of the $3 billion Ethiopia receives annually in long-term development aid, mostly through a multilateral donor partnership. It and other donors need to convince Meles that it pays to have a civil society and to ensure that allegations of government misconduct can be independently investigated.

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