Canada Wants Probe of Ethiopia Aid

Meles Zenawi, prime minister of Ethiopia, at the launch of the United Nations' Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health on Sept. 22 in New York. His government is under fire for allegedly using foreign aid to suppress political opposition. Photo by: John McIlwaine / United Nations

Canada is calling for a full probe into allegations that the Ethiopian government is using foreign development aid to suppress its opponents by shaping access to government programs in favor of the ruling party.

The allegations were from a report by Human Rights Watch. The organization said donor countries should examine and review the development aid they send to Ethiopia to make sure it is used in a transparent way and that it is not used to further political oppression.

“The Ethiopian government is routinely using access to aid as a weapon to control people and crush dissent,” said Rona Peligal, director of Human Rights Watch, in a news release. “If you don’t play the ruling party’s game, you get shut out. Yet foreign donors are rewarding this behavior with ever-larger sums of development aid.”

She said donors that fund the Ethiopian government “need to wake up to the fact that some of their aid is contributing to human rights abuses.” 

The Canadian government said it is “deeply concerned” by Human Rights Watch’s report.

“Canada, together with other donor countries, continues to encourage the authorities in Ethiopia to investigate these allegations thoroughly and to take corrective action if required,” Scott Cantin, a spokesman for the Canadian International Development Agency, said in a statement as quoted by The Globe and Mail.

Canada’s aid to Ethiopia may be suspended if conditions attached to the aid, including a pledge that development financing must reach targeted beneficiaries, are not met, according to Cantin.

“CIDA takes allegations of aid politicization seriously and together with the international community, will participate in efforts to strengthen safeguards where necessary,” he said, noting that surveys by CIDA show its aid to Ethiopia is reaching intended beneficiaries.

Ethiopia secured more than 150 million Canadian dollars (USD145 million) in aid from Canada in 2008, The Globe and Mail reports.

Rizza Leonzon contributed to this report.

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  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.