Ethiopian Government Faces Fresh Accusations of Using Aid for Political Oppression

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. The Ethiopian government faces fresh accusations of using aid for political oppression. Photo by: Norway UN / CC BY-ND

Is Ethiopia using foreign development aid as a tool for political oppression? A joint undercover investigation by two U.K. media outlets claims the ruling party in Ethiopia is denying dissidents and members of opposition of access to food and agriculture supplies funded by donor funds.

The claims, which the Ethiopian embassy in London has denied, echo allegations from a Human Rights Watch report released in October 2010. The international watchdog group claimed that the “Ethiopian government is routinely using access to aid as a weapon to control people and crush dissent.” The report has prompted calls from Canada, among other donors, for a full probe into the allegations.

>> Canada Wants Probe of Ethiopia Aid

>> Ethiopia Dismisses Claims of Using Aid to Crush Dissent

In a recent undercover investigation, a team of journalists from BBC’s “Newsnight” program and the London City University’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism posed as tourists and visited parts of southern Ethiopia, where they said they found whole communities that were starving after being denied food and other basic supplies because the people did not support Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

The head of Ethiopia’s delegation to the United Kingdom has slammed the undercover investigation, claiming it “lacked objectivity” and its allegations “unfounded.”

Meanwhile, U.K. development officials said the British government maintains a hard stance on reports of human rights abuses. BBC notes that the United Kingdom is among the top donors of long-term development aid to Ethiopia.

“We take all allegations of human rights abuses extremely seriously and raise them immediately with the relevant authorities including the Ethiopian Government, with whom we have a candid relationship. Where there is evidence, we take firm and decisive action,” Stephen O’Brien, the U.K. undersecretary of state for international development, said in response to the claims raised by the undercover investigation, as quoted by BBC.

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About the author

  • 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.