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Foreign AID feeding oppressive regimes in Africa

We have being arguing that an open access to western markets is  more in the African interests than aid. This article by Prof Mariam is the exact reason why foreign aid alone is not the way forward for Africa. KAM

Feed them and bleed them

Prof. Alemayehu G. Mariam

“Western donors continue to hand out billions of dollars in ‘humanitarian’ and ‘economic’ aid to Ethiopia’s Zenawi regime each year, turning a blind eye to the fact that their handouts are propping up a repressive dictatorship”

The helping hand that feeds Ethiopians is the same hand that helps bleed Ethiopia. Every year, the US, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Japan and other Western countries hand out billions of dollars in ‘humanitarian’ and ‘economic’ aid to the regime of dictator-in-chief Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia. Every year, these donors turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the notorious fact that their handouts are used to prop up and fortify a repressive one-man, one-party totalitarian dictatorship.

Today, Western donors have collectively embraced the proverbial principle to ‘see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil’ of what their ‘aid’ money is doing in Ethiopia. Last week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) pried open Western donors’ eyes to see the havoc their aid money is wreaking in Ethiopia and unplugged their ears to hear the truth about the evil they are helping to spread throughout that poor country.

In a report entitled, Development Without Freedom [1], HRW sketched out the architecture of a vast kleptocracy (government of thieves) whose lifeblood is continuous and massive infusion of foreign aid. The report represents a devastating indictment of Western donors and their client regime for crimes that, if committed in the donor countries, would constitute Class A felonies: ‘Led by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the government has used donor-supported programs, salaries, and training opportunities as political weapons to control the population, punish dissent, and undermine political opponents–both real and perceived.

Local officials deny these people access to seeds and fertilizer, agricultural land, credit, food aid, and other resources for development. Such politicization has a direct impact on the livelihoods of people for whom access to agricultural inputs is a matter of survival. It also contributes to a broader climate of fear, sending a potent message that basic survival depends on political loyalty to the state and the ruling party.’ HRW charges that Zenawi’s regime has used Western aid to benefit its supporters by giving them special access to micro-credit (small loans designed for poor households) loans and benefits under the productive safety net program (multi-year cash payments to those vulnerable to famine to avoid disaster from food shortage emergencies).

The regime has misused state educational facilities for political purposes and engaged in systematic political indoctrination of students, repression of teachers and purging of individuals who are unwilling to support the ruling party from their jobs. In sum, after 19 years and ‘investing’ US$26 billion in ‘aid’, the crowning achievement of Western aid in Ethiopia is the establishment and entrenchment of a one-man, one-party totalitarian state! The Western donors refuse to accept any responsibility for the misuse and abuse of their aid money in Ethiopia; and the conspiracy of silence to cover up the ugly facts uncovered by HRW continues. A few days after HRW released its report, a gathering of vulturous poverty pimps known as the Development Assistance Group (DAG) representing donor states issued a statement denying the undeniable. ‘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.’ [2] DAG co-chair Samuel Nyambi was manifestly dismissive of HRW’s findings when he arrogantly proclaimed that ‘development partners have built into the programmes they support monitoring and safeguard mechanisms that give a reasonable assurance that resources are being used for their intended purposes.’

In DAG-istan, what HRW found and reported simply could not happen. HRW made it all up! The report is all lies and fabrications! The fact of the matter is that it is in DAG’s self-interest to bury the truth and keep covering it up even when the truth it is exhumed for public display. For DAG to acknowledge any part of the HRW evidence is tantamount to self-incrimination. They could never admit that the things HRW reported occurred under their watch. As the HRW reports demonstrates, DAG and the donor countries ‘have done little to address the problem [aid abuse/misuse] or tackle their own role in underwriting government repression… even though they recognize [civil and political rights] to be central to sustainable socioeconomic development.’ Huddled together in DAG-istan, the poverty pimps have collectively resolved to continue to do their usual aid business in Ethiopia because ‘broad economic progress outweighs individual political freedoms’.

In ‘their eagerness to show progress in Ethiopia, aid officials aremeles zenawi shutting their eyes to the repression lurking behind the official statistics.’ They say ‘their programs are working well and that aid was not being ‘distorted.’ They refuse to carry ‘out credible, independent investigations into the problem.’ The ‘donor country legislatures and audit institutions [have failed] to examine development aid to Ethiopia to ensure that it is not supporting political repression.’ They refuse to ‘wake up to the fact that some of their aid is contributing to human rights abuses’ in Ethiopia. The Western donors have ignored calls to ‘seriously weigh the impact that their funding has on bolstering repressive structures and practices in Ethiopia.’ They are unwilling to do a ‘fundamental re-thinking of their strategy.’

THE PEOPLE OF ETHIOPIA VERSUS WESTERN DONORS When I wrote my commentaries ‘Speaking Truth to Strangers’[3] this past June and ‘J’Accuse’ last November [4], I argued that in a perfect world Western donors in Ethiopia could be prosecuted for being accessories before and after the fact to the crime of first-degree ‘democricide’, gross human rights violations and for aiding and abetting Zenawi’s kleptocracy. The recent HRW report furnishes a fresh boatload of damning evidence for use in the criminal conspiracy case of ‘The people of Ethiopia versus Western donor countries’ to be tried in the court of international public opinion and in the consciences of all the taxpayers in Western countries shelling out their hard earned money to support one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. The silent conspiracy between the Western donors and Zenawi’s regime operates on a couple of simple premises. The Western donors in their chauvinistic view believe there are two social classes in Ethiopia. One class consists of the large masses of poor, impoverished, illiterate, malnourished and expendable masses who will not amount to much. The other class consists of the tiny class of elites who maintain a lavish life style for themselves and lord over the masses by manipulating the billions given to them to strengthen their chokehold on the political structure and process. The silent conspiracy is sustained by mutuality of interests. The Western donors want ‘stability’ in Ethiopia, which often means the absence of internal strife that will not undermine their economic and political interests in the country. They want regional ‘stability’, which means having someone who could be called upon to patrol the neighbourhood and kick the rear ends of some nasty terrorists. For those addicted to aid, it’s all about more aid, more free money to play with. As long as the Western donors meet their dual objectives, they do not give a rat’s behind about what happens to their aid money or what harm it does to the Ethiopian masses. When confronted with the truth about the misuse and abuse of aid money as has been documented in the HRW report, the donors will deny it (‘we have built in safeguards, it couldn’t happen), play it down (‘nothing to it’), ignore it (‘nor worth commenting’), excuse it (‘it’s not as bad as it seems’), rationalise it (‘we’ve got to work with the government’), and wax legal about it (‘there is a sovereignty issue’); and to fool the people occasionally, they will come out in public, put on a show of feigned outrage and pontificate about democracy, the rule of law and the rest of it. After all is said and done, they go right back to business as usual.

ETHIOPIA: THE POTEMKIN VILLAGE A Potemkin village is ‘something that appears elaborate and impressive but in actual fact lacks substance.’ Western aid has reduced Ethiopia to a Potemkin village. It’s all a facade, a smoke and mirror show complete with illusions and sleights of hand. DAG is full of it when it counterclaims against HRW’s findings[5]: ‘The aid provided by members of the DAG in Ethiopia is transforming the lives of millions of poor people through basic services such as healthcare, education and water, and long-term food security. Our programmes are directly helping Ethiopia to reach the Millennium Development Goals.’ In their annual dog and pony show, these poverty pimps have been singing the same old song for years: ‘We are saving lives in Ethiopia by the millions. Imagine how many millions would have perished but for aid; how many children would have not gone to school. See the clinics and hospitals that aid has built.’

They challenge us to look at how much economic development aid has brought to Ethiopia: ‘Behold the shiny glass buildings. See all of the fancy roads that snake over the hills and valleys. Look at all of the universities we helped build. Look at the double-digit annual economic growth. Aid money made all that possible.’ What they don’t tell is the fact that many of the shiny buildings have little running water and many more stand unfinished or vacant. The universities have few books and educational materials and even fewer qualified instructional staff. The hospitals and clinics have few doctors and virtually no medical supplies or equipment to care for 85 million people. Ethiopia has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world. Inflation has made it impossible for the vast majority of Ethiopian families to meet their basic needs. The poverty pimps say nothing about the fact that famine and hunger stalks a third of the Ethiopia population year around. As to ‘double digit’ economic growth, it is all made up by Zenawi’s regime.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Alemayehu G. Mariam - November 30, 2010 at 9:58 pm

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It will be shameful for the EC to welcome Mugabe

It is reported that the Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe is planning to attend the 3rd EU-Africa Summit to be held in Tripoli, Libya on November, 29-30, 2010. I have no doubt that the dictator will be accorded every honor deserving of a Head of State.
I would like to categorically say that is will be utterly disgraceful for the European Council and European Commission to welcome Mr. Mugabe to the meeting.
In an earlier article, I pointed out how dictators from African countries are cuddled by the western powers who preach against such regimes. Mugabe is at this time marshalling armed violence to stamp on democratic expression in Zimbabwe.
Political prisoners in Zimbabwe, pregnant mothers dying for lack of care, and unemployed youth on the streets of Harare will find it disgustful to hear he is being welcomed to join a conference with the themes of ‘peace, security, governance and human rights’.
This surely does not send any good message to the heroic people who are trying to fight dictatorship, abuse of human rights, violence, corruption and suppression of free speech in Zimbabwe and other African countries.
Mugabe’s rule has been synonymous with massive economic mismanagement, hyperinflation and lawlessness. Human rights abuses are rampant with no remorse. Mugabe and his team pay no ear to external criticisms. Zimbabwe’s economy which was once uncharacteristic of an African country has completely collapsed. Poverty and disease threaten the lives of children and mothers.
Under President Mugabe, life expectancy in Zimbabwe is the lowest in the world; for females it is 34 years, while for males it is 37 years. For comparison, the average life expectancy in Japan is 82. In spite of all this, the president and his family live profligate live. They graciously handed out $300,000 to the Zimbabwean Big brother reality show loser. (A teacher in Zimbabwe earns $5.00 a day). Zimbabwe’s first lady is proudly referred to as the First Shopper. If you ever meet someone with $300 sunglasses and a $40,000 diamond-covering Rolex hanging off her wrist, she’s likely to be the First Lady of Zimbabwe, Grace Mugabe.
How insulting it will be for the suffering Zimbabwean masses to see Robert and Grace embracing world leaders who are supposed to represent the exact opposite of the Zimbabwean first family.
It is time for world democracies to do what they preach.


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4 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Kwabena A-Manager - November 26, 2010 at 12:22 pm

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