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**** Oil and Corrupt Militia..

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Local militia, created by the government had by 2007 also begun to play a greater role in the counter-insurgency. One of their most important tasks was to protect construction crews from attack and the roads from being sabotaged by the ONLF.


At a series of public meetings held in villages and towns throughout the region beginning in 2006, high ranking regional government officials and federal military officers ordered village elders and chiefs to begin organizing militias in their areas. At one such meeting, in the town of Kabridahar, some 250 miles south of the regional capital Jijiga, Col. Gebre Egziebher, said the government was committed to exploiting the oil and natural gas in the region—one of the main reasons for the exploration area, and for preventing the ONLF from attacking construction crews and vehicles along the route, or from trying to destroy portions of the road. These clan elders and chiefs were then ordered to return to their respective villages and begin organizing and training the militia for the task.


Egziebher repeated his orders at several villages during 2006. One former government administrator, Mohammed Abdirahman, who belonged to a prominent family in the Fik area of the **** , was ordered to return home to organize and help finance a militia in his area. “This was the order of the day, it was the government’s latest plan—using the local militia to help its forces defend the roads,” said Abdirahman.


The militia at this time was unpaid, but from their barracks in larger towns and along roads, they were able to earn money from food aid stolen from the United Nations, according to senior U.S. and UN officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The roads were also very important for the movement of food aid through the region. They are expected to be even more important for the oil companies in the future.


As an administrator, Abdirahman remembers attending a meeting in Addis Ababa in 1993 when officials discussed various options for moving oil and gas out of the region by either road or pipeline. No decision was made during that meeting, and both options are still being discussed by the government, according to Tadesse at the Ministry of Mines and Energy.


But the issue remains vital for many potential corporate investors in the ****. For the oil companies, it’s one thing to talk about exploration. But the situation becomes opaque when it comes to figuring out how to get oil out of East Africa and into the world market.


Hanspeter Heinrich, head of Safestainable, a Geneva-based firm that advises companies investing and working in areas of conflict, pointed out, “If you don’t have roads, and you don’t have a pipeline, you don’t have a transport network. You’re headed for trouble, because you will need to militarily defend a very long transport route. The big oil companies will probably not be very eager to invest in Ethiopia because getting the oil or gas to market in a safe way will be extremely costly.”


High Risk, Low Reward?


Heinrich founded his consulting firm after working in Ethiopia for the International Committee of the Red Cross for several years during the 1990s. From his office in Geneva, a world away from the ****, he charts the security, legal and reputational risks that any company might face if it chooses to invest in an area of conflict such as Ethiopia. Over the past five years, he advised against investing in the region to all companies that have asked him.


“The risks are simply too high, and the potential rewards are too few,” he said. But for companies like Petronas, Lundin and Africa Oil Corp., Dubai based Ethiopian Exploration and Production and Black Marlin Energy, this is the political and security environment that they have chosen. With the exception of Petronas, all are small to mid-size companies, which traditionally have specialized in locating the oil and then selling that land for a healthy profit to large, internationally integrated companies.


Privately-run small and mid-size enterprises have traditionally worried less about reputational risks. But larger, publicly-traded companies are often more responsive to pressure from watchdog groups regarding issues related to corporate social responsibility and human rights. Smaller, publicly-traded western companies are even more vulnerable, so several have approached Safestainable to assess the risks of investing in Ethiopia. Lundin Petroleum was one of those companies Heinrich said he has advised. In Ethiopia, however, of all the publicly-traded companies—Lundin and Africa Oil Corp., Petronas and Black Marlin Energy—only Lundin has publicly discussed, in company papers, ways to mitigate some of the problems associated with operating in the ****.


Strikingly, however, Lundin never specifically mentions the civil war or the difficulties of remaining neutral in a hostile environment. In its 2007 annual report, Lundin said that prior to obtaining the three oil exploration licenses, it carried out a review of the country from a cultural, economic, political and social perspective. It undertook a number of field visits and consulted with local as well as international experts in order to understand the country and its challenges. Community and security clauses in the production sharing agreement were drafted with particular attention to Lundin Petroleum’s Corporate Responsibility commitment and its support for the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, an international standard developed through multi-stakeholder participation from governments, the extractive industry and non-governmental organizations. Comprehensive field surveys were conducted to assess the target regions from social, environmental, security and infrastructure perspectives.


In the end, Heinrich advised Lundin against investing in the region. “My point is very clear,” he told the company’s executives. “You should not invest in the **** because the human rights situation is terrible. Any company is facing an up-hill challenge when trying to manage its reputational risks. If you invest there you have to rely on the army, or you might have to rely on other armed forces such as militia. You might be pressured into supporting them logistically and you might end up, one day, facing very serious legal charges and answering questions about your role in the conflict.”


As for Lundin, they considered the risk of possible litigation, which were considerable in Heinrich’s opinion, and matched those risks against the opportunities. In the end, they decided to minimize any potential damage by not involving their company name, so they sold their concessions in 2009 to a related company—Africa Oil Corp. One of Africa Oil’s major shareholders was Ellegrove Capital Ltd., a private corporation owned by the estate of the late Adolf H. Lundin, founder of the Lundin Group of Companies. Lundin Petroleum loaned Africa Oil money to then pay back Lundin Petroleum $20 million for the right to explore for oil prospects in the region. Using Africa Oil as a shield, Lundin has essentially retained its control and interest in the region but removed its name from the books.


“At the end of the day it becomes an issue of not having your brand name up-front. The companies realize that ‘OK, you have the concessions, but you shouldn’t have your name exposed to this kind of reputational risk. You maintain your interests, such as the concessions, and you give yourself time to find other, more durable solutions,” Heinrich says. But Lundin’s bid to conceal the link between the two companies is superficial at best. When a call is placed to Africa Oil’s head office in Vancouver, Canada, the receptionist answers the telephone with the standard greeting: “Lundin family of companies, how may I direct your call.”


It remains unclear if Lundin’s transition to a credit lender will protect it from potential legal or reputational damage. A growing number of cases bearing some similarity to the situation in the Ogadēn have been tried in American courts under the Alien Tort Claims Act [ATCA], which grants district courts jurisdiction over civil actions against parties violating U.S. law, even if the conduct took place outside the United States. In Ethiopia’s case, “if a risk analysis was performed and it says that you stand a very high probability of being complicit in the human rights violations that are happening, then that company could be legally complicit,” Joshi from Global Witness says. Indeed, there have been a number of recent efforts to use ATCA to sue transnational corporations for violations of international law in countries outside the United States. If these suits are allowed to proceed, then ATCA could become a powerful tool to increase corporate accountability. Through ATCA, Lundin could be held accountable for complicity in the human rights violations in the **** .


Last year, Royal Dutch Shell agreed to pay $15 million to settle several lawsuits alleging it collaborated in the execution of writer Ken Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria. His son, Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr., accused the company of backing a campaign of repression conducted by Nigeria’s former military government in the oil-rich Niger Delta region in the 1990s. Saro-Wiwa Jr. and the relatives of other victims sued under the ATCA, which left Shell open to the suit.


State-owned companies like Malaysia’s Petronas have proven largely invulnerable to human rights pressures. Petronas’ company papers appear to make little or no mention of their operations in Ethiopia and the war that is quietly being waged there. Since it has few operations in the United States, it could prove immune to ATCA. “Typically, decision making at the larger companies, like Petronas, is dictated by the corporate character and any actual influence often comes from the political pressure of big government,” says Luke Patey, a researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies.


Next, mired in political and social tension, **** is slowly improving--but only marginally.



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[ October 24, 2010, 12:52 AM: Message edited by: Miskiin-Macruuf-Aqiyaar ]

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The international watchdog Human Rights Watch published a report this week that is an embarrassing look at the way billions of dollars in well-intentioned international aid to Ethiopia is too often being used by the government there as "political weapons to control the population, punish dissent and undermine political opponents."


The report, entitled Development Without Freedom: How Aid Underwrites Repression in Ethiopia, is a damning investigation into the politicization of international aid money in an African country that has struggled with war and hunger over the past generation and which has, in many respects, made considerable progress moving away from those catastrophes.


As Bob Geldof, the Irish rock star and champion of Ethiopia pointed out recently in an editorial in the Globe and Mail, Ethiopia now has a rapidly growing economy, many more children in schools, a dramatic decline in malaria deaths, and progress in combating HIV/AIDS.


But even so, Ethiopia is still among the world's poorest countries, and the second largest recipient of international aid. It receives a total of about $3 billion US every year from various donors including the World Bank, the United States, the European Commission, the U.K., Germany, Netherlands, Canada and Japan.


Canada is Ethiopia's fourth largest donor, giving more than $152 million US in 2008, which was way up from the $59.58 million it gave in 2004.


What is happening to this aid money?


It is reaching Ethiopians, particularly the 10 to 20 per cent of the 85 million who still rely on food aid to survive. But Human Rights Watch accuses the current government of Ethiopia, the coalition Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, of controlling the delivery of that aid to benefit its supporters and punish its opponents.


People push a cart packed with bags of maize in southern Ethiopia. (Jose Cendon/IFRC/Reuters)



Zenawi's regime, it is generally recognized, has become over the years a repressive state that silences any critics and opposition. Human Rights Watch argues that this is having an impact on international aid. If you are part of the opposition, you are denied assistance.


The prime minister denies this policy, but Human Rights Watch researchers say they interviewed a wide range of people, including civil servants, who back up their allegations.


International donors are aware of the problem, but either downplay the scale of the problem or turn a blind eye for complex political reasons, says Human Rights Watch.


CBC producer Jennifer Clibbon interviewed Leslie Lefkow, senior researcher and Horn of Africa team leader at Human Rights Watch. She was one of the researchers of the report along with Ben Rawlence, the author, and a researcher in the Africa division.


CBC News: There have been other reports about the misuse of aid to Ethiopia in the past. How is this report different? What is its significance?


Leslie Lefkow: Previous reports dealt with the allegation that the TPLF (the Tigray People's Liberation Front) diverted aid in the 1980s to buy weapons, during the war against the Mengistu regime. At that time the TPLF was a rebel group operating from northern Ethiopia and it worked with aid agencies to deliver food and humanitarian aid to civilians.


[Mengistu Haile Mariam's brutal military junta ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1991. Mengistu was overthrown in a civil war by the current Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, leader of the Marxist guerilla group, TPLF].


This report is different because our research looks at the ways in which the current Ethiopian government is using large-scale development aid programs to silence political opposition and dissent, often in subtle ways that aren't obvious to observers.


Both the aim and the method of manipulation are different. This research is important because it's the first time that there's independent research that shows a pattern of government abuse of aid — that aid isn't just a neutral factor, it's contributing directly to repression.


CBC News: Could you summarize the main allegations in this report?


Lefkow: Our findings show how the Ethiopian state apparatus is used at village level to punish people viewed as critics and opposition by denying them access to seeds, tools, fertilizers, jobs — all the resources people need for their livelihoods.


More than 80 per cent of Ethiopians are rural farmers, and it's village leaders and councils who control the lists of who should receive these resources.


Those village leaders are almost universally members of the ruling party; this is a fact which was cemented in the last two elections in 2008 and 2010, when the ruling party won more than 99 per cent of the seats.


The report also shows how the ruling party is totally intertwined with the government — there are no independent institutions or checks and balances.


Even non-governmental organizations have been decimated by a new law that bars them from doing work on human rights, and there are almost no independent media left, so there's hardly anyone even to question what is happening.


CBC News: What is the evidence? How many interviews did you conduct and with what range of interviewees?


Lefkow: Human Rights Watch spent more than six months conducting the research for this report. We interviewed more than 200 people across a wide geographic and ethnic spectrum, in several states, over the course of several different trips to Ethiopia.


The geographic range shows that the abuses aren't localized, they're not just the product of a few rogue officials. This was very challenging research because it's incredibly difficult to interview people in rural Ethiopia.


The government's surveillance apparatus is extensive. It reaches into almost every household, so there's a deep climate of fear. Even if one person has been punished in a rural village — by losing access to a food-for-work program, for instance — that's enough to send a message to the whole community.


The report is not a comprehensive survey, that still needs to be done. But it shows that there is a serious problem that can't be swept under the carpet.


CBC News: Could you summarize your recommendations to the donor countries and agencies?


Lefkow: Ethiopia is widely viewed as a success story for economic development and this report shows a much more sinister side of how development aid is being used in the country.


Donors currently give more than $3 billion a year to Ethiopia. Some of these programs are flagship programs, and many of them have good goals and do provide much-needed aid to people.


The problem is that although many donor officials privately admit that Ethiopia is becoming more repressive and authoritarian, we're not seeing that recognition reflected in the way donors are engaging with the government.


We're not seeing human rights even raised as a concern by all donors, much less any lucid questioning of how their programs are contributing to repression. Human Rights Watch is not calling for all aid to be suspended. We are calling for certain programs that purportedly support "democratization" to be suspended.


For example, there's a multimillion-dollar program, the so-called Democratic Institutions Program, that is supposed to promote good governance and build the capacity of government institutions. We think these programs should be cut immediately, because they are only contributing to a repressive single-party state.


But other programs that support health, for instance, these are programs that should be reviewed and independently investigated, and the monitoring should be done much more strictly, but not cut.


CBC News: Describe the reaction to your report by the World Bank and donor countries.


Donors currently give more than $3 billion a year to Ethiopia. >(Jose Cendon/IFRC/Reuters).


Lefkow: We sent a letter of our findings to the World Bank and donors months ago, and met with many of the agency officials in person.


The reaction was mixed. On the one hand, some donors did acknowledge the issues we were raising and the broader political environment. Some acknowledged that their monitoring wouldn't even capture the kind of discrimination we were concerned about.


But there's a tendency to wring their hands and to complain that it's so difficult to deal with Ethiopia, and then do nothing. I think a lot of donor agencies have yet to recognize that "business as usual" isn't good enough.


We have been raising concerns about the growing repression in Ethiopia for several years now, yet donor aid is rising all the time, it has doubled since 2004 despite donor concerns at that time about the "political capture" of donor funds.


We all saw that the May 2010 elections were a perfect illustration of just how problematic the environment has become. It's time for donors to review their policies.


CBC News: Some have said that western donor countries have less leverage in Ethiopia that one might expect because of the presence of China as an alternative source of aid money. What do you think of this argument?


Lefkow: This is a threat that the Ethiopian government likes to dangle at donors, but I don't think China is going to replace the funds that are given by the Western donors.


Much of Chinese aid goes into infrastructure and other kinds of projects. It's not the kind of budget support that Western donors are giving, even if that budget support is going to regional governments rather than the central government.


CBC News: Can you explain how Ethiopia is of strategic importance to the West, and how does this perhaps inhibit criticism of suppression of dissent and indirectly lead to the misuse of aid money?


A woman sits on sacks of food in southern Ethiopia. Canada is Ethiopia's fourth largest donor, giving more than $152 million US in 2008. (Jose Cendon/IFRC/Reuters)

Lefkow: Donors are very concerned about Sudan, about Somalia, and about the burgeoning terrorism threat in the region, and Ethiopia is considered an important strategic and security ally.


Ethiopia is also considered "stable," so of course these other interests play into the donor dynamics. Development agencies have also invested hundreds of millions in Ethiopia, so there may not be much interest in rocking the boat.


All of these interests contribute to a pervasive timidity on the part of donors when it comes to criticizing Ethiopia. And Ethiopia has been very clever at scapegoating some of the smaller countries that have been critical. For example, some of the Scandinavian countries have had their diplomats expelled when they've tried to raise human rights issues.


The donors need to unite around a common set of benchmarks — changing the status quo will require some strategic and bold leadership on the part of some of the larger donors — like the United Kingdom and the United States.


CBC News: There is a concern that negative reporting about aid to Africa fuels the anti-aid camp, those who argue that aid is easily corrupted and often futile. What are your thoughts on this?


Lefkow: I don't agree that all aid should be cut, and that's certainly not what we're calling for in this report. I think it's possible to give aid in appropriate ways, with good monitoring and a lucid political understanding.


But donors need to set out their red lines for what is unacceptable. Right now they have already crossed too many. For instance, the new law regulating NGOS, this law essentially bans work on human rights and good governance — that should have been a red line.

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Ethiopia using Canadian aid as a political weapon, rights group says


Johannesburg— From Wednesday's Globe and Mail


The Canadian government says it is “deeply concerned” by a report that its foreign aid to Ethiopia is being used as a weapon to crush political dissent and bolster the power of the ruling party.


The federal government, which provided more than $150-million to Ethiopia in 2008, is calling for a full investigation into the allegations that Ethiopia’s ruling party is routinely using aid money to reward supporters and punish those who fail to support it.


“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 Canada’s aid agency, the Canadian International Development Agency, said in a statement.


Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipients of foreign aid, benefiting to the tune of more than $3-billion in 2008 alone. The country is considered a strategic ally for the United States, providing stability in the troubled Horn of Africa where the war in Somalia has spilled across borders and fuelled terrorist attacks.


Canada was the fourth-biggest donor to Ethiopia in 2008, providing about $153-million (U.S.) in aid, nearly three times the amount it gave in 2004.


Human Rights Watch, an independent monitoring group, reported on Tuesday that the Ethiopian government has withheld aid from those who desperately need it, even starving families, if they refuse to support the ruling party.


The report, based on a six-month investigation in 53 villages, concluded that Ethiopia is abusing its foreign-aid funds to consolidate the rule of a repressive one-party state. Farmers who fail to support the ruling party are denied access to the fertilizers, seeds, loans and other agricultural aid that is funded by foreign donors, the report says.


In some districts, farmers cannot get assistance unless they provide receipts to prove that they paid membership dues to the ruling party, the report states. In other cases, aid goes to supporters of the ruling party who are not poor and should not qualify for it.


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


Canada is one of the biggest donors supporting a $398-million “capacity-building” program for Ethiopian public servants. But the government is using this program, and similar foreign-funded programs, to intimidate teachers, purge the civil service of anyone with an independent political view and indoctrinate school children in the ideology of the ruling party, Human Rights Watch says.


Responding to questions on Tuesday, Mr. Cantin said Canada’s aid to Ethiopia can be suspended if the authorities fail to meet the conditions that are attached to the aid, including a pledge that the aid must reach the targeted beneficiaries.


Surveys by CIDA suggest that its aid is reaching those who need help, he said. “CIDA takes allegations of aid politicization seriously,” he said, “and together with the international community, will participate in efforts to strengthen safeguards where necessary.”

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An Ugly Exploration



by Jonathan Ewing


Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—After the battle he was given the ugly task of counting the bodies and separating them—Ethiopian from Chinese. This wasn’t an easy job. Each time he finished the tally, he’d forget the number and have to start again. This happened to Omar Muktar four times. He was shocked by what he had just seen and participated in.


He counted the body of a Chinese oil worker who lay partially covered by a cardboard box. Next, there was the body of a uniformed teenager, one of the Ethiopian guards assigned to protect the Chinese. A group of five bodies lay across a wooden set of stairs near the barracks, where staff from China’s Zhoungyan Petroleum Exploration Bureau [ZPEB] lived, just outside the town of Abole, in Ethiopia’s ****** desert.


These are Muktar’s recollections. On April 24, 2007, he along with several hundred separatist rebels from the ****** National Liberation Front [ONLF] attacked the Chinese-run oil installation near Abole. They entered the barracks in time to see the Chinese flee. Those who were too slow tried to hide under beds or in closets before they were shot at close range. Sometimes they were shot in the head, Muktar said, which made it very difficult to identify them later.


Survivors were marched outside, lined up and executed by the ONLF. The separatists rebels had warned the foreign oil companies, including ZPEB, against working with a government that was waging war against them. For the ONLF, any oil money to be made would almost certainly go toward buying more of the weapons and ammunition used to suppress them.


The government in Addis Ababa was humiliated by the ONLF attack, which underscored its inability to provide security to international businesses operating in remote parts of the country. Worse still, the attack occurred just as Ethiopia was beginning to attract foreign investment. The oil companies were shaken, and demanded meetings with top officials and security guarantees. The government complied. Within weeks, the military launched a counter-insurgency campaign, which continues today, and is characterized by the destruction of towns and villages, beatings, executions and the forced resettlement of thousands.


Ethiopia’s ****** is home to a Somali-speaking people—an ethnic extension of the lawless nation to the east—and a profound sense of marginalization exists among them. Their homeland is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped regions of Ethiopia. But while many accuse Ethiopia’s Christian-led government of persecuting the ******i because they are Muslim, the real reason likely has more to with the oil and natural gas that may lie beneath their ancestral land.


Ethiopia remains one of America’s most important allies in the Horn of Africa, receiving more than $1 billion in aid from Washington in 2008 alone. But Ethiopia is quickly becoming a public relations nightmare for the United States. Since 2008, as many as 40 villages have reportedly been destroyed, and many of the people have been displaced. The inhabitants were then ordered to move to larger towns nearby, but many refused, instead becoming refugees in neighboring Kenya and Somaliland—an island of stability since it broke-away from Somalia in 1991. The UN High Commission for Refugees reported that an average of nearly 500 Ethiopian ******is arrived in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps each month throughout 2009. Tens of thousands of Ethiopians now live there, along the remote Somali border in northeastern Kenya. Those with some money, means or connections might live in the nearby towns of Garissa or Wajir, or the Eastleigh section of Nairobi—where I met Muktar.




We were first introduced at the New Hid-dig Palace, a small hotel on a dead-end street in Eastleigh, a Nairobi neighborhood run by ethnic-Somalis, who are the majority in this section of Kenya’s capital city. Refugees, many living here illegally, feel comfortable and reasonably secure meeting in the New Hiddig—away from police who beat them or Ethiopian intelligence officials, who also cause trouble. Muktar told me that his village was first harassed by the military in the summer of 2006 when the Chinese arrived in Abole. Most of the locals employed by the Chinese were Christians, either Amhara or Tigray, the politically dominant ethnic groups in Ethiopia. His village elders began complaining to local authorities that ******is were not being hired. They were told that the decision was the federal government’s, completely out of the hands of local or regional authorities.


At night they heard music from the workers’ camp and saw them mingling with soldiers, barbequing meat behind the barbed wire fences, which separated the oil field workers’ camp from the villagers. This pattern continued for several weeks, with workers leaving their camp early each morning and returning at dusk, when they would enjoy a life that was closed-off to the ******is. Then the Chinese cleared the nearby villages for road construction and seismic testing. “We were ordered by the military to abandon our house, and this was without being paid anything in compensation. Within days, Chinese bulldozers, backed by Ethiopian army tanks, began clearing our village,” Muktar recalled.


Houses and nearby farms were torched, and bulldozers were called in to level the ground. The Chinese bulldozers had been busy: in previous months they had done the same in other villages throughout the region. The ONLF—which is believed to have connections with Hizbul Islam, one of two main Islamist insurgent groups in neighboring Somalia—saw in the destruction an opportunity, and began recruiting young men throughout the region by appealing to their sense of injustice at being colonized by “highlanders” (the Amhara and Tigray ethnic groups from the north) and the Chinese. For months, Muktar said, “we listened to them. But we never believed them until our village was cleared. Then I joined the rebels, and we killed the Chinese and the Christian highlanders too.”


But after the battle, after the ugly task of counting the bodies and separating them, Muktar said he was disgusted and felt trapped by the rebel and government brutality. With help from his family and money borrowed and saved, he crossed into Kenya illegally and over the course of months, drifted slowly south until he reached Nairobi.


Next, the conflict between the ****** National Liberation Front and the Ethiopian military intensifies.



Jonathan Ewing is a Stockholm-based investigative reporter who traveled to East Africa on a grant from the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, researching the relationship between the government of Ethiopia, the separatist rebels, the petroleum industry and the global interests they represent.


Picture via Flickr by carsten_tb.



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Ethiopia: Donor Aid Supports Repression

Contributors Should Review Development Programs, Monitor Use of Funds

October 19, 2010



The Ethiopian government is routinely using access to aid as a weapon to control people and crush dissent. 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.


Rona Peligal, Africa director at Human Rights Watch .(London) - The Ethiopian government is using development aid to suppress political dissent by conditioning access to essential government programs on support for the ruling party, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch urged foreign donors to ensure that their aid is used in an accountable and transparent manner and does not support political repression.


The 105-page report, "Development without Freedom: How Aid Underwrites Repression in Ethiopia," documents the ways in which the Ethiopian government uses donor-supported resources and aid as a tool to consolidate the power of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).


"The Ethiopian government is routinely using access to aid as a weapon to control people and crush dissent," said Rona Peligal, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "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."


Ethiopia is one of the world's largest recipients of development aid, more than US$3 billion in 2008 alone. The World Bank and donor nations provide direct support to district governments in Ethiopia for basic services such as health, education, agriculture, and water, and support a "food-for-work" program for some of the country's poorest people. The European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany are the largest bilateral donors.


Local officials routinely deny government support to opposition supporters and civil society activists, including rural residents in desperate need of food aid. Foreign aid-funded "capacity-building" programs to improve skills that would aid the country's development are used by the government to indoctrinate school children in party ideology, intimidate teachers, and purge the civil service of people with independent political views.


Political repression was particularly pronounced during the period leading up to parliamentary elections in May 2010, in which the ruling party won 99.6 percent of the seats.


Despite government restrictions that make independent research difficult, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 200 people in 53 villages across three regions of the country during a six-month investigation in 2009. The problems Human Rights Watch found were widespread: residents reported discrimination in many locations.


Farmers described being denied access to agricultural assistance, micro-loans, seeds, and fertilizers because they did not support the ruling party. As one farmer in Amhara region told Human Rights Watch, "[Village] leaders have publicly declared that they will single out opposition members, and those identified as such will be denied ‘privileges.' By that they mean that access to fertilizers, ‘safety net' and even emergency aid will be denied."


Rural villagers reported that many families of opposition members were barred from participation in the food-for-work or "safety net" program, which supports 7 million of Ethiopia's most vulnerable citizens. Scores of opposition members who were denied services by local officials throughout the country reported the same response from ruling party and government officials when they complained: "Ask your own party for help."


Human Rights Watch also documented how high school students, teachers, and civil servants were forced to attend indoctrination sessions on ruling party ideology as part of the capacity-building program funded by foreign governments. Attendees at training sessions reported that they were intimidated and threatened if they did not join the ruling party. Superiors told teachers that ruling party membership was a condition for promotion and training opportunities. Education, especially schools and teacher training, is also heavily supported by donor funds.


"By dominating government at all levels, the ruling party controls all the aid programs," Peligal said. "Without effective, independent monitoring, international aid will continue to be abused to consolidate a repressive single-party state."


In 2005, the World Bank and other donors suspended direct budget support to the Ethiopian government following a post-election crackdown on demonstrators that left 200 people dead, 30,000 detained, and dozens of opposition leaders in jail. At the time, donors expressed fears of "political capture" of donor funds by the ruling party.


Yet aid was soon resumed under a new program, "Protection of Basic Services," that channeled money directly to district governments. These district governments, like the federal administration, are under ruling party control, yet are harder to monitor and more directly involved in day-to-day repression of the population.


During this period the Ethiopian government has steadily closed political space, harassed independent journalists and civil society activists into silence or exile, and violated the rights to freedom of association and expression. A new law on civil society activity, passed in 2009, bars nongovernmental organizations from working on issues related to human rights, good governance, and conflict resolution if they receive more than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources.


"The few independent organizations that monitored human rights have been eviscerated by government harassment and a pernicious new civil society law," Peligal said. "But these groups are badly needed to ensure aid is not misused."


As Ethiopia's human rights situation has worsened, donors have ramped up assistance. Between 2004 and 2008, international development aid to Ethiopia doubled. According to Ethiopian government data, the country is making strong progress on reducing poverty, and donors are pleased to support Ethiopia's progress toward the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Yet the price of that progress has been high.


When Human Rights Watch presented its findings to donor officials, many privately acknowledged the worsening human rights situation and the ruling party's growing authoritarian rule. Donor officials from a dozen Western government agencies told Human Rights Watch that they were aware of allegations that donor-supported programs were being used for political repression, but they had no way of knowing the extent of such abuse. In Ethiopia, most monitoring of donor programs is a joint effort alongside Ethiopian government officials.


Yet few donors have been willing to raise their concerns publicly over the possible misuse of their taxpayers' funds. In a desk study and an official response to Human Rights Watch, the donor consortium Development Assistance Group stated that their monitoring mechanisms showed that their programs were working well and that aid was not being "distorted." But no donors have carried out credible, independent investigations into the problem.


Human Rights Watch called on donor country legislatures and audit institutions to examine development aid to Ethiopia to ensure that it is not supporting political repression.


"In their eagerness to show progress in Ethiopia, aid officials are shutting their eyes to the repression lurking behind the official statistics," Peligal said. "Donors who finance the Ethiopian state need to wake up to the fact that some of their aid is contributing to human rights abuses."



Led by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party is a coalition of ethnic-based groups that came to power in 1991 after ousting the military government of Mengistu Haile Mariam. The government passed a new constitution in 1994 that incorporated fundamental human rights standards, but in practice many of these freedoms have been increasingly restricted during its 19 years in power.


Although the ruling party introduced multiparty elections soon after it came to power in 1991, opposition political parties have faced serious obstruction to their efforts to establish offices, organize, and campaign in national and local elections.


Eight-five percent of Ethiopia's population live in rural areas and, each year, 10 to 20 percent rely on international food relief to survive. Foreign development assistance to Ethiopia has steadily increased since the 1990s, with a temporary plateau during the two-year border war with Eritrea (1998-2000). Ethiopia is now the largest recipient of World Bank funds and foreign aid in Africa.


In 2008, total aid was US$3.3 billion. Of that, the United States contributes around $800 million, much of it in humanitarian and food aid; the European Union contributes $400 million; and the United Kingdom provides $300 million. Ethiopia is widely considered to be making good progress toward some of the UN Millennium Development Goals on reducing poverty, but much of the data originates with the government and is not independently verified.



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British aid failing to get through to those most in need.


British aid to Ethiopia is being denied to people in need, according to a Human Rights Watch report that accuses the Department for International Development (DfID) of failing to safeguard its £7.8 billion budget.


by Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent.



Britain provides more than half of all international contributions to Ethiopia's £2 billion a year national work-for-food scheme Photo: REUTERS Meles Zenawi, the country’s prime minister, had used a DfID-backed scheme to reward loyalty to his regime and punish dissidents who refused to support his government, the report said. Voters who backed the opposition were being denied food aid, fertilisers, loans and health care by officials who demanded support for the ruling party.


Britain provides more than half of all international contributions to Ethiopia’s £2 billion-a-year work-for-food scheme that is supposed to provide seven million people with enough food to survive. Human Rights Watch talked to scores of people who said they had been banned from the scheme because of their political views. “They want your life to be unbearable until you join the ruling party,” said one Ethiopian denied access to the aid fund.



Poor countries must prove what British aid is spent on, say ConservativesHuman Rights Watch said that DfID was foremost among international organisations that had turned a blind eye to abuse of the aid schemes. Other aid agencies said British officials were uniquely powerful in Addis Ababa but were blocking demands for reform. “We all have problems with DfID,” said a European aid official. “We are at the opposite end of the scale on many issues.”


A DfID spokesman said the allegations had been investigated but no evidence had been found. “We have found nothing that suggests systemic abuse of this nature. We don’t think there is widespread misuse of aid,” she said.


The Coalition has faced criticism from Tory back-benchers after it increased overseas aid by 37 per cent to £11 billion by 2011 while the rest of Whitehall faced budget cuts in the spending review. Andrew Mitchell, the Development Secretary, has ordered the establishment of an independent watchdog to evaluate aid spending in an effort to defuse criticism of the increased expenditure.


Whitehall’s links to Mr Meles have long been controversial. He was returned to power in a widely criticised general election in May when his party took 545 seats in the 547-member parliament.


Ethiopia received £165.5 million from Britain in direct help this year, the second largest grant behind India. Mr Meles was courted by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as an exemplary African leader, despite his anti-democratic credentials. The former guerrilla, who has led Ethiopia since 1991, was chairman of Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa.


Ben Rawlence, the researcher who wrote the report, said the regime undermined the effectiveness of the aid spent in Ethiopia. He said: “Aid spending has got to be transparent. You can’t go dropping large amounts of money into the treasury of authoritarian states because you can’t have development without freedom.”


The Ethiopian government yesterday attacked Human Rights Watch, accusing it of waging a campaign against its reputation.


“The allegations made by Human Rights Watch simply do not reflect reality,” it said. “Indeed this would appear to be an attempt by Human Rights Watch to blackmail the international community as part of its ongoing vendetta against the government of Ethiopia.”


Source- ailing-to-get-through-to-those-most-in-need.html

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by Jonathan Ewing-Source-


There are still quite a lot of companies interested in investing in the region, but all are being quite cautious. Heinrich believes that any company operating in an area of social and political tension can never hope to be neutral actors. Their presence and activities will always have an impact on the host community and society in general. The ******, he says, is a prime example.


Indeed, Paul Hebert, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Ethiopia from 2003-2008, believes the presence of the oil companies and their requirements for increased security following the ONLF attack in 2007 had made it much more difficult for the United Nations and other organizations to provide humanitarian assistance. “The oil companies were not the only force behind these kinds of difficulties, but they played a role almost as significant as the government or the ONLF in fueling the conflict Hebert says. “Their mere presence aggravatedthe situation at a critical time because of their de-facto alliance with the government as it continued its counterinsurgency campaign.”


Three months after the ONLF’s attack on Abole in April 2007, Hebert began receiving reports from a growing number of non-governmental organizations and locals in the region. The army, he read, had embarked on a vigorous counter-insurgency campaign against the ONLF. “I think [the government was] humiliated by the attack and that was why it overreacted, striking back so heavily. They wanted to show the oil industry that they had control of the region,” he says. By the middle of July, Hebert and his UN staff were becoming seriously concerned about the humanitarian situation. Food aid was not getting through, livestock markets were being closed, nutrition was a growing problem and people were beginning to suffer tremendously, according to Hebert and a senior western diplomat in Addis Ababa.


In a confidential report to his superiors, Hebert said that news was arriving at the UN mission of allegations of grave human rights violations including rape, arbitrary arrest and detention, extra-judicial execution, denial of rights to food, demolition of houses and disappearances of people. Reports were so extreme that he requested a meeting with the president of the Somali Regional State, Abdullahi Hassan.


“The meeting was cordial, but tense, and Hassan was very, very defensive,” Hebert recalls, adding that “the government was aware of the situation, but that they attributed the problems to drought, not fighting. They also defended the trade embargo which effectively closed cross-border trade with Somalia, Kenya and Somaliland, were only a short-term phenomenon, and that they were an “acceptable price” to pay to wean the local population from contraband, Hebert reported. Hebert then requested that the United Nations be allowed to undertake a mission to assess the situation, which got underway near the end of August and ran through the first week of September 2007. UN investigators would examine conditions from the capital of the Somali Regional State to the center of the region.


“Our plan was to run a mission that included a humanitarian as well as a human rights assessment,” he says. But the meeting with Omar was heating up, and becoming increasingly edgy. “I assured [him] that our mission would merely be about assessing the effect of this fighting on the civilian population and that we weren’t interested in assigning blame,” Hebert recalls. After explaining his objective, Omar stood and calmly accused two of Hebert’s national staff—Ethiopian UN workers who had been hired locally—of being members of the ONLF.


“This kind of accusation was very serious, and I asked [Omar and his staff] for proof, which they said they had, but which they declined to share,” he says. “We learned later that other members of the staff were threatened and warned by federal police and security against working for the UN and participating in the mission. It was my feeling at the time that the government was bluffing, but I also knew that I had no way to protect them if push came to shove, because they were national staff—meaning they were citizens of Ethiopia and bound by Ethiopian law.”


The government delayed, and finally, after about 10 days, approved the UN mission. Hebert’s plan at the time, three years ago, was to travel south from Jijiga, and on into the heart of the Somali region of Ethiopia. He would visit a number of villages and towns along the Jijiga-Gode road in an attempt to get an idea of what was happening in the five geographical zones— Degehabur, Fik, Gode, Korahe and Warder— where military activity was ongoing. The convoy did not, however, visit the areas around Shilabo, which included towns and villages that were later found to have been hardest hit in the fighting. In many of the towns, people told the UN assessment team that government soldiers and security had only recently passed through, warning people that they should say nothing negative to the UN team.


“We knew, of course, that this must have stopped some people from talking to us, but others went ahead,” Hebert recalls. “We couldn’t corroborate all of the information. But the pattern held that people were being abused and then coerced by the government into keeping their mouths shut. Food distribution, we later found out, was staged. After we left, authorities went and took all of the food back.”


The mission found large numbers of Ethiopian troops camped in nearly all the towns and villages they visited. In most of their interviews with civilians, Hebert and his team encountered a pervasive fear for individual security. Many expressed the frustration of being caught between the Ethiopian military and the ONLF. This conflict was bringing their families to the brink of destitution. In the end, Hebert and his team finished the mission and delivered the final report. The Ethiopian government felt it was biased, but agreed to let Hebert publish the report without official opposition.


“We also produced a human rights report on the alleged beatings and torture, which the government asked us not to release publicly. The government said they would accept the humanitarian report, but if we released both the humanitarian and human rights report, they would reject both. So it was basically a threat,” he says. The human rights report was never issued.


Improvements…At the Margins


Some, in the UN and other humanitarian organizations, believe that the situation in the ****** has improved—but only marginally, and with progress best characterized as two steps forward, one step back. The poor conditions of refugees arriving in Kenya, and in great numbers, suggest that the fighting continues. Earlier this year, the ONLF claimed to have strengthened to the point where it was able to take over the Hilala natural gas field in eastern ******, operated by Petronas—a claim rejected by the Ethiopian government.


Vincent Lelei took over in Ethiopia after Hebert retired from the United Nations. Humanitarian access to the ****** region is granted, he says, on a case-by case basis after extensive discussions with the government, which all too often says it must consider the entire scope of issues that need to be managed in a particular area. And most often, the determining issues are security-related.


This “means that we are able to deliver assistance, but not as effectively as we would wish to. We have to reduce our expectations at every stage,” says Lelei. “We continue to work with the government in providing assistance, but fundamentally this is the issue: They want to make sure that humanitarian assistance goes to the individuals who are supposed to receive aid. And they want to make sure that humanitarian assistance in the region is not given to the people that the government is convinced are a problem, which is the people who the government is engaged in armed combat with—and that is the ****** National Liberation Front.” As for the oil companies, they do not, indeed have never, provided any meaningful humanitarian assistance to the villages where they are, each day, changing the way of life. The beatings and the killings continue.


Situation Impossible


One 41-year-old father of eight from the ****** now lives in the Ifo refugee camp in Kenya, north of the city of Garissa. Back home, he was a goat herder, but later took on odd jobs to support his family. His situation, he says, was impossible. Like most people, he felt as if he were being used.


In December 2002, he was beaten by the ONLF for not joining the militia to fight the Ethiopian government. In 2006, he was beaten by local militia and police for working with Médeçins Sans Frontières. He was beaten again that year, this time by the government, he says, because he worked with members of a U.S. Army detachment, helping to build a watering area for the local herders and their animals. The police arrested him, took him to their barracks and tortured him.


“I was placed between two army trucks and tied—one arm to each truck. A white, shining sword was produced and placed at my neck [and I was asked]: ‘What did you tell the Americans?’” Probably the same story he would tell the oil companies if he could. The only real way to change patterns that are so deeply engraved in the customs and practices of a government or a people is to hurt them profoundly. And the only effective way that may be accomplished is to take away the lubricant that makes it all possible—revenue from the only item of value this poor land has to barter and that the world wants at all: oil. The oil companies, however, remain. And their funds continue to flow.


Jonathan Ewing is a Stockholm-based investigative reporter who traveled to East Africa on a grant from the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, researching the relationship between the government of Ethiopia, the separatist rebels, the petroleum industry and the global interests they represent.




Picture via Flickr, by gara.

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Originally posted by Abdulladiif Al-Fiqih:

Heinrich believes that any company operating in an area of social and political tension can never hope to be neutral actors. Their presence and activities will always have an impact on the host community and society in general.

Very informative analysis and reporting in the articles. Bottom line is any reputable multinational company must understand by making any capital investment in a hostile/warzone territory, they are taken a side in the conflict and are directly responsible for any repression and violence against the indigenous peasants. The O*gaden is no exception. Its great some companies are now rethinking their investment strategy and are not contributing to the violence.

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Resolve Ogadēn Coalition is a national non-profit organization devoted to developing and maintaining a just and lasting solution to the long standing conflict in the Ogadēn region through the implementation of comprehensive policies that ensure the development and protection of the socioeconomic, political, and human rights of the region.


hadalka xigmadiisu waa ha xorowdo..

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