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Ethiopian Opposition Faults Donor Report on ‘Manipulated’ Aid

Ethiopia’s opposition Oromo People’s Congress criticized a report by a donor group into allegations that the government manipulated foreign aid for political gain ahead of general elections in May.

The Development Assistance Group, an Addis Ababa-based body comprising 26 agencies that give assistance to Ethiopia, examined four programs that receive about $1.5 billion a year from donors. Its report found that two of the four programs “face important challenges” and concluded that while all four have accountability systems that provide checks on “distortion for political gain,” they should be strengthened further.

Merera Gudina, chairman of the OPC, said he was “not enthusiastic” about the report.

“I am fed up of complaining to donors when they are consciously refusing to know and/or knowing the truth but they are refusing to face the reality,” Merera said in an e-mailed response to questions. The OPC is part of the so-called Medrek alliance of Ethiopia’s main opposition parties.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and its allies won all but two of the 547 seats in the Horn of Africa country’s parliament in the elections. A European Union election observer mission said in a May 25 report the vote did “not meet certain international commitments.”

Opposition parties and foreign non-governmental organizations alleged before the vote that individuals were denied aid because of political affiliation; the distribution of aid was handed to party members; and some areas received a disproportionate share of aid for political reasons.

‘Overstepping Responsibilities’

The U.K. Department for International Development-led study didn’t investigate “specific allegations” because donors felt that risked “overstepping our responsibilities and remit.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn called the report a “careful, thorough and rather bureaucratic response” to “highly charged allegations.”

The Ethiopian government’s commitment to the study and to implementing its findings was “encouraging,” Shinn said in an e-mailed response to questions on Aug. 11.

Ethiopia’s Finance and Communications Ministries didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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