Ethiopia Used Aid Money for Repression, Human Rights Watch Says

Ethiopia’s ruling party used international aid to suppress dissent before elections in May, which it won with a landslide, Human Rights Watch said in a report on its website today.

The New York-based group said Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front used “donor- supported programs” to “control the population, punish dissent, and undermine political opponents.”

Local officials denied opposition supporters access to seeds, fertilizer, agricultural land, credit, food aid and other resources, the organization said in its third critical report on the Horn of Africa Nation this year. The report was based on interviews with more than 200 people in 53 villages between June and December 2009.

The ruling alliance won 545 out of 547 seats in parliament in May. The European Union election observer mission said in a May 25 report that the vote did “not meet certain international commitments.” The Ethiopian government has not yet commented on the latest report by Human Rights Watch and no one was available for comment at the Communications Ministry when Bloomberg called seeking comment.

Human Rights Watch said Ethiopia is the second-largest recipient of foreign aid in the world, receiving about $3 billion annually.

Louise Scura, acting Ethiopia country director for the World Bank, said its officials had been “engaging directly” with Human Rights Watch and that they “take these type of things very seriously.”

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