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Ethiopian Donors May Further Probe Claims That Aid Was Misused

Major donors to Ethiopia may renew a probe into claims the government has used aid to silence the opposition after Human Rights Watch called on them to investigate its allegations further.

In an October report, New York-based Human Rights Watch said the government used “donor-supported programs” to control political opponents by denying them access to land, credit, fertilizers, food aid and other resources. In an e-mailed statement on Dec. 17, the group called on donors to investigate the claims themselves.

The Development Assistance Group Ethiopia, which is based in Addis Ababa and made up of 26 donors, met recently to discuss the allegations, Sandra Baldwin, deputy director of the U.K. Department for International Development Ethiopia, said by phone on Dec. 18. Baldwin didn’t rule out field research to investigate specific claims of abuse.

The donor group “has been actively discussing the additional work to follow up on the earlier” report into the abuse allegations, Ken Ohashi, the World Bank’s country director for Ethiopia, said in an e-mailed response to questions. A government spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

The group said in an October statement it didn’t “concur with the conclusions” of Human Rights Watch’s report that alleged widespread, systematic abuse of development aid.

“Our study did not generate any evidence of systematic or widespread distortion,” said the donor group, which includes the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the U.S.

Human Rights Watch says the Horn of Africa nation, which has been ruled by former rebels since 1991, is one of the world’s largest recipients of foreign aid, getting about $3.3 billion annually from 2004 through 2008.

In May elections, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and its allies won 545 out of 547 parliamentary seats. A European Union observation mission said the poll “did not meet certain international commitments.” The government has rejected criticism and said the process was free and fair.

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