Sunday, November 12

The Artful Dodgers: Vickie Huddleston and the International Donor Community


It seems that Ethiopia is again the lucky recipient of American aid--this time to the tune of $37 million USD (or 321,900,000 million birr). This donation, coupled with the recent announcement of an additional US donation of $250 million (to fight HIV/AIDS) however, also unfortunately amounts to increased endorsement of one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships.

True to form, US Ambassador Vickie Huddleston was on the scene to represent the generosity of USAID, proudly proclaiming that “the United States Government remains committed to working in collaboration with other donors and the Government of Ethiopia to support programs that address the needs of the Ethiopian people”… Needs, that apparently (despite USAID reports “that improved governance…is essential to enable economic growth and address the challenge of famine vulnerability, hunger, and poverty in Ethiopia”) overlook the most vital neccessity of democratic rule --through free and fair elections and the release of all political prisoners, government transparency, and national policy reform.

Unfortunately the task of addressing the negative government policies and practices largely responsible for this perpetual state of humanitarian crisis, has also proven too much for even the partnering UN World Food Program to attempt. Though the WFP in Ethiopia continues to appeal for increased assistance, the driving forces behind the overwhelming national need remain skillfully and publicly avoided.

Private conversation with an in-country WFP official some months ago, however, has proven far more insightful:

“Off the record”, this worker spoke at great length about the severely detrimental effects of the current land tenure system, and about the incomprehensible absence of the basic agricultural technologies required to achieve both domestic food security and increased export potential (given the international applause received by both the ADLI and SDPRP policies of Meles Zenawi). This person expressed absolute disgust at the widespread federal corruption regularly witnessed within the aid community here--in the form of official embezzlement, deliberately incorrect damage assessment/regional reports (either exaggerated to attract surplus aid or under-reported to feign government competency), inadequate leadership capacity, regional channeling of “aid dollars”, and the abuse of vital argricultural supplies as a means of “vote harvesting” and political manipulation. Then…sadly, this generally-likeable official hesitated, swallowed hard, and apologetically described the ‘delicacies’ faced by such a large, essential humanitarian agency--the pre-requisite of “government cooperation in order to gain permission to provide emergency aid”, and thus the regrettable “impossibility” of denouncing such deeds to the international donor community.

I recently overheard another WFP field worker adamantly ‘officially’ reject the suggestion of economic sanctions in reponse to the mounting political oppression, only later to insist over dinner with friends that economic sanctions would, in fact, be the best way to necessarily oust the repressive EPRDF regime! I additionally witnessed this same person--whom I know to be personally “horrified by the current oppressive political climate and severe escalation of national human rights violations”--professionally offer only a feeble, “No comment” on the subject when approached by a member of the international press.


Of course, we know all too well that a government as deeply entrenched as the EPRDF cannot be overthrown in a day and that the humanitarian concerns in the interim must be addressed, but that does NOT, in my mind, excuse the resounding silence of the international donor community in recent years.

1.If it is common knowledge that the current Ethiopian government consistently ranks among the world’s worst in terms of corruption (placing in the bottom 10th percentile, according to World Bank governance indicators)

and

2.If the majority of foreign aid dollars do (as generally accepted within the national aid community), amount to little more than direct financial support for a brutal dictator and his henchmen—essentially facilitating the continued harassment, torture, imprisonment and murder of innocent civilians throughout this country

How can such a gap possibly remain between “personal” and “professional”
opinion?

It remains to be seen how members of the international community can continue to justify the ‘luxury’ of simultaneous opposing stances when millions of lives are literally at stake! For who, if not they, are in the position to accurately relay the information to the donor community that will in turn effect serious intervention, government accountability and reform?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

It is quite a report which once again discloses the stupid America's foriegn policy which has been in play since time immemorial

Anonymous said...

thank you.

Gooch said...

You know that unless democracy activists in Ethiopia and in the diaspora get their act together, the donors will never take a stronger line on Meles.

Instead, they will, as usual, hopefully (false hope, I think) stick to the status quo, knowing that most likely in the end, there'll be polarisation to the extent that destability and chaos will result.

Up to democracy activists, including the opposition, to get our act together.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mandam/sir
Thank you for your continued commitment to be a voice for the voice less. I have no doubt that you go home and sleep well knowing very well that you are a voice for the millions of people who are silenced by tyrant. Be proud of your action; be proud of your self. I salute you.

Having said that I want to say that I continue to be dismayed by the hypocrisy I observe among the international donors the "AID" community. It is shameful and unprofessional. . Some of them are so blinded by their closeness to the regime that they do not even say a word that remotely implies concern for Human Rights. They say so much about Colombia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe but say not even a word about the brutality of the regime in Ethiopia.

However they may want to package it, support for tyranny is no thing but that. Such help kills children, leaves Children with out parents, pushes women to perpetual poverty, and continues to be responsible for misery on the already suffering Ethiopians. Is that fair, is this what we really want to do to the children who walk barefoot and with empty stomach in the 21st century?

How could one live with that, how could a person who comes from a democratic society who has self respect and believes in EQUALITY keep silent and be a direct or indirect supporter of such blatant action. Is that fair?

Why would one travel all the way to Ethiopia and be the right hand of a regime that violates the basics dignity of humanity?

However, it is important to also acknowledge that the number of aid agencies who are speaking up openly i.e GOAL, Action Aid, is now on the rise. Those of us living in the western world should continue to expose these "lords of poverty" aggressively.
I and a group of us are doing our best. There is no let up.

Thank you and may god bless you.

Anonymous said...

it breaks my heart seeing the so called international community being so soft on one of the world's worest dictatorship.

Isubalew Bishaw said...

I am very sudden by the International community specialy the US. The so called National Interest is the reason for such action. People who live abroad - including me - have been unhappy every minutes because of what the current government of Ethiopia is doing. Hsitory shwed us no body help our country except the british doing the Italian aggression and then they robed the country when they left. God is our saver.

Anonymous said...

Lewit, you made me cry...I think it is the combination of the joy of feeling understood by some stranger, and the things you expose in your post.

As Gooch said above, it all boils down to us - Ethiopians. The presence of the international community in Ethiopia misled all of us into believing that when the government commits atrocities, they will speak up and won't let it happen. But we have been proven wrong time and time again. It appears that the aid agencies are short-sighted in their concept of aid. The poor keep dying because of some inefficient government policy or due to repression despite the Wheat and Oil being delivered to them by the aid agencies. When are the aid agencies going to realize that their silence over these matters is self-defeating? And if they do realize that already, are they really there to help or just to polish the images of donor nations?

That being said, yes, we have got to take back the matters of our country back to our hands. We have got to let America and its agents, such as the UN, the European Union and the likes be themselves. Every one of them are there for their own interests, which means that if keeping silent over innocents' deaths or even helping it take place is in their interest, yes they are going to conform! We have got to cut out our expectations for these nations and agents and take our problems to our own hands. Its time!

Anonymous said...

And thank you so much Lewit! May God bless you for caring for the voiceless! May God protect you and your discendants from ever being in the kind of situation Ethiopians are in their country today! And do not be discouraged. And I hope you realize that Meles Zenawi aignt your moma's dictator. He's a whole new animal...like a shit house rat, he does his things and goes back to his hole - the hole of "talking" democracy, the hole of "admitting there's been glitches in governance" and "promising to improve", the hole of playing donors like a guitar, etc. So be careful and be on the lookout for their tricks. Be smarter and don't go back before finishing what you have set out to do!