American/European Aid Empowers Abusive Ethiopian Government

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

The United States, Britain, and the European Union have been the largest donors to Ethiopian development, but reports of abuse of citizens within the country and of misuse of aid have failed to initiate action from Western officials. Ethiopia receives billions of dollars in development aid annually, and recently it has been given additional emergency aid during a drought. Much as they did with anti-Soviet countries during the Cold War, the Western powers continue to align with Ethiopia for its anti-terrorist stance and because it commands a strategic geographic position in the unstable Horn of Africa.

Most of the aid goes through government channels for distribution, and members of the political opposition are denied aid for failing to support the ruling political party led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Using the resources provided through foreign aid, the government is able to buy political support, and the billions of dollars for development does not go to those who desperately need it.

Ana Gomez, a Portuguese member of the European parliament, was the chief election observer for the EU during the 2005 election when Meles Zenawi was elected as the Ethiopian Prime Minister. She accused EU commission officials of downplaying problems in her reports about the country’s election and ignoring her reports of abuse. She stated, “What really surprised me was the feedback I got from Brussels… the department for development of the commission was completely rewriting my own report and was actually toning down, watering down, all the most difficult passages which were detailing the situation and the repression of the opposition… I was really shocked.”

Likewise, former EU Ambassador for Ethiopia Timothy Clarke sent emails to top officials in the EU. He described how Zenawi’s troops used violence against citizens supporting his opposition, but the EU did not launch an in-depth investigation. Additional credible sources and many individual accounts attest to widespread killing and rape as tools used by Ethiopian government forces.

The Human Rights Watch has reported the use of aid as a political tool, but this report has also been ignored. For example, two small villages outside of a major town did not received aid for their desperate needs, but the inhabitants within the larger town were adequately taken are of. Locals who oppose the ruling party of Ethiopia say they are denied assistance because of their political stance.



“Ethiopia ‘Using Aid as a Weapon of Oppression,’” Angus Stickler, BBC News, August 5, 2011,


“Revealed: Aid to Ethiopia Increases Despite Serious Human Rights Abuses,” Angus Stickler and Caelainn Barr, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, August 6, 2011,


Student Researchers: Mallory Buth and Elaine Wiley

Faculty Instructor: Kevin Howley, Ph. D.

Evaluator: Brett O’bannon, Ph. D., Political Science and Conflict Studies

DePauw University