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US, UK concerned over Ethiopia's alleged aid abuse.

By Tesfa-alem Tekle November 24, 2009 (ADDIS ABABA) -- United states and British officials expressed concern over complaints by country's opposition members that the Ethiopian government is politicizing foreign-funded humanitarian assistance, using it as a weapon to retain power in next election. Ethiopia's biggest opposition political coalition, the Forum for Democratic Dialogue, (FDD-MEDREK) last week accused Prime minister Meles Zenawi-led government saying that its members are routinely being denied access to foreign aid. The opposition alleged that the ruling EPRDF party is only allowing its members to be embraced in country's food-for-work scheme, the productive safety net program to gain support. Though there is no separate confirmation yet to support the allegation Ethiopia denies, US and British officials in a visit here in Ethiopia over the past few days said that governments of their respective country are very much aware of the complaints and demanded probe into it. "We are very much concerned about it," Mr Karl Wycoff, United Sates deputy assistant secretary of state, told reporters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. "We are aware of the reports and we take such reports very, very seriously."

The US official said that his country will increase inspections of food aid deliveries to Ethiopia. A similar reaction was also heard from Britain's state minister for development. "I have heard allegations from the international community about distribution of food aid and the safety net programme and I have already raised those accusations with the deputy prime minister" Gareth Thomas said at a news conference in the capital. "These allegations should be investigated thoroughly. The Ethiopian government said if evidence is produced that they would investigate and that was encouraging." Britain is the largest donor country to Ethiopia's productive safety net program. It has funneled $119 million this year alone for the program. However the British official has hinted that a possible measure could be taken if the growing allegations by oppositions are proven. Thomas said Britain had made no decision to suspend aid to Ethiopia but that it could take "tough decisions" if necessary. Ethiopia State Minister for Disaster Management and Food Security Mitiku Kasa, has blasted the allegation saying totally ''baseless allegation'' "Government has no intention to discriminate against the poor based on such grounds. After all, it is the community that is mandated to select who should be involved in the programme," he said. "The programme targets the community and government doesn't get involved in the selection process. It has nothing to do with politics or political ideology. It's all absolutely owned by the community. It is the community that has a say in this programme," he said. Currently Some 7 million Ethiopians heavily rely on the Productive Safety Net Program. Ethiopians will go to polls in May next year. Ethiopian officials say that they are serious about holding a fair and democratic election after one disputed national election in 2005 led to post-election violence that killed nearly 200 people. (ST)

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Publication:Sudan Tribune (Sudan)
Date:Nov 25, 2009
Words:504
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