Response to the Guardian’s article on DFID’s aid to Ethiopia
January 16, 2013
Your article on DFID’s support for Ethiopia’s development is very misleading. (UK tenders to train Ethiopian paramilitaries accused of abuses, online on January 10, 2013, in the print edition on January 11, 2013)
Blanket condemnation of the federal and regional government efforts to protect civilians of Ethiopia’s Somali region from atrocities committed by ONLF terrorists is unfair. The difficult job they do in a region which borders Somalia, where al-Shabaab and international groups were freely operating hand-in-glove until recently, should be given due recognition.
The security forces of the region, whose members are drawn from the local community, have helped defend that community and territory from the criminal acts of those who kill innocent civilians and destroy property, which is why the vast majority of the region is now peaceable and beginning to thrive. DFID recognises this, which is why it is funding police training. There isn’t a police force in the world which does not require regular training sessions so it may live up to its responsibilities in its interaction with the people it serves.
Your report cites Amnesty International’s concern at “any engagement” with the Liyu police. Would Amnesty prefer that no further training was given? DFID can be proud that it is assisting with such valuable training and other development support in key domains such as health, education and provision of clean water.
Reporting on the Horn of Africa by Human Rights Watch is generally biased and anti-government. It takes at face value allegations that are made by terrorist groups, with no on-the-ground verification, yet dismisses out of hand government statements and well-documented cases of abuses by terrorist groups. Terrorists have been murdering citizens and government officials and destroying property in the Somali region for years, yet HRW has been largely silent on all this.
Some organisations appear to be complicit in the violence as they have become the voice of terrorist organisations which are affiliated to al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda.
Your article failed to mention that the vast majority of the opposition ONLF (Ogaden National Liberation Front) are in fact talking to the government with a view to laying down their arms. Others from among them have already done so and now work with the regional administration in its protracted pursuit to improve people’s livelihoods.
But a few ONLF members are still bent on creating chaos in the Somali region. Some of them operate freely in the United Kingdom from where they run their public relations campaigns. But it should be clearly understood that they are not supported by the overwhelming majority of those who actually live in the Somali region where they are working on a wide range of development projects.
Human Rights Watch has, in the past, accused the Ethiopian government of using aid for political purposes, but it was proven wrong by our partners who monitor closely how funds are spent. Ethiopia is recognised as one of the countries which make the most effective use of bilateral and multi-lateral aid, always prioritising pro-poor policies, with excellent results; suffice to examine, in the Somali region alone, the number of schools, vocational colleges, the new hospitals and hundreds of clinics and health stations and the millions who now have access to clean water. Towns and villages throughout the region are now connected by road to the capital Jijiga, which has become a dynamic city effectively linked to both Addis Ababa and to the outside world by an international airport.
Rest assured that the DFID funds will be well spent on key priorities. This is good news and deserves to be reported as such.
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