Ethiopia Opposition Accuses Government of Using Aid for Vote

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Ethiopia Opposition Accuses Government of Using Aid for Vote

Unread post by ኦሽንoc » 11 Nov 2009 20:58

Ethiopia Opposition Accuses Government of Using Aid for Votes

By Jason McLure

Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Ethiopia’s opposition today accused Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government of using its access to foreign-funded, anti-poverty programs to gain support for the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. Members of the opposition are routinely denied benefits to relief food, microfinance loans and access to civil service jobs, the Forum for Democratic Dialogue, a coalition of eight political parties said.

“Our members, regardless of qualifying to benefit from these services, are by and large denied access,” Beyene Petros, a member of parliament from the FDD-affiliated United Ethiopian Democratic Forces, said in a phone interview today. “What they say is this is the EPRDF’s and let Beyene Petros get it for you. That’s the kind of challenge our members are facing.”

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Meles Zenawi

Among the affected programs is Ethiopia’s Safety Net welfare program, which provides food and cash to 7.6 million people in the country’s poorest regions, according to a press release from the FDD. The program is financed by donors including the U.S, the EU, the World Bank and the U.K.

University graduates have to register with the ruling party in order to secure jobs in the civil service or as teachers in Ethiopia’s educational system, which is funded in part by European aid agencies, said Beyene.

A spokesman for Meles’ EPRDF, which has ruled Ethiopia since 1991, rejected the allegations.

“These programs are not dependent on party membership,” said Sekuture Getachew, a spokesman for the ruling EPRDF, said in a phone interview today from the capital, Addis Ababa. “They are given according to known specifications and criteria. We don’t have this intention to take people hostage for their jobs or for their opportunities.”

Willing to Negotiate

The EPRDF is willing to negotiate with the FDD on issues related to national elections scheduled for May, Sekuture said. It is not willing to negotiate on the issue of jailed opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa, nor on the composition of the country’s national electoral board, he said.

“Birtukan is not a political issue,” he said.

Birtukan, who was jailed following Ethiopia’s disputed 2005 elections along with other opposition leaders, was released under a pardon agreement in 2007. She was jailed again in December after the government accused her of violating terms of her pardon, though her supporters say she was jailed because she was viewed as a political threat to the ruling party.

Groups including International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have criticized Ethiopia for what they say are its worsening record on human rights and democratic freedoms.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason McLure in Addis Ababa via Johannesburg at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false"

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