Thursday, June 13, 2024

Washington Update: Food Assistance to Ethiopia Disrupted

Washington, DC – The actions of the government of Abiy Ahmed are a disgrace that should outrage the conscience of decent people everywhere. Abiy’s government has orchestrated, enabled, and conducted a massive theft of American and international food aid – probably the largest theft of humanitarian aid in history.

In response, the U.S. and international donors have paused food deliveries to over 20 million people in Ethiopia who rely on assistance for survival.

The greed of those who have diverted and stolen food aid puts millions of innocents at risk today and threatens to inflict lasting harm by undermining support for humanitarian assistance. Revelations about massive fraud orchestrated by senior members of the Ethiopian government come at a time when Republicans in Washington are challenging the notion that the U.S. should help those in need worldwide.

On June 30, the U.S. announced that incremental progress on human rights had led it to lift some aid restrictions on Ethiopia, but food aid will only resume once measures are put in place to ensure that it gets to the people who need it.

Reports that hundreds of Ethiopians have died in recent weeks because of the disruption of food assistance understate the scope of the tragedy.

U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, last week released the following statement on the diversion of U.S. food aid in Ethiopia:

“It is deplorable that U.S. government food aid, which was intended to help prevent the mass starvation of innocent civilians in Ethiopia, has been diverted by criminals in a carefully coordinated, widespread, and systematic scheme to profit materially and strategically from that aid. This should infuriate every American taxpayer. The first principle of effective foreign aid is to do no harm – which the Biden Administration has failed miserably to do here.

“U.S. agencies have been busy highlighting their self-proclaimed progress at getting food to those in need and ending a war that has destroyed millions of innocent lives. Yet, we now know that leaders at the top of these organizations in Washington, New York, and Rome were aware that implementers on the ground could not guarantee the aid was getting into the right hands. It adds insult to injury that this occurred as the world experiences a global food shortage. This is unacceptable.

“The issue of food diversion is just part of a pattern of behavior with the Ethiopian government. It is foolish to think that the Ethiopian government is working with us in good faith – and we cannot be fooled again. The lack of oversight and guardrails of U.S. humanitarian assistance should not stand.”

The massive corruption that has caused the world community to pause food aid is one of many horrors the Abiy government is afflicting on its people. Other crimes the government is committing or allowing to occur include ethnic cleansing, rampant and unpunished violence, repression of attempts at peaceful political organization, and censorship and harassment of the news media.

The U.S. and the world community must do everything possible to create secure, reliable procedures for distributing food in Ethiopia. And they must work with Ethiopian civil society to accelerate a transition to a legitimate government that can stop the violence, heal the country, and address the underlying causes of the violence and economic devastation.

Author profile
Mesfin Mekonen

Mesfin Mekonen is the author of Washington Update, a bulletin about Ethiopia’s struggle for freedom and prosperity, and founder of MM Management.

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