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Ethiopia: Food for Famine and Thought!

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition

G8At the recent 2012 G8 Food Security Summit in Washington, D.C., Abebe Gellaw, a young Washington-based Ethiopian journalist, stood up in the gallery and thunderously proclaimed to dictator Meles Zenawi, “… Food is nothing without  freedom…” Is he right?

When President Obama invited the leaders of Ghana, Tanzania, Benin and Zenawi to the Summit  on May 18, few expected any meaningful outcomes. A White House statement on the Summit declared: “The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is a shared commitment to achieve sustained and inclusive agricultural growth and raise 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years by aligning the commitments of Africa’s leadership to drive effective country plans and policies for food security; the commitments of private sector partners to increase investments where the conditions are right; and the commitments of the G-8 to expand Africa’s potential for rapid and sustainable agricultural growth.” To implement the “New Alliance” and spark a Green Revolution in Africa, dozens of global food companies, including multinational giants Cargill, Dupont, Monsanto, Kraft, Unilever, Syngenta AG, have signed a “Private Sector Declaration of Support for African Agricultural Development”.

The vast majority of Ethiopians eke out a living as smallholder farmers. According to a 2010 USAID report, eight of every ten Ethiopians live in rural areas with average land holdings of 0.93 hectare. A 2011 report by the Oakland Institute  (OI) stated that Zenawi’s regime has “transferred at least 3,619,509 ha of land to investors, although the actual number may be higher.” These “lease” transfers (for 99 years) are handed out to companies from India, China, Saudi Arabia and 36 other countries for pennies per hectare. The OI further  reported that “displacement from farmland is widespread, and the vast majority of locals receive no compensation.” The displaced farmers who have lost their ancestral lands to “leases” are mostly indigenous minority peoples.

In 2011, Africa imported $50 billion worth of food from the U.S. and Europe. Food prices in Africa are 200-300 percent higher than global prices, which means higher profit margins for multinationals that produce and distribute food. With a steady growth in global population, the prospect of transforming Africa into vast commercialized farms is mouthwatering for global agribusinesses. The “New Alliance for Food Security” will accelerate at warp speed the “transfer” of hundreds of millions of hectares of arable African land to Cargill, Dupont, Monsanto, Kraft, Unilever, Syngenta AG and the dozens of other signatory multinationals. Working jointly with Africa’s corrupt dictators, these multinationals will “liberate” the land from Africans just like the 19th Century scramble for Africa; but will they liberate Africa from the scourge of hunger, famine, starvation and poverty?

A Brief Lesson in African History

Berlin confIn 1894,  fourteen European and other countries including the U.S. (the “G-14” of the era) held a land grab conference in Berlin to “save” the Dark Continent. The publicity cover for the conference was the liberation of Africa from the slave trade and the need to undertake a civilizing mission. To that end, the Berlin Conference passed hollow resolutions. But the real agenda was to carve up Africa between the European powers peacefully and without the need for internecine imperialistic wars. The Scramble for Africa gave Britain a nice slice of Africa stretching from Cape-to-Cairo. France gobbled up much of western Africa. King Leopold II of Belgium took personal possession of the Congo. Portugal grabbed Mozambique and Angola. Italy snagged Somalia and laid claim to parts of Ethiopia.

Ironically, the G-8’s “New Alliance” smacks of the old Scramble for Africa. The G-8 wants to liberate Africa from hunger, famine and starvation by facilitating the handover of millions of hectares of Africa’s best land to global multinationals in Ethiopia, Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Mali, Senegal, Tanzania, Sudan, Nigeria and  Ghana, among others. Is history repeating itself in Africa? Only the people of Madagascar have been able to successfully fight back and rescue their country from the clutches of the international land grabbers by dumping their president.

Ethiopian Hunger Games

When it comes to famine and starvation in Ethiopia, the standard response by the ruling regime and its international donors is to deny, evade and sugarcoat the whole thing in clever euphemisms (calling it “severe malnutrition, “food insecurity”, etc.; see my commentary, African Hunger Games at Camp David ), blame droughts and natural forces and endlessly supply food handouts. Bad governance, dictatorships  and corruption are rarely blamed for the predictable and recurrent famines and starvation in Ethiopia.

Last week, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Ethiopia announced that “3.2 million people are food insecure in Ethiopia” and that it needs an additional US$183 million to provide emergency assistance. At the same time, Mitiku Kassa, Zenawi’s official responsible for agriculture, blamed the “food insecurity” on drought: “Irregularity in rainfall seasons resulting in problems of such a kind is not a new thing to us. We faced it last year and a year before that and we are managing it so far… The country has enough resources and mechanisms in place to deal with it this time, though.” The  mechanism in place is beggary proficiently practiced as a high  art form by Zenawi’s regime over the past two decades. A little over a month ago, the U.S. pledged to provide nearly $200 million in additional humanitarian aid to Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. In 2011, the U.S. provided more than $1.1 billion in humanitarian aid. Ethiopia received more than US$3 billion in 2008, making that country the largest recipient of development aid in Africa.

To say that Ethiopia will continue to face chronic “food insecurity” is like predicting the sun will rise tomorrow. “Food insecurity” (a/k/a famine) in Ethiopia is expected to reach biblical proportions by 2050.  In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau made the catastrophic prediction that Ethiopia’s population by 2050 will more than triple to 278 million. That did not stop Zenawi from declaring a crushing victory on famine in 2011: “We have devised a plan which will enable us to produce surplus and be able to feed ourselves by 2015 without the need for food aid.” Zenawi’s plan to “produce surplus” is to stretch out cupped palms for handouts of crumbs left over from exports by Karuturi Global, Saudi Star, Cargill, Monsanto… and the rest.

It is manifest that with the “New Alliance”, the U.S. and the other G8 countries have willfully blinded themselves to the moral hazard of endlessly aiding famine victims in Africa and unashamedly accepted the moral bankruptcy of endlessly aiding African dictators. It is axiomatic for them that providing endless handouts to impoverished and famished Africans is their divinely ordained “burden”, to borrow a word from the poet Rudyard Kipling who romanticized British colonialism. But they are now playing a far more sophisticated and deadly “hunger game” in Africa. They want to use multinational food conglomerates to “save” Africa from starvation by 1) subsidizing  these giant agribusinesses to dump their agricultural surpluses in famine-stricken African countries, and 2) by greasing the hands of Africa’s corrupt dictators so that these multinationals could “lease” hundreds of millions of acres of Africa’s most arable land to cultivate export crops that command high prices on the global commodities markets, without contributing much to the domestic African market to alleviate endemic hunger. The “New Alliance” is a brilliant strategy that will sustain the decades long vicious cycle of dependence and food aid addiction in Africa while displacing and severely undercutting the productive capacity of  the African smallholder farmers to deal with famine on their own.

Keeping Them Honest!

khanIt is noteworthy that few in the mainstream U.S. or international media paid any attention to the proceedings of the “New Alliance” food Summit. Even the international humanitarian organizations thought it was a publicity stunt. Oxfam was dismissive: “The New Alliance is neither new nor a true alliance. The rhetoric invokes small-scale producers, particularly women, but the plan must do more to bring them to the table.”  ActionAid was instructive: “While the New Alliance touts the role of the private sector, as President Obama said, this must include even the smallest African cooperatives. The real innovators in African agriculture are women smallholder farmers.  Any private sector partnership to improve food security must place them and African civil society at the center.”

What needs special attention is the basic approach to “food security” that was discussed and not discussed at the summit. Rajiv SHAH, the USAID Administrator and moderator of the food security Summit directing his remarks to Zenawi said:

… So many people have associated a mental image of hunger with Ethiopia and at the same time because of actions in the public sector maintaining strong public investment in agriculture you were able to protect millions of Ethiopians during the recent drought from needing food aid and food assistance.  Could you speak to, even as we are launching a new food alliance, to engage the private sector, could you speak to some of the comments you have shared with us privately how important it is we live to our commitments to invest in public investment, in public institutions?

Zenawi responded:

Ultimately, agricultural  transformation in Africa is going to be a partnership between the smallholder farmer and the private sector. But the most important actor here is the smallholder farmer that 70 percent of [interruption by Abebe Gellaw calling Zenawi “a dictator…”] 70 percent of the population in Africa is smallholder farmers, so without transforming their livelihoods there is no future for agriculture in Africa. So at this stage the role of the private sector can only be to supplement the small scale farmer. There is the issue of rural roads, water supply systems, irrigation infrastructure. All of these require public investment; and yes, we need more of it. But we also need public investment. We in Africa are doing all we can, as I said, most of our countries are moving towards 10 percent of their budgets invested in agriculture; but we need partnerships. This morning the President [Obama] was talking about the L’Aquila Initiative  with $22 billion of money promised. We want the money promised delivered as the President was saying. We need that for public investment in infrastructure. We also need the developed countries to do something about trade because when you subsidize your farmers, our farmers who cannot be subsidized by our poor governments cannot compete. In the European Union, for example, every cow earns about $2 per day. Now that is more than the average African farmer gets and so if the subsidies were to be dealt with, we could have a better way of trading out of poverty.

Khan’s assertion that Zenawi by “maintaining strong public investment in agriculture [was] able to protect millions of Ethiopians during the recent drought from needing food aid and food assistance” is simply a statement made in reckless disregard for the truth, and arguably borders on a patent falsehood.  The fact of the matter is that USAID is clueless about its agricultural programs in Ethiopia,   according to the audit report of the Office of the Inspector General of USAID (March 2010, at p. 1):

The audit was unable to determine whether the results reported in USAID/Ethiopia’s Performance Plan and Report were valid because agricultural program staff could neither explain how the results were derived nor provide support for those results. Indeed, when the audit team attempted to validate the reported results by tracing from the summary amounts to the supporting detail, it was unable to do so at either the mission or its implementing partners… In the absence of a complete and current performance management plan, USAID/Ethiopia is lacking an important tool for monitoring and managing the implementation of its agricultural program.

In cases where USAID has been served with credible allegations of misuse of humanitarian and development aid for political purposes, it has turned a blind eye, deaf ears and muted lips. In 2009, the U.S. State Department, under which the USAID operates as the agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid, promised to investigate allegations that “$850 million in food and anti-poverty aid from the U.S. is being distributed on the basis of political favoritism by the current prime minister’s party.” No report has been issued.

Khan and Zenawi can talk about “public investment” and the “smallholder farmer” until the cows come home, but the fact of the matter is that neither Ethiopia nor the rest of Africa can achieve food sufficiency by tethering predatory multinational corporations with corrupt African dictators in a new “alliance  for food security” and and strapping them around the necks of Africa’s smallholder farmers. A joint venture between jackals and hyenas will never benefit the gazelles.

There are some simple questions that need to be asked about Ethiopia’s hunger games: Could Ethiopia reasonably expect to achieve food security when its citizens are prohibited by law from owning agricultural (for that matter all) land? Does it make sense to hand out the country’s most arable land to “foreign investors” to produce food for export and ensure food security in other countries when Ethiopians are dying from starvation?  Could Ethiopia reasonably expect to be saved from famine, starvation or “chronic food insecurity” by Karuturi, Saudi Star, Cargill, Dupont and the rest of the vampiric leeches? Does the smallholder Ethiopian farmer scratching out a living on 0.93 hectare stand a snowball’s chance in hell against Karuturi, Saudi Star, Cargill, Dupont…? Is the ultimate destiny of the smallholder African farmer to be a consumer of food produced by global agricultural multinationals instead of being a local producer and harvester of his/her own food?

Zenawi has adamantly opposed private ownership of land, which by all expert accounts is the single most important factor in ensuring food security in any nation. In 2000,  Zenawi said (and has repeatedly taken similar positions since):

I have not heard of any truly convincing reason as to why we should privatize land ownership at this stage. I have not heard of any economic rationale for doing so. If there were to be an overwhelming economic rationale to do it and ultimately that would be the best way of securing the interests of our peasant farmer and therefore politically that would be our agenda… But at the same time we do not have any illusions as to what land ownership can do to the peasant farmer over the long-term. We do not believe that the long-term future and destiny of our peasant farmers is to be stuck in the mud, so to speak. We feel that ultimately there has to be industrialization,ultimately these people have to find to get employment outside agriculture.

In 2012, Zenawi pontificates about the need to “transform the livelihoods Africa’s smallholder farmers” through “public investment” and predicts “there is no future for agriculture in Africa.” He just does not get it!  There can be no smallholder farmer when there is no land to have and to hold. The smallholder Ethiopian farmer that Zenawi talks about is no better than the sharecropper or the tenant farmer. When the smallholder farmer is arbitrarily evicted from his land because he refuses to support Zenawi’s regime, denied fertilizer because he voted for the opposition or is put on the blacklist and watched day and night by hordes of  informants because he wants to remain politically independent, he is no longer a smallholder farmer. He becomes a landless, hopeless, helpless, restless, hapless, rootless, voiceless and powerless panhandler of international food aid. Without the small holder farmer, not only is there not a future for agriculture in Africa, there is no future for Africa itself!

USAID, Ethiopia’s largest donor, in its 2010 report (perhaps unread by Khan), makes the simple point that effective agricultural development and long-term food security requires “100% ownership and buy-in by the Ethiopian people”. But instead of a “buy in”, Zenawi has pursued a relentless and ruthless policy of kick out, resulting in the displacement and confiscation of ancestral lands from countless small holder farmers. Now, Zenawi rubs his hands with glee to swipe his cut of the $22 billion promised in the L’Aquila Initiative. That is all he cares about!

Food  is Nothing Without Freedom!

Ethiopia’s four-decade old dependence on humanitarian food aid will continue and worsen. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child provide that it is the natural right of all people to have access to food. But under Zenawi, Ethiopians face a double whammy: A insatiable hunger for food and an unquenchable thirst for freedom, democracy and human rights. Ethiopians suffer from hunger and thirst because they are victims of a ruthless dictatorship!

In 2007, speaking at the World Food Day, President Horst Köhler of Germany made the following extraordinarily insightful statement:

Hunger is not an inescapable destiny, but can be eliminated by wise policies. This requires first and foremost that the governments of the developing countries make food security for their populace a priority goal…. Democratic participation by the people is the best guarantee that governments will genuinely understand people’s basic needs and will take these into account.  As the Indian Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has so aptly said, in countries where there are no elections and there is no opposition, governments do not need to worry about political fallout from their failure to eradicate poverty…. Good governance and a functioning executive are absolutely  crucial for an economic policy that is geared to the needs of the people and will help to eradicate poverty

Who can seriously expect a smallholder to invest his savings in his farm and machinery if he fears he may be  thrown off the land at any time?… Excessive long-term help from outside can stifle the recipients’ initiative and frequently even results in aid-dependency. …Hunger is above all the result of political mistakes – in the developing countries as in the industrialized nations.  To conquer hunger in our globalized world we need an honest, reliable and partnership-based development policy that spans the entire planet…

Perhaps President Obama could begin a new alliance for food security based on honesty and a genuine commitment to fundamental democratic principles that could help alter permanently Africa’s destiny as the beggar continent. The real solution to famine in Ethiopia lies in nourishing the emaciated Ethiopian body politic with clean elections, accountability, transparency, open political space and robust human rights protections. In 2009, he lamented, “There is no reason why Africa cannot be self-sufficient when it comes to food. I have family members who live in villages — they themselves are not going hungry — but live in villages where hunger is real.” President Obama should remind Zenawi and the rest of the African gang of dictators that though man does not live by bread alone, a hungry man in the village is an angry man!

Amharic translations of recent commentaries by the author may be found at:

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What Should the World Do and Not Do To Save Ethiopians?

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Time Magazine on its cover page asked two weighty questions about recurrent famines in Ethiopia: “Why are Ethiopians starving again? What should the world do and not do” to help them? In my commentary last week, I gave ten reasons in response to the first question; here I offer ten more for the second.

Famine Eth 1987For the past one-half century, the “Western world” has been the principal source of charity and handouts in Ethiopia. For the last two decades, the West has been feeding the regime of dictator Meles Zenawi with billions of dollars of development and humanitarian aid while filling the stomachs of starving Ethiopians with empty words and emptier promises. Now that another famine is spreading like wildfire in that country, the question remains: “What should the Western world do and not do to help Ethiopians permanently escape the endless cycles of famine described in the sugarcoated language of the self-serving international aid agencies as “acute food insecurity, extreme malnutrition, green drought and food crisis”.

Ten Things the World Should Do and Not Do to Help Starving Ethiopians

Take the moral hazard out of Western aid in Ethiopia. 

Western taxpayers have been footing the bill to provide a fail-safe insurance policy for the dictatorship of Meles Zenawi on the theory that he is too servile to fail (not unlike the notion of corporations that are too big to fail). Zenawi has proven to be a reliable proxy warfighter for the West in the Horn. He has received hearty congratulations for a “fantastic Somalia job” even though his invasion created the worst humanitarian crises in Africa in the last decade. Tony Blair appointed him to his Commission for Africa. He has been the West’s man in Africa on climate change.  In return, the West has provided Zenawi billions of dollars in “safety net” aid, multilateral loans and a perpetual supply of relief handouts to insulate his regime from the natural consequences of a mismanaged economy, debilitating corruption and proliferating poverty and famine.  The West should now stand back and let Zenawi face the consequences of chronic budget deficits, galloping inflation, corruption and empty grain silos. Turning a blind eye to gross human rights violations and Western complicity in the regime’s denial of democratic rights to Ethiopians presents not only a moral hazard but also irrefutable evidence of moral bankruptcy. 

Put humanity and human rights back in Western humanitarian aid in Ethiopia. 

The West should treat the starving people of Ethiopia as human beings, not as pawns in a strategic regional chess game or as pitiful objects of charity and handouts.  The root cause of the food famine in Ethiopia is an underlying political famine of democracy, rule of law, lack of accountability and transparency and flagrant human rights abuses. More democracy and greater respect for human rights necessarily means less famine and starvation because a government that is not able, willing and ready to feed its people will be swept out of office by a hungry and angry electorate. The West should tie its aid to specific and measurable improvements in human rights observances and properly functioning democratic institutions. If Western aid and loans are decoupled from human rights and good governance, they become powerful tools of oppression, persecution and subjugation in the hands of dictators.

Promote and support a stable and healthy Ethiopian society through aid, not entrench an iron-fisted and malignant dictatorship.

Western donors believe that they can buy “stability” in the Horn of Africa region by spending billions of aid dollars to support the Zenawi dictatorship. But they remain willfully ignorant of the lessons of history. Supporting a dictator is as risky as carrying an open powder keg at a fireworks festival. As we have recently seen, the West for decades supported dictators Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubark in Egypt and Gadahafi in Libya. For a time, these dictators staged the illusion of stability, control and permanence for the West. But they all went up in smoke when young Mohammed Bouazizi torched himself to end a life of oppression and indignity.  In the long run, the West knows no amount of foreign aid or loans could possibly buffer Zenawi’s dictatorship from a tsunami of popular upheaval.  Shouldn’t they stand on the right side of history as President Obama often exhorts?

Never bankroll bad actions by dictators with good Western taxpayer money. 

The West has a bad habit of rewarding the bad acts of African dictators with more and larger amounts of Western taxpayer-supported aid and loans.  After Zenawi stole the 2005 elections in broad daylight, jailed nearly all of the opposition leaders, human rights advocates, civic society leaders in the country and mowed down nearly two hundred unarmed demonstrators and wounded nearly eight hundred, the West gave him billions in aid and loans. In 2008 alone, Zenawi received $3 billion, the largest amount of aid in Africa. Zenawi must indubitably believe that there is a linear cause and effect relationship between his human rights abuses and increased foreign aid and loans.  It seems to be a simple case of operant conditioning in which behavior and actions follow a system of rewards and disincentives.  If human rights violations are always reinforced by the positive reinforcement of increasing amounts of aid, there will be more and more outrageous abuses committed to obtain that outcome.   

Make partnership with the Ethiopian people, not the Zenawi dictatorship.

There is documentary evidence from Wikileaks cablegrams to show that the West basically wants a “guy they can do business with” in Ethiopia. The core business of the West in Ethiopia and the Horn is counterterrorism. Zenawi invaded Somalia in 2006 and neraly three years later packed up and left.  Today Al Shabab and the other warlords still operate in Somalia with impunity. A partnership with a dictator on a single issue is not only short-sighted but also counterproductive to the long-term strategic interests of the West in Ethiopia and the Horn. That is why the West should nurture a long-term partnership with the Ethiopian people based on a demonstrable commitment to good governance, the rule of law, accountability, anti-corruption practices, private sector development, basic education and health services and so on. The easiest way to sever a relationship with the people is to give a fat welfare check (free money) to a depraved dictatorship year after year.

Hold the local paymasters of aid accountable.

Zenawi’s regime today is accountable to no one for the famine that is spreading throughout the country or the aid that it receives from the West. The international aid bureaucrats dare not question Zenawi fearing his legendary torrent of scorn, mockery and insults. They are mere rubberstamps of Zenawi’s regime. Recently, when Ken Ohashi, the World Bank Country Director for Ethiopia said Zenawi’s economic plan (“Growth and Transformation Plan”) is unsustainable, Zenawi derided him as a neocolonial overseer: “The World Bank [country] director is used to having other developing nations simply listen to his orders and is not used to nations refusing implement policy based on their wishes.” Last year Zenawi called the European Union Election Observers’ report “garbage”.

Whenever questions are raised about the misuse and abuse of aid money, the international aid bureaucrats run for cover or get into high gear to deny any improprieties and wrongdoing. For instance, Human Rights Watch and more recently BIJ/BBC have made serious and well-supported allegations of political weaponization of the so-called “safety net” aid.  In July 2010, the Development Assistance Group, a coordinating body of 26 foreign donor institutions for Ethiopia, issued a whitewash report which concluded that the administration of the aid programs is the “supported by relatively robust accountability systems.” In the past couple of weeks, USAID Deputy Administrator Gregory Gottlieb spoke to the Voice of America and declared, “There is no famine in Ethiopia.” Yet an  audit report by the independent Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of US AID  in March 2010 came to the distressing conclusion that USAID has no idea what is happening to its agricultural programs in Ethiopia. By rejecting the data generated by the regime and local USAID officials, the OIG implicitly indicts them for manufacturing data to make things look good.  The West must call a spade a spade, insist on the truth and let the chips fall where they may!

Condition aid and loans on the implementation of comprehensive family planning programs in Ethiopia. 

Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau had frightening predictions for Ethiopia. By 2050, Ethiopia’s population will more than triple to 278 million, placing that country in the top 10 most populous countries in the world. Ethiopia’s population growth has been spiraling upwards for decades.   Since 1995, the average annual rate of population growth has remained at over 3 percent. Comprehensive family planning services are essential to avoiding the predicted doomsday forty years from now. Such services educate, train and prepare couples and families when and how many children to have, provide them contraceptive counseling and help them acquire skills to prevent and manage sexually transmitted diseases, among other things. A decade ago, the World Health Organization and the World Bank estimated that $3.00 per person per year would provide basic family planning, maternal and neonatal health care to women in developing countries, including contraception, prenatal, delivery and post-natal care and postpartum family planning and promotion of condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections. A decade or two from now when it is too late, providing such services in Ethiopia will be prohibitively expensive.

To help the starving people of Ethiopia, help Ethiopian women.

The distressing status of women in Ethiopian society has been documented over the past decade. The U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (2000) reported: “Violence and societal discrimination against women, and abuse of children remained problems, and female genital mutilation (FGM) is widespread.” The situation remains pretty much the same in 2011. Western aid should seriously focus on improving the status of women and go beyond empty rhetoric. For instance, there is a lot of talk and window-dressing by the USAID about the empowerment and advancement of women in Ethiopia, but the rhetoric falls short of demonstrable outcomes. USAID claims to have helped thousands of rural women obtain microfiance, and through its extension services enabled hundreds of families adopt better technologies to improve their productivity. USAID also claims to have helped remove “road blocks to development” by improving gender integration, expanding educational opportunity, increased awareness of legal rights and so on and by “providing high-impact, results-oriented technical assistance that promotes participation and transparency.”  There is little convincing evidence in the public reports of USAID to support any of these claims. In any case, given the chummy and cozy relationship between the local USAID operatives and Zenawi’s regime and the OIG’s audit referenced above, one would have to take USAID’s word not just with a grain but a big sack of salt.

To help the starving people of Ethiopia, help Ethiopia’s youth.

Seventy percent of Ethiopia’s population is said to be under the age of thirty. This past May, USAID announced that it will partner with Pact (an NGO) and UNICEF to implement five-year, $100 million program to benefit over 500,000 Ethiopian orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDS. The program “will support efforts by the Ethiopian Government and civil society to standardize comprehensive care and support services for vulnerable children and their families.” Reliance on a combination of donor-funded NGOs, regime-managed and –owned civil society organizations and bloated bureaucracies to implement such a program is manifestly unconvincing. The fact of the matter is that Ethiopia’s youth need access to better educational and employment opportunities now. Youth alienation, joblessness, nihilism breed despair and anarchy which the country can ill-afford.

The West should know that aid and loans will not save Ethiopia.

The West should know that neither aid nor loans will save Ethiopia. Only Ethiopians, poor and famished as they are, can save Ethiopia and themselves.

Starve the Beast, Feed the People.

The West should heed the words of Helen Epstein:

The problem with foreign aid in Ethiopia is that both the Ethiopian government and its donors see the people of this country not as individuals with distinct needs, talents, and rights but as an undifferentiated mass, to be mobilized, decentralized, vaccinated, given primary education and pit latrines, and freed from the legacy of feudalism, imperialism, and backwardness. It is this rigid focus on the ‘backward masses,’ rather than the unique human person, that typically justifies appalling cruelty in the name of social progress.

Stop the cruelty. Starve the beast and feed the people.

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