Laura Freschi is Associate Director of the Development Research Institute at New York University and a blogger for Aid Watch.

Why Are We Supporting Repression in Ethiopia?

Farmer Makaba Wasu planting a grain crop.  He lost part of his one hectare field due to river erosion.  Jaffa Village, Wolayita Zone, Ethiopia, August 19, 2008

Foreign aid observers have often worried that Western aid to Africa is propping up autocratic regimes. Yet seldom has such a direct link from aid to political repression been demonstrated as in “Development without Freedom,” an extensively documented new report on Ethiopia by Human Rights Watch. Based on interviews with 200 people in 53 villages and cities throughout the country, the report concludes that the Ethiopian government, headed by prime minister Meles Zenawi, uses aid as a political weapon to discriminate against non-party members and punish dissenters, sending the population the draconian message that “survival depends on political loyalty to the state and the ruling party.”