NY Times Editorial -- Somebody needs to remind Meles Zenawi that he is supposed to be setting the example for how democracy should work in Africa. As things stand, the only example Mr. Meles, the Ethiopian prime minister, is setting is one of autocratic repression.
Mr. Meles has often been lauded as an exemplar of good government by the likes of the British prime minister, Tony Blair, who picked him to help draft his Commission for Africa report on how to reduce poverty and promote democracy on the continent. But it turns out that Mr. Meles is in favor of democracy only when people are voting for him.
During parliamentary elections in May, many voters in Ethiopia, particularly in Addis Ababa, cast ballots for lesser-known opposition party members instead of entrenched government officials. When the Meles government announced that it won 296 of Parliament's 547 seats, with the opposition taking 176, many critics charged voter fraud. To make matters worse, the ruling party then suddenly changed parliamentary rules so that only a party with 51 percent of the seats could raise an issue for discussion.
In June, rioters took to the streets of Addis Ababa. Government security forces responded by firing live rounds into crowds, killing 40 protesters. Earlier this month, another protest erupted. Government soldiers again fired live rounds on crowds of people. By the end of the clashes, some 46 more people were dead. Has Mr. Meles never heard of tear gas? Soldiers swept through the streets and arrested more than two dozen opposition party members and even a few journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York group that promotes a free press, wrote Mr. Meles that it was "deeply troubled by your government's harassment and censorship of journalists."
Alemzurya Teshoe, 25, the daughter of one opposition leader, told Marc Lacey of The Times that police raided her home to take away her father and fatally shot her mother, who was screaming in protest. Ms. Teshoe said neighbors who went to recover her mother's body were told that they had to sign a document saying that the opposition party was responsible for the killing. "I was there when they killed my mother," she said of the request, which was later dropped. "I saw it with my own eyes."
Left with egg on its face, the British government is withholding some of Ethiopia's foreign aid money. But that would actually hurt the poorest of the poor, at no cost to Mr. Meles. Western donors should funnel money to ground-level aid projects, while shunning direct budgetary support of the government. Mr. Blair should publicly evict Mr. Meles from his Commission for Africa. The rest of the international development crowd should exile him.
That is the problem with good press: eventually you have to live up to your image.