Thursday, January 19, 2006

UK Redirects Ethiopia Aid

News 24 -- Britain cut all of its aid to Ethiopia's government on Wednesday and plans to redirect the $88m to humanitarian agencies working in the Horn of Africa nation.

Hillary Benn, Britain's international development secretary, said his government was "seriously concerned" by the unrest sparked by disputed elections last year that returned the ruling party to power and led to 88 protesters being killed by security forces.

Benn met with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi before the announcement.

Political and civil unrest has shaken the country since the May general elections and police have arrested hundreds of opposition supporters and journalists on charges of treason, sparking international concern over Meles' commitment to human rights.

"The UK is seriously concerned about governance, human rights and the detention of and serious charges faced by opposition, media and members of civil society," Benn said in a statement.

"Because of our concerns over the political situation I have told the (Meles) that we cannot provide direct budget support under the current circumstances."

In June, Britain froze $35.3m in direct budget support to the Ethiopian government, but Wednesday's announcement officially cut off that amount, plus almost $53m in additional aid that was still in place.

Benn said that funding for aid agencies in Ethiopia would continue as normal and that aid earmarked for the government will now be redirected to assist with a major drought and other problems.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Other western donors have said they are considering redirecting $375m in budget support for the government to other areas because of the political crisis in the country.

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