Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ethiopia & the New Wikileaks Release Viewing cable 09ADDISABABA2809, PARTY PATRONAGE AND FOREIGN ASSISTANCE IN ETHIOPIA

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Reference IDCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
09ADDISABABA28092009-11-25 14:332011-08-30 01:44CONFIDENTIALEmbassy Addis Ababa


C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 002809    DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC  DIA WASHINGTON DC  MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP    SIPDIS    DEPT FOR AF/E, PASS TO USAID    E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/24/2019  TAGS: EAID PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM ET SUBJECT: PARTY PATRONAGE AND FOREIGN ASSISTANCE IN ETHIOPIA    REF: A. ADDIS ABABA 31       B. 08 ADDIS ABABA 3370       C. 08 ADDIS ABABA 2159       D. ADDIS ABABA 2645       E. ADDIS ABABA 975       F. ADDIS ABABA 379       G. ADDIS ABABA 2273       H. ADDIS ABABA 1612    Classified By: CDA Roger A. Meece for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).    1. (C) Recent allegations of the politicization of foreign  assistance in Ethiopia, including humanitarian food aid, are  consistent with reports by non-governmental organizations,  opposition political parties, the media, and members of the  international donor community.  The manipulation of  humanitarian assistance for political benefit by the ruling  Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)  since 2005 should be viewed in the context of broader efforts  to utilize government resources to ensure EPRDF's political  and electoral supremacy.  U.S. foreign assistance is less  vulnerable than many countries' aid because the USG insists  on maintaining a large measure of control over the mechanics  of aid distribution.  Post strongly endorses the Productive  Safety Net Program (PSNP) as the most effective and most  closely monitored assistance program of its kind and urges  other donors to adopt PSNP-type anti-manipulation safeguards.   Although USAID is confident that PSNP funds are being  directed to legitimate beneficiaries, EPRDF members may well  be receiving priority.  Efforts to monitor food distribution  are aimed at making sure vulnerable people are fed and cannot  be expanded to include investigation of political pressures  applied to those people without jeopardizing that primary  mission.  End summary.    Increased Political Patronage Since 2005  ----------------------------------------    2. (C) Since the controversial 2005 elections, the Government  of Ethiopia (GoE) has engaged in a systematic campaign to  tighten control over opposition parties and their allies.  The closure of political space has been achieved in part by  the passage of restrictive laws governing civil society (Ref  A), political parties (Ref B), and the media (Ref C), the  intimidation of opposition candidates campaigning in their  constituencies (Ref D), as well as the purging of ethnic  groups perceived as disloyal to the ruling party from the  military (Ref E) and civil service (Ref F).  As the GoE has  used its network of local officials to enforce these new  rules, Post has received multiple reports that the GoE is  also using the complete spectrum of government resources -  including many basic public services - in a patronage system  to shore up support for the EPRDF.    3. (C) Post has reported specific complaints of patronage and  coercive recruitment techniques used by the government, such  as the use of military facilities and civil service trainings  for political indoctrination (Ref G), the withholding of food  aid, seeds, and fertilizers to non-EPRDF members (Ref H), and  preferential treatment in job assignment, promotion, and  professional development for EPRDF members (Ref H).  In one  recent allegation, opposition Member of Parliament Bulcha  Demeksa, of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM),  told Post that local EPRDF cadres had asked his constituents  to join the party during the same visits in which they  distributed seed and fertilizer.  He said that voters who  refused to join did not receive seed or fertilizer in the  next round of distribution.  Beyond these specific  allegations, Mission officers are frequently told by contacts  that it is commonly understood that eligibility for  government services is made easier by party membership as a  practical matter.  This practice is felt most strongly in  rural areas, where many Ethiopians are dependent on food  assistance and agricultural inputs such as seeds and  fertilizer, and where local officials can more easily monitor  the political activities of their constituents.    4. (C) The GoE has attempted to silence reports of patronage  and coercive action, as in the recent case of journalist  Wossenseged Meshesha (protect), of Mesenazaria newspaper.  In  a recent article, Wossenseged quoted opposition United  Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) leader Beyene Petros  describing incidents in which his constituents had been  forced to make financial contributions to the EPRDF upon  receiving seed and fertilizer.  Despite the fact that the    ADDIS ABAB 00002809  002 OF 003      statements he printed were directly quoted and backed up by  hard copies of receipts the farmers were given for their  forced contributions, Wossenseged is now being sued by the  GoE for defamation.  In a November 10 press conference the  opposition Forum for Democratic Dialogue (Forum) publicly  criticized in general terms the ruling party's use of  government and donor resources for political patronage,  resulting in a series of local and international media  reports on the politicization of food aid.  Several  international NGOs have researched the issue as well,  including Human Rights Watch, which plans to release a report  on the general issue of politicization of government services  in January 2010.    Foreign Assistance Vulnerable to Politicization  --------------------------------------------- --    5. (SBU) As reports of patronage have increased since 2005,  Post has become keenly aware that foreign assistance,  including U.S. humanitarian assistance, is vulnerable to  politicization.  Direct budget support, which the USG does  not provide but is favored by many donors, is the most  vulnerable form of assistance.  As an example, Post has  received numerous reports of graft and politicization of  donor support provided through the Provision of Basic  Services (PBS) program, which provides block grants to  regional governments and is coordinated by the World Bank.  (Note:  The USG does not contribute to  PBS.  End note.)  Emergency relief food is also vulnerable to  politicization, owing to the large volume of food transferred  and the urgent need to distribute it quickly.  USAID and its  partners closely monitor the distribution of most relief food  distributed by NGO partners and WFP through the "hubs and  spokes" system now used in the Somali Region, which allows  for better control over distribution at the local level.  Urgent needs and limited geographic coverage by NGOs  sometimes necessitate distribution which transfers food  resources directly to the GoE.  (Note:  The Mission continues  to press WFP to ensure greater transparency and  accountability in relief food distribution, and much progress  has been made over the past year since the "hubs and spokes"  system went into effect in October, 2008.  End note.)    6. (SBU) PSNP, to which the U.S. is a major contributor, is a  highly monitored program operated by the GoE and NGOs with  donor support that provides cash and food to more than seven  million Ethiopians in exchange for labor, in a graduated  system designed to move families toward food security.  While  PSNP has been the object of allegations of politicization  leveled by the opposition (including those in Ref H) and has  received recent media coverage, PSNP has easily the best  safeguards in this regard among all assistance programs in  Ethiopia.  These safeguards include semiannual "Joint Review  of Implementation and Support" missions, quarterly financial  audits, targeting studies, Rapid Response Team field visits,  regular beneficiary benefit transfer reports, and an appeals  system.  The strong support PSNP receives from the donor  community is a result of these safeguards and the fact that  PSNP is more closely monitored than other programs.    USG and Other Donor Action on PSNP  ----------------------------------    7. (SBU) In recognition of the vulnerability of foreign  assistance to politicization, USAID and other PSNP donors  have examined transparency in PSNP selection of beneficiaries  and distribution of assistance, and agreed upon a framework  to ensure accountability and investigate allegations of  corruption and politicization.  An independent study  conducted in 2008 showed that 85% of PSNP participants  believe the selection process is fair, and a recent USAID  Fiduciary Risk Study revealed no evidence of direct political  interference.  Although the forthcoming HRW report reportedly  cites examples of PSNP-related corruption in times of extreme  food insecurity, when some monitoring safequards are relaxed  in order to expedite distribution, USAID is confident that  PSNP resources are not directed to unqualified (i.e., food  secure) families as a result of political connections.  USAID  notes, however, that the percentage of families who qualify  for PSNP (i.e., the poorest, most food insecure households)  who actually receive PSNP support is higher in the Tigray and  Amhara regions (considered to be the most loyal to the ruling  party) than in other regions of the county that are equally  needy (e.g., Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and  Peoples Regions).  This trend is not limited to PSNP, but    ADDIS ABAB 00002809  003 OF 003      rather applies to many government-provided services and  benefits.  (Note:  For years, the Somali Regional State was  denied nearly all government services and foreign assistance,  for similar reasons.  This has largely been reversed.)    8. (SBU) USAID's recent Fiduciary Risk Study confirmed that  families known to local officials (who are usually EPRDF  members) are more likely to receive PSNP support.  It is also  possible that opposition party members hide their political  sentiments in an attempt to avoid repercussions, that they  are afraid to voice their concerns to donor monitors, or that  politicization is simply not overt.  While Post is confident  that local officials are not checking voter ID cards when  selecting beneficiaries, for example, party affiliation is  well known in remote areas and may subtly influence  decisions.    9. (SBU) Amy Martin, Deputy Director of the UN Office for the  Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), told PolOff  recently that media coverage of the politicization of food  aid is a welcome wake-up call in OCHA's efforts to make  donors recognize the problem.  Some donor representatives in  country have noted that if these reports continue, their  governments are likely to take further action, up to and  including cutting support for various aid programs.  In a  statement released on November 18 during a visit to Ethiopia,  British International Development Minister Gareth Thomas  called on the GoE to investigate allegations of the  politicization of food aid, and stated that the UK would make  "tough decisions" regarding its foreign assistance if  necessary.    Comment  -------    10. (C) The politicization of humanitarian assistance,  including both emergency relief food and distributions made  through structured programs such as PSNP, is merely one  example of the GoE's utilization of government resources to  strengthen support for the ruling party, and should be  viewed in the context of all EPRDF preparations for the 2010  elections.  While U.S. humanitarian assistance is less  vulnerable to GoE manipulation because it is provided through  neutral NGOs and structured programs, all assistance is  vulnerable.  PSNP, which has received much scrutiny of late,  is an easy target because of its high visibility, but it is  in fact less susceptible to politicization  than most aid.    11. (C) Closer scrutiny of the potential vulnerability of  PSNP and other USG assistance to  politicization would carry significant risk.  Mission staff  (including direct-hire officers, locally engaged staff, and  third party consultants) with the most direct access to  beneficiaries are of course those whose primary task is  distribution of assistance.  On the other hand, individuals  with whom political staff meet to discuss such issues are  commonly visited thereafter by local officials in their homes  or offices, or taken by local police to security services  offices for questioning about their perceived disloyal  activities.  Blurring the lines between distribution of  assistance and the monitoring of political pressures brought  to bear on beneficiaries risks putting the assistance  programs themselves in jeopardy from a ruling party that has  become confident that its vast patronage system is largely  invulnerable. End comment.  MEECE

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