December 28, 2005

Donors to withhold $375 mln from Ethiopia

LONDON (Reuters) - Western donors plan to withhold $375
million in aid from Ethiopia over the government's recent
crackdown on opposition supporters, The Financial Times
reported on Thursday.

"We are very concerned and have taken principled positions,
along with our development partners, on the recent
disturbances," Ishac Diwan, the World Bank's country director,
was quoted by the FT as saying.

The $375 million involved is direct budgetary support.
Diwan said until the situation improves the World Bank, the
European Union and Britain will look to disburse the funds in
other ways to meet Ethiopia's humanitarian needs.

"Because of the situation, trust has broken down so we are
trying to find other ways of doing it," the FT quoted another
western development official as saying.

The Ethiopian government arrested thousands of opposition
members and others after two spasms of violence struck the
capital Addis Ababa, in July and November, over the disputed
results of a May 15 parliamentary election.

At least 82 people were killed in clashes with police and

The main opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD)
and other opposition parties made gains in the elections but
accused the government of vote fraud and intimidation that cost
them more seats.

Ethiopia has charged 131 people with treason, inciting
violence and planning to commit genocide. Senior political
figures from the CUD and 13 journalists were among those

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has said rioters and looters
were to blame for the violence, which he said the opposition
deliberately stirred up in a bid to topple the government.

Britain announced earlier it planned to freeze a 20 million
pound ($35.36 million) increase in aid to Ethiopia.

The Horn of African country is sub-Saharan Africa's second
most populous and is ranked the seventh poorest in the world.
Foreign donors finance about one third of Ethiopia's annual
budget, sending more than $1 billion a year to the country.