Human rights The compass fails

ACCORDING to a cable leaked last month, the European Union’s man in Ethiopia told his masters that “basic human-rights abuses are being committed by the government on a daily basis” and “the EU must respond firmly and resolutely.” That was in 2005. Neither the EU nor any other Western donor has done anything of the kind. The United States, Germany and Britain have continued to pour money into the country despite the arrest of opposition politicians on trumped-up treason charges, the harassment of ordinary citizens, the curbing of internet access, and heavy spying on universities and workplaces. Sweden is one of the few donors that publicly raises civil liberties.

When outsiders do bring up such issues, Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s prime minister, responds tartly that, with famine again stalking the Horn of Africa, the right of people to food, shelter, a job and indeed to life itself depends on the stability of the state. To challenge this is sabotage.

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