– Food is used as a weapon. The government discriminates in an attempt to control the population, says Ben Rawlence of Human Rights Watch (HRW) to Aftenposten.

Since 2005, the USA devoted much time to confront the Ethiopian authorities for these statements, which clearly states in the embassy documents leaked to the website Wikileaks.

Last year, HRW wrote a highly critical report on Ethiopia, where the distribution of relief was an important element. Rawlence says that nothing suggests that the situation has improved since then. A report made by the BBC in August, with the same allegation, that the Ethiopian government denies strongly.

Fear of eviction

The south-eastern parts of Ethiopia – often referred to as the Somali areas – has long been marked by turmoil. Rebel group ONLF leads an armed struggle against the Meles regime, a struggle that is taking place in the middle of the famine-stricken areas.

The security situation has made it difficult – often impossible – for aid organizations working in this part of the country. This affects among other things, large, Norwegian Church Aid organizations, who have chosen to stay away from these areas.

– We had to stop the distribution of two months earlier this year because of the violence, says a source in one of the largest aid organizations to Aftenposten. As with all of the assistance the sources we’ve spoken with, do not want that source to come forward by name.

The same sources do not want to confirm to Aftenposten that aid is political, even though the embassy documents leaked to Wikileaks shows that many organizations for years have complained that recently this has been a major problem for several years.

– It is difficult to speak out about problems. We fear that we may be thrown out, said another source in the aid community.

U.S. worried

Documents from the American Embassy in Addis Ababa show a clearly increasing frustration among American diplomats, especially from 2005 onwards. Politicization of aid is a problem. The ever greater restrictions on what foreign organizations are allowed to do is another.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, here with Jens Stoltenberg after a meeting at the UN last year, accused of preventing relief reaches some of the hardest hit areas of the country. PHOTO: AP

Among other things, not aid organizations in recent years been allowed to conduct information campaign about human rights in Ethiopia.

Repeatedly discussing diplomats problem with Meles Zenawi, who repeatedly denies the allegations.

– Allegations of a politicization of foreign assistance to Ethiopia, including humanitarian relief, consistent with reports from organizations, opposition politicians, media and members of the international donor community, according to an embassy memo from November 2009.

Solheim reject

Norway has provided nearly 1.4 billion in assistance to Ethiopia since 2005. Last year the amount was 197 million. International Development Erik Solheim (SV), says to Aftenposten that he takes allegations of politicization of aid very seriously.

– We and others reacted when we read the report of HRW, but concluded that there was no evidence of the allegations, he said.

Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide (H) react at the Solheim reject problem.

– He fails to take proper hold of the reports coming from Ethiopia. We see that the way aid is distributed on is reported to be in conflict with international regulations. It does not seem Solheim take this all the way over him. We must dare to criticize countries like Ethiopia, even though these countries know how to exploit the fact that we need them to implement the UN Millennium Development Goals, says Søreide.

She has taken up the issue in an interpellation in Parliament, where she was asked Erik Solheim on the impact of reports about a politicization of aid to Ethiopia would be for Norwegian aid policy.

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