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Conditioning IMF Ethiopia Loan on Reforms: A Move for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption

By Mesfin Tegenu

In the upcoming weeks, high-ranking officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are scheduled to travel to Ethiopia for crucial meetings. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has requested billions of dollars in aid to support the country amidst its internal conflicts.

It is crucial to recognize that more than just financial assistance is at stake. For individuals residing in conflict-ridden areas like the Amhara region, where government forces have carried out drone strikes and door-to-door raids resulting in the massacre of civilians, the outcome of the IMF negotiations could determine life or death.

Consequently, the IMF must attach conditions to any loan provided to Ethiopia, requiring immediate and substantial reforms from Abiy’s corrupt government. The potential incentive of billions of dollars in loans from Western nations would only make sense if policymakers assertively demand a change in direction that would put an end to years of tribal conflicts in Africa’s second most populous country and restore fundamental human rights.

The government’s repeated offenses in the Amhara region, which is home to a population of 60 million, as well as in other areas, should activate U.S. laws designed to withhold aid from problematic regimes. This has occurred in Ethiopia just two years ago.

“We continuously monitor the human rights situation in Ethiopia to assess whether there is a pattern of severe violations that would impact U.S. support for international financial institution assistance under the International Financial Institutions Act,” stated the State Department in a recent official statement to Bloomberg News. “The U.S. government is deeply concerned about ongoing reports of human rights abuses and violations in the Amhara and Oromia regions, which involve both the government and non-state actors.”

American policymakers should be alarmed as government forces intensify their repressive campaign against a popular rebel group in the Amhara region. This campaign has expanded to include multiple attacks on the civilian population.

Amnesty International’s recent report provides a comprehensive account of the confirmed abuses, revealing the Ethiopian National Defense Forces’ involvement in numerous extrajudicial killings in Bahir Dar, the regional capital of Amhara. These killings, meticulously documented, involved at least 11 civilians who were shot at close range, with some families being denied the right to bury their loved ones. Additionally, reports indicate a more gruesome incident in the village of Merawi, where troops of the Abiy regime allegedly conducted door-to-door raids resulting in the deaths of at least 80, and potentially up to 150, innocent civilians.

Journalists face significant obstacles when trying to cover incidents of violence, the involvement of the Ethiopian government, drone attacks on innocent civilians, the devastation of historic landmarks, deliberate attacks on food sources, and other similar events. Unfortunately, they often encounter official censorship or even more severe consequences.

Antoine Galindo, a French journalist, was detained by security forces for almost a week in late February after his attempt to interview an opposition leader from the Oromo Liberation Front. The press freedom situation has worsened, with the Committee to Protect Journalists reporting that eight more journalists are currently imprisoned.

The Abiy regime is facing financial strain due to the expenses of war in both the Tigray and Amhara regions. Additionally, there are reports of corruption, such as the construction of a new palace estimated to cost $15 billion. Ethiopia’s financial difficulties were further exacerbated by a debt default last year. Moreover, the ongoing drought in the conflict-ridden northern regions poses a risk of triggering another famine.

The imminent visit by the IMF presents a chance to address two pressing issues simultaneously. In order to secure a loan to support the government in Addis Ababa and prevent a worsening hunger crisis, certain conditions must be met, such as halting the regime’s violent attacks on civilians.

The Ethiopian government’s urgent need for fiscal relief aligns with Washington’s objectives of reducing violence in Africa, making it appropriate to apply IMF leverage. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee emphasized this agenda during a call with reporters, acknowledging the longstanding partnership between the US and Ethiopia. However, she also emphasized the importance of Ethiopia taking necessary measures to address the cycle of ethnic political violence that has hindered the country’s progress for many years, particularly in the recent conflict.

The approval of an IMF loan should be contingent upon implementing measures to address the widespread corruption in Addis Ababa, promoting press freedom and civil liberties, resolving the civil war and its associated humanitarian violations in Amhara and other areas. Additionally, this could contribute to the larger objective of eliminating tribal and ethnocentric governance in Africa, which has had detrimental effects on the general population.

The recent bloodshed in Amhara region, although a devastating crisis, presents an opportunity for positive change. It is crucial that any IMF deal for Ethiopia goes beyond providing financial support to a brutal and corrupt regime. Instead, it should serve as a foundation for a renewed partnership between two nations, based on shared principles of human rights.

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Mesfin Tegenu, the CEO and chairman of RxParadigm, also holds the position of executive chairman at the American Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee.

 

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