Leading article: Practise what was preached

Share

The Year of Africa is ending on a distinctly mixed note as far as freedom and democracy are concerned. Improvements in Sierra Leone and Liberia have been more than matched by the continuing massacres in Darfur, the oppression in Zimbabwe, the marred elections in Tanzania, the political clampdown in Kenya and the arrests in Ethiopia.

Of all these, it is the government assault on the opposition in Ethiopia, where 131 politicians, journalists and civil rights activists were charged with treason and genocide yesterday, which is the most embarrassing to the West, and the UK in particular. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has not only been hailed as a "friend" of the British Prime Minister, but was a member of the Commission for Africa alongside Tony Blair, Bob Geldof, Gordon Brown and Hilary Benn - a commission which emphatically concluded that Africa must sort out its anti-democratic political actions as the price of debt relief and increased aid.

Yet here we are, only months after the G8 and only days after the IMF signed an accord to write off Ethiopia's debt, and one of the West's most favoured sons in the continent has not only arrested more than 4,000 civilians protesting against the flawed elections in the country last May but shut down any in the media voicing dissent. The group charged yesterday includes aid workers from Action Aid; if convicted, they could be liable to the death penalty.

The Ethiopian government has also embarked on an increasingly bitter confrontation with Eritrea. This has forced the UN peacekeepers to leave the area and threatens a resumption of the border war that killed some 80,000 and impoverished both countries in the two years 1998-2000.

The West cannot ignore what is happening in Ethiopia. If nothing else, the actions of the Ethiopian government confirm all the worst fears of those who argue that giving more aid to Africa is useless so long as rulers practise such poor governance. Bob Geldof cannot demand total debt relief for Ethiopia and declare his commission proof of how much Africa is changing so long as this is going on in the country of a fellow commissioner.

Ethiopia may have some cause for complaint both about the behaviour of Eritrea over the border and about the statements of returning opposition leaders at the time of its elections. But closing newspapers and arraigning Make Poverty History campaigners for treason and genocide are hardly the actions of a government committed to free expression and the rule of law. Britain has already threatened to cease its aid. Along with its European partners and the US, it should do so forthwith.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Ellen E Jones
Scientists have discovered the perfect cheese for pizzas (it's mozzarella)  

Life of pie: Hard cheese for academics

Simmy Richman
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution