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Saturday, 1 August 2009

Ethiopia-gate: The aid-to-arms diversion scandal in the Horn of Africa

Ethiopia, one of the world’s poorest countries has Africa’s largest, best-equipped army. Ethiopia is the largest recipient of aid in sub-Saharan Africa, receiving up to 90 percent some years. Ethiopia, with millions starving and tens of millions more just surviving, has spent at least $20 billion on its military since 1999.

Ethiopia’s chief economic advisor estimated that by 2001 Ethiopia had already spent $3 billion on the Eritrean invasion.

Ethiopia has at least a million troops under arms, dwarfing the other armies in Africa. When I say best equipped, I am speaking of at least 15 armored divisions (10,000 soldiers to a division with each division including a tank brigade, a heavy artillery brigade, a heavy machine gun brigade and an anti-aircraft-artillery brigade).

I am referring to an army that in 2000 invaded its former colony, Eritrea, in a two-month long war that saw the Ethiopian government release a figure of 123,000 dead for the conflict. Being that for every one soldier killed you must expect three wounded, about 500,000 killed or wounded in a war that remains almost completely unknown to most of the world is pretty covert.

When it comes time to add up the total cost of Ethiopia-gate one cannot only include the Western “aid” that was diverted to arms purchases, mainly from Russia and Bulgaria, even North Korea. You also have to include all the so-called “loans” given to Ethiopia by the likes of the World Bank, IMF, EU, etc. Ethiopia has received tens of billions of dollars in “loans” this past decade, almost all of which have been or are scheduled to be “forgiven.” So much for “debt forgiveness” helping Africa.

And all of this while famine stalks the land, few if any have clean drinking water or know a full stomach let alone have electricity, schools or medical care. Tuberculosis and even polio remain endemic and AIDS kills an untold number every year.

Yet try and find something putting all of this together in one article in the Western media and you will search in vain. Since 1999, even finding out basic information on Ethiopian arms purchases has become nearly impossible. Of course, Yemen, Ethiopia’s neighbor and another one of the poorest countries in the world, is reported to be buying billions of dollars in arms, though even this story has disappeared from the media.

When you do put it all together, adding one of the poorest countries in the world, recipient of a lot of Western cash in the form of aid and loans, with an enormous, well-equipped army and you come up with Ethiopia-gate, the aid to arms diversion scandal in the Horn of Africa. Why? Because the West needs someone to do its dirty work in East Africa and Ethiopia was chosen to be its local enforcer, its cop on the beat some may say. Yesterday it was the invasion of Eritrea, today the invasion of Somalia.

Of course, knowingly allowing all this aid and loans from Western governments and financial institutions to not go to the starving children it was claimed to be appropriated for violates innumerable laws. Maybe this is why Ethiopia-gate remains the worlds number one covert military operation.

Stay tuned to for more news from the Horn of Africa that the so-called “free press in the West” refuses to cover.

Thomas C. Mountain, the last white man living in Eritrea, was in a former life, educator, activist and alternative medicine practitioner in the USA. Email thomascmountain at

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