News: Blinken, Demeke meet as USAID suspends food aid to Ethiopia after widespread, coordinated diversion

DPM/FM Demeke Mekonnen with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in March. Photo: Antony Blinken

Addis Abeba – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met today with Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen on the margins of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Ministerial in Riyadh. The news came shortly after the USAID said it has “made the difficult but necessary decision” it cannot move forward with distribution of food assistance in Ethiopia “until reforms are in place.”

In an email sent to Addis Standard via the US Embassy in Addis Abeba, USAID spokesperson said “after a country-wide review, USAID determined, in coordination with the Government of Ethiopia, that a widespread and coordinated campaign is diverting food assistance from the people of Ethiopia.”

“Our intention is to immediately resume food assistance once we are confident in the integrity of delivery systems to get assistance to its intended recipients and when assistance is people-centered, needs-based, evidence-based, and independent,” the statement sent to Addis Standard reads.

Earlier today, Addis Standard published news exposing country-wide donor-funded food diversion in Ethiopia covering seven regions and involving the federal government and regional entities.

The dispatch on the meeting between Secretary Blinken and Demeke said the Secretary “welcomed the Ethiopian government’s commitment to work together to conduct a full investigation into the diversion of U.S. food assistance and to hold accountable those found responsible.”  

The two have also discussed “promoting human rights, including in western Tigray; advancing a transparent and inclusive transitional justice process; and resolving ongoing tensions in Amhara and Oromia,” the state department said. AS

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