Norway PM faces Ethiopia flak
Norway’s prime minister has defended the country’s collaboration with Ethiopia on climate-related energy initiatives in the face of protests over alleged human rights abuses by the leader of the African country.
Hundreds of protestors gathered outside the Oslo venue of the Energy for All conference on Monday to express their anger that Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was invited to speak at the event.
Meles is accused by citizens of carrying out human rights violations including random executions, torture and imprisonment of political dissidents in the Ogaden region, as well as using aid cash given by the West to the poverty-stricken country to oppress its people.
His government has allegedly carried out brutal counter-insurgency techniques against the Ogaden National Liberation Front.
A spokesman for the demonstrators described Meles as a “fascist dictator” and that the alleged atrocities carried out by his forces have been documented by Human Rights Watch as well as the US State Department.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Meles are working together to raise $100 billion a year for climate finance in developing countries by 2020.
Ethiopia is also among the supporters of Norway’s newly launched Energy + initiative aimed at establishing a financing framework to provide widespread energy access for for developing countries.
However, the spokesman claimed billions of dollars in aid cash received by Meles over the past 20 years has been diverted away from helping Ethiopia’s people cope with droughts and the consequent humanitarian crises.
“We are very much opposed to Norway’s collaboration with Zenawi. We don’t want him to have access to taxpayers’ money and have emphasized to Norway that co-operation with dictators does not bring peace, progress or stability,” he said.
“The best way of solving the crisis and stabilizing the Ogaden region is to support democracy and the forces of justice. Any aid that comes in will only end up in the pocket of Meles.”
Responding to the protests, Stoltenberg said: “Human rights is an important part of the dialogue we have with Ethiopia.
“Promoting economic co-operation and development of co-operation in the energy sector is itself important for human rights.
“This is because alleviating poverty is important to promoting human rights. In addition, trade, investment and economic co-operation contributes to more open societies.”
He said the Energy + initiative addressed the two main challenges of alleviating poverty and climate change, as developing renewable energy sources would promote economic growth while also cutting carbon dioxide emissions.