The Ethiopian government has promised a full investigation into the diversion of U.S. food aid after a USAID investigation uncovered evidence of widespread aid theft, a State Department statement said.
Meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen on the margins of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Ministerial in Riyadh in Riyadh, Secretary of State Antony Blinken “commended progress” Ethiopia had made in committing to hold those responsible for stealing donated food accountable.
The two officials also discussed human rights, transitional justice and easing tensions in several Ethiopian regions, signaling Washington’s hope that Addis Ababa will take meaningful steps towards reform.
The USAID investigation found evidence that officials from federal and regional governments coordinated a scheme to divert food assistance from those who needed it most, according to allegations in leaked documents cited in a Washington Post story published on June 8, 2023.
Elements within the military and local authorities allegedly stole donated food aid to feed troops, ex-combatants and to sell on the market for profit.
The U.S. promptly suspended all food aid shipments to Ethiopia, a move that threatens to worsen hunger among millions of Ethiopians struggling with conflict, drought and high inflation.
The USAID investigation reportedly uncovered flour made from donated wheat being exported even as Ethiopians starved. Mill managers openly bought bags of wheat branded with USAID and WFP logos, suggesting extensive official complicity in the theft, according to the leaked documents cited by The Washington Post.