The friends we keep

British Prime Minister Tony Blair regularly talks about eradicating poverty in Africa. Perhaps he should take a long, hard look at one of his allies:

“An Ethiopian court has charged 131 politicians, journalists and activists with treason and genocide as the Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, continues to suppress all dissenting voices in the country.

“Two campaigners for the Make Poverty History movement are among the defendants. Daniel Bereket, the head of policy for ActionAid in Ethiopia and Netsanet Demessie of the Organisation for Social Justice in Ethiopia, have been charged with two counts of treason. If found guilty, they could face life imprisonment.

“ActionAid claims the men were arrested in November for doing their job as anti-poverty campaigners, and have done nothing illegal.

“Brian Kagoro, head of policy for ActionAid Africa, said: ‘Neither Daniel nor Netsanet are anti-state. They may have been critical of the government’s progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, but they are not political activists, and they are not members of the opposition.’

“Others charged include the leader of the opposition, Hailu Shawel, elected members of parliament and Ethiopian journalists.

“Mr Zenawi, an ally of Tony Blair and a member of his Commission for Africa, has accused the defendants of causing the riots that spread through the capital, Addis Ababa, after the general election on 15 May.”

We shouldn’t be surprised. Blair has a history of talking democracy and freedom while supporting dictatorships and oppression.

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