Ethiopia Says U.K. Review of Aid Is Based on Fabricated Claims

by Zelalem

A British court’s decision to allow
a judicial review of aid given to Ethiopia is based on
“fabrications” about a resettlement program propagated by
people outside the country, the Horn of Africa nation’s Foreign
Ministry said.

The High Court in London on July 14 said a review could be
conducted into whether the U.K.’s aid agency is adequately
monitoring the human-rights record of Ethiopia’s government. The
ruling came after an Ethiopian citizen said his government had
used aid to implement a resettlement program in the western
Gambella region under which he suffered abuses. The program
forcibly moved tens of thousands of people and involved
“serious human rights violations,” according to Human Rights
Watch
. The U.K.’s development agency said it didn’t fund the
program.

Ethiopia is enacting a five-year economic growth plan in a
bid to reduce poverty and develop industries beyond agriculture,
which accounts for 80 percent of employment, according to the
United Nations.

Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry said the Gambella resettlements
were voluntary and successfully achieved their goal of improving
public services in sparsely populated areas.

“One reason for these distorted views clearly lies in the
failure to understand the objectives of the resettlement
program,” it said in a statement e-mailed by Ethiopia’s Embassy
in the U.K. yesterday. “This has been further compounded by
what can only be described as shoddy analysis of the programs on
the basis of flimsy, politically motivated or even non-existent
evidence.”

Basic Services

The U.K.’s Department for International Development, or
DfID, is among donors funding the Promotion of Basic Services
program, known as PBS, which provides grants to local
governments in Ethiopia to fund the salaries of health,
education, agriculture, water and road workers. The current,
third phase of the plan that runs until 2018 has a budget of 510
million pounds ($864 million), according to a copy of the
court’s ruling e-mailed by DfID.

The U.K. plans to offer 1.3 billion pounds in support to
Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, between 2010 and
2015. DfID denied it funded the resettlement program and said
assistance is only used to provide “essential services like
health care, schooling and clean water.”

The agency said July 15 it was unable to comment on ongoing
legal proceedings. The PBS program has funded 38,000 health
workers, 100,000 primary school teachers and 45,000 agricultural
workers, according to Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry. Programs such
as PBS helped Ethiopia’s poverty rate fall to 29.6 percent in
2011 from 38.7 percent in 2005, it said.

‘Important Step’

The plan to resettle people in Gambella in 2011 involved
mistreatment and arbitrary detentions, New York-based Human
Rights Watch
said in a July 14 statement. The group called the
court’s decision an “important step toward greater
accountability” after DfID made an “inadequate and
complacent” response to abuse claims.

It “should be a wake-up call for the government and other
donors that they need rigorous monitoring to make sure their
development programs are upholding their commitments to human
rights,” Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at the
organization, said in the statement.

The World Bank’s Inspection Panel, an independent
complaints mechanism, is investigating similar claims that bank
contributions to PBS were used for the Gambella resettlement
plan.

To contact the reporter on this story:
William Davison in Addis Ababa at
wdavison3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Paul Richardson at
pmrichardson@bloomberg.net
Michael Gunn

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