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News: AfDB says inter’l staff withdrawal due to Ethiopia’s failure to resolve assault complaint, employees feel unsafe, insecure

AfDB President Akinwumi A. Adesina. Photo Credit: AfDB

Addis Abeba – The African Development Bank (AfDB) has said the Ethiopian government didn’t yet resolve “in any satisfactory manner” the assault by Ethiopian security forces on two of its international members of staff on 31 October 2023.

Subsequently, it decided to withdraw all its international staff from Ethiopia with immediate effect as of 19 December 2023.

“We remain particularly concerned that the Ethiopian government has, to date, not shared with us any report or details of investigations into this gross infringement,” Akinwumi A. Adesina, president of the bank said in a memorandum internally circulated among the bank’s staff and seen by Addis Standard.

On 16 November 2023, the bank admitted after weeks of local media reports that two of its staff members “were unlawfully arrested, physically assaulted, and detained for many hours by elements of the security forces without any official explanation” on 31 October 2023.

The bank said back then the assault was “a very serious diplomatic incident,” and that its complaints to the Ethiopian government had been “formally acknowledged”.

According to internal memorandum written by the Bank’s President Akinwumi A. Adesina and addressed to staff, the President said he has dispatched “a high-level delegation from the Bank, led by Senior vice president, on 22nd November to engaged with senior Ethiopian authorities on the matter and to meet with Bank staff in Ethiopia office…”.

The African Development Bank remains particularly concerned that the Ethiopian government has, to date, not shared with the Bank any report, or details of investigations into the incident

Akinwumi A. Adesina

However, despite the bank’s earlier request dating 06 November 2023 for a full and transparent investigation into the incident, and subsequent engagements with Ethiopian authorities, the assessment by the high-level delegation “indicates that the situation is not yet resolved in any satisfactory manner, nor does it provide full confidence that all our employees feel safe and secure to carry out their duties and move around the country without fear of harassment”.

“The African Development Bank remains particularly concerned that the Ethiopian government has, to date, not shared with the Bank any report, or details of investigations into the incident,” President Adesina said, adding that ”the October incident continues to cause much anxiety across the African Development Bank Group and especially among staff at the Ethiopia country office. The incident has also raised concerns among the Bank’s shareholders, other multilateral development banks, international financial institutions, the broader diplomatic community, and other stakeholders.”

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The incident “was a gross violation” of their [the two staff members] personal diplomatic immunities, rights and privileges under the Bank’s Host Country Agreement with Ethiopia.

According to the internal memorandum, the bank’s decision to withdraw its international staff will not affect nationally recruited staff from Ethiopia, and the bank’s office in Ethiopia will remain open but under an Officer-in-Charge.

During a weekly briefing given to local media on 16 November 2023, Ambassador Meles Alem, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was quoted as saying “the incident did not cause the bank to close its office, and the relationship between the two [the bank and Ethiopian government] was not severed.” 

Ambassador Meles did not immediately respond to Addis Standard’s request for a comment on the latest development.

According to the Bank, as of 30th September 2023, the Bank’s ongoing portfolio in Ethiopia comprised 22 projects, which totaled $1.24 billion. The President, however, cautioned that “while the Bank appreciates the excellent relations it has with Ethiopia until this egregious incident, its continued operations and future presence in the country could be negatively affected if the incident is not fully resolved.”AS

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