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News: Unlawful detention, physical assault in Ethiopia of two staff ‘very serious diplomatic incident’: AfDB

AFDB Group PresidentAkinwumi A. Adesina pictured with President Sahle Work Zewde on 29 Oct 2023 at the World Food Prize Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa, two days before the detention and physical assault of two staff members of the Bank’s Ethiopia office. Photo: AfDB

Addis Abeba – After weeks of local media reports on the detention and physical assault sustained by senior staff working at Ethiopia Country Office of African Development Bank (AfDB), the bank has today admitted that on 31 October 2023, “two staff members of the African Development Bank Group based in Addis Abeba were unlawfully arrested, physically assaulted, and detained for many hours by elements of the security forces without any official explanation.”

In a statement sent to Addis Standard, the Bank, which enjoys a close relationship with the Ethiopian government, called the detention and assault of its staff “a very serious diplomatic incident,” and that it’s complaints to the Ethiopian government has been “formally acknowledged”, but fell short of mentioned the victims of the detention and subsequent assault.

Local media reports indicated that one of the victims were Dr. Abdul Kamara, AfDB’s Deputy Director General for East Africa, and Ethiopia office Country Manager, leading to a decision by the Bank to allegedly suspend its office operations in Addis Abeba. However, despite several e-mail correspondences with Addis Standard, the Bank neither confirmed, nor denied the names of the victims involved.

During the weekly briefing given to local media today, Ambassador Meles Alem, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was asked by journalists to confirm if reports of dispute between the Bank and the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance over unpaid annual fee by the later led to the incident and the Bank’s subsequent decision to suspend its office operations were valid.

Ambassador Meles is quoted as saying: “the incident did not cause the bank to close its office, and the relationship between the two was not severed.”

The Ethiopian government has not only formally acknowledged its complaint, but also “recognized the gravity of the incident, and reassured us that all those involved in breaking the law will be thoroughly investigated and brought to justice, ensuring transparency and full accountability”

The official statement today says that the Bank is “pleased that the Prime Minister of Ethiopia immediately acted when he learnt of the incident, ordered the immediate release of the affected staff and promised to order an immediate investigation into the incident.” It also said it “assures all its partners that its operations in Ethiopia have not been affected by this incident.”

Regardless, the Bank said the incident was “a very serious diplomatic incident, and the African Development Bank has since lodged a formal complaint with the Ethiopian authorities.”

The Ethiopian government has not only formally acknowledged its complaint, but also “recognized the gravity of the incident, and reassured us that all those involved in breaking the law will be thoroughly investigated and brought to justice, ensuring transparency and full accountability,” according to the statement.

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The Ethiopia government has also “reassured the African Development Bank that its staff in Ethiopia and those traveling to the country on mission will continue to enjoy full respect of their rights, privileges and diplomatic immunities under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as well as the African Development Bank’s Host Country Agreement with the Government of Ethiopia.”

While affirming the values of “its excellent relations with the government of Ethiopia”, AFDB says it is “currently engaged with the authorities, through diplomatic channels, concerning the incident”, and assured its commitment to the safety, security, rights and privileges of all its staff in all countries where the Bank operates.

In August this year, AfDB has awarded grant funding totaling $84.3 million to Ethiopia to advance wheat production and increase farmers’ incomes. Ethiopia’s Finance Minister Ahmed Shide and Dr Kamara, signed the grant agreement.

In September, the Bank’s Board of Directors has granted approval for a $104 million funding package to support a transmission project in eastern Ethiopia. AS

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