The UK has ended its financial support for a controversial development project alleged to have helped the Ethiopian government fund a brutal resettlement programme. Hundreds of people have been forced from their land as a result of the scheme, while there have also been reports of torture, rape and beatings.
Until last month, Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) was the primary funder of the promotion of basic services (PBS) programme, a $4.9bn (£3.2bn) project run by the World Bank and designed to boost education, health and water services in Ethiopia.
On Thursday, DfID said it had ended its PBS contributions because of Ethiopia’s “growing success”, adding that financial decisions of this nature were routinely made after considering a recipient country’s “commitment to partnership principles”.
It has been alleged that programme funds have been used to bankroll the Ethiopian government’s push to move 1.5 million rural families from their land to new “model” villages across the country.
Opponents of the commune development programme (CDP) say it has been characterised by violence. One Ethiopian farmer is taking legal action against the British government, claiming UK money has funded abuses against Anuak peoplein the Gambella region. The man, an Anuak known as Mr O, says he was beaten and witnessed rapes and assaults as government soldiers cleared people off their land. DfID has always insisted it does not fund Ethiopia’s commune development programme.
A scathing draft report from the World Bank’s internal watchdog recently concluded that inadequate oversight, bad audit practices, and a failure to follow the bank’s own rules had allowed operational links to form between the PBS programme and the Ethiopian government’s resettlement scheme.
Although the bank’s inspection panel found that funds could have been diverted to implement villagisation, it did not look into whether the resettlement programme had involved human rights abuses, claiming such questions were outside its remit.