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Ethiopia: EVICTED AND ABANDONED: THE WORLD BANK’S BROKEN PROMISE TO THE POOR: How a World Bank Translator Became a Hunted Man October 8, 2015

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Human rights advocates criticize the bank for failing to speak up about the jailing of a former employee

Pastor Omot Agwa knew he was in danger.

“Greetings from Ethiopia in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” he wrote in an online message to friends and colleagues on March 11, 2015. “I am informing you that since yesterday I have been hunted by security.”

The gentle, round-faced church leader had long been an embarrassment to Ethiopia’s authoritarian regime. As a prominent leader of the Anuak, a heavily Christian indigenous group, Agwa had spoken out against alleged beatings and killings of his kinsmen by government forces.

Days before his message, a federal agent had come looking for him at the Mekane Yesus Seminary, the evangelical church that he belonged to in Addis Ababa.

“He wants to arrest me,” Agwa wrote. “If I keep silent without communicating I will be in custody.”

The Ethiopian regime had various reasons for wanting to arrest Agwa, but at that moment, one loomed large: he had recently served as a translator and consultant for an investigation into whether government authorities had used World Bank money to bankroll a campaign of violent evictions targeting Agwa’s Anuak community.

The soft-spoken pastor arranged interviews for the bank’s Inspection Panel, its internal watchdog, with Anuak who told World Bank investigators about beatings, rapes and summary executions by Ethiopian soldiers —placing Ethiopia’s lucrative aid package from the bank into jeopardy. Months later, Agwa translated for a reporter from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on a newsgathering trip to Ethiopia.

Omot AgwaPastor Omot Agwa worked as a translator for the World Bank before his arrest. Image: Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas / WG Films

In February 2015, the Inspection Panel released its report, faulting the bank for failing to properly scrutinize the Ethiopian government’s programs before giving money to the regime.  Soon after, Ethiopian government agents began hunting for Agwa, visiting his church, his family and leaving messages on his phone, he told human rights groups.

“I have locked myself in the room now,” the frightened pastor wrote in his distress message. “Please pray for me for God’s protection and I don’t know what to do.”

He was arrested four days later as he tried to leave the country on a flight to Kenya. In September, Ethiopian authorities indicted him on terrorism charges.

Human Rights Watch called the charges “absurd,” a transparent attempt to punish Agwa for exposing government abuses and to intimidate other Anuak into silence.

But another key player in the church leader’s case has made no public objections: his former employer, the World Bank.

World Bank officials say Ethiopian authorities have assured them that Agwa’s arrest had nothing to do with his work for the bank’s Inspection Panel. The bank won’t comment on whether it believes the charges against Agwa are valid. And the bank has continued its financial relationship with Ethiopia’s government—approving more than $1.3 billion in loans to the regime since it learned of its former employee’s arrest.

“The World Bank just abandoned him,” said Obang Metho, the executive director of the advocacy group Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, who once belonged to Agwa’s congregation. “Had they not told Omot to investigate this, he would be at home today with his family.”

The World Bank’s decision to continue bankrolling Ethiopia’s government in the aftermath of allegations of human rights abuse is not unusual. The bank has repeatedly refused to intercede on behalf of protesters or local communities when they are mistreated by borrowing governments or to cut off funding in such instances, ICIJ, The Huffington Post and other media partners reported in September.

The bank maintains that as a development lender, it has a specific and limited mandate.  The bank’s rules against violent evictions, abuse of indigenous peoples and other safeguards apply to the projects it finances, not all activities of its borrowers.

Jim Yong Kim.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim. Photo: AP Photo/Geraldo Caso Bizama

The World Bank’s charter specifies that “the Bank and its officers shall not interfere in the political affairs of any member”—a clause that the bank has long interpreted as a prohibition against advocating for human rights.

Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, charged in a recent report that the bank has misinterpreted this ban on political interference  to justify treating human rights “more like an infectious disease than universal values.”

Alston said that while he generally opposes across-the-board sanctions as a reaction to wrongdoing by a borrower country, they could be justified in extreme cases and that the bank needs to develop clear guidelines for responding to cases of retaliation and other abuses by its borrowers.

The World Bank declined to answer questions for this story.

In a statement to ICIJ after the terrorism charges against Agwa were revealed, the bank said it often works “in places with complex political and social issues. When allegations of reprisal are brought to our attention, we work, within the scope of our mandate, with appropriate parties to try to address them. We have made several inquiries about Pastor Omot Agwa since his arrest in March 2015 and detention.”

The Ethiopian government did not respond to requests for comment to its embassy in Washington, D.C., and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Pastor and activist

The case of Omot Agwa offers a striking view of the bank’s hands-off approach.

Agwa was born in the fertile, low-lying Ethiopian state of Gambella, a traditional homeland of the Anuak, an indigenous tribe of several hundred thousand people living in Ethiopia and South Sudan. He attended an American missionary school and was “born again” as a Christian in first grade, establishing his lifelong ties to the Protestant church. He went on to earn scholarships for Bible translation that set him on a path to church leadership.

As he drew closer to the evangelical church, Agwa retained a strong Anuak identity. When he was a teenager, Agwa had the six front teeth on the bottom half of his mouth plucked out in a traditional initiation rite.

“If your teeth are still there they say that, one, you are not pure Anuak,” the pastor explained last July, a mischievous smile crossing his face, “and second, that your face looks very ugly because your mouth looks like a goat’s mouth.”

An outbreak of violence in December 2003 prompted Agwa to take his first steps into activism. Ethiopian soldiers and members of Ethiopia’s lighter-skinned ethnic majority slaughtered hundreds of Anuak in the state of Gambella’s capital. Agwa survived by hiding inside a friend’s house.

By that time a well-known church leader, Agwa collected the names of the dead and traveled to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, to seek out human rights groups that could spread word of the massacre beyond Ethiopia’s borders.

“I went to Oxfam America, I knocked on their door,” he said, “and they interviewed me in their office where, for the first time, I weeped. I cried loudly because I was traumatized, and it was a time now that I was released.”

Human Rights Watch later determined that 424 people from Gambella had died in the massacre.

Collecting names of the dead

Hear Omot Agwa’s account of hiding in a friend’s house as gunshots echoed outside during a 2003 massacre in Gambella, Ethiopia.

In the following years, Agwa’s fluent English and ties to the Protestant church made him a frequently sought out liaison by human rights observers and others who wanted to know more about the government’s repression of the Anuak.

In 2010, federal authorities launched the “villagization program,” a massive campaign in Gambella and three other rural states to relocate Anuak and other minorities into government-sponsored villages. The government said the plan was intended to provide health, education and other essential services, but many Anuak denounced it as a land grab and refused to move from their ancestral homes.

The former governor of Gambella described personally diverting roughly $10 million in World Bank money intended for the health and education program to finance a series of violent evictions of the Anuak, ICIJ reported in April.

When the World Bank’s Inspection Panel came to Ethiopia in February 2014 to investigate abuse accusations, it hired Agwa as a consultant and interpreter. Agwa travelled with the investigators through the communities in Gambella where he had grown up, translating interviews with Anuak villagers. One man who was interviewed reported that an Anuak who was a member of the Ethiopian military’s Special Forces was shot dead on the spot by a government police officer after he refused an order to evict fellow tribe members from their farms.

In summer 2014, Agwa worked with ICIJ during a reporting trip in Ethiopia to explore the alleged abuses linked to the villagization program. Despite his fears that he would be discovered by federal agents, Agwa assisted an ICIJ reporter with steady good humor, interspersing his painful recollections with an infectious smile and frequent references to his Christian faith.

When the Inspection Panel published its findings in February 2015, security police began looking for him soon after, Agwa reported to human rights groups.

The government claims the Swiss church charity’s workshop that Agwa was traveling to when he was arrested was a “terrorist group meeting.”

On a telephone call the night before his arrest, Agwa said the police were after him because of his work with the Inspection Panel, according to David Pred, managing director of Inclusive Development International, one of the human rights groups supporting Agwa.

On March 15, Agwa sought to leave the country for a food security workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, organized by the Swiss Protestant church charity Bread for All.

He made it as far as the airport.

Ethiopian security forces arrested Agwa in Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport and locked him up without charges, along with six other indigenous and pastoralist leaders on their way to the gathering in Kenya, according to human rights groups.

Church in Gorom refugee campAnuak refugees, who fled Ethiopia, worship at a church in the Gorom Refugee Camp in South Sudan. Photo:Andreea CampeanuThe arrest of the well-known church leader set off a flurry of activity by Agwa’s allies. They struggled to find out why Agwa had been detained, and pressed the U.S. State Department and European embassies in Ethiopia to appeal to the Ethiopian government for his release.

Both the human rights groups and the World Bank—as well as ICIJ—agreed to keep the matter quiet so that the Ethiopian regime could release the outspoken pastor without losing face.

On March 31, little more than two weeks after Agwa’s arrest, the World Bank made a move that surprised Agwa’s defenders: it approved a $350 million loan to the Ethiopian government. The money supported a five-year initiative to improve productivity and market access among small farmers.

Agwa was locked up in the Maekelawi police station, a site notorious for the torture of political dissidents. He was held for three weeks in solitary confinement, supporters say. For months after, his family was not allowed to visit him.

His supporters still hoped that the Ethiopian government might let Agwa free.  Instead, on Sept. 7, Ethiopian authorities charged the pastor with terrorism, alleging that Agwa’s contacts with an Anuak activist in London were a conspiracy to plan armed attacks in Ethiopia, according to a charging document obtained by ICIJ. The government claims the Swiss church charity’s workshop that Agwa was traveling to when he was arrested was a “terrorist group meeting.”

Human rights groups familiar with Ethiopian law say if convicted, Agwa would face a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

The Ethiopian government has not responded to repeated requests for comment about Agwa. It is possible that authorities are in possession of evidence that would support their claims against the pastor. But Ethiopia has a  history of using its anti-terrorism laws as a weapon against journalists and political activists, and human rights groups that are active in the country say the government trumped up the charges against Agwa in order to silence him.

On September 15, just over a week after the government filed formal charges, the World Bank approved a new $600 million loan to the Ethiopian government.

The newest round of financing is for a project the bank says is intended to improve health, education and other services. It replaced a central component of the same health and education program that Agwa had helped investigate. Despite the testimony facilitated by Agwa that detailed abuses by Ethiopian officials associated with the program, the bank decided to continue funding a similar arrangement into the year 2019.

Human rights groups say they informed the World Bank of Ethiopia’s terrorism charges almost immediately after they were filed.

“I have no doubt that if they intend to convict him, they will,” said David Pred of Inclusive Development International. “He’s facing 20 years to life, which is a death sentence.”

Obang Metho, the Ethiopian activist who remembers Agwa as his former pastor, said that losing the imprisoned church leader would be a crushing blow for the Anuak people.

“Omot is not just a translator,” Metho said. “He is a husband, he is a father, he is a pastor. . . . The community loved and respected him.”

The World Bank should fully address serious human rights issues raised by the bank’s internal investigation into a project in #Ethiopia, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to the bank’s vice president for #Africa February 24, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in African Poor, Aid to Africa, Ethiopia's Colonizing Structure and the Development Problems of People of Oromia, Afar, Ogaden, Sidama, Southern Ethiopia and the Omo Valley, Free development vs authoritarian model, Gambella, Groups at risk of arbitrary arrest in Oromia: Amnesty International Report, Land and resource Rights, Land and Water Grabs in Oromia, Land Grabs in Africa, Land Grabs in Oromia, World Bank.
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World Banka: Address Ethiopia Findings
Response to Inquiry Dismissive of Abuses
The new village of Bildak in Ethiopia's Gambella region, which the semi-nomadic Nuer who were forcibly transferred there quickly abandoned in May 2011 because there was no water source for their cattle.
The new village of Bildak in Ethiopia’s Gambella region, which the semi-nomadic Nuer who were forcibly transferred there quickly abandoned in May 2011 because there was no water source for their cattle. © 2011 Human Rights Watch
The Inspection Panel’s report shows that the World Bank has largely ignored human rights risks evident in its projects in Ethiopia. The bank has the opportunity and responsibility to adjust course on its Ethiopia programming and provide redress to those who were harmed. But management’s Action Plan achieves neither of these goals. – Jessica Evans, senior international financial institutions researcher

( FEBRUARY 23, 2015, Washington, DC) – The World Bank should fully address serious human rights issues raised by the bank’s internal investigation into a project in Ethiopia, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to the bank’s vice president for Africa. The bank’s response to the investigation findings attempts to distance the bank from the many problems confirmed by the investigation and should be revised. The World Bank board of directors is to consider the investigation report and management’s response, which includes an Action Plan, on February 26, 2015.

The Inspection Panel, the World Bank’s independent accountability mechanism, found that the bank violated its own policies in Ethiopia. The investigation was prompted by a formal complaint brought by refugees from Ethiopia’s Gambella region concerning the Promoting Basic Services (PBS) projects funded by the World Bank, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the African Development Bank, and several other donors.

“The Inspection Panel’s report shows that the World Bank has largely ignored human rights risks evident in its projects in Ethiopia,” said Jessica Evans, senior international financial institutions researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The bank has the opportunity and responsibility to adjust course on its Ethiopia programming and provide redress to those who were harmed. But management’s Action Plan achieves neither of these goals.”

The report, leaked to the media in January, determinedthat “there is an operational link” between the World Bank projects in Ethiopia and a government relocation program known as “villagization.” It concluded that the bank had violated its policy that is intended to protect indigenous peoples’ rights. It also found that the bank “did not carry out the required full risk analysis, nor were its mitigation measures adequate to manage the concurrent rollout of the villagisation programme.” These findings should prompt the World Bank and other donors to take all necessary measures to prevent and address links between its programs and abusive government initiatives, Human Rights Watch said.

Rather than taking on these important findings and applying lessons learned, World Bank management has drafted an Action Plan that merely reinforces its problematic current course, Human Rights Watch said. The Action Plan emphasizes the role of programs designed to mobilize communities to engage in local government’s decisions without addressing the significant risks people take in speaking critically.

The Inspection Panel also found that the bank did not take the necessary steps to mitigate the risk presented by Ethiopia’s 2009 law on civil society organizations. The law prohibits human rights organizations in Ethiopia from receiving more than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources. As a result of the law, most independent Ethiopian civil society organizations working on human rights issues have had to discontinue their work.

The plan also pledges to enhance the capacity of local government staff to comply with the bank’s policies and to provide complaint resolution mechanisms without addressing the role of the local government in human rights abuses. This continues an approach of seeing the officials implicated in human rights abuses as a source of potential resolution, Human Rights Watch said. Management has also concluded, contrary to the Inspection Panel, that the World Bank is adequately complying with the bank’s policy to protect the rights of indigenous peoples.

Human Rights Watch research into the first year of the villagization program in the western Gambella region found that people were forced to move into the government’s new villages. Human Rights Watch found that the relocation was accompanied by serious abuses, including intimidation, assaults, and arbitrary arrests by security officials, and contributed to the loss of livelihoods for the people forced to move. While the Ethiopian government has officially finished its villagization program in Gambella, it is forcibly evicting communities in other regions, including indigenous people, ostensibly for development projects such as large-scale agriculture projects.

Donors to the Ethiopia Promoting Basic Services Program, including the World Bank and the UK, have repeatedly denied any link between their programs and problematic government programs like villagization.

Human Rights Watch has long raised concerns over inadequate monitoring and the risks of misuse of development assistance in Ethiopia. In 2010 Human Rights Watch documented the government’s use of donor-supported resources and aid to consolidate the power of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Government officials discriminated on the basis of real and perceived political opinion in distributing resources, including access to donor-supported programs, salaries, and training opportunities. Donors have never systematically investigated these risks to their programming, much less addressed them.

The Inspection Panel report is the first donor mechanism that has investigated the donor’s approach to risk assessment in Ethiopia. Although the Inspection Panel adopted a narrow view of its mandate and decided explicitly to exclude human rights violations, its findings underscore the need for donors to considerably enhance and broaden their risk assessment processes in Ethiopia. These processes are crucial for ensuring that their programs advance the social and economic rights of the people they are intended to benefit, without violating their human rights. Management’s response misrepresents the panel’s view of its mandate, erroneously concurring “with the panel’s conclusion that the harm alleged in the Request cannot be attributed to the Project” – the Inspection Panel report makes no such sweeping conclusion.

“The bank directors should send management’s response and Action Plan back and insist on a plan that addresses the Inspection Panel’s findings and the concerns of the people who sought the inquiry,” Evans said. “A meaningful Action Plan should address the program in question, bank-lending in Ethiopia more broadly, and how to apply lessons from these mistakes to all bank programing in high-risk, repressive environments around the world.”

The Action Plan should include provisions for high-level dialogue between the bank and the Ethiopian government to address key human rights issues that are obstacles to effective development, Human Rights Watch said. These issues include forced evictions and development-related displacement, restrictions on civil society, including attacks on independent groups and journalists, discriminatory practices, and violations ofindigenous peoples’ rights.

The plan should include provisions for identifying and mitigating all human rights risks and adverse impacts at the project level, and for independent monitoring to make sure these concerns are fully addressed. The plan should also include provisions for people affected by projects to be involved in projects from their conception and remedies for people negatively affected by bank projects.

Given the climate of fear and repression in Ethiopia, Gambella residents who brought the complaint to the bank and have taken refuge in South Sudan and Kenya are unlikely to feel safe returning home. In light of this, the Action Plan should address their most urgent needs abroad, including education and livelihood opportunities, Human Rights Watch said.

The Inspection Panel’s findings also have wider implications for donor programming in Ethiopia. Donors’ current appraisal methods do not consider human rights and other risks from their programs. The panel highlighted particular problems with budget support or block grants that cannot be tracked at the local level.

“The Inspection Panel report illustrates the perils of unaccountable budget support in Ethiopia,” Evans said. “Donors should implement programs that ensure that Ethiopia’s neediest participate in and have access to the benefits of donor aid.”



FEBRUARY 23, 2015

Dear Vice President Diop,

As you are aware, Human Rights Watch has researched and documented human rights violations that the government of Ethiopia has committed in the course of its “villagization” program in both Gambella and in the Lower Omo valley. We have also reported on the links between villagization and the various iterations of the World Bank’s Promoting/ Protection of Basic Services projects. With this in mind, I write to you as your staff are working to prepare an action plan responding to the Inspection Panel’s findings of non-compliance in its Ethiopia investigation.

We urge you to ensure that World Bank management responds to the Inspection Panel findings comprehensively in its action plan. Human Rights Watch has been profoundly disappointed by the lack of constructive engagement of World Bank management on the problems of villagization in Ethiopia and its unwillingness to work to address a range of human rights risks in its programming. The concerns raised in the Investigation Panel’s report are an opportunity to adjust management’s course on its Ethiopia programming and address these issues.

We believe the Action Plan should include a commitment to:

1.    Enhance Management’s High Level Dialogue with the Ethiopian Government

Whenever World Bank staff, particularly you or President Kim, meet with the Ethiopian government, we urge you to raise the continuing negative impact that several Ethiopian government policies and practices are having on development efforts.

First, forced evictions and development-related displacement continues to have serious negative effects on communities in various parts of the country, well beyond Gambella. While the government has officially finished its villagization program, it continues to forcibly evict people, including indigenous peoples, from their land ostensibly for development projects, including large-scale agriculture, including for sugar plantation development in the Lower Omo Valley. Bank staff should work with other donors to highlight problems with ongoing practices, as well as pointing to key standards (which should include the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement, and standards and jurisprudence of the African regional human rights institutions). While we recognize bank management has discussed some concerns about villagization before and supported the development of standards for involuntary resettlement, relying on the Bank’s safeguards, dialogue needs to recognize the problems with the existing practices and advise on how to address them.

Second, it is crucial that the Bank asserts the importance of civic participation and social accountability for effective development. This means consistently raising concerns, and urging reforms of the Ethiopian government’s Charities and Societies Proclamation and Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which have had such a devastating impact on the ability of Ethiopians to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. It is also crucial that the Bank and other donors press the Ethiopian government to reverse the practices of arbitrary arrest and detention, and politically motivated prosecutions of independent journalists, activists, and opposition party members including media reporting on problematic “development” initiatives. Independent nongovernmental organizations and media are essential for accountability, and these repressive policies undermine both civic participation and social accountability.

Third, you should raise concerns over discriminatory practices in the country, both on the basis of ethnic background and political opinion. President Kim has spoken passionately about the scourge of discrimination. This should translate into a dialogue with the government not only about how discrimination is wrong, but how it undermines development. Human Rights Watch and others have documented discriminatory practices against individuals not supporting the ruling party in the distribution of the benefits of development, including access to agricultural inputs like seeds and fertilizers, micro-credit loans and job opportunities. In this context, bank management should highlight these ongoing discriminatory practices, including against those who do not support the ruling party and against indigenous groups in areas where villagization occurred including Gambella and the Lower Omo valley.

Finally, it is essential that Ethiopia respect and protect the rights of indigenous peoples. You may want to consider the work of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which has on several occasions discussed indigenous rights within the African context. The African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations/ Communities has suggested that, in determining whether groups fall within the definition of indigenous peoples, the:

focus should be on … self-definition as indigenous and distinctly different from other groups within a state; on a special attachment to and use of their traditional land whereby their ancestral land and territory has a fundamental importance for their collective physical and cultural survival as peoples; on an experience of subjugation, marginalization, dispossession, exclusion or discrimination because these people have different cultures, ways of life or modes of production than the national hegemonic and dominant model.

The Commission has helpfully addressed common misconceptions regarding indigenous peoples in Africa, paraphrased in attachment 1.

2.    Address Risks at the Project Level

The report of the Inspection Panel shows that the World Bank needs to have systems in place to analyze and avoid or mitigate the above and other human rights risks linked to its projects in Ethiopia. The Bank should acknowledge that the repressive environment in Ethiopia requires an entirely different approach to participation and social accountability. It should work with other donors to develop creative methods for participation that avoid risks of reprisals against those who express dissent and to encourage fearful individuals to use mechanisms and institutions that ensure participation and accountability, free of intimidation and fear. In recognition of the difficulties of ensuring participation and effective, secure avenues for accountability, the Bank should routinely identify security risks for project-affected persons including the risk of reprisal if individuals criticize a project or oppose resettlement.

Considering the high-risk environment, World Bank management should explicitly report to the board on how it has analyzed and addressed all risks of social and human rights impacts in each project in Ethiopia at least annually. Such a report should outline how management has addressed security risks, risks of all forms of discrimination, potential obstacles to participation and accountability, and risks related to land rights or forced evictions, as well as any other potential adverse social or human rights impact.

The World Bank should also ensure that it comprehensively complies with its Indigenous Peoples’ policy in all projects in which indigenous peoples stand to be impacted, directly or indirectly. Compliance needs to go beyond consulting with indigenous peoples in the course of undertaking a social impact assessment, and instead involve comprehensive participation of indigenous peoples in all bank-projects that affect them beginning at the project proposal stage and throughout the entire project cycle. The World Bank should only proceed with projects that affect indigenous peoples with their free, prior, and informed consent as provided by international law.

Furthermore, the bank should require independent third party monitoring and independent grievance redress mechanisms for all of its projects in Ethiopia. Until the environment for independent organizations, including nongovernmental organizations and the media, improves substantially, there is little opportunity for individuals to report problems with World Bank projects. Many of the existing grievance redress mechanisms lack independence from the government or, equally important, are perceived to lack independence.

While the bank has championed its “social accountability mechanisms” in Ethiopia, we question the effectiveness of these mechanisms within the current repressive environment. Statements from the requesters indicate that they would never utilize such mechanisms because of government involvement, and the Bank should heed these concerns. Unfortunately, to date, the bank does not appear to have addressed the question of how these mechanisms can be effective within the current repressive environment. The World Bank needs to find alternative, effective mechanisms to supervise its projects and permit people to safely complain about grievances.

Finally, in accordance with the World Bank’s commitment to and expertise regarding fiscal transparency and accountability, management should only support projects for which funds can be tracked. Tracking the funding is necessary for tracking the full impacts of a World Bank-financed project. It is also particularly relevant considering the bank’s decision not to provide direct budget support to Ethiopia because of the high-risk environment. The Inspection Panel pointed to the challenge of tracking PBS’ financing, in particular, because the government did not share key financial information. This is immensely problematic and should be promptly remedied.

3.    Provide the Requesters with a Remedy

The requesters have proposed measures to remedy the problems they highlighted in their complaint and a strong Action Plan is needed to address these concerns, which Human Rights Watch supports. I attach their letter for ease of reference.

The Action Plan should provide effective development and much-needed basic services to the people of Gambella, free of the requirement to be supportive of the ruling party. As indigenous people, the requesters should be partners in the World Bank’s development initiatives, which includes the right to be meaningfully consulted and for development projects to only go forward with their consent, free of any intimidation.

Given the climate of fear and repression that exists in Ethiopia, it is unlikely that many requesters will feel safe to return home to Gambella. In light of this, the Action Plan should address some of the most urgent needs of the requesters in the refugee communities including the lack of education and livelihood opportunities.

Finally, we urge the World Bank management to present the final Action Plan to the requesters in person in Kenya and South Sudan, comprehensively explaining it and responding to the requestors’ letter.

Thank you for considering our recommendations. I would be most happy to discuss them with you or your staff further. I look forward to your response.


Jessica Evans

Senior Advocate on International Financial Institutions

Business and Human Rights Division

Human Rights Watch

Annex 1

The African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations / Communities has debunked several misconceptions regarding indigenous peoples in Africa:

Misconception 1: To protect the rights of indigenous peoples gives special rights to some ethnic groups over and above the rights of all other groups.

Certain groups face discrimination because of their particular culture, mode of production, and marginalized position within the state. The protection of their rights is a legitimate call to alleviate this particular form of discrimination. It is not about special rights.

Misconception 2: Indigenous is not applicable in Africa as “all Africans are indigenous.”

There is no question that Africans are indigenous to Africa in the sense that they were there before the European colonialists arrived and that they were subject to subordination during colonialism. When some particular marginalized groups use the term “indigenous” to describe themselves, they use the modern analytical form (which does not merely focus on aboriginality) in an attempt to draw attention to and alleviate the particular form of discrimination they suffer from. They do not use the term in order to deny other Africans their legitimate claim to belong to Africa and identify as such.

Misconception 3: Talking about indigenous rights will lead to tribalism and ethnic conflicts.

Giving recognition to all groups, respecting their differences and allowing them all to flourish does not lead to conflict, it prevents conflict. What creates conflict is when certain dominant groups force a contrived “unity” that only reflects perspectives and interests of powerful groups within a given state, and which seeks to prevent weaker marginal groups from voicing their unique concerns and perspectives. Conflicts do not arise because people demand their rights but because their rights are violated. Protecting the human rights of particularly discriminated groups should not be seen as tribalism and disruption of national unity. On the contrary, it should be welcomed as an interesting and much needed opportunity in the African human rights arena to discuss ways of developing African multicultural democracies based on the respect and contribution of all ethnic groups.

Source: Paraphrased from Report of the African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities, Adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights at its 34th Ordinary Session, November 6-20, 2003.