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AfDB Pulls International Staff from Ethiopia Following Assault Incident

Published December 26, 2023
7 months ago

In a decisive move responding to a severe security breach, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has announced the immediate withdrawal of its international employees from Ethiopia. This development stems from an incident on October 31, when Ethiopian security forces physically assaulted and unlawfully detained two AfDB international staff members for several hours without official explanation or charges.

The AfDB, a prominent financier of development projects across Africa, has expressed grave concerns regarding the safety of its staff in the country. Following a formal complaint lodged with Ethiopian authorities in November, the bank awaited a resolution. However, AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina has indicated in a recent statement that the situation remains unaddressed to their satisfaction. The absence of a detailed report on the investigations from the Ethiopian government has further strained relations and cast uncertainty on the future operations of the bank within the state.

Addis Ababa, home to the AfDB’s office and its significant investment portfolio, which counted 22 active projects valued at $1.24 billion as of September 30, will continue to function. However, the withdrawal does not extend to local staff, ensuring that routine operations persist for the moment.

The incident's details are scarce, with the AfDB offering limited public information. Nonetheless, an internal memo disclosed by President Adesina to bank employees underscores the gravity of the security breach, highlighting the immunity violations under the bank’s Host Country Agreement with Ethiopia.

The bank dispatched a high-level delegation to Addis Ababa on November 22 to meet both the government and bank staff. Faced with persistent concerns and lack of full confidence in the safety and security of the AfDB employees, the decision to withdraw foreign staff was seen as a necessary action. The AfDB president warned that the ongoing operations and potential future presence of the bank in Ethiopia could suffer if the issue remains unresolved.

Ethiopian government officials have yet to offer a response to the latest statement from the AfDB. Previously, Ethiopian state finance minister Eyob Tekalign expressed regret over the October incident and assured that an investigation would be conducted.

This development signals a concerning trend on diplomatic safety and the operational security of international institutions within Ethiopia. As the situation continues to unfold, stakeholders in Ethiopia’s development and international diplomatic communities will watch closely for the implications of the AfDB's withdrawal on the country’s economy and international relations.

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