AfDB withdraws all foreign staff from Ethiopia, directs them to work remotely till report on arrest and assault of staff is released

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has withdrawn all its international staff from Ethiopia and directed them to work remotely outside the country until the findings of the government investigations into a diplomatic row involving the bank’s staff and the country’s security agencies are “transparently shared with the Bank, and full details of the measures taken to bring the guilty parties to book are made public.”

The move follows the recent breach of diplomatic protocol and assault by Ethiopian security forces on two of the AfDB’s international members of staff. On October 31, 2023, two Addis Ababa based staff of AfDB were unlawfully arrested, physically assaulted, and detained for hours without charge or any official explanation.

In the interim, the bank has stated that its Addis Ababa office will remain open under an Officer-in-Charge. The bank added that the measures do not affect nationally recruited staff from Ethiopia who will continue their work and remain in the full employment of the Bank. The Bank will assure them and their families of its duty of care.

“This was a gross violation of their personal diplomatic immunities, rights, and privileges under the African Development Bank Group’s Host Country Agreement with the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,” noted the AfDB in a release issued towards the end of December 2023.

On learning of the incident, the AfDB President Dr Akinwumi Adesina immediately contacted the highest levels of authority in the Ethiopian government, following which the Bank’s two staff members were released.

The AfDB formally communicated with the government of Ethiopia through an official note verbale on November 6, 2023, requesting a full and transparent investigation into the incident.

Dr Adesina also sent a high-level delegation of Bank officials led by its Senior VP to Addis Ababa on November 22, 2023, to engage with senior Ethiopian authorities on the matter and to meet with Bank staff in the Ethiopia Office in Addis Ababa.

The AfDB President said: “The assessment from the Bank’s delegation indicates that the situation is still not yet resolved in a satisfactory manner. It also does not provide full confidence that all the African Development Bank’s 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,” Adesina added.

Adesina said: “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.”

Adesina emphasized that the AfDB will do everything possible to ensure the safety and security of its personnel, and the protection of their rights and privileges in the conduct of their work.

In this regard as precautionary measure, he said, AfDB’s international staff in Ethiopia will work remotely outside the country until the findings of the government investigations into the grave incident are transparently shared with the Bank, and full details of the measures taken to bring the guilty parties to book are made public.

He said that the AfDB remains committed to supporting the country’s socioeconomic development. As of 30th September 2023, the Bank’s ongoing portfolio in Ethiopia comprising 22 projects, totalled $1.24 billion.

Adesina, however noted: “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.”


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