Ethiopia: Human rights advocates criticize World Bank for failing to defend former employee charged for attending food security workshop

Author: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (USA), Published on: 16 October 2015

"How a World Bank Translator Became a Hunted Man"

Pastor Omot Agwa...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...Agwa...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...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...

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.”

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