Alemayehu G Mariam
The moral bankruptcy of the World Bank in Ethiopia
Ethiopians have been the object of a cruel bureaucratic joke by the World Bank. Last week, an official investigative report surfaced on line showing World Bank bureaucrats in Ethiopia have been playing “Deception Games” of displacement, deracination, forced resettlement and a kinder and gentler form of ethnic cleansing in the Gambella region of Western Ethiopia. Tens of thousands of Anuaks in Gambella have been removed illegally and in violation of policy from their ancestral homelands and left high and dry and twisting in the wind, courtesy and cash of the World Bank!
For years, the fat cat World Bank bureaucrats and their ilk in Ethiopia have categorically denied allegations of any links between the so-called “Protection of Basic Services Project” (PBS) and the “villagization” program undertaken by the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (T-TPLF). (The term “villagization” is a euphemism for “civilization” of the Anuak to live in modern villages by abandoning their “primitive” lifestyles.) The Bank has consistently deflected criticism by claiming that it “had not encountered any evidence of human rights abuses” in its PBS programs in Gambella.
Stonewalling, sandbagging, mendacity and duplicity have been the preferred strategies of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the U.K’s Development for International Development and the so-called Development Assistance Group in Ethiopia (comprising of 27 bilateral and multilateral development agencies providing assistance to Ethiopia) when it comes to accountability for their complicity in crimes against humanity in Ethiopia. Sir Malcolm Bruce, chairman of the UK parliament’s international development committee, had the audacity to declare in March 2013 that “allegations against villagisation are unsubstantiated” and that “UK programme is delivering a very good result.”
To paraphrase Abe Lincoln’s saying, “The World Bank and the gang of poverty pimps known as the “Development Assistance Group” (DAG) can fool all Ethiopians some of the time, and some Ethiopians all the time, but they can’t fool all Ethiopians all the time.” But there is no denying that because of the Deception Games played by these leeches, “Ethiopians have been had! They been took! They been hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Led astray! Run amok!”, to paraphrase Malcom X. Ethiopianshave been cruelly punked and pranked by the mighty, mighty World Bank.
So spoke the “Inspection Panel” (IP), the World Bank’s independent accountability mechanism. The IP, of course, said it in the sanitized, detached and impersonal language of “bureaucratise”. They would never use the impassioned and fiery language of an outraged human rights advocate who is so perplexed in the extreme that he must speak out and loudly in the only language he knows, Moral Outrage. “Seal up the mouth of outrage for a while,/ Till we can clear these ambiguities…”, wrote Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. I need not seal up my outrage because the World Bank’s own Inspection Panel has cleared all of the ambiguities for me!
In September 2012, two dozen or so Ethiopian refugees from the Gambella Region of Western Ethiopia requested an investigation by the World Bank alleging that they had been forced off their land, “villagized” and their ancestral lands handed over to land grabbers (investors). In a letter dated September 24, 2012, the unnamed Anuak refugees alleged that they have been severely harmed by the World Bank-financed “Ethiopia Protection of Basic Services Project (PBS)” which directly supported the “Ethiopian Government’s Villagization Program in Gambella Region.” Specifically,
1) “Through the PBS program, the Anuak Indigenous People are being forcibly transferred from their fertile ancestral land, which is then being leased to investors.”
2) “The Anuak have been relocated to infertile land, which is unsuitable for farming, and forced to build new villages there.”
3) “Mass evictions have been carried out under the pretext of providing better services and improving the livelihoods of the communities. However, once they moved to the new sites, they found not only unfertile land, but also no schools, clinics, wells or other basic services.”
4) “[The Anuak] were forced to abandon their crops just before harvest and were not given any food assistance from the government during the move, which left many relocated families facing hunger. Some vulnerable people and children died from starvation as a result of the Villagization program.”
5) “Government workers in the woredas, whose salaries are paid by the PBS project, have been forced to implement this program.
6) “Those farmers who opposed the relocation, and government workers who refused to implement the program, including the Requesters and/or their relatives, have been targeted with arrest, beating, torture and killing.
7) “The Requesters believe that these harms have resulted from World Bank non-compliance with its operational policies and procedures.”
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