Leaked report says World Bank violated own rules in Ethiopia

Internal watchdog finds link between World Bank financing and Ethiopian government's mass resettlement of indigenous group

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Anuak children in Gorom Refugee Camp in South Sudan. Many Anuak fled Ethiopia during a government relocation campaign called "villagization".

Andreea Campeanu/ICIJ

The World Bank repeatedly violated its own rules while funding a development initiative in Ethiopia that has been dogged by complaints that it sponsored forced evictions of thousands of indigenous people, according to a leaked report by a watchdog panel at the bank.

The report, which was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, examines a health and education initiative that was buoyed by nearly $2 billion in World Bank funding over the last decade.

Members of the indigenous Anuak people in Ethiopia’s Gambella province charged that Ethiopian authorities used some of the bank’s money to support a massive forced relocation program and that soldiers beat, raped and killed Anuak who refused to abandon their homes. The bank continued funding the health and education initiative for years after the allegations emerged.

The report by the World Bank’s internal Inspection Panel found that there was an “operational link” between the World Bank-funded program and the Ethiopian government’s relocation push, which was known as “villagization.”

By failing to acknowledge this link and take action to protect affected communities, the bank violated its own policies on project appraisal, risk assessment, financial analysis and protection of indigenous peoples, the panel’s report concludes.

The Ethiopia case is one of several recent World Bank-financed projects that have drawn fire from activist groups for allegedly funding human rights violations. These projects include a loan to a palm oil producer in Honduras whose security guards have been accused by human rights advocates of killing dozens of peasants involved in a land rights dispute with the company, and a conservation program by the Kenyan government that members of the Sengwer people say was used as tool for pushing them out of their ancestral forests. 

Read more on ICIJ.org

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