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AfDB resolves stand-off with Ethiopia

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Dr. Akinwumi Adesian and Ethiopian Prime Minister

The multilateral lender has resumed normal operations

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | On Jan.20, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) said it had successfully resolved the 80-day stand-off with the Ethiopian Government, marking the end of a challenging period resulting from a “serious diplomatic incident.”

The Ethiopian security authorities on 31 October, 2023, unlawfully arrested and physically assaulted two AfDB staff members, detaining them without charge or official explanation.

Despite the AfDB’s immediate formal complaint and subsequent engagement with senior government officials during a high-level mission in November, the matter remained unresolved, raising concerns about the security and safety of the bank’s personnel.

In response to the lack of progress and transparency in the investigation, the AfDB withdrew all its international staff from Ethiopia on December 20, 2023, while maintaining its office in Addis Ababa under an Officer-in-Charge.

Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the president of the AfDB, expressed deep concerns over the Ethiopian government’s failure to share investigation details and ensure the safety of the bank’s employees.

To address the impasse, President Adesina traveled to Addis Ababa and held productive meetings with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed from December 29-30, 2023.

The bank said the discussions led to a resolution, with the Ethiopian Prime Minister extending formal apologies on behalf of Ethiopia, assuring the security and safety of the bank and its personnel, and reaffirming the respect for diplomatic immunities and the Host Country Agreement.

The bank said the Ethiopian government had committed to conducting a thorough investigation into the October incident and sharing the formal report with the AfDB.

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Prime Minister Abiy’s strong personal leadership and commitment played a pivotal role in resolving the stand-off, and the government pledged full cooperation on investigations related to missing funds.

The AfDB, appreciative of the constructive dialogue, said it has decided to resume normal operations in Ethiopia. As such, all international staff will return to their duties, and the bank expresses gratitude to the general public, international community, shareholders, staff, management, and Boards of Directors for their understanding and support during this challenging period.

The AfDB said it values its longstanding partnership with the Ethiopian government, and with a commitment to transparency, accountability, and mutual cooperation, looks forward to continuing its ongoing portfolio in Ethiopia, covering 22 projects worth a total value of US$1.24 billion.

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