DfID on aid to Ethiopian police force: 'Hugely misleading'

Members of the Ethiopian federal police keep watch during a religious festival in Addis Ababa. A report by The Guardian alleges that the U.K. plans to use its aid budget to train a "special police" in the country. Photo by: Andrew Heavens / CC BY-NC-ND

The U.K. Department for International Development has dismissed a report that alleged it was planning to use its foreign aid budget to train a “special police” in Ethiopia that has been accused of human rights abuses.

“It’s hugely misleading,” a DfID spokesman told Devex, referring to a reportin The Guardian newspaper. “There’s actually no British money that will be going to this force.”

The Guardian reported on Jan. 10 having seen documents that the paper says confirm DfID wants to provide training to a paramilitary security force known as the “Liyu police,” which Human Rights Watch, in May, accused of being behind abductions, summary executions and other forms of abuses in the African country. Claire Beston, researcher for Amnesty International in Ethiopia, recently said “there is no doubt that the special police have become a significant source of fear in the region.”

The program’s goal is to build “a more peaceful and inclusive Somali region,” according to The Guardian. Funding for the program will be delivered to nongovernmental organizations and U.N. organizations. None of it, according to the news platform, will be channeled to the Ethiopian government.

Devex has not seen the documents cited by The Guardian.

The DfID spokesperson told Devex: “Not a penny of British money will go to the Liyu police force. Reforming the special police is critical for achieving a safe and secure Somali region and following a request from Human Rights Watch, we are discussing with U.N. partners how we might work together to improve the police’s human rights record.”

Referring to DfID’s peace and development program in Ethiopia, which is meant to boost primary school attendance and improve security and justice as well as access to health care, clean water and jobs, the spokesperson continued: “The safety and justice part of this program will boost personal safety and the quality and reach of justice services, particularly for women and girls.”

The Guardian’s report could prompt more debate on the future of U.K. aid. Just a few days ago, a report by the conservative think tank Civitas suggested the country’s aid program has been largely ineffective and funding should be diverted to military operations. Devex readers, meanwhile, have been debating U.K. aid Rwanda, which was frozen only recently over the government’s alleged support of rebels that have been spreading violence in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

On average, DfID’s plans to spend 331 million pounds annually in Ethiopia until 2015. The United Kingdom has been among the country’s top donors, placing third in 2010 behind only the World Bank and the United States, according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.