Ethiopian farmer sues UK over foreign aid handouts to brutal regime

By IndepthAfrica
In East Africa
Mar 31st, 2014
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Ethiopian farmer

Ethiopian farmer

AN ETHIOPIAN farmer is using taxpayers’ money to sue Britain because he says that foreign aid sent to his country is supporting a brutal regime that ruined his life.

The man – known as Mr O – told his British lawyers that the £1.3billion the UK has sent to Ethiopia in the past five years has funded a despotic state.

He claims it is forcing thousands of villagers such as him from their land using murder, torture and rape, it was reported yesterday.

The farmer – whose case is set to cost the British taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds because he is using UK legal aid – accuses the Government here of devastating the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.

He argues that the huge sums handed to Ethiopia are breaching the Department for International Development’s (DfID) human rights rules.

His claims will fuel critics of the taxpayer-funded foreign aid handouts.

The landmark case is highly embarrassing for the Government. Ethiopia is among the biggest recipients of British aid and in July 2011 received £38million during the country’s worst drought in a decade.

Britain is also one of the main partners in Ethiopia’s Protection of Basic Services programme.

My client’s life has been shattered by what has happened

Mr O’s lawyer, Rosa Curling

Mr O’s lawyers claim money from this is helping to finance forced resettlement.

Londonbased lawyers acting for 33-year-old Mr O served papers to the DfID last month.

Mr O says he was forced to abandon his family and flee to a refugee camp in Kenya after being beaten and tortured for trying to protect his farm.

The farmer, whose identity is being withheld to protect his wife and six children in Ethiopia, is not seeking compensation but challenging the Government’s approach to aid.

His lawyer Rosa Curling, of Leigh Day, based in London, said: “My client’s life has been shattered by what has happened.

“It goes entirely against what our aid purports to stand for.”

Mr O’s family was caught in controversial “villagisation” programmes, it is claimed.

Under the schemes, four million in areas opposed to an autocratic government dominated by men from the north of Ethiopia are being forced from lucrative land into new villages.

Their land has been sold to foreign investors or given to Ethiopians with government links.

Mr O’s lawyers say the DfID is meant to ensure recipients of British aid do not violate human rights.

They say it has failed to investigate complaints properly.

A DfID spokesman said: “It is wrong to suggest that British development money is used to force people from homes.

“Our support is only used to provide healthcare, schooling, clean water and other services.”

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