Court told action halted because UK had stopped funding controversial project, although DfID said the case had no bearing on its decision

By Sam Jones |

An Ethiopian farmer who claims UK aid money was used to bankroll forced evictions in his home country has dropped his legal action against the British government after it stopped funding a controversial development project because of increasing concerns over civil and political rights in Ethiopia.

The farmer, known as Mr O, had alleged that British aid contributions to Ethiopia’s promotion of basic services (PBS) program – a $4.9bn (£3.2bn) project run by the World Bank and designed to boost education, health and water services – were being used by the Ethiopian government to help fund its villagization program.

Ethiopia’s commune development program (CDP), which aims to move 1.5 million rural families from their land to new “model” villages across the country, has been beset by allegations of forced evictions, rapes, beatings and disappearances.

Mr O, an ethnic Anuak, claims he was violently evicted from his farm in the Gambella region in 2011. He says he was beaten and that he witnessed rapes and assaults as government soldiers cleared people off their land.

Last week, Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) announced that it had ended its PBS contributions because of Ethiopia’s “growing success”, adding such projects were also regularly reviewed to assess recipient countries’ “commitment to partnership principles”. Until this year, it had contributed £745m of UK taxpayer money to the program.

On 4 March, lawyers for Mr O told the high court in London their client had decided to drop his judicial review of DfID’s actions as he had only ever wanted to see an end to the UK’s funding of the PBS program.

Rosa Curling, a member of the Leigh Day Human Rights team representing Mr O, told the Guardian he had got everything he had hoped to achieve from his litigation.

“His challenge was to the way in which DfID was assessing human rights issues when deciding whether it should continue to provide UK aid or not,” she said.

“We said given DfID had made a decision to continue to provide aid to PBS in 2013 despite the major allegations of human rights abuses, it was clear that there was not a proper system in place or the system in place wasn’t being properly followed by DfID.”

Continue reading on The Guardian

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