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Ethiopia, AfDB Normalize Relations after Diplomatic Incident

The African Development Bank (AfDB) says it will resume normal operations in Ethiopia after receiving a formal apology and commitments from the government to resolve a diplomatic incident.

The decision to normalize relations follows a “fruitful” discussion between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina.

“I am delighted that relations between the African Development Bank Group and Ethiopia have now been normalized,” President Adesina said on X on Saturday.

On Oct 31 last year, government security forces physically assaulted and detained for hours two members of AfDB’s Addis Ababa-based international staff “without any official explanation”, according to the Abidjan-headquartered lender.

The incident drew strong criticism from the bank which said it was “a gross violation of their personal diplomatic immunities, rights, and privileges” under the Host Country Agreement.

Authorities opened an investigation into the case after a formal complaint was lodged by the group but its lack of progress and clarity left the bank’s officials dissatisfied and moved to pull expat employees out of Ethiopia.

Govt’s Commits to Cooperat with AfDB

Abiy and Adesina held “fruitful meetings” from 29 to 31 Dec 2023 which brought a resolution to the matter, according to the AfDB.

The Bank subsequently received formal apologies from the Government along with assurances of the security and safety of the Bank and its personnel, as well as their diplomatic rights and privileges.

The Government has also committed to the investigation into the incident and to share a formal report of its outcomes with the Bank and ensure accountability. The commitment also involves “full cooperation on investigations into the issue of missing funds that were to have been transferred to the Bank”, per AfDB.

In light of these developments, the Abidjan-based lender said on Friday, the bank will resume its normal operations and all international staff of the AfDB will now return to Ethiopia.

The decision was welcomed by the government, expressing their resolve to build up on the current multifaceted cooperation with AfDB.

“Our partnership with the African Development Bank Group is essential to Ethiopia’s food sovereignty endeavors,” PM Abiy said. “We remain committed to strengthening our relations.”

The AfDB Group’s ongoing portfolio in Ethiopia comprised 22 projects totaling $1.24 billion.