Africa

Ethiopian man takes UK to court over resettlement policy

Thatched huts in the town of Kir in Gambella, Ethiopia (22 March 2012). Image copyright AFP
Image caption Villagers say they are being forcibly relocated from Ethiopia's Gambella region

A legal battle has been launched by an Ethiopian citizen who claims the UK has helped to fund a "brutal" resettlement programme in his country.

The man, who can only be referred to as "O", won permission to seek a judicial review at London's High Court.

He wants a ruling that the UK acted unlawfully by providing aid to Ethiopia without assessing its human rights record.

The UK government has denied funding the programme.

The case arises from Ethiopia's decision to resettle individuals from rural communities into new and larger "communes", known as the Commune Development Programme (CDP), in an attempt to reduce poverty.

'Violations'

In a report in 2012, the New York-based group, Human Rights Watch, said around 70,000 indigenous people from Ethiopia's Gambella region were being moved against their will to places lacking food, farmland, healthcare and schools.

The court ruled that "O" had an arguable case against the UK's secretary of state for international development that should go to a full hearing.

He alleged that he had fled to Kenya, leaving his family in Ethiopia, following "brutal treatment" in 2012 because of the CDP.

"The claimant alleges he is far from being alone in suffering in this way and refers to evidence gathered by human rights organisations and NGOs of widespread human rights abuses in Ethiopia in the context of the villagisation programme and otherwise," Justice Warby said.

"O" claims that UK money provided to the Ethiopian government "contributes to such violations".

The programme was currently in its third phase with a budget of some $870m (£510m) allocated until the end of January 2018.

A spokesman for the UK government's Department for International Development (DFID) denied it had ever funded Ethiopia's resettlement programmes.

"Our support to the Protection of Basic Services Programme is only used to provide essential services like healthcare, schooling, and clean water," the spokesman said.

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