A farmer in Ethiopia is getting legal aid from the UK in order to sue to British government for sending foreign aid to his country. The farmer claims that the foreign aid money is propping up a despotic regime that has ruined his life.
The case will likely cause embarrassment for the government, who have protected foreign aid spending despite imposing austerity measures at home. David Cameron says that the aid is symbolic of Britain’s ‘compassion’.
The farmer alleges, however, that the foreign aid to Ethiopia is keeping a brutal one-party state in power. He says the Ethiopian government is forcing thousands of people from their land using murder, torture and rape, according to the Daily Mail.
If the farmer is successful, he may force ministers to review Britain’s whole aid strategy, and could open up the government to compensation claims from the people of other countries to whom they have given aid.
The farmer, known only as Mr O, is not seeking compensation for himself, but wants to challenge the British government’s aid policy, claiming that it helped the Ethiopian government beat and torture him, forcing him to flee to a refugee camp in Kenya.
Rosa Curling, Mr O’s solicitor, said: “My client’s life has been shattered by what has happened. It goes entirely against what our aid purports to stand for.”
She added that giving aid to such a government violates the Department for International Development’s own human rights rules.
The money is alleged to finance the Ethiopian government’s brutal resettlement programme, called “villagisation”, in which farmers are forced from their lands and into new villages. The land is then sold to foreign investors. Any farmers who resist are brutally punished.
A spokesman for the Department for International Development commented: “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.”
Although officially a democratic state, the Ethiopian government has become increasingly intolerant of opposition in recent years. The country was ruled by a communist government until 1991, who in turn had overthrown Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974.
In the 1980s, over 1 million people died in one of the worst famines of the 20th Century.