A 33-year-old Ethiopian farmer has become so disillusioned with the way UK overseas aid is propping a “one party state” that he is suing. The man, who has been granted anonymity to protect his family, believes that UK overseas aid helped the Ethiopian government inflict “brutal treatment” on himself and others.
The court papers were filed in Kenya claiming that the UKs £1.3bn donation to Ethiopia is being used to oppress the population. The father of six known as “O” has come in for criticism of his action because his legal fees are being paid by the British Taxpayer despite never having been to the UK.
However “O” insists his action is necessary, and has pledged to give any compensation he wins to charity. The exact reasons for “O” bringing the case is unclear but it is known that he was forced from his home and ended up in a refugee camp after he was tortured for trying to protect his land.
The project to displace farmers in Ethiopia is claimed to have been funded by the Protection of Basic Services fund to which the UK has contributed £510m. Ministers had urged the High Court to throw out the claim, but Mr Justice Warby said it was “reasonable” for “O” to believe there was a link between the Department for International development handing aid to Ethiopia and alleged human rights abuses.
He granted “O” the right to launch a judicial review into the way the Department for International Development acts in Ethiopia. A spokesman at the department said: “The UK has never 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.”
News of the court case has sparked a row in Westminster with some right-wing MPs such as Peter Bone criticising “O” for bringing a case against a country he has never visited. He told the Daily Mail the case was “bizarre” and ought to be dropped. However, others point out that “O” is highlighting a real problem with Britain’s colossal overseas aid budget, which is regularly claimed to be the key to the survival of a number of despotic regimes.
The idea that “O” is willing to go to such extreme lengths to stop hand-outs because he believes they are ruined Ethiopia will lead to more soul searching as the British wonder whether the huge overseas aid budget is actual making things worse.