Ethiopia’s “Odious Debt” to the Odious World Bank


FEBRUARY 8, 2015 10:57PM

WBEthiopia as “sovereign deadbeat” state due to debts incurred by the T-TPLF

In my last commentary, The World Bank and Ethiopia’s “Growth and Transformation”, I cryptically observed in passing, “… The USD$600 million is money the World Bank loaned to the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (T-TPLF)  in the name of the People of Ethiopia. Future generations of Ethiopians will be asked to pay it back. Will they be legally obligated to do so!?! Umm!)” Are the people of Ethiopia responsible for the World Bank’s “odious debt” to the T-TPLF?

An “odious debt” may be defined as an “illegitimate national debt incurred by a regime for purposes that do not serve the best interests of the nation and therefore should not be enforceable against the people of the debtor nation.”

I submit the USD$600 the World Bank “loaned” to Ethiopia for the so-called “Protection of Basic Services Project” (PBS III) (and any other “loans” extended to Ethiopia by any government or international institution to be reviewed on a case by case basis) is an odious debt. I do not mean to suggest or imply that  any other “loans” provided  by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Chinese, Japanese, British Governments, the African Development Bank, or any member of the European Union are NOT “odious debts”. I believe they are highly likely to be odious, but that has to be determined on a case by case  basis. Here I want to focus on the “odiousness” of the PBS III loan because there is a mountain of clear and convincing evidence that the USD$600 million loan is unquestionably an “odious debt”.

Is Ethiopia’s “odious sovereign debt” to the odious World Bank legally enforceable? Are future generations of Ethiopians liable to the debts accumulated with the World Bank by the T-TPLF?

I shall argue in this commentary that neither this nor future generations of Ethiopians have a legal obligation to pay for the “odious debt” incurred in the implementation of PBS III by the corrupt, racketeering and benighted T-TPLF.

Ethiopia’s “Odious Sovereign Debt” to the World Bank: The BIG legal questions

The legal questions and issues related to Ethiopia’s debt to the World Bank in PBS III are myriad. I will only list just a few of them.

1) If the World Bank’s PBS III loan to Ethiopia could not be accounted for in whole or in part, or is shown to have been stolen, misappropriated, misspent, embezzled, swindled and corruptly used by those in power, their cronies and associates, are the people of Ethiopia liable for that debt under international law?

2) If the answer is in the affirmative to question 1, could it legally be argued that the loan is a private or personal debt of the T-TPLF leaders, their cronies and associates who looted and benefited from the loan in corrupt racketeering schemes?

3) If the answer to questions 1 and 2 are in the affirmative, are the T-TPLF leaders, their cronies and associates jointly and severally responsible for these debts as personal debts?

4) If the answer is in the affirmative to question 1, do the people of Ethiopia have a legal cause of action against the World Bank for lending money it knows or should reasonably have known will be used by the T-TPLF in corrupt schemes or in the furtherance of organized racketeering activities?

5) Did the World Bank commit crimes against humanity by lending money to an illegitimate regime (a regime that claims election victory by 99.6 percent) which used the loan proceeds to engage in massive human rights violations including forced resettlements of indigenous populations?

6) Is the World Bank liable as an accessory (before and after the fact), accomplice and aider and abettor in the commission of a crimes against humanity against the indigenous Anuak people of Gambella who were forcibly transferred by the T-TPLF using World Bank PBS III loan money from their ancestral lands, relocated to infertile land which is unsuitable for farming, forced to live in villages without the basic necessities of life against their will and undergoing great pain, suffering and death in the process?

7) Are the people of Ethiopia liable to the World Bank for a loan that was used in willful disregard of the terms and conditions of the loan?

8) Are the people of Ethiopia liable to the World Bank for a loan that was administered by Bank  employees in depraved indifference and flagrant violations of the Bank’s own policies, guidelines, approved business practices and established and widely accepted banking practices?

9) Are the people of Ethiopia liable to the World Bank for a loan that was used for corrupt and criminal purposes under the domestic law and constitution of Ethiopia and international law?

10) Is a successor democratic government to the T-TPLF liable for the PBS III debt?

In short, are the people of Ethiopia legally entitled to repudiate the PBS III as an odious debt?

I do not aim to answer the foregoing questions in this commentary. Here, I will only address the general issues as part of my longstanding efforts to educate the Ethiopian public. I shall defer the more technical legal issues for future litigation when the rule of law and democracy rise and shine on Ethiopia and the people manage to “transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood” and sisterhood and stand up united to defend their rights.

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