Ethiopia PM Abiy intervenes to free detained AfDB staffers

Thursday November 16 2023
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (C). PHOTO | MICHAEL TEWELDE | XINHUA


Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed personally intervened to have two staffers of the African Development Bank (AfDB) freed from detention, the lender said on Thursday.

The incident had happened on October 31, but the bank did not confirm it until Thursday this week.  The identity of the officials was not given. Although, grapevine had it that two staffers of the bank had been involved in a public fight with a senior government official in Ethiopia, leading to their arrest.

In a statement, the AfDB said the two were arrested, physically assaulted and detained “for many hours by elements of the security forces without any official explanation”.

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“We are pleased that the prime minister of Ethiopia immediately acted when he learnt of the incident, ordered for immediate release of the affected staff and promised to order an immediate investigation into the incident,” it said.

It is unclear when the officials were freed but the bank said the incident violated diplomatic privileges accorded to all staffers working for it and seconded to Ethiopia, a member of the lender.


Under a bilateral arrangement, staff for the lender enjoy certain diplomatic privileges including protection from arrest or prosecution unless the leadership of AfDB waive those privileges. Staff working for the bank can also travel in and out of Ethiopia using their service passports that all member states of the lender recognise.

“This is a very serious diplomatic incident, and the AfDB has since lodged a formal complaint with Ethiopian authorities. For their part, the government has formally acknowledged our complaint, recognised gravity of the incident and reassured us that all those involved in breaking the law will be thoroughly investigated and brought to justice, ensuring transparency and full accountability.”

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Addis Ababa did not publicly comment on the incident, but AfDB says authorities in the country have since guaranteed “full respect of their rights, privileges and diplomatic immunities under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as well as the AfDB’s Host Country Agreement with the Government of Ethiopia”.