London, United Kingdom (Reprieve) – A Freedom of Information request by human rights organization Reprieve has revealed that over £1m in public funds are being used to train Ethiopian forces. The funds are divided between a Masters programme in ‘Security Sector Management’ for Ethiopian forces, which appears to be overseen by Cranfield University and the Ministry of Defence, and a military training centre in Addis Ababa, run by the Ethiopian army.
The funding has raised concerns that the UK could inadvertently be supporting the forces responsible for the kidnap and rendition of a British man, Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege. Mr Tsege, a British father of three, was forcibly taken into Ethiopia by the country’s security forces in June 2014, and remains in illegal detention. Mr Tsege is a prominent activist who has called for reform in Ethiopia, and he is held under a sentence of death that was imposed in absentia in 2009, in relation to his political activities.
In September 2014, Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State at the Department for International Development (DfID) told Reprieve that DfID had suspended a similar Masters programme for Ethiopian security-sector officials, due to “concerns about risk and value for money.” She said the decision “was unrelated to Andargachew’s case.” It is not clear whether the current training programmes are designed to replace the suspended DfID project.
News of the latest UK support comes amid Ethiopian media reports that David Cameron is soon to visit Ethiopia to discuss ‘security issues’. A recent article in the Ethiopian Reporter claimed that the Prime Minister would visit “alongside the minister for international development, and the head of the British homeland security”, and that “senior security officials of Ethiopia attend Masters’ degree courses on security. The courses are fully financed by the UK government.”
Human rights organization Reprieve – which is assisting the family of Mr Tsege – has urged Mr Cameron to use the visit to secure Mr Tsege’s release.
Commenting, Maya Foa – head of the death penalty team at Reprieve – said:
“This funding raises potentially serious questions over the UK’s approach to Ethiopia’s security forces – forces who were responsible for the kidnap and rendition to Ethiopia of British national Andy Tsege in June 2014. Whilst there is of course a place for legitimate security cooperation between Ethiopia and the UK, the government should ensure that the support it provides does not in any way contribute to the abuses that Andy Tsege currently faces. Ministers must use the relationship to request Andy’s release, and his return home to his family in Britain.”
This report prepared by Reprieve.