We train forces who kidnapped Ethiopia’s ‘Mandela’

Published by The Mail on Sunday (10th April, 2016)

Britain is giving more than a million pounds to train Ethiopia’s security forces – even though the country’s repressive regime abducted a British citizen and holds him under sentence of death.

Andargachew Tsege, a father of three from North London, was snatched almost two years ago while travelling through an airport in Yemen. After being forced on to a plane to Ethiopia, he was paraded on television and held for months in secret detention.

Yet the Foreign Office is spending £500,000 on a master’s programme in ‘security sector management’ run by Cranfield University in Ethiopia – a one-party state accused of horrific human rights abuses. Another £546,500 is being spent by the Ministry of Defence to help support the Ethiopian Peace Support Training Centre, which opened last year.

‘I am furious,’ said Yemi Hailemariam, Mr Tsege’s partner and mother of their children. ‘It’s crazy that we’re giving aid like this. They say it is to improve human rights there but then they go and help the security apparatus detaining Andy.’

The funding – made through the £1 billion Conflict, Security and Stabilisation Fund – emerged in a Freedom of Information request to the Foreign Office, although it declined to detail a human rights assessment on the grounds that it might ‘prejudice relations’.

There are 35 students on the security management course, which includes modules on intelligence operations. They include officials from Djibouti and Rwanda, another repressive state, as well as Ethiopia.

‘It is deeply alarming that UK taxpayers appear to be funding the very Ethiopian security forces responsible for the kidnap and rendition of British citizen,’ said Maya Foa, from campaign group Reprieve.

Eighteen months ago, International Development Secretary Justine Greening suspended a similar programme ‘because of concerns about risk and value for money’.

This followed the seizure of Mr Tsege, 61, who has lived in Britain since 1979 and been called his nation’s Nelson Mandela. His case was highlighted last month by the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in a report condemning the  government for back-pedalling on human rights.

Internal emails obtained by The Mail on Sunday show that shortly after Mr Tsege’s kidnapping, the Foreign Office’s Africa director complained that a British Minister had raised the case with the Ethiopian Prime Minister ‘but in the same week that DFID announced lots of extra aid, which rather mixes messages’.

Mr Tsege fled Ethiopia after falling out with then-president Meles Zenawi for exposing corruption and later establishing a pro-democracy party.

Seven years ago he was branded a terrorist and sentenced to death in absentia for allegedly preparing a coup, which he denies strongly.

He was abducted in June 2014 while travelling to Eritrea. After a year in solitary, he was moved to a prison near Addis Abba called a ‘gulag’ by human rights groups. He had a broken thumb when he last met British diplomats, and there have been fears of torture.

Ethiopia, seen as an important ally in the war on terrorism, is the second biggest recipient of British aid, receiving £277 million in direct donations this year. A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘Ethiopia is heavily engaged in the fight against Al Shabaab in neighbouring Somalia, which is vital to build stability in the region and to UK interests.’

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