Department for International Development offers £15million in aid to train security forces
Human rights groups warn money could fall into the hands of special police known as Li
Official documents invite bids to train security forces as part of the five-year ¿peace building¿ programme in the war torn country. A girl is pictured in front of a rusted old Russian tank lying in a field near Aksum, Ethiopia
By GERRI PEEV
Friday, January 11, 2013
British taxpayers could be used to fund a group of Ethiopian paramilitaries who stand accused of murder, rape and torture.
The Department for International Development will dole out up to £15 million in foreign aid to train security forces in Ogaden, a Somali region within Ethiopia.
But human rights groups have warned that the money could fall into the hands of a thuggish security force that has been accused of executions and other crimes.
A document calls for tenders to train security forces as part of the five-year ‘peace building’ programme. The Ethiopian government has relied on a violent ‘special police’ force to carry out its counter-insurgency in the area and there are fears that the UK is poised to engage with them.
Officials even spell out to any interested parties the ‘reputational risks of working alongside actors frequently cited in human rights violation allegations’.
The ‘special police’ known as Liyu have been accused of carrying out executions, rape, torture and raizing villages to the ground.
It is also claimed that they carried out a mock execution of a Swedish journalist jailed in Ethiopia in 2011.
International Development Secretary Justine Greening has met met with Ethiopia¿s foreign minister to discuss human rights abuses
The Department for International Development insisted that ‘not a penny’ of money would go to the force and that the tender was for NGOs and private companies to improve security.
International Development Secretary Justine Greening also met with Ethiopia’s foreign minister to discuss human rights abuses on Thursday.
Ethiopia receives more than any other country in foreign aid from British taxpayers, some £390 million a year.
It is seen as an ally against Islamic militancy in east Africa.
DfID documents for the tender say the work will be for the ‘security and justice component’ for Ethiopia’s Somali region’ to ‘build a more peaceful and inclusive Somali region’.
It added: ‘The primary recipients of the services will be DfID for the design element and for the implementation of the regional government of the
Somali Regional State, specifically state and non-state security and justice service providers.’
‘The peace and development programme will be delivered in partnership with NGOs and UN organisations and no funding will go through the government of Ethiopia.’
But a Human Rights Watch report warns of the abuses meted out by the Liyu police, who it describes as a ‘force of some 10,000 -14,000 young Somalis mostly recruited from within the conflict zone (aka the Ogaden sub-region) using recruitment methods similar to those of insurgent groups.’
‘Training is minimal and loyalty within the force closely linked to personalities in leadership positions, of whom the president is paramount. Human rights abuses committed by the special police are believed to be more widespread and severe than those committed during the military campaign.
‘However, having a Somali paramilitary force lead operations in the region is convenient for the federal government who have been able to frame the conflict as internal regional politics rather than a government-led crackdown.’
Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher, Claire Beston, told the Guardian newspaper which unearthed the tender documents that any engagement with the paramilitaries was highly concerning.
She said: ‘There have been repeated allegations against the Liyu police of extrajudicial killings, rape, torture and other violations including destruction of villages and there is no doubt that the special police have become a significant source of fear in the region.’
A DFID spokesman said: ‘Not a penny of British money will go to the Liyu police force. Reforming the Special Police is critical for achieving a safe and secure Somali Region and, following a request from Human Rights Watch, we are discussing with UN partners how we might work together to improve the Police’s human rights record.
He added: ‘The peace and development programme will bring safety, security and justice, as well as healthcare, water and education, to hundreds of thousands of people in the Somali region of Ethiopia. The safety and justice part of this programme will boost personal safety and the quality and reach of justice services, particularly for women and girls.’