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What Does the US Embassy’s Tweet About the AfDB Crisis in Ethiopia Suggest?

Yonas Biru (file)

Yonas Biru, PhD

Yesterday, the US Embassy in Ethiopia tweeted the following: 

“The U.S. Embassy highlights the importance of all nations observing and protecting the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to ensure diplomats around the world can carry out their missions in safety. We are concerned by the assault and detention of African Development Bank (AfDB) personnel and call for those responsible to be held accountable.” 

Soon After the Embassy of Canada retweeted:

“Canada remains concerned with the assault of @AfDB_Group diplomats in October, regrets that those responsible have not yet been held accountable, and is dismayed the AfDB have withdrawn foreign staff. Diplomats cannot do their job without the full protection of the Vienna Convention.” 

Almost simultaneously, the British Embassy tweeted a similar message. The purpose of this article is to shed light on the timing of these and other similar statements. But first we need to briefly discuss two points: (1) The assault and detention of two AfDB officials by Ethiopia security forces, and (2) the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) system.

The Assault and Detention

Ethiopia was supposed to transfer $5.2 million to AfDB. The Ethiopian government sent the $5.2 million that was earmarked for AfDB to an unknown account in Panama. People who know about the Panama Papers know Panama is one of the money laundering Mecca of the World. For those who do not know about the Panama Papers, they are 11 million leaked documents, containing personal financial information, including 12 world leaders, 128 public officials and politicians, and wealthy individuals involved in illicit financial transactions from 200 countries. 

The US’s Access to the SWIFT

The SWIFT is the system that facilitates and manages most international money and security transfers.

An insightful article by a Nobel Prize-winning Princeton economist, Paul Krugman, sheds a bright light on the US’s access to the SWIFT and its implications. The famed economist who is known for his lucid writing revealed two critical information.

  • Though the SWIFT is located in Belgium, the US has access to it after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  • “Most of the world’s fiber-optic cables, which carry data and messages around the planet, travel through the United States. And where these cables make U.S. landfall, Washington can and does monitor their traffic—basically making a record of every data packet that allows the National Security Agency (SNA) to see the data. The United States can therefore easily spy on what almost every business, and every other country, is doing.” 

Krugman concluded: “Santa may not know whether you’ve been bad or good, but the NSA probably does.”

The Diplomatic Debacle and the Aftermath

The AfDB wanted to know why the Ethiopian government has not sent the $5.2 million. The government insisted it has sent the money. On October 31, the Minister of Finance, Ahmed Shide, summoned the AfDB Country Director to his office. During the discussion it became clear that the money was not sent to the AfDB account. Instead, it was sent to an unknown account.

The same evening, Ethiopian security officers went to the AfDB country director’s resident and told him he was under arrest. At the time, one of the AfDB international staff was at his house. The Country Director reminded them that he has diplomatic immunity and that the Vienna Convention prohibits them from entering his house and arresting him. They beat him up and his visitor and took them to prison. The AfDB President had to call PM Abiy to intervene to secure their release. 

Subsequently, the AfDB evacuated all its international staff until a transparent investigation is undertaken and the report is released. Though the PM promised that he himself will follow through the investigation, it became clear that he was not serious about having a transparent investigation. 

After over a month, the President of the AfDB sent a high-level delegation to ensure the investigation is conducted as agreed. Their effort was to no avail. The PM tried to smooth-talk the President, saying “my brother, you have to trust me…” It did not work. The world knows the PM is a pathological liar. 

The PM’s failure to keep his words escalated the issue to the AfDB Board. On December 19, nearly 7 weeks after the assault, the AfDB Board decided not to return its international staff to Addis Ababa until a fully transparent investigation is conducted and the report is released. To date, the PM has refused to conduct such an investigation. 

There are two possible explanations. Either the PM himself or the Oromo mafia group that is ransacking the nation is involved in the $5.2 million scam. If the Mafia group is the culprit, the PM knows that throwing them under the bus will have serious repercussions. The mafia group knows he is deeply involved in looting the nation and its members will not go down alone. 

Why did the US Embassy issue a public statement yesterday?

It is to be remembered that in an earlier investigation the US found that federal government officials were involved in looting and exporting wheat from international storages intended to feed starving Ethiopians. Consequently, the US discontinued food aid to Ethiopia until a transparent investigation is conducted and the results are released. The PM failed to have such investigations. 

Considering that the US has access to the SWIFT system and controls the world’s fiber-optic cables through which all global financial information flows, it is plausible that it may have found out to whose account the $5.2 million is deposited. This is plausible because the source of the money is known. Tracking down its footprints and identifying the account number and owner of the account is not a difficult undertaking. 

The reason the US and other western countries are taking a strong and coordinated stand is to pressure the PM. They know he cannot survive a truly independent and transparent investigation.


Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of 


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  1. Your explanation that “the PM himself or the Oromo mafia group that is ransacking the nation is involved in the $5.2 million scam” is at best conjectural and is reflective of your resentful biases. You are right on the futility of trusting Abiy. The US discontinuing food for the hungry on account of a mishap is childish, inhumane, and standard American bullying.

  2. It is hard for anyone to believe that the PM, with his background in the secret services of Ethiopia and his well-demonstrated tendency to never delegate anything, is not aware nor privy to this shameful and disgraceful act. I have never supported the TPLF, nor the Derg for that matter, in fact I have consistently criticized them for all kinds of misdeeds. However, I have never seen them stoop to such a degrading level. With this kind of behavior, no one should be surprised that our nation’s capital will not only lose its moniker “Capital of African Diplomacy”, but will be abandoned for another perhaps more deserving city. Instead of making Ethiopia great as the PM claims, he is making Ethiopia a pariah state.

  3. Thank you Brother Yonas for your revealing report. If that is true it may come as something shocking to many readers. But it does not surprise me a bit. Such egregious behavior comes with the territory when all facets of governance is set up exclusively on ethnic lines. When you have a structure like that those with decision making authority are usually old buddies whose friendship goes way back to their places of birth. With a little of luck and audacity they will manage to wrestle away the mantle of running a region and the country. Then they have everything on their own with the nation’s coffers stuffed with billions of dollars within their reach. Well, one of them will dip his sticky fingers in the coffers with others turning blind eyes at the heist. You don’t expect them to out one of their own! That ain’t gonna happen. In fact after watching those sticky fingers of their beloved friend some of them may feel that they are being left out and will join the frenzy. That is what you get when you have a governance and constitution not based on the rights of the individual first and foremost. Commies designed and put it in place in 1991 and their after-births are reaping the end results now; which is rampant malfeasance. I ain’t surprised!!!


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