By Yonas Biru (PhD)
I write to you as my Prime Minister and a Nobel Laureate. Above all, I write to you as a man of unwavering conviction for justice.
Many, including cabinet-level American officials, have written about my case, seeking redress for the racial injustice I suffered at the World Bank. Twenty-seven US Senators and Congressmen, leaders of 500 American religious organizations, America’s iconic civil rights advocates, and nationally syndicated journalists have joined the chorus of call for justice, all to no avail.
Internally, Dean of the World Bank Board and the US, as well as an African Board of Directors to the World Bank, the World Bank Staff Association, the Chief Ethics Officer, and the Ombudsman, decried the injustice, but their call for justice fell on deaf ears.
The World Bank’s own Senior Advisor for Racial Equality wrote my case is “the worst case of racial injustice he had ever seen.” As a result of it and also at the request of the US Congressional Black Caucus, the World Bank commissioned an independent investigation by an outside expert. The outside expert found my case as a “blatant and virulent case of racism.” Former World Bank President Jim Yong Kim embargoed the report and ordered his General Counsel to deny any wrongdoing.
Though I have lived in the US for over 40 years, I am still an Ethiopian citizen; hence, my request for your intervention. Sadly, it is my Ethiopian heritage and honor to self and community that the Bank’s racist elements saw as a threat to the institution. This was made clear in a letter that former HR vice president, Hasan Tuluy, wrote to ban me from entering the World Bank premises.
The presumed threat the HR official highlighted in his “Building Restriction” order was an email I sent referring to my Ethiopian heritage. My email read: “I am an Ethiopian. I come from a society that believes our human rights are embedded in our soul and tattooed deep into our DNA. We do not surrender for racial injustice. It is neither in our tradition nor in our DNA construction.”
Currently, my case is on President Trump’s desk, after 60 pro-Trump conservative organizations and 15 prominent African American Bishops signed petitions asking him to intervene. Since the World Bank is an international organization and I am not a US citizen, President Trump is not likely to intervene before receiving a request from you.
I bring your attention to an open letter that His Excellency Mr. Ken Cuccinelli, currently a high-level official in the Trump administration, published in Addis Insight. He stated: “As an American, I can say without hesitation that if an American citizen faced injustice in a foreign land, the US government would do everything in its power to ensure justice is rendered and its citizen is returned to the US without delay.”
The Excellency added: “Dr. Biru has lived in the US for 40 years, but he still holds Ethiopian citizenship. It is extremely rare for someone who has lived in the US legally for 40 years without taking American citizenship. This shows the love he has for his country. It is important that his country stands by him.”
The injustice I endured and the resilience I showed in fighting the most powerful international organization prompted a group of conservative Americans to nominate me as “a Special Guest to Join President Donald J. Trump and the First Lady Melania Trump at the 2020 State of the Union Address.”
The nomination letter stressed, “Dr. Biru’s compelling story makes him worthy of the coveted invitation as a Special Guest of President Trump and the First Lady.” The special guests are often decorated veterans or American heroes who deserve special recognition. If confirmed by the White House, I would be the first non-American to get this honor.
Conservative Americans are not alone to express outrage by the World Bank’s systemic racial crime. Democratic-leaning African American Bishops staged a 90-minute sit-in protest in the Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office to protest her silence about my case.
Why did my case attract global support, including from leaders of many international agencies?
In a 73-page report, the Honorable US Senator Chris Van Hollen provided documentary evidence showing the World Bank “retroactively downgraded [my] past performance evaluations and official employment record, deeming [my] glaring record as ‘hagiographic’ – too good to be true.”
The Senator provided copies of my “original overall performance evaluation and the redacted version.” His report also provided ample documentary evidence that the World Bank posted “untrue and defamatory record” about me on its website “that contradicts [my] official personnel record.”
Reverend Jessy Jackson (American’s iconic civil rights leader) published a total of six articles about my case, including an open letter to the Pope. In one of the articles he stated: “The World Bank retroactively downgraded Dr. Biru’s record, claiming his record is beyond the natural capability of a black man.” In another article he characterized the case as an “epitome of the most dehumanizing issue of race and intelligence.”
Why did the World Bank retroactively degrade my record? I was up for promotion to be Global Manager, but the Bank was not prepared to promote me because “Europeans are not used to seeing a black man in a position of power.”
Instead, the World Bank came with what it called a win-win arrangement. It was to allow me to run the global program from behind the international limelight and front a white consultant as the Official Global Manager without his performing any managerial duty. The win for me was to run the program and the win for the Bank was to front a fake Global Manager to spare Europeans from the indignities of seeing an African as Global Manager.
I told the Bank’s management, “if Europeans are not ready for a black man, they should leave the program.” The Bank sent me a note not to reveal the secret arrangement that I was the one running the global program. I disregarded the “advice” and told our partners I was running the program.
My reaction and my decision to apply for the position (after I was advised not to) was taken as a challenge to the global racial status quo. The Bank retaliated by terminating me and retroactively degrading my performance record. The Bank went as far as deleting my name and leadership roles from its publications and websites.
This crime is documented with hard evidence in the Honorable Senator Van Hollen’s 73-page report, a 29-page report jointly prepared by America’s prominent civil rights organizations, a 10-page summary by the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and over 30 international newspapers.
The World Bank’s official written justification for stripping me of my official performance record is that its management regret giving me “overinflated performance ratings that had the unintended consequence of feeding into his megalomaniacal view of his performance and the resultant sense of entitlement to the Global Manager position.”
Soon after the White House started receiving petitions from conservative leaders, the current World Bank President David Malpass’ Spokesperson wrote to my advocates promising to restore my performance record and removing the false and defamatory remarks from the Bank’s website.
President Malpass’ decision to redress my case is supported by the US Board of Director to the World Bank. On August 29, 2019, the US Board of Director wrote to my advocates, stating: “I have gotten up to speed with the issue… And I also know that President Malpass is well informed. I am sure this will be resolved adequately.” I was asked to hire a lawyer and file a summary of my case, which I have done.
Though the World Bank President and the US Board of Directors (both Trump appointees) are committed to redressing the injustice, the Bank’s entrenched racist bureaucracy is unduly delaying the process.
The disgraceful policy that my record is too good to be true for a black is an insult to the entire black race. There is no reason why the World Bank has not honored its May 2019 written promise to restore my record. There is no reason why it is taking too long after the US Board of Directors expressed his confidence in August that “the case will be resolved adequately.”
Given the Bank’s immunity from lawsuits, the only solution is the intervention of the US government at President Trump’s level, on whose desk my case sits. His intervention is unlikely to happen without an official request from your office.
This year alone, President Trump has personally called the Prime Minister of Sweden and the President of Turkey and secured the release of two Americans who were imprisoned in the two nations. I am assured by several conservative leaders that he will positively respond to your request for his intervention. Your successful intervention with the King of Saudi Arabia to secure the release of Sheikh Mohammed Al-Amoudi is also a testimony that such interventions lead to a just and fair resolution.
I humbly request your intervention to restore my human dignity, ensure that I am fully compensated for the dehumanizing injustice and that my compensation is not race-based that the World Bank uses for African victims of racial injustice.