Biru Saga: Liberal Establishment Abandoned Ethiopian Economist's Fight Against Racism at World Bank

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World Bank chief Dr. Kim; extols diversity while ignoring egregious treatment of Biru. Photo-Flickr


Recently, I came across a racial discrimination case that triggered outrage and condemnation across the conservative-liberal political divide, running the gamut from the Breitbart News to the Huffington Post. The case reaffirmed two of my long-held beliefs. The most obvious racial discriminatory acts are often perpetrated by Democrats and the liberal establishment’s repulsion to, or tolerance for, racial discrimination is guided more by whom the perpetrator is rather than by what is perpetrated.

The perpetrator in this case is Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the President of the World Bank. He was nominated to his position by former President Obama at the strong recommendation of Secretary Clinton and the urging of former President Clinton, with whom Dr. Kim has worked closely since the inception of the Clinton Foundation. His victim is an Ethiopian national, Yonas Biru, who was employed by the World Bank for 17 years.

Biru was denied promotion to become the Global Manager of a high-profile international program because “Europeans are not used to seeing a Black man in a position of power.” When he protested, the Bank terminated him. In 2014, the Kim administration told him that his professional accomplishments are “hagiographic” – too good to be true – for a Black man. The Bank sealed his management record and refused to confirm it to potential employers. The US Treasury, the US Board of Director to the World Bank, two US Senators, 24 members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), faith-based organizations, and the DC Civil Rights Coalition led by Jesse Jackson (including the NAACP and the National Urban League, among others), called for justice. All to no avail.

As reported in Breitbart News, the case prompted the US Congress to pass an Appropriations Act to rein in the World Bank and other international agencies that are abusing their immunity from lawsuits. The Act requires the US to block US funds to the World Bank until it agrees to use independent adjudicative bodies, including external arbitration for employment disputes. Dr. Kim remained unfazed and made it clear on the record that he has no intention of complying with any US Appropriation’s Act.

As the uproar grew louder, Dr. Kim sought the help of the Obama administration and Clinton’s African American surrogates to block the enforcement of the law and to stop the CBC and the Civil Rights Coalition from rallying behind Biru’s case. Subsequently, the US Treasury called one of Reverend Jackson’s Executive Directors to ask them to stop their campaign to enforce the Appropriations Act, stressing that blocking funds to the World Bank will cause more harm to African countries than to the World Bank. Jesse Jackson, who had published an Open letter to former President Obama to “urge” him “to instruct the US Treasury to block US funding” buckled under political pressure and stopped the campaign. In the meantime, Secretary Clinton’s campaign surrogates sprang into action to stop the CBC from demanding the enforcement of the law.

The CBC that had asked “the US Treasury to take action” and written to Biru that “The Department of Treasury is very active in pushing for action regarding [his] case” folded like a lawn chair. Twenty-four CBC members who had signed a petition retracted their signatures. Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ office that took the initiative to reach out to Biru to find out how they “may be able to help,” urged him to stop his “unrelenting accusations, even if true…”

Congressman Gregory Meeks, Chair of the CBC Political Action Committee (PAC) took a large CBC-PAC delegation to the World Bank and issued a press release, to praise Kim’s “successful efforts to increase diversity in the senior executive position throughout the institution.” This was nothing more than a PR stunt to repair Dr. Kim’s image that was increasingly becoming a liability to the Obama administration and Secretary Clinton’s campaign. The Congressman’s accolade to Kim as a champion of diversity came two months after the World Bank Staff Survey revealed only 6 percent of the general staff “strongly agreed” that Kim’s administration “is taking action to improve diversity and inclusion.”

Suppressing Biru’s pursuit of justice included silencing the liberal media. Several liberal newspapers that have been publishing articles about his story stopped abruptly. Perhaps more shocking is that the Voice of America (VOA), the official broadcasting service of the US government, canceled Biru’s pre-taped interview hours before it was scheduled to air. Silencing the independent media is one thing, but silencing tax-payer financed VOA is a different matter altogether.

What the Kim administration has done to Biru is inhuman as Dr. Ben Carson rightly noted and “dehumanizing and painful to read” as Jesse Jackson observed before he bowed out of Biru’s corner. What the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton’s CBC surrogates and Jesse Jackson have done is un-American and the antithesis of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Dream.

Biru came to the US in 1979 with $12 in his pocket and an Ethiopian Coptic Cross around his neck. He worked hard to support himself through college and earned a PhD. As his daughter, Ida, noted in her article about him her father’s “story was the quintessential American dream built on hard work, faith in God, and pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps family values.”

In October 2016, current Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) requested the Obama administration to ensure that the World Bank honor and restore Biru’s "professional accomplishments so that he may pursue other opportunities and be able to provide for his family" and remedy the injustice through external arbitration, pursuant to the Appropriations Act.

The US Department of State declined to respond. The US Treasury responded, stressing that the World Bank has refused to comply with the law and the Treasury “will not pursue further the matter of external arbitration of [Biru’s] case.” The Obama administration that fought aggressively for the “legal rights” of undocumented immigrants denied the protection of the law to a model immigrant who came here legally and worked hard to realize the American dream. Dr. Kim’s “lack of humanity,” that Dr. Carson decried should no longer be tolerated.

Biru’s pursuit of justice is now in the hands of the Trump Administration. Justice and humanity demand swift action.


Dr. Steve Parson, Heads African American Ministers for Trump in Virginia, and Advisory Board for National Diversity Coalition for Trump.

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