Under president Kim, racism against black staff has worsened at the World Bank. He is the first president to be personally accused of racial discrimination. But as an elite member of the Democratic Party, Kim, appointed by President Obama with the endorsement of Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, enjoys political protection to continue his nefarious ways.
Imagine the third largest employer in the nation's capital characterizing one of its African employees as an animal in an official report. His lawyer, Peter C. Hansen, demanded the "shameful" report that contained "the most galling... overtly racist... anti-African stereotypes" be removed from the record. The organization not only rejected the request, but its Administrative Tribunal felt obliged to let the lawyer know that the "tone and confrontational nature" of his pleadings did not go unnoticed.
The organization terminated the African and made it clear that he could have avoided termination “if [he"> had spent a little bit more time and energy listening to his manager and co-workers, and a little bit less energy preparing his case with his attorney." This is not a tale of bygone years, but a case from November 2015.
Imagine further that the organization does not accept medical certificates as evidence for emotional pain from people of African origin, but accepts from people of other races. This issue has been the subject of an">http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/94745">an open letter to Pope Francis by Reverend Jesse Jackson and four articles by different civil rights advocates in 2015. Another African American civil rights leader, Dr. E. Faye Williams wrote that the World Bank Tribunal "treats Sub-Saharan Africans as physiologically and psychologically different, if not inferior.”
The same organization told another African of Ethiopian heritage that his 17-year official record was too good to be true for an African and needed to be degraded. This was done to disqualify him from becoming the global manager of a high-profile international program.
The explanation was that the organization "regrets" having given him "overinflated" performance evaluations over the course of his career and this "had the unintended consequence of feeding into his megalomaniacal" expectations to become the head of a global program that requires cooperation with Europe.
In 2014, the DC chapters of the NAACP, the National Urban League, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the National Action Network, and the National Congress for Black Women, among others, formed a coalition and submitted a four-point agenda to the president of the organization. Top on the list was a request to address the Ethiopian's case. Soon enough, some of the coalition members buckled under political pressure and dropped out. Some of them proved extortionist - more on this below.
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) that had written to the Ethiopian that it was asking the Obama administration "to take action" and that his case "in particular was being addressed" caved under the weight of political pressure. Twenty-four of the 46-member CBC who had already signed a petition retracted their signatures in unison.
This is as much a narrative of endemic racism in one organization as it is an expose of the Democratic Party, whose repulsion to, and tolerance for, racial injustice is guided by who the perpetrator is rather than by what is perpetrated.
The perpetrator in this case is Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the current president of the World Bank and an elite member of the Democratic Party. In 2012, President Obama appointed Dr. Kim to the helm of the World Bank on the recommendation of Secretary Clinton and the urging of President Clinton.
World Bank critics saw Dr. Kim as a "Clintonian plant" to benefit the Clinton Foundation, whose primary mission is "to improve global health." The concern was that the Harvard-trained physician will pivot the Bank's focus toward health crisis management, away from its mandate on economics and finance.
Three years into Dr. Kim's presidency, a retired World Bank senior official, Paul Cadario, wondered "Why does Dr. Kim get to just focus on health, health, health?" Professor William Easterly of NYU stated: “[Kim"> is really the first World Bank president who thinks of the Bank as being primarily about relief rather than development.”
Under Dr. Kim the Bank's operational priorities overlap to a far more significant degree with those of the Clinton Foundation than under previous World Bank presidents. The growing common space has accorded the Clinton Foundation leverage to create a multiplier effect in resources and outcomes. If this is the quid for the Clintons, the quo for Dr. Kim is a membership card for the Mecca of the Democratic Party's bastion of power.
What has provoked more widespread criticism against Dr. Kim is that racial discrimination has gotten worse under him. He is the first World Bank president to be personally accused of racial discrimination, including by his personal assistant, the late Marline Alexis.
According to an investigative article that appeared in the December 4, 2015 issue of The NY Black Star News, Dr. Kim pushed out Alexis, a Haitian, and gave her position to his former Caucasian assistant at Dartmouth College.
He gave his former assistant a professional position even though her test results administered by the Bank's HR complex had placed her at a secretarial level. This, the article noted, meant paying her "$60,000 more than the pay scale she qualified for after the test and $30,000 more than Alexis, who had far more experience."
The former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz (President Bush's appointee) was forced to resign after he gave his girlfriend a $60,000 salary hike. A regular golf partner to President Obama and a stealth benefactor to the Clinton Foundation, Dr. Kim is protected under the political "Iron Dome" of two Democratic Party bosses.
New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, chair of the CBC Political Action Committee (PAC), the most authoritative Black PAC to endorse Secretary Clinton's presidential campaign, is one of the defenders of Dr. Kim. On October 21, 2015, the Congressman issued a press release applauding Dr. Kim's "successful efforts" to address diversity issues. The press release also carried CBC Chairman G. K. Butterfield's superfluous praise to Dr. Kim.
Phyllis Muhammad, co-chair of Justice for Blacks (an organization of former and current World Bank staffers) found the "undeserved accolades groundless hyperbole at best, or an unqualified endorsement of the systemic dehumanization of African American staff and other people of color at worst."
Her statements reflect the general sentiment of the World Bank staff. Only 6 percent of the 12,000 plus staff that took part in the Bank's 2015 Staff Engagement Survey "strongly agreed" that Kim's administration is "taking action to improve diversity and inclusion." This is the worst result in the Bank's history.
Justice for Blacks’ attempt to get support from Black Lives Matter (BLM) to bring the injustice to the American public proved ill-fated. The BLM leader of the DC, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) chapter, who freelances as an advocate for justice, charged the group a monthly fee of $1,200. Though he signed the contract in his capacity as an independent consultant, he is on the record that as part of the campaign "BLM-DMV is willing to push out any material and can definitely release a statement in support." It proved to be a scam.
The DC Chapter of Reverend Al Sharpton's organization (NAN-DC) required members of Justice for Blacks to pay two years of membership dues in advance and then contribute more before the civil rights organization brought the issue to the attention of other civil rights leaders and formed the DC Civil Rights Coalition to fight the injustice.
Dr. Kim's approach to deal with the Coalition was a mix of political pressure and financial incentives. The Bank promised NAN-DC financial rewards if it succeeded in convincing the Coalition to drop the Ethiopian's case.
Indeed, NAN-DC tried to drop the Ethiopian's case, but its efforts were rejected by the coalition. The Bank turned its focus on the Greater Washington Urban League and successfully used the civil rights organization's corporate board of directors to pressure it to dial down its campaign against the Bank.
As part of the counter-offensive, a US Treasury official called Rainbow PUSH Coalition to discourage Reverend Jackson's campaign to block US funding to the World Bank. The campaign was pursuant to a 2012 Appropriations Act that requires the US to block its financial support to the World Bank until it agrees to use external arbitration.
The Treasury's intervention was incredible on many levels. First, having extensively reviewed the Ethiopian's case it had determined that his request for external arbitration was "warranted." Second, the Treasury is entrusted by Congress with enforcing the very law that it tried to undermine.
Reverend Jackson rejected the Treasury's request and published two open letters to President Obama urging him to instruct the Treasury to enforce the law. The letter focused on the Ethiopian case to show the excesses of the Bank's systemic racism and the denial of access to justice that the US Treasury is a part of.
The injustice that the Ethiopian endured triggered an unprecedented intervention by members of both Houses of Congress, and several World Bank Board of Directors, including the Dean of the Board and the US Director. Though his case began before Dr. Kim came to power, what Dr. Kim has done to cover it up is unprecedented.
BLACK MAN IN POWER
The Ethiopian was the Deputy Global Manager of a high-profile international program with "outstanding/best practice" performance ratings. Nonetheless, the Bank denied him promotion to become the global manager of the program alleging that "Europeans [were"> not used to seeing a black man in a position of power.”
The Bank's peer review system (PRS) determined that he was "tenured, talented and qualified" for the position. It found "no business reason" to justify management's actions and "strongly" recommended “the Bank take immediate measures” and “immediately enter into binding mediation."
Vehemently determined to deny the Ethiopian the global manager position, the Bank claimed that his record upon which the PRS decision was based was "overinflated" and "hagiographic" - too good to be true.
To correct its "regretful mistake" of having given the Ethiopian stellar performance ratings that established his qualification for the global manager position, the Bank recanted his 17-year record. It went as far as removing his deputy global manager title from its publications and website and obliterating his stellar record.
Because of the Bank's immunity from lawsuits, the only recourse the Ethiopian had was filing a complaint with an internal Administrative Tribunal. The Tribunal ruled that the Bank's actions were justified by business reasons. This contradicted the Tribunal's confidential email that referred to the Bank as "dishonest" (the Ethiopian was copied inadvertently).
To top it off, the Bank terminated the Ethiopian and refused to pay him a six-figure severance payment that he had vested and to which he was entitled. The Tribunal reviewed his termination case separately and found it "unlawful and capricious." Nonetheless, it decided not to rescind because "He had criticized his managers."
One of the Tribunal judges, Francis Ssekandi, professor of law at Columbia University, sent the Ethiopian a note, admitting that his protest against the Bank's race-based manager selection process was "what has led to [his"> current situation." The judge said he did not agree with the judgment, but did not dissent because he "was not ready to take such a momentous step" of upsetting the apple cart.
Judge Ssekandi's advice about the disenfranchisement of the Ethiopian's hard-earned lifelong professional identity was to "let bygones be bygones and try once again to rebuild [his"> life and career" - from the ground up.
In 2014, under relentless external pressure the Kim administration notified the Ethiopian that the deleted sections of his managerial accomplishments "will be scanned into [his"> staff record." However, the Bank would neither confirm his managerial record to prospective employers, nor withdraw the defamatory record from its website.
Withdrawing the falsified record from the public domain would entail reviewing the Tribunals judgment that was based on the falsified record. Dr. Kim is fully aware of the fact that the record was falsified to deny a well-qualified African from holding a high-profile leadership position.
Currently the Bank has two records. The restored internal record shows the Ethiopian as "Internationally praised for his many skills... He carried a heavy load as Deputy Global Manager with multiple roles in the Bank's global management work, managing one of the most critical programs the Bank has ever managed."
In particular, the restored record gives the Ethiopian credit for "developing the global program's strategic framework; broadening the scope of its global partnership; and overseeing the implementation of the program in Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East, etc."
The record presently on the Bank's website falsely asserts: "He had no management responsibility... He lacked core competency... lacked international credibility... and he is hard to work with, etc"
The Ethiopian was left with no choice but to file an appeal with the Tribunal. Dr. Kim's administration filed a motion to dismiss it on three grounds:
• "Allegations of due process violations by the Tribunal are not cognizable" under the Bank's justice system. Therefore, Judge Ssekandi's confession of due process violation has no legal weight.
• The Bank will not confirm the Ethiopian's managerial credentials because it is "not in the business of painting a hagiographic image of him." The internally restored record is too-good-to-be-true to confirm.
• The Bank opposes any attempt by the Tribunal to remove the falsified record that formed the basis of its original judgment because it does not have jurisdiction to revise its rulings.
The Tribunal's judgment is best described by Frank Watkins, of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, in a revealing article titled "World Bank Tribunal Rules a Black Man Has No Rights to His Professional Identity."
Though the Ethiopian's case received worldwide attention and was a subject of over a dozen articles, it is by no means an isolated case. During its November 2015 session, the Tribunal reviewed numerous complaints filed by Sub Saharan Africans, including two against Dr. Kim's vice president for change, Sanjay Pradhan.
In one of the cases against Mr. Pradhan, the Tribunal found "substantive and procedural" violations of the Bank's Staff Rules "to the detriment of" an African staff's career that led to her termination. Nonetheless, the Tribunal ruled that her reinstatement is neither practical nor warranted.
This is despite the Tribunal's findings that the staff in question had "consistently operated at a higher level than her GE level position would call for" and her manager believed that "she is thoughtful, makes important contributions and her insights stand out from her peers." The case exposes the Bank's corporate lies that attributes the underrepresentation of African women in the Bank's professional ranks to "the lack of qualified candidates."
In a previous decision that involved a staff of Korean origin, the Tribunal had instructed the Bank to reinstate her after it found that her termination was the result of "substantive and procedural" violation of Staff Rules by her managers.
The aggrieved African has no legal basis to contest the Tribunal's judicial double standard. As noted above, Dr. Kim's administration has successfully argued in 2015 that the Tribunal cannot be held accountable for due process violations.
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
The second case against Mr. Pradhan is more revealing of the Bank's reckless racism. An African staff was waiting for the decision of the PRS that was reviewing his complaint of wrongful placement on probation. After a long deliberation, the PRS sent its decision to Mr. Pradhan, but not to the African complainant.
Mr. Pradhan withheld the decision and gave the African an ultimatum to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to leave the Bank without seeing the PRS decision or face termination. The termination threat was based on allegations that he had not met the conditions of his probation. The PRS review was supposed to determine whether his placement on probation was justified in the first place.
The African's request to see the PRS decision was denied. He had no choice but to sign the MOU, which allowed him time to remain in the US on an administrative leave on a World Bank sponsored visa until his children finished the school year. The alternative would have been uprooting his family and leaving the US.
During his administrative leave, the African filed a complaint with the Tribunal. The Tribunal agreed with him that he was "entitled to receive the results" of the PRS decision and instructed the Bank to give him a copy. Nonetheless, it ruled: "regardless of the [PRS"> result he is barred from future challenges to the termination of his employment...The MOU does not change the fact that the Applicant mutually agreed to separate from the Bank."
This is how the Tribunal has rejected every racial discrimination claim filed by Sub Saharan Africans.
Dr. Kim's claim that the Tribunal is independent and he has no control over its judgments is a well-worn canard. It is his administration that compared an African with an animal in an official document and defended its action before the Tribunal in 2015.
It is his administration that requested the Tribunal to sustain its race-based judicial double standard, arguing that the Tribunal cannot be held accountable for due process violations - the cornerstone of equality before the law.
All the Tribunal had done is grant his administration what it had requested. He who pays the piper calls the tune!
AFRICAN AMERICANS BANISHED
All the aforementioned stories involved Sub Saharan Africans. Readers may wonder how African Americans fare. African Americans are virtually banished from the Bank's professional and managerial ranks. In 1978, an op-ed piece in the Washington Post found only three African Americans out of 691 American professionals in the Bank's headquarters in Washington DC. In 2009, the number was four out of over 1,000. By comparison, in 2009 there were over 500 African professionals, not counting staff assistants.
The Bank understands that it cannot treat African Americans the way it treats Africans without triggering an internal revolt and/or risking strong reactions from the US government. This is not to say that African Americans in the World Bank are not discriminated against. They are. The point is that their population is controlled to make sure that they will not reach a critical mass to challenge the racial status quo.
The absence of a large number of African Americans in the Bank has made it easier politically for the Obama administration and the CBC to protect Dr. Kim.
That race is a matter of politics, not of moral righteousness or of justice for the liberal establishment is evident in the liberal media's deafening silence, despite concerted media outreach efforts by the DC Civil Rights Coalition. By comparison, the Coalition's clergy outreach resulted in a petition that was signed by leaders and representatives of over 500 faith-based organization.
Considering the Obama administration's politically-motivated failure to enforce the law of the land, the onus rests on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to enforce the Appropriations Act. The Committees also owe American taxpayers an investigation into whether their tax dollars were used to bribe Reverend Sharpton's organization.
The issue is personal to this author. He is the Ethiopian in the story. Somehow, talking about his ordeal in the third person makes the pain a bit more distant and a bit more tolerable.
* Yonas Biru can be contacted at: [email protected]
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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