Great Ethiopian Run accused of impropriety

The charitable organisation the Great Ethiopian Run has had its funds and property confiscated by the Charities and Civil Societies Agency (CCSA), amid accusations of involvement in activities defined as "profitable" under Ethiopian law.

Founded by champion long distance runner Haile Gebreselassie, the Great Ethiopian Run is registered as a charitable organisation with the country's justice ministry. However in the 12 years since it was founded, the organisation has made just two donations – to Marry Joy and Abebech Gobena orphanages in Addis Ababa – spending the rest of its funds on "building its own finances and image", according to the agency.

The CCSA said the government has lost the tax it would have collected had the Great Ethiopian Run been registered as a profitable business organisation. The funds and properties seized by the agency will be distributed to the charitable organisations registered as beneficiaries of the Great Ethiopian Run, which has been given until the end of the year to register as a business organisation.

Founder Gebreselassie defended the funds – 10 million birr (about €425,000) according to the CCSA – saying they were intended to ensure the viability of the run in the event of no future sponsors. He also claimed that the organisation had initially attempted to register outside of charitable status, which had been a “final option”, but had received no assistance from the Ethiopian Athletic Federation (EAF).

The annual 10 km road run is the biggest of its kind in Africa and last year attracted around 36,000 athletes. This year's event takes place in Addis Ababa on 25 November and is sponsored by the Bank of Ethiopia.