Ethiopia: Me, my country and corruption



Ethiopia: Me, my country and corruption

By Wondemagne Ejigu kebede
Lillhärdal, Sweden


Have you seen a movie titled ”me, myself and Irine” or ”me and Marely”? Both are my favorite movies. When I decided to write article about corruption what it does to me and my country. The title concept of these movies clicked to my mind. I borrowed the concept, convinced it will explain the theme of my article. In this article I will try to discuss the harm corruption can cause to an individual that is me and my country. I will also try to shade some light on the issue from the global perspective by putting the international community role on top of it. I will try to point out corruption effect in Ethiopia, its cause in my view, international community reaction towards it, my personal encounter in corruption and the possible remedy in my conclusion. One can imagine that it will be difficult to comperes all these ideas in one article. However I will try my best.

How big is Corruption in Ethiopia?

According to the Global Financial Integrity, (GFI) which tracks illicit financial flows out of developing countries worldwide. The amount of money that Ethiopia lost by smuggling cash out of the country , both by the government and the private sector between   2001 and 2010 totals 16.5 billion of USD. GIF’s statistics are based on official data provided by Ethiopian government, World Bank  & IMF.

Ethiopia also ranks 141 out of 176 countries in the corruption index of transparency International.

According to a report by UNDP on January 5, 2012, 8 Billion USD secretly taken out of Ethiopia, in the span of 10 years.

On October 6, 2014 another report from Transparency International revealed that, Ethiopia suffers from high levels of bribery. In its public opinion published the same year.

In another report from UNDP in 2014 the illicit financial flow was estimated to be a little over  3 billion USD, in the other hand the country  total  gain of a hard currency manly from remittance plus export is  a little shy from 3 billion USD in the same physical year.  How worse can it get?

The list could go on and on.

But to show how rampant it already got, mentioning a recent incident will worth it. A highly positioned person from the ruling party of Ethiopia has been caught in London Heathrow airport with cash money of 5 million sterling pounds all the way from Addis Ababa.   This alone is a perfect case to show how ridiculously rampant and big corruption is in Ethiopia. I mean How rampant or big can it get?

Developmental states and corruption

Its known that the developmental state is , a state-led macroeconomic planning. Theoretically it’s a model of capitalism, where by the state has more independence or autonomous political power and more control over the economy. Its highly characterized by strong state intervention , extensive regulation and planning.
In my understanding the current regime of Ethiopia proclaim its self a “Revolutionary Democracy” , that gives the state a limitless control basically over anything and everything.  Than its prescribed in a developmental state at least theoretically. This excessive control of the state enable the authorities to manipulate the state structure to conduct a systematic corruption.

Academicians put forward various arguments theoretically both pro and against. However, I am a practical person. I have experienced firsthand what it means to conduct business in a proclaimed “revolutionary democrat” state. And to save everyone from off use fancy “intellectual” arguments with confusing jargon. I can share my experience. That, it’s extremely difficult to conduct a clean business. Such ideological model is highly exposed to corruption. It’s systematically corrupted beyond words. This is from my day to day experience in the real world.

This ideological loophole, in my view is also a ground for the undemocratic essence plus true identity of the Ethiopian “Revolutionary Democrat” regime.  Like the corruption,   the dictatorial ship of the regime conducted systematically.  The regime has the perfect camouflage that disguise its dictatorial nature.  Conducting  elections every five years is its main camouflage.

But what happened in all these elections?  We take a look at the last three elections by the current regime. In all elections death, imprisonment and persecution of opposition political leaders are common recipes. There are more than sufficient evidences that confirm rigging of votes. The ruling dictatorial regime use all the government structure and its famous 1to 5 scheme to diminish any other alternative. As a result all the elections end up being dramas. The dictatorial regime being the worst ”drama queen”.

The most amusing part of the recent election is, the 100% win that the ruling party claims. Is that even possible in an election? Yeah! It was possible once.  Sadam Hussine the former president of Iraq  claimed once 100% win.  So the “Revolutionary Democrats” dictator of the Ethiopian current regime will be the second one to claim 100% win in the world’s modern history.  Then I ask my self, was Sadam democratic leader? I think the answer is clear. What was the reaction of the international community towards Sadm’s dictatorial regime? Its a recent phenomena in history. Sadam’s regime was basically destroyed. With the same token what is the reaction of the international community to the Ethiopian dictatorial regime? This leads me to my next point. The International Community.

But to rap it up, here we have a regime, Which is systematically corrupted and dictator.  The corruption aspect is clearly stipulated from some of the reports of independent bodies mentioned in the beginning. The fact that the regime is a dictator is nothing but a fact. The always controversial elections and the regime worsening persecution of opposition political leaders as well as independent thinkers reflect the fact.   What exactly is the International community doing about this systematic dictatorial regime in Ethiopia?

International Community

This is basically a complicated issue but as I like to be practical and realistic. I think that every country has its own foreign policy. This foreign policy can be about or is towards to global issues, regional issues or specific countries.   This foreign policy strictly considers ONLY the political, intelligence, trade… etc interest of the policy holder country. So, as for me what we call the international community is, a big pool of individual western country foreign policies that they design strictly to maintain only their individual and collective national as well as international interest respectively.

Having a foreign policy in such manner is a perfectly normal thing. Every individual country has it. But the western country foreign policies (international community) tend to be far more influential in the global politics. Mainly due to their political and economic capacity.

The problem is the naive thought that seek a genuine solution for developing nations and their problems like Ethiopia from the international community. While the international community policies are fundamentally geared only to their ultimate interest and/or benefits.  I am not naive at such level.  I believe the international community (Strictly in my definition above) does not care in what is happening in developing nations like Ethiopia. At least primarily. My reason to discuss, what is the reaction of the international community towards the Ethiopian corrupted and dictatorial regime? Is not to seek solution from the international community.  Rather its to get a clear understanding from a global perspective.

The dictatorial regime of Ethiopia has been enjoying a warm support from the international community. Particularly, in terms of funds and aids.  From my aforementioned premises its clear that democratizing Ethiopia or alleviating corruption cannot be and will not be the interest of the international community. Its up to the Ethiopians to materialize that. For the International community, the rationale for their continual support of the dictator in Ethiopia is ”fight against terrorism”. The presence of radical terrorist group called Al-shabab in Somalia is prevalent in destabilizing the region. This radical group is practically deteriorating the political stability in an already war torn country. Its potentially clear and present danger to the region.

A lot of effort has been exerted so far to eradicate Al- shabab from the region. The success is quite controversial. The fact is, Al-shabab remains to be a danger in the region. It has conducted horrible terror attacks in the region. Though nothing tantamount to what the group did to Kenya. I strongly believe the genuine solution must come from the Somalians. Its a country with its own tradition, very strong and influential tribal structures. The traditional leadership structure has its own significant place within the whole Somalian society. Any attempt disregarding these element is a waste of time.

So far the Ethiopian dictatorial regime has been a cheap instrument to implement mainly the interest of the USA administration in Somalia. The trouble is, its in an expense of Ethiopian soldiers lives. Where many doubts the effectiveness to begin with.

So, I presume Al-shabab is still strong. The terror attacks on the West-gate Nairobi and Garessa University Kenya are showcases. Why is the international community is still supporting a dictatorial regime of Ethiopia, which is inefficient to fight the Al-shabab? I would like the reader to sleep on this question, while I continue to briefly discuss my personal experience with regard to corruption.

My personal experience with regard to corruption

I have been working as a business consultant and representative of foreign companies in Ethiopia, among other things. I should say I am a victim of corruption, only because I refused to be corrupted or participate in corrupted major business deals. Its not because I am a saint or something. Its simply because its against my political and personal belief. I would like to share a personal experience in two Ethiopian Government institutions. The ministry of defense of Ethiopia (peace keeping mission) and Ethiopian Sugar corporation.

I represented as an agent a Swedish company and I was working with the Ministry of Defense, peace keeping mission. to make it brief, I was instructed to artificially increase the proforma invoice price by highly ranked officers or soldiers with high ranks. I refused and proposed to go as it planned. I literally begged them to do it cleanly. Well, what I have experienced, was a hell!! I have faced from phone threats by official phone calls lines  from the defense ministry to an attempt on my life. The psychological turmoil is also huge. Its unfortunate to be treated like a second citizen for doing what is right!

I have also faced almost a similar incident, when I worked with The Ethiopian Sugar cooperation. The cooperation in its effort to build new sugar factories, I represent a foreign engineering company and a financier. To make a long story short, I have been again requested among other things to falsely increase the interest rate of the loan proposed to the cooperation. I am talking about a huge amount of money. Again, I politely refused and literally begged this high officials to go ahead and do it cleanly. by then we have also reached to a point of no return since we have gone through all the process to materialize the deal. But in an effort to force me in their proposition, I have been threatened quite a couple of times. And I reacted, I demand that either we do it the right way or I will go to the media (Which I did eventually). Well what happened after that is a complete disaster! Its not a threat anymore, rather I have been accused officially by the state court allegedly  for -defamation of the government and -sharing or sneaking sensitive information to anti- government bodies. Its a serious allegation! Lucky, I was not at my home when the police come to my door with the court order to arrest me.

For any one interested, I can show and substantiate my experience both in the ministry of defense and sugar corporation by documents. I have in my hand every document from LOI to what it takes. I have revealed as well as exposed the documents to selected media and organizations that I believe could do something about or voice my concern. If any one is interested to address this issue I can fully corporate by sharing the information I have and I could be contacted by the administrator of this blog.

Conclusion

The negative effects of Corruption to a state are vividly clear. Ethiopia is losing billions of dollars. The official reports from independent bodies like UNDP, GFI and others confirm this year by year. These reports are generated from the official data provided by the Ethiopian government itself. Today close to 8 million people are in need of immediate food assistance in Ethiopia. The government is crying out for 4 billion USD from donors. Well, if it was not for the corruption then 8 million people will not be starving  today. They will not be degraded to such a level. How many schools and hospitals  could 16.5 billion USD could build? how many new jobs it could have created? If it was not for the corruption the country could have enjoyed a sustainable electric power all over the country. But now even  the capital city is experiencing a power break twice a day. This power distortion is killing small and medium business on practical term. Building a  vibrant  manufacturing sector with such power distortion is nothing but a nightmare! Obviously corruption plays its own vital role in bringing unhealthy high inflation to the economy. With in the span of 4 years the country suffered from 30% to currently 13% of inflation. This is a painful burden on the day to day life of the public.

Corruption halt the economic growth of the country in unprecedented manner. The capacity of the country to repay its loan is officially on the red line. The availability of foreign reserve hard currency is on a constant red line for the last three years. This have a significant negative effect on the total trading of the country. The private sector is stuck in a dead lock due to ever worsening bureaucracy caused by the corruption. The various mega  infrastructure projects have a serious quality issues. Bribery is a common practice in almost every public institutions. Nowadays its practically impossible to get a service without bribing a public servant. The tax embezzlement is deeply worrying. In the prevalence of uneven wealth distribution of Ethiopia corruption takes the lion share. Bad governance in the nations overall bureaucracy is exacerbated by corruption. The inadequate land policy is a total catastrophe fueled with corruption. A scrutiny in every sector of the economy could portrait the ugly scar of corruption in Ethiopia. I can go sector by sector or knock on every government institution to showcase how corruption is really corrupting Ethiopia. All in all its reaping off the country.

Having said this and as I have briefly discussed my own personal experience. I believe this could shade a light on how corruption can be deadly both to a country at  large and an individual. Its like a cancer cell that is widespread killing every individual cell, organ and the whole body eventually. What makes corruption and cancer common in my view is there is always a time limit in the effectiveness of remedies. And also after a certain time elapse its impossible to go back and undo the damage. It will be a strictly damage done scenario. I believe its not late to curb the damage corruption cause in Ethiopia. What is the remedy then? before I proceed I would like to go back the previous question I pause for the reader and carry on with this one.

My previous question was why is the international community is still supporting a dictatorial regime in Ethiopia? which practically prove to be is inefficient to fight Al-Shabab? Honestly, I don’t really know the answer as well. Its not logical at all to keep supporting such a regime while its not fulfilling the rationale its being supported. why bother? I have thought about it several times and its sounds quite pointless to me. All the money channeled to the Ethiopian dictatorial regime in terms of aid and loan, finally end up being illicitly out flowed in the names of individuals and/or  party leaders in their foreign bank accounts. The ruling party  leaders and their families are unofficially and illegally  tycoons! They have millions in their names. They have apartments in fancy places like New York, assets and shares. And I ask my self again, every rich western country gets the aid and loan money from its citizens tax money. why is western country citizens tax money end up in dictators personal account? why is tax payers money is buying a luxurious apartment in New York for individuals that run a dictatorial government? who benefits out of it? what can be achieved out of this madness? All I can say nothing and its a totally meaningless, even in the meanest cruel political sense.

This brings me to my last question which was, What is the remedy? remedy to curb the corruption in Ethiopia. I believe all stakeholders should play their own little role to curb this damage. We have to expose corrupted big government officials! Their wrong doing should be exposed openly to the public. In my little effort this was what I am trying to do when I went to the media with the information I have. Exposing them is not a complicated tax. Its calling a blade, a blade as the saying goes. For me, any one whoever takes or unlawfully benefits is a thief in a simple term. At the end of the day a thief that snatch a mobile phone running around in the street of Addis Ababa and a ministry or a director that embezzle a public fund to enrich him/her self are both plain thieves! The officials, directors and highly ranked soldiers who had forced and threatened me to be corrupted are thieves! lets call thieves, thieves. This is not to curse them or dehumanize them. however if they are exposed I believe it will refrain them from being corrupted again. It will also be a lesson for the up coming new government officials. otherwise it will be ”yitgebew  jib sihd yerbew meta” its a saying in Amharic. Its can be translated ” . It’s to stress that, chasing away only the hyena who has eaten and satisfied is not enough. Since its clear that a hungry hyena will step in. This how hyenas function.And we don´t need any more hungry hyenas . I can guarantee you there is nothing as bad as a hungry hyena. As it only dwells only about its empty stomach. If all corruption could be revealed , I believe it will be a significant remedy to curb it.

The other remedy could be, if the international community could just stop supporting this regime. My humble request to the international community is, in light of my issue is, Arrogance or to be polite lack of information about the dictatorial regime is one thing. But with the availability of all the information continually supporting such a dictatorial regime is Absolutely ridiculous. What basically the international community doing is two things,


  1. prolonging Ethiopian people pain by supporting a dictator regime:
  2. allowing their tax payers money to be in the hands of dictators to fulfill their selfish luxurious crave, while people are starving.


I ask why? There is always at least a fair way of playing the game. This political game.

wenneve@gmail.com
I would be more than happy to hear feedback from readers. This article is subjected and open for any criticism.
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