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The optics of corruption, mismanagement, and incompetence

By Tecola W Hagos
Tigrai Online, Nov. 16, 2018

If Abiy Ahmed is serious about eradicating corruption waste of sovereign wealth he must establish an independent Commission of Inquiry answerable to the House of Representatives

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  1. In general

I am flabbergasted that Brigadier General Kinfe Dagneww, a participant in the seventeen-years patriotic struggle against the murderous brutal regime of Mengistu Hailemariam, is arrested and delivered in handcuffs to PM Abiy Ahmed (metaphorically speaking) in Addis Ababa. It is hard to believe that the capture of Kinfe Dagnew was carried out without the knowledge and active cooperation by the Deputy Governor of Tigrai Kilil Dr. Debretsion Gebremichael and his associates from Tigrai Kilil. According to some news sources the arrest took place near Humera in Tigrai Kilil by Tigrai Special security personnel. The details are murky and need further verifications. Was the arrest justified? Absolutely. Tigrai Kilil or any other Kilil should not become some kind of hiding lair for criminals especially those who enriched themselves and members of their families having done next to nothing in the development of their respective Kilils.

From what I was informed, Kinfe Dagnew did fight in numerous heroic battles in Northern Ethiopia all the way to Addis Abeba. To see the General in handcuffs is traumatic to me as an individual who needs heroes (secular/earthly beings) to worship as other human beings need celestial beings in their lives, for there was no need for that type of handcuffing. He is not yet a convicted criminal, but a suspect to be tried in a court of law, and the optics of him in handcuffs is all wrong. However, I have discovered new Ethiopian heroes to look up to in the likes of Brigadier General Melaku Shifferaw, Ambassador Suliman Dedefo, L/Col Gettu Taye et cetera, individuals who saw beyond ethnic bashing and who identified the problem of corruption as a system failure rather than a uniquely ethnic Tigrian anomaly.  Mined you all who are ready to fly off the handle accusing me of narrow nationalism and ethnicity that I am not defending corruption but pointing out that no hero who fought against the brutal military of Mengistu Hailemariam be in handcuffs no matter his or her crime.

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Contrary to what Prof Dagnachew Assefa (a philosopher I admire for his eloquence and scholarship) says often in public forums, Ethiopia is not a winner nation that “buried all those who challenged her,” because of the fact that she does not distinguish between those that supported her and those that betrayed her: she “buried” both equally. Moreover, Ethiopia has been in a downward spiral from mediocrity to further mediocrity after the time of the Ethiopian renaissance period of the Zagwe Dynasty (AD 930 -1270) that was replaced by the “Solomonic” Dynasty of Yekuno Amlak in 1270. [See Tekeste Negash, The Zagwe period re-interpreted: post-Aksumite Ethiopian urban culture, on the greatness of the Zagwe period. [http://www.arkeologi.uu.se/afr/projects/BOOK/negash.pdf]

This Ethiopia is one nation where the whole is much less than its constitutive parts. For I hold individual Ethiopians are far more restrained and judicious more than when they are in groups, wherein they turn into monsters.  Individual Ethiopians as individuals will not even dream to hurt anybody of any ethnic group, but as a community they become excitable, irrational, and murderous. This is why I contend that in Ethiopia the whole is less than its parts defying all common sense and physical laws.

  1. Cases of corruption and agitations against an ethnic group

Let me be very candid and blunt about issues of corruption in Ethiopia. Every elite member of the Ethiopian society has experienced some form of corrupt practice in his or her lifetime. The leaders of every political organization can be held accountable on issues of lack of full disclosure and accounting failure. The current association of corruption not just with officials of TPLF but with the ethnic group of Tigrians is a form of advocacy for genocide and prohibited crimes against humanity. Both the Genocide Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 in article 2, and the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and their Additional Protocols I and II of 1977, and the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 for war crimes and crimes against humanity including also the most recent codification in articles 7 and 8 of the 1998 Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC) deal with such crimes. [See Patricia M. Wald, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, 6 Wash. U. GlobalStud. L. Rev. 621 (2007), http://openscholarship.wustl.edu/law_globalstudies/vol6/iss3/13]

The line dividing protected speech from criminal advocacy of genocide and crimes against humanity is very thin and could be crossed over easily unless one is fully committed to respect the human rights of all citizens and even those of strangers in a society. At times, Abiy Ahmed seems to advocate what may be perceived by the appallingly ignoramus Ethiopian population, with an appetite for looting and murder, as a green light to commit such atrocities against Tigrians and few other ethnic minorities in Amhara, Oromo, and Somali Kilils. There are several incidents where such crimes continued to be committed in both Amhara and Oromo Kilils to this day, and the Leaders of such Kilils could be held accountable for such international crimes. I hear often scholars and lay people generally speaking in exaggerated respect of the general Ethiopian population. That is one fallacy that could not be reconciled with the reality on the ground.

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We Ethiopians in general are not moralistic people but spiritualists. We do not seem to have developed our critical thinking faculties to a high degree. The freedom we had enjoyed for thousands of years is a lot more the function of geography than our valor or cunning in fighting foreign foes.  I am not denying that there were no highly sophisticated intellectuals and also incredibly courageous commanders in our past. Of course, there were several, but they were very few. For example, battle field statistics confirms the fact that for a battle to be over between tens of thousands of Ethiopian combatants, the death of a few hundred would result in a route and soldiers run for their lives abandoning wounded comrades even if there were no hostile pursuers.

I am equally disappointed about the people who run Ethiopian Websites and Ethiopian journalists and reporters as much as I am disappointed with the Officials at Metec. Those media people rather than writing focusing exclusively on Leaders like Meles Zenawi, they could have spent their time investigating and exposing corruptions and waste of Sovereign wealth with supportive pictures of such discarded or abandoned equipment, expensive machineries, et cetera worth billions of birr and hard currency. A few well researched papers supported with pictures of the waste would have galvanized reforms a long time ago. The exception is Sisay Agena of ESAT who did follow up the problem with interviews with General Melaku Shifferaw.

  1. Commission of Inquiry on Mismanagement and Corruption

If Abiy Ahmed is serious about eradicating corruption, controlling waste of sovereign wealth, improving mismanagement et cetera he must establish immediately an independent Commission of Inquiry on Mismanagement and Corruption answerable to the House of Representatives and himself.   The creation of a commission of inquiry to investigate the previous two administrations of Meles Zenawi and Hailemariam Desalegn may be appropriate to bring closure to very many unresolved issues not only on crimes of human rights abuses but also on corruption and waste of public wealth. The corruption and waste of public wealth at Metec is just the tip of the iceberg of incredibly vast wrong doing by high officials, their family members, associate businessmen and women, and even religious leaders.

Nevertheless, all accusations of corruption should be investigated quietly rather than in a boisterous and humiliating manner where guilt is insinuated or presumed on the basis of ethnic association rather than on factual recognitions and proofs.  What I surmised from the pieces of factual matters surrounding the industrial complex seems to be mostly cases of corrupt practices of purchases without public bidding and supervision and without timely auditing by third parties not under the control of Metec. Incompetence and lack of administrative skill of sophisticated technology-based corporations seems to be also significant factor in the unnecessary waste of billions of birrs and hundreds of millions in hard-currency.  None of the people who are arrested by Abiy’s Attorney General had engineering or industrial technology education. I hold Meles Zenawi fully responsible for the activities of the Officials at Metec.

The Commission should also look into the Government leadership of Meles Zenawi and that of Hailemariam Desalegn in details. The investigation must include looking into the activities of all the high officials running Government owned corporations and/or Self-help Kilil foundations (EFFORT, TIRIT, DINSHO, WENDO TRADING). Leaders involved in financial and business matters such as Sebhat Nega, Abbay Tsehai, Addisu Legesse, Samora Yunis, Azeb Mesfin, Abadi Zemo and many others should be investigated for corruption and mismanagement. It is not enough to focus on former Officials of Metec only.

Conclusion

I have never met B/General Kinfe Dagneww nor any of the arrested former officials of Metec. After watching a documentary by Fana, Walta and others, I think the arrested officials of Metec might have wasted tremendous amount of sovereign wealth on purchases of expensive equipment, machinery, heavy construction vehicles et cetera that were simply poorly stored or discarded. But we must keep in mind the fact that the former Officials of Metec have not been convicted of any crime, and they must be considered as innocent suspects right now. The full judicial process and protection of those brought for trail must not be compromised.

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When Egyptian officials were complaining about inferior material being used in the construction of the Dam, I thought of unfounded allegations to scuttle the great project.  Maybe we need to add to our concern and inquiry the possibility of supplying of substandard building material by Metec and others in major projects.

The euphoria created by Abiy’s rhetorical statements, not necessarily his intentions, often times is easily interpreted as targeting Tigrians and that is not helpful at all. Abiy must be careful in the manner he uses language since he is a super star for millions of Ethiopians and his words have the force of apostolic might. Abiy was not an innocent bystander for the last twenty-eight years and specially in the last decade and a half, for he too was involved in the political and social life of the nation at the level of a high security officer (becoming a Colonel at one point) in the Ethiopian Army.

Nevertheless, I am becoming increasingly sympathetic of PM Abiy on how he is going to clean up the mess left behind by the previous two Ethiopian Governments. It is not an enviable position to be the Prime Minister of Ethiopia at this point in its history—a targeted nation from all angles, with blunt battering-rams of ethnic conflicts, secessionist freedom seekers, porous boundaries, contrabandists, incompetent administrators, cantankerous critics like me et cetera.  And yet I am very optimistic about Ethiopia, for I see greatness in her future despite everything else. God Save Ethiopia.

5. Closing Remarks

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