The Ethiopian people demand the anti-corruption campaign to continue
By Bereket Gebru
Tigrai Online, August 16, 2017
To fight corruption, we need to open our eyes, be watchful, report and expose.
Anyone who has been to Addis Ababa a few years back would immediately notice how much the city’s skyline has changed within minutes of setting foot. The positive change associated with this growth, however, bears its own pockets of dark corners. Some of the private owned high story buildings are allegedly owned by government officials. These multi-story buildings are apparently one of the most protruding faces of an otherwise illicit section of the economy that thrives on corruption.
Over the last decade, it has become increasingly familiar for hard working people doing an honest day’s job to witness others become millionaires overnight. The number of rich young people whose line of work or source of income is stealthier to trace than the faintest of signals is rising by the minute. Concealing the ill-gains of their clandestine activities have become less of a bother as they tend to show it more with their fancy cars and the lavish lifestyle they lead. The kind of money they spend on a night out is more than a month’s budget for a large number of families.
With the majority of Ethiopians leading a humble life, the extravagant and showy lifestyles of the rich young people serve as a gauge for the increasing level of corruption in the country. Accordingly, citizens fiddle over the amount of money being siphoned off public coffers and development projects that could have served the interests of a large number of people.
The rising public disgust at the level of corruption and subsequent impunity has gotten to a level where it could disrupt social order. Last year’s unrest in some parts of the country was a clear indication that Ethiopians’ perception of corruption has exceeded the threshold of their patience. For all the growth and development of the past fifteen years that required the efforts of all Ethiopians, it is a shame that all could be thrown away and dismantled because of the greed of a few people.
As a rationale legal being, the coalition of parties at the helm of the Ethiopian state power want to extend their existence and social acceptance as long as they can. Transforming one of the poorest states in the world into the leading country in the world in terms of economic growth rates serves that goal perfectly. However, the high prevalence of corruption is standing in the way. Accordingly, the government appreciates the seriousness of the matter at hand and has already launched an anti-corruption campaign that is gaining momentum.
Recent news reports by the EBC and other national media indicate the transfer of thousands of hectares of illegally acquired land by a handful of businessmen to a large group of unemployed youth. Various such measures have especially been reported in the Oromia region. The government also arrested hundreds of government bureaucrats, business persons and middlemen suspected of involvement in corrupt practices. Among the detained government officials, some are from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation (MoFEC), the Ethiopian Sugar Corporation, as well as Federal and Addis Ababa City Road authorities.
For the average people who just strive to make ends meet, corruption is right under their noses. They easily witness that middle level government officials have been assigned public houses while they also keep another to rent. While the average person allots 40-50% of their salaries to the ever-rising rents, government officials use their office for personal gain and keep houses and land.
The network of corrupt bureaucrats, businessmen and middlemen has effectively ruled land allocation, construction, trade and social service delivery in general. There have been repeated reports of government officials plundering money earmarked for mega-projects that could benefit the country as a whole. We have come to a day when a public project’s budget would be used all up even before a single stone is put in place.
The campaign that seems to be picking up momentum has, therefore, come as a glimmer of hope for the average person as it serves both individual and nationalistic feelings. On an individual level, the dispossession of illegally owned resources is followed by the transfer of the resource to others. Accordingly, that provides citizens with a chance to access those resources legally. For instance, a quarry illegally owned by twelve businessmen in Southern Oromia was dispossessed and given to five-hundred unemployed youth. On a nationalistic level, the looting of national resources which could have promoted the prestige of the country and the increasing lack of morality infuriates the majority of citizens. The imprisonment of some bureaucrats involved in such acts, therefore, helps average people bear some hope that morality can actually be returned to where it was before all this happened. It also ensures that Ethiopia is a country where good triumphs over evil.
Regardless of the political convictions of the people, the arrest of some of the people in the intricate network of corruption in the country has come as good news. People feel like the measure is long overdue and that the bid fish are still out there among the country’s top leadership. Accordingly, there is a sense of skepticism as to the sincerity of the campaign and how deep it is designed to go.
Nobody in their right minds would sympathize with the alleged culprits and so far, nobody has. Considering the level of danger, corruption has come to pause on peace and security in the country, the concern of citizens on the continuity and depth of the campaign is justified. Strengthening the corruption campaign would help right the wrongs that damaged the bridge between the government and people.
Fighting corruption has been identified as one of the major activities to be carried out by the ruling coalition EPRDF. The frustrated majority of the people of Ethiopia needs to see corruption tackled or they would violently take things into their own hands. The ruling party and the people, therefore, have the same goals. All there is left for the government to do is keep doing what it has been doing these past months and ensure the participation of the people in the anti-corruption campaign because the message from the people is don’t ever stop.