Ethiopia: Bahr Dar and the wonderful art of silence
By Yilma Bekele
Last Sunday May 12 a Federal police officer opened fire and murdered twelve or eighteen people depending on who is doing the counting in the City of Bahr Dar by the shores of Lake Tana. It was a random killing and the only reason he stooped shooting was because he run out of bullets. What makes this crime unique is that it was committed by some one that is trained to protect and serve. At least in most places that is what we think of the armed officers that move around with loaded guns amongst us. I said in most places, our Ethiopia is not such a place.
The Federal Police serve the TPLF party that is in charge of our country. Meles Zenawi set up the Federal Police to be accountable to him and his party and used this force to quell down any kind of native unrest against his group. The Federal Police is the most fearsome weapon of the TPLF party. Like everything else concocted by the late criminal the Federal Police is a uniquely Ethiopian force supposedly created to resemble other Federal institutions in the developed West. The name is the same but the purpose and mission is different.
In Ethiopia the TPLF party’s Federal Police is an instrument of terror. Their motto is shoot first, ask questions later. You will not find a single Ethiopian that would not be engulfed with fear when the Federal Police is mentioned. The force was purposely designed to instill fear. From what I know of the Federal system here in the US the FBI does not involve itself in local matters. The local Police that are answerable to the Mayor or elected official is the first line of response. The State Police is under the elected Governor who is accountable to the citizen. There is a clear line of jurisdiction built into the system.
Meles Zenawi’s Ethiopia is different. The Federal Police force under him is the ultimate arbitrator of justice or injustice in this case. The Different Kililis or Bantustans have no power or authority on this rogue force. No sane Kilil head will challenge the power of the Federal Police. I can safely say that regarding all Killis except the Sovereign State of Tigrai. Abay Woldu would not allow a Kenbata, Oromo, Amhara or Somali Federal Police to roam around in his State with immunity.
When the late dictator copied the Kilil system from Mussolini with upgrades from the South African Bantustan system he made a few improvements of his own. Bahr Dar is the capital city of the Amhara Kilil. What in the world is a Federal Police doing in the streets of Bahr Dar with a loaded is gun is one of the peculiarities of the Ethiopian scene. That practice is one copied from Apartheid system. Why the local Police are not enough to keep the citizens of Bahr Dar safe is not clear at all.
Thus on the evening May 12 a certain Federal Police officer opened fire and killed all he can find in his aim of fire. No one confronted the individual and once he run out of bullets in his high capacity gun he left the area. Things got more interesting after that. First there was a lot of argument regarding the numbers killed. Apparently counting dead bodies lying on the street is not an easy task. Before the blood was dry on the highway Awramba a new and obscure Website here in the US that seems to be on the know felt it was important to label the ethnic origin of the killer as if that will make the heinous act more palatable or clear.
This childish attempt to misinform was followed by the TPLF party in a more bizarre press release that defiantly can only happen in a country where there is no independent press to raise questions and demand answers or by a government that does not have an iota of respect for its citizens.
According to the Ethiopian government the above is the picture of individual that committed the crime. His dead body was fished out of a river. They did not bother to name the river. A body left in the water for a day or two will show all the symptoms of death by drowning. Our killer shows none of the effects of being in the water dead. His shoes are polished, his uniform is crisp and the blood on his face is not of someone left in water for any length of time. Do you think the rope tied around his feet is how he was dragged out? It is just curious he did not get dirty and with all that blood on his face no fish bothered to nibble. It is a miracle.
The story did not end there. While the Federal Police was displaying his dead body the Kilil administrator was issuing press release regarding the ongoing search to look for the criminal. It is just two versions of the same lie. The newly minted Prime Minter whose force murdered fourteen people did not even bother to go to the scene and console the victims’ families. He choose to send a high sounding message promising further investigation. What is the death of fourteen citizens when you can stay in the palace and play host to some Arab delegation? To add insult to injury several high ranking officers of the Federal Police in full uniform showed up at the funeral location the next day. I can see the whole drama from here with the officers arriving in their four wheel Range Rovers accompanied by zillions of security while descending on the poor folks sitting in a tent trying to console each other.
A week later the Federal Police put out a press release that they have detained ten members of their force for ‘neglecting and failing to act’. Do you mean to tell us there were armed police around while he was shooting randomly and they just watched, or did they know he was intending to do just that and they kept quiet which one is it my dear Workeneh?
No matter how you look at it the whole story is bizarre. Starting with the action of the insane individual to the conflicting press reports by the officials and the reporting by ETV that doesn’t even ask why the criminal’s clothes don’t show any signs of being in the water - it is vintage Woyane drama.
The report by the Diaspora press was something to behold too. We were told the citizens of Bahr Dar were fuming. They were showing signs of anger and were seating ready to let of steam. No adjective was spared to describe the mental and physical anguish of Bahr Darians. Thus I waited to see how this criminal act of an invading force was going to manifest itself by the citizen reacting back. Pictures of Palestinian citizens under the watchful eyes of the Israeli Army burying their dead clad in their beloved flag and defiant in their tone passed thru my head. I remembered the scene from Cairo where the citizens carried the dead bodies of their martyrs shot by the Mubarak’s police during the Arab spring as it flashed vividly in front of my eyes.
Nothing like that happened. Someone once said we Ethiopians have even lost our capacity to be angry. The best explanation that comes to mind is what was said by our Holy Father Abune Melkesedek explaining the silence of his people a while back as ‘Bechelema Gelmecha’. That is what took place in the city of Bahr Dar ‘Bechelema Gelmecha’. It must be very satisfying to the individuals but no one saw it. What is the point is a good question to ask. How is the evil doer going to understand the hurt inflicted on those families and the entire city? Is a simple defiant procession to protest and let the regime know the citizens feeling much to expect? Isn’t there one brave soul in the whole of Bahr Dar that is not afraid to respond in kind?
Well to settle the matter once and for all the Woyane government brought in ‘Special Forces’ unit to Bahr Dar to even control the thought of defiance let alone the act. I still do not understand the presence of all this armed groups in such an idyllic location. Bahr Dar is far from any border and currently there is no one threating the peace and harmony of the city. I just don’t understand why our cities are military camps during a peaceful time. I also don’t understand why we have so many people serving the military while so many of our schools are starving for teachers and books, our hospitals and clinics are poorly stocked and our children and grandparents are fed once a day if lucky. I guess it is all about priorities. The regimes first order is to protect itself from the people and it is perfectly understandable budget allocation favors security over anything else. As for the citizens of Bahr Dar I say to you no one can save you from yourself you just have to figure a way out of the current dilemma of occupation by an outside force of course in collaboration with you present day bandas. It has been done before and I have no reason to think you will not rise up to the challenge. We can echo your scream from afar but there is just no one like you to do the job. Good Luck!
Which Way Ethiopia: Revolution, Civil War, or National Reconciliation?
By Messay Kebede
Since the death of Prime Minister Meles, the political situation of Ethiopia has entered a phase of uncertainty with no clear momentum toward stabilization. Despite predictions of the imminent collapse of the EPRDF, either under the pressure of a popular uprising or splits within its ranks, the political situation shows no sign of heightened challenge to the regime. In fact, it remains a mystery that no political upheavals of any importance occurred following the death of Meles, who was after all the center and the driving force of the whole system. On the other hand, however, notwithstanding an orderly succession, the uncertainty has not been removed and symptoms of unresolved internal conflicts transpire occasionally. Above all, the extent to which the new prime minister is really in charge being anything but assured, the vacillation of the system lingers, given that the entire government was designed to function under the leadership of a strong and unchallenged prime minister.
One thing is sure: the uncertainty cannot go on indefinitely and nothing can be done to improve the political climate and the economic conditions of the country without some reforms. This is to say that change is inevitable and that it will come sooner or later. The question is: which direction is the change likely to take? For my part, I have no desire to play the game of predictions. Instead, I want to present some possible scenarios and invite political leaders and activists who care about Ethiopia to reflect on them so as to be ready for various eventualities instead of being fixated on the outcome that they long for.
Given the amplifying state of frustration of the county, the only way of avoiding ominous developments is not only that the prime minister really exercises power, but that he uses this power to correct some of the glaring derailments of Meles, especially by easing the repressive policy adopted by him. Meles effected the reversal of democratization because he could count on the complete obedience of the repressive machine of the state. Haile Mariam does not have the same control and cannot have it without further empowering the very men who command the repressive apparatuses. In other words, failure to promote reform is for Haile Mariam to give more power to the TPLF instead of reducing it. By contrast, the political choice of easing repression, better still, of initiating reforms reduces the
importance of the repressive forces and creates momentum toward the gathering of the popular support and legitimacy that Haile Mariam needs to prevail over Meles’s old clique.
The dilemma of the prime minister is thus clear enough: in order to assert himself, he has to correct Meles’s policy, but in so doing he runs the risk of antagonizing the TPLF and hence of losing his position altogether. Conversely, if he upholds the policy of his predecessor, he simply feeds on the image of a puppet of the TPLF, which image underlines his irrelevance, thereby instigating his removal. Surely, since the longer the policy of Meles continues, the more repressive the state must become, the TPLF will be better off to do the job on its own than to use the cumbersome mediation of a puppet. The dilemma shows that Haile Mariam’s best bet is to go in the direction of easing repression, which at least promises the prospect of him becoming his own man.
The huge unknown is whether Haile Mariam has the right political ambition to want to stand by himself and the political skill to outmaneuver the TPLF and other challengers. I must admit that I have no a ready answer for this question. I also confess my pessimism, even though I recognize that more time is needed before one makes a final judgment. True, I am encouraged by his open condemnation of the displacement of the Amhara settlers, but remain skeptical because of the lack of any practical follow-up to correct the injustice. Moreover, the appalling dismissal of the appeals of Eskinder Nega, Andualem Arage, and other political prisoners by the higher court did nothing to reduce my skepticism. To sum up my position, in light of the time needed for consolidation, I say that Haile Mariam still deserves the benefit of the doubt even if the performances of his government are not, so far, promising.
In case Haile Mariam remains submerged by the TPLF, the scenario of an increasingly repressive government that could only further aggrieve the Ethiopian masses presents itself. My contention is that unless the TPLF takes the rightful place of being a party among others within the coalition of the EPRDF, it cannot maintain the hegemonic role it has played so far without pushing repression to a point far exceeding that of Meles. By force of habit and because of his political shrewdness, Meles was able to rise as the unquestioned leader of the EPRDF. After successive purges of all those who could threaten him, none among the remaining leaders of the TPLF has the stature or even the capacity to command the same authority. Various competitors both within the TPLF and the EPRDF are likely to emerge with the consequence that only through increased repression can one of them prevail.
Needless to say, the pursuit and continuation of the hegemony of the TPLF can only exasperate popular frustration and multiply opposition. Though arrogance inspires the TPLF to think that repression is enough to protect its supremacy, the history of all countries teaches us that a time comes when people rise and confront what repressive them, regardless of the apparent strength of the repressive state. Ethiopia is not going to be an exception to the rule. Hence, my belief that the continuation of the hegemony of the TPLF will inevitably lead to an uprising. The burning question is: will the uprising take the form of a revolution or of an outright civil war?
All those Ethiopians who still hope that Ethiopia will be galvanized by the Arab spring have in mind an uprising leading to revolution, which would essentially consist in the overthrow of the TPLF state and the dismantling of its repressive apparatuses. This outcome appears even more likely in light of the fact that Ethiopia has already gone through a similar process in 1974. For many activists, revolution is the best prospect for Ethiopia and its people, with the hope that this time the mistakes of the 70s will not be committed and the revolution will establish a democratic state.
Here I hasten to express my reservation, which originates from the simple observation that the situation in 1974 was quite different from what Ethiopia is facing today. Indeed, if a reference to the Arab spring is of some use, I will say that what lies ahead is a development that is similar neither to Egypt nor Tunisia. The model we should refer to is that of Libya or, even more correctly, that of Syria. In other words, the likely outcome of a total uprising in Ethiopia is civil war rather than revolution.
What this means is that conflicts and violent clashes will develop, not between a dictatorial state and everybody else, but between a majority and a dictatorial state identifying with the interests of a minority ethnic group. For one of the detrimental results of the ethnicization of the Ethiopian society and the creation of ethnic regions is the clear divide between ethnic groups and the subsequent subsumption of these groups to the privileges and special treatments of local elites. In a situation of wide uprising, the point is easily reached when it becomes difficult to distinguish between the elites and the ethnic groups, which is then a recipe for ethnic confrontations, that is, for civil war.
Though I never endorse the idea that similar conditions entail similar historical outcomes, it would be foolish to think that regularities in history do not operate in some degree. Among the Arab countries that went through a political turmoil, Syria is the one that comes close to the situation of Ethiopia under the TPLF. The bloody conflict in Syria is between the Alawi minority, which controls economic and military apparatuses, and a frustrated majority that is politically and economically marginalized by a dictatorial state serving the interests of the minority. The uprising against Assad and the state failed to be revolution and turned into a civil war because of the fear of the minority that the overthrow of Assad will mean the loss of its political and economic upper hand, not to mention the fear of physical victimization. Even if many in the minority resent the dictatorial rule of Assad, they prefer to stick with him to avoid the likelihood of revengeful treatments.
No one can honestly say that Ethiopia under the TPLF does not show a deepening rift between the majority and the minority ethnic group allegedly represented by the existing regime. Doubtless, some supporters of the regime will argue that the EPRDF is a coalition of different ethnic groups so that Ethiopia is not under a minority rule. But the image of the EPRDF as a coalition of equals fools no one anymore and members of the EPRDF know perfectly well that they are clients of the TPLF, not to say hired mercenaries. The TPLF federation is a smoke screen: not only the major economic assets and the governments of ethnic regions are controlled by the TPLF, but most importantly, the repressive apparatuses, including the higher echelons of the army, are entirely dominated by officers of Tigrean origin.
One condition for a popular uprising to avoid a descent into a civil war is when the army is either paralyzed by divisions or stays neutral. This precipitates the fall of the regime and hence precludes the transformation of revolution into civil war. This was clearly the case in Egypt and Tunisia. But when the army supports the regime against the people in order to perpetuate ethnic domination, the fight is prolonged with the risk of turning into a civil war. In the case of Ethiopia, to maintain that the army will remain neutral if an uprising occurs is little credible. In the 1974 revolution, the regime was overthrown easily because the army did not support it. It was a multiethnic army and as such was not committed to the defense of any particular ethnic group. What Ethiopia has now is not so much a national as an ethnic army, which is then most likely to defend the ruling ethnic elite, thereby pushing the uprising toward a civil war.
While agreeing that the worst outcome would be the beginning of a civil war, most Ethiopians comfort themselves by believing that it is very unlikely. But who said that the worst scenario is unlikely to happen? Accordingly, what we need is realism, that is, a clear and unbiased assessment of the situation so that we can work toward making the worst scenario improbable. Stated otherwise, we should develop a policy of prevention, which is none other than the framing of a government of national reconciliation. Such a government requires crucial concessions from those who control power as well as from those who oppose them. When a country is beset with political problems that are deep and potentially liable to degenerate into armed confrontations, the solution cannot come from the organization of democratic elections. The latter require some degree of consensus and a minimum of impartial arbitration that are inexistent in ethnically polarized countries.
As shown by elections since 2005, the minimum conditions for a democratically elected government do not exist in Ethiopia and are not likely to appear any time soon. The ruling party will do everything to win, including the use of violence and fraudulent manipulations of votes; the opposition will continue to complain without any notable change. Let us admit it, in countries deeply polarized by ethnic or religious issues, where therefore the rule of the minority abiding by the verdict of the majority is not recognized, elections are just powerless to bring about political change.
This does not mean that democratic elections should be abandoned altogether. It simply means that a transitional period, during which mutual confidence, consensus, and healing can be worked out, is necessary. The purpose of a government of national reconciliation is to create the conditions for the establishment of a political system emanating from democratic elections. As a precondition for democracy, such a government is not itself ruled by democratic principles. Rather, its ruling principle is pragmatism: it takes measures from the sole perspective of reconstructing national harmony and consensus, without being disturbed by questions of principles and morality. Its main goal is the provision of incentives for political opponents to come together and establish consensus on some basic issues.
Such reconciliation is based on the premise that a civil war would benefit nobody. From this shared agreement follows the need to take decisive actions to avoid what everybody wants to avoid, the whole purpose being to reach a working mechanism assuring a win-win solution for everybody. Concessions from all competing parties are the ingredients driving the whole process. As such, the process abhors extremisms of all kinds so as to bring about the rule of moderation. Just as the ruling party agrees to share power with the opponents, so too the opponents give up all political vendetta and victimization. This is an important provision: since what prevents members of the ruling party from playing by the rule of democracy is the fear of reprisal against their person and their economic assets, offering an amnesty and a guarantee against economic dispossession is alone liable to institute confidence and reciprocity. For those who argue, in the name of justice, that crimes must be exposed and punished, my answer is that forgiveness and amnesty are morally justified if they allow us to reach the greater good of reconciliation, national unity, and peace.
Some such process of transition could be undertaken under the leadership of Prime Minister Haile Mariam. His weak political position, combined with the lack of extremism and the fact that he represents a minority ethnic group that can serve as a buffer between larger competing groups, gives him a strategic political role. It is to this go-between role that he owes his position as prime minister. To complete his mediating role, which is then his calling, he must now call upon the opposition and place himself between the EPRDF and the opposition and promote the idea of a government of national reconciliation. In so doing, he turns his strategic importance into the legitimacy of a nation-builder.
May wisdom fall on all Ethiopians!
Ethiopia: The Corruption Game
By Alemayehu G. Mariam
House cleaning or window dressing?
Are they playing us like a cheap fiddle again? For a while, it was all about the Meles Dam and how to collect nickels and dimes to build it. That kind of played itself out. (Not to worry. That circus will be back in town. The public has the attention span of a gold fish. So they think.) It’s time to change the flavor of the month. Time for a new game, a new hype. How about “corruption”? It’s a chic topic. The World Bank is talking about it. Everybody is talking about it. Even the corrupt are talking about corruption. Imagine kleptocrats calling corruptocrats corrupt? Or the pot calling the kettle black?
I have been talking and writing about corruption in Ethiopia for years. After dozens of commentaries on some aspect of corruption in Ethiopia, I am still drumbeating anti-corruption. I have been “lasing” corruption in my commentaries in 2013. I was flabbergasted by the World Bank’s 448-page report, “Diagnosing Corruption in Ethiopia”. I am still reeling from the shocking findings in that report. In my commentary last week, “Educorruption and Miseducation in Ethiopia”, I focused on corruption in the education sector. It is one thing to steal an election or pull off a gold heist at the national bank, but robbing millions of Ethiopian youth of their future by imprisoning them in the bowels of a corrupt educational system is harrowing, downright criminal. Aarrgghh!
“The Administration of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn made the full might of its power known last Friday, after ordering the arrest of 10 high and medium ranking officials of the Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority (ERCA), along with six businessmen, some of whom are well known… Hailemariam wants to prove that there are no holy-cows…” tooted the opening sentence of an online media outlet. My initial reaction was a bemused, “You don’t say!?” (To be perfectly frank, I exclaimed, “Holy cows? Holy _ _ _ t!!”)
The two dozen “corruption” suspects nabbed in the “investigation” include ERCA “director general” with the “rank of minister”, his deputies and the “chief prosecutor” along with other customs officials. A number of prominent businessmen and some of their family members were also snagged in the dragnet. “Ethiopia’s top anti-corruption official” Ali Sulaiman told the Voice of America Amharic program last week “the suspects had been under surveillance for over two years.”
The anti-corruption crusaders put on quite a show-and-tell on their television service. They put up dramatic footage of wads and stashes of greenbacks and Eurodollars in suitcases allegedly seized at a suspect’s residence. They displayed allegedly fraudulent land records from another suspect and gave interviews on how the suspects engaged in their corrupt practices. (The show-and-tell was reminiscent of the “terrorist” suspects they paraded in “Akeldama” and “Jihadawi Harakat” with caches of guns and explosives. For the “corruption” suspects, it was stashes of cash.)
The regime’s public relations machine kicked into overdrive. Comments by unnamed “Ethiopian activists praising efforts by the government to crackdown on corruption in the East African country” were reported. One anonymous activists declared, “Ethiopia is pushing forward on efforts to help end the rampant corruption within government and business in the country…. We need to clean up our government…” Other anonymous commentators were quoted proclaiming moral victory on corruption. “The arrests are the beginning of a new Ethiopia free from the politics and past craziness and greed that had been part of the country for far too long.”
Divergent viewpoints on the “investigation” and arrest of the suspects were bandied in the Ethiopian Diaspora. Some offered muted praise for “Hailemariam’s government” for launching a “war” on “corruption”. They said the bagging of the two dozen or so suspects represents a shot across the bow for all “corruptitioners” (a neologism to describe professional practitioners of corruption). Others were convinced the suspects were guilty “because everybody knows they are corrupt. They shakedown every businessman importing goods into the country…” They were glad to see these “bad guys” bagged. There were many who dismissed the whole investigation as a sham, a public relations charade. It is political theater staged for the World Bank, the IMF and other donors who are demanding anti-corruption action as a precondition for handouts.
Some even suggested it was a special show staged for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry who is expected to visit Ethiopia to attend an African Union summit. The regime bosses can bob and weave against any Kerry punches on human rights and the jailing of dissidents, journalists and opposition leaders by touting their “anti-corruption” efforts. Others viewed the arrests as a fallout of the post-Meles power struggle that is raging among ruling party factions. For the suspects to be arrested, their protector “god fathers” must have been vanquished or purged out in the power play. Still others said the arrest of these particular suspects is the low hanging fruit of corruption in Ethiopia. Going after officials of the customs authority, an agency historically stained with corruption, provides the regime an aura of credibility and magnifies its purported anti-corruption efforts.
I see the whole things with a jaded eye. I am convinced the cunning regime power players are gaming corruption. They are showboating and grandstanding. They are trying to kill two birds with one stone. Nail their opponents and get public relations credit and international handouts at the same time. They are desperately trying to catch some positive publicity buzz in a media environment where they are being hammered and battered everyday by human rights organizations, NGOs, international media outlets and others. It is a public relations stunt and political theatre without much substance or seriousness of purpose. It is standard operating window dressing procedure for the regime. It is red meat for the local population to make themselves look good and drum up support. It is a calculated strategy to reinvent “Hailemariam’s government” with smoke and mirrors. After repeated public cathartic confessions that he is the handmaiden of Meles, Hailemariam now wants to show the world he is Mr. Clean, not Mr. Clone (of Meles). He is no longer part of the corrupt-to-the-core ancien regime of Meles. Mr. Clean is going to clean house and he has already bagged his first “Dirty 2 Dozen”. (Reminds one of Pinocchio telling Geppetto he dreams of becoming a real boy. Hailemariam, a real prime minister?!) What better agitprop to mobilize and capitalize on the infamy of a long reviled and hated agency. If they can’t hoodwink and drum up public support by talking ad nauseam about the Meles Dam, perhaps they can pull it off with a “corruption investigation” of the customs authority. It is sleazy investigating greasy and cheesy.
To say the corrupt Meles regime has no credibility with me is an understatement. The anti-corruption crusaders want us to believe only their side of their story and their silly show-and-tell. But every story has two sides or more. In telling a story, credibility is everything. The regime convicted Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu, Woubshet Taye and so many others on lies, fabrications and tall tales. They have no credibility.
I believe those corruptoids are interested in clinging to power, not good governance or stamping out corruption. The only reason they are able to remain in power is because corruption courses in their bloodstream. Corruption is the hemoglobin that delivers life-sustaining oxygen to their nerve center. Without corruption, the tyrannical regime will simply wither away.
I take a dim view of the regime’s “anti-corruption” efforts” not because I am its relentless critic or because I will not miss an opportunity to ding them or make them look bad. I make no apologies for my trenchant criticisms. But the truth of the matter is that if I believed in the slightest that they were serious and genuine about rooting (instead of tooting) out “corruption”, I would be the first to raise my pen and lavish them with praise. I would be rooting and tooting for them.
As I have often remarked, corruption is the malignant cancer that has metastasized throughout Ethiopia’s body politic. That’s why the World Bank’s voluminous report was aptly titled, “Diagnosing Corruption in Ethiopia.” It is a “clinical” diagnosis which has determined the cancer cells of corruption are not confined to one organ of state (customs authority) which can be surgically removed and treated with the penal equivalent of chemotherapy and radiation. The corruption cancer has spread throughout all organs of state.
The chemotherapy for the cancer of corruption in Ethiopia is a free press that can aggressively and doggedly investigate and report corrupt officials and practices for public scrutiny. The radiation therapy for the cancer of corruption is an independent prosecutorial office that could catch not only the small winnows in the pond but most importantly the big whales and sharks swimming at the highest levels of government. An independent judiciary that is capable of adjudicating corruption cases with due process of law is also very much needed. The preventive care for the cancer of corruption involves vigilant civil society institutions which can work freely at the grassroots levels and provide anti-corruption awareness, education, training and monitoring. It also involves a genuinely competitive multiparty system that can hold the ruling party and its officials accountable.
None of these “medicines” exist in Ethiopia today. That is why I believe the cancer of “corruption” in due course will destroy the regime though it is the very source of its survival now. More on my views on the “anti-corruption efforts” of the regime later; but a word or two about due process, the rule of law and the “corruption” suspects.
Due process and the rights of the accused
As I was drafting this commentary, I was advised by some learned colleagues that any statement I make that seems remotely sympathetic to the suspects accused of “corruption” could send the wrong message and create the misimpression that I would stoop low to defend even the manifestly corrupt just to make political points against the regime. I was told not to bother because “everybody knows the suspects are corrupt…” One of my feisty friends in a moment of rhetorical impetuosity was compelled to ask, “Why should you care if these S.O.B’s get a fair trial? Everyone knows they are guilty. Let them hang!”
That is where I part ways with my learned friends. The last time I parted ways with them was when I defended Meles Zenawi’s right to speak at Columbia University in September 2010. At the time, I was roundly criticized by friends and some of my regular readers. “How could you defend the ‘monster’ who had denied millions of Ethiopians the right to speak and even breath?” I insisted I was not defending a “monster” but the principle of free expression. My defense was simple, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” My position is no different now. If we don’t believe in a fair trial for those we despise as corrupt, then we do not believe in fair trial at all.
I believe in fairness and justice. I do not believe in revenge or retribution. I take no position on the factual guilt or innocence of those accused of “corruption”. If they did the crime, they have to do the time. However, I believe they have a constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a fair trial. In other words, I make no exceptions or compromises when it comes to taking a position in defending the principle and practice of due process of law and respect for fundamental human rights. Those accused of “corruption” now (and those who will certainly face accusations of crimes against humanity and other crimes in the future) are entitled to full due process of law, which includes not only the presumption of innocence and the right against self-incrimination but also the rights to counsel, adequate notice of charges, an impartial and neutral fact-finder, speedy trial and adjudication by the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.
My deep concern over the arbitrary administration of justice or denial of fair trial to anyone accused of “corruption”, "terrorism", "treason", etc., is rooted in the manifest absence of the rule of law in Ethiopia and the harsh realities of Meles’ officialdom. Any petty “law enforcement” official of the regime has the power to arrest and jail an innocent citizen. As I argued in my February 2012 commentary, “The Prototype African Police State”, a local police chief in Addis Ababa felt so arrogantly secure in his arbitrary powers that he threatened to arrest a Voice of America reporter stationed in Washington, D.C. simply because that reporter asked him for his full name during a telephone interview. “I don’t care if you live in Washington or in Heaven. I don’t give a damn! But I will arrest you and take you. You should know that!!”, barked police chief Zemedkun. If a flaky policeman can exercise such absolute power, is it unreasonable to imagine those at the apex of power have the power to do anything they want with impunity. The regime in Ethiopia is living proof that power corrupts and an absolute power corrupts absolutely.
In my view, denial of due process (fair trial) is the highest form of “corruption” imaginable because its denial results in the arbitrary deprivation of a person’s life, liberty and property. I am unapologetic in my insistence that the suspects accused of “corruption” are entitled to full due process of law under the country’s Constitution and international human rights conventions. The question is: Could they get a fair trial in the regime’s kangaroo courts? Do these “corruption” suspects have the same chance of getting a fair trial today as those accused of “treason”, “terrorism”, “subversion” yesterday?
Article 20 (3) Ethiopian Constitution provides, “During proceedings accused persons have the right to be presumed innocent.” The same right is secured under the Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 7(b) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR). Disrespect for the presumption of innocence has been the hallmark of the Meles regime. To be accused of a crime by the Meles regime is to be convicted and sentenced to a long prison term. That is why I have often caricatured the Meles’ judicial system as kangaroo court justice. The courts are corrupted through political manipulation, intimidation and domination. The 2012 U.S. State Department Human Rights report concluded, “The law provides for an independent judiciary. Although the civil courts operated with a large degree of independence, the criminal courts remained weak, overburdened, andsubject to political influence.” One of the “corruption” suspects during his first court appearance complained of prejudicial pretrial publicity because “state television showed his house being searched.”
There is a long and predictable pattern and practice of disregard for the constitutional right to presumption of innocence and wholesale abuse and denial of a panoply of constitutional rights to those accused of political crimes in Ethiopia. Following the 2005 election, Meles publicly declared that “The CUD (Kinijit) leaders are engaged in insurrection -- that is an act of treason under Ethiopian law. They will be charged and they will appear in court.” They were charged, appeared in “court” and were convicted. In December 2008, Meles railroaded Birtukan Midekssa, the first female political party leader in Ethiopian history, without so much as a hearing let alone a trial. He sent her straight from the street into solitary confinement and later declared: “There will never be an agreement with anybody to release Birtukan. Ever. Full stop. That's a dead issue.” In 2009, Meles’ right hand man labeled 40 defendants awaiting trial as “desperadoes” who planned to “assassinate high ranking government officials and destroying telecommunication services and electricity utilities and create conducive conditions for large scale chaos and havoc.” They were all “convicted” and given long prison sentences.
Meles proclaimed the guilt of freelance Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye on charges of “terrorism” while they were being tried and he was visiting Norway in 2011. He emphatically declared the duo “are, at the very least, messenger boys of a terrorist organization. They are not journalists.” Persson and Schibbye were "convicted" and sentenced to long prison terms.
Violations of the constitutional rights of those accused of crimes by the regime are not limited to disregard for the presumption of innocence. Internationally-celebrated Ethiopian journalists including Reeyot Alemu, Woubshet Taye and many others were denied access to legal counsel for months. Ethiopian Muslim activists who demanded an end to religious interference were jailed on “terrorism” charges and denied access to counsel. They were mistreated and abused in pretrial detention. Scores of journalists, opposition members and activists arrested and prosecuted (persecuted) under the so-called anti-terrorism proclamation were also denied counsel and speedy trials and languished in prison for long periods.
Article 20 (2) provides, “Any person in custody or a convicted prisoner shall have the right to communicate with and be visited by spouse(s), close relatives and friends, medical attendants, religious and legal counselors. In an interview given to the Voice of America Amharic program last week, a lawyer for one of the suspects complained that he and a bunch of other lawyers were denied access to their clients accused of “corruption” after waiting for five hours. They were told to return the following day because the “suspects were undergoing interrogation.” Yet, Article 19 (5) provides, “Everyone shall have the right not to be forced to make any confessions or admissions of any evidence that may be brought against him during the trial.”
Article 19 (1) provides, “Anyone arrested on criminal charges shall have the right to be informed promptly and in detail… the nature and cause of the charge against him... Article 20 (2) provides, “Everyone charged with an offence shall be adequately informed in writing of the charges brought against him. The “corruption” suspects have yet to be “informed promptly and in detail the charges against them”. “Ethiopia's top anti-corruption official" Ali Sulaiman told Voice of America Amharic last week that the “suspects have been under surveillance for two years”. Yet at the suspect's first court appearance, the prosecutors requested a 14-day continuance to gather more evidence. The “court” ruled the suspects can be held in custody “until the Federal Ethics & Anti-”corruption” Commission (FEACC) could collect additional evidence to bring charges against them.”
If it took them 2 years to investigate the case, but couldn’t wait another 14 days to gather the last pieces of vital evidence before arresting and publicly parading the suspects? This is a trick they have used before. It is called arrest and jest. Put the suspects in jail, crucify them in the press and laugh at them as they languish in prison for months on end. There will be endless delays and continuances “to collect more evidence” and the “court” will allow it because the "court" does what it is told by their political bosses.
There is no judicial system in the world where suspects are arrested of committing crimes after being investigated for 2 years and then the prosecution asks for two more weeks to gather additional evidence. The regime’s trial by publicity and demonization will go on. They will keep pumping out unrebutted damaging information in flagrant disregard of the suspects’ constitutional rights to create hostile pretrial publicity. They talk with a loose tongue about the suspects crimes of “tampering with loan-sharking investigations”, “illegal trading and tax evasion”, “improprieties especially involving imports of steel”, etc. Such is the sad fact of corruptoid justice in the regime’s kangaroo courts. Arrest persons presumed to be innocent and go out and look for evidence of their guilt! What a crock of _ _ _ t!
Fall guys or grand fall
There is something strange about the regime’s current “corruption” narrative; and I must say it reflects very badly on Meles himself. According to reports, the “director general” (the alleged kingpin of the “corruption” ring) was appointed by Meles in 2008. He is a “senior cabinet member”. He is credited for “overseeing several tax reforms including widening the tax base, by requiring businesses to install cash registration machines and to become registered for Value Added Tax (VAT).” According to one report, “Under [the “director general”], the amount of revenues the federal government mobilized has reached 71 billion Br in 2011/12, a dramatic increase from the 19 billion Br collected before he took the position.”
Something is not right with that picture. Was Meles so blind and incompetent to select such a “corrupt man” to take the helm of his money making machine? Did Meles select him to oversee his corrupt empire because he knew the “director general” was the just right man for the job? Is it possible that the “director general” is a victim in a political power play? In any case, the arrest of the “director general” and the smear on his character and reputation reflects very poorly on Meles judgment, common sense and integrity. In my view, if the “director general” is truly the corruption ringleader, then he cannot possibly be the capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses), perhaps an underboss or a consigliere.
The anticorruption warriors should be mindful of the law of unintended consequences. If they succeed in their corruption crusade, Meles’ legacy may be at extreme risk. When it came to corruption, Meles had a double standard. For instance, when 10,000 tons of coffee vanished from the warehouses, Meles forgave the coffee thieves and others “because we all have our hands in it”. He threatened to cut the hands of coffee thieves if they steal again. Meles was content to rail against “government thieves” without doing much more. Now Hailemariam wants a single standard of corruption applicable to all. For someone who worships Meles, Hailemariam’s move is downright heresy!
It is noteworthy that the last time Meles mounted a “corruption” investigation was over a decade ago when he rounded up some of his former comrades and their business associates and charged them with “corruption” and railroaded them to prison. Back in the mid-1990s, he jailed the “prime minister” of the “transitional government” on charges of corruption. That “prime minister” ate 12 years in Meles’ prisons. Hailemariam now, without warning, wants to go after all corruptitioners and cut off their hands? Is it going to be the legacy of corruption of Mr. Crook against the promise of good governance by anti-corruption crusader Mr. Clean?
Going after corruption, inc. (unlimited) -- the real “holy cows” of “corruption”
In 2011, Meles publicly stated that 10,000 tons of coffee earmarked for exports had simply vanished from the warehouses. He called a meeting of commodities traders and in a videotaped statement told them that he will forgive them this time because “we all have our hands in the disappearance of the coffee”. He threatened to “cut off their hands” if they should steal coffee in the future. In 2011, a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) commissioned report from Global Financial Integrity (GFI) on “illicit financial flows” (money stolen by government officials and their cronies and stashed away in foreign banks) from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) revealed the theft of US$8.4 billion from Ethiopia. In 2009, over US $3 billion illicitly left Ethiopia. “The vast majority of the rise in illicit financial flows is a result of increased corruption, kickbacks, and bribery while the remainder stems from trade mispricing.”
In 2008 “USD16 million dollars” worth of gold bars simply walked out of the bank in broad daylight never to be seen again. According to a Wikileaks cablegram, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the current ruling party in Ethiopia, “Upon taking power in 1991… liquidated non-military assets to found a series of companies whose profits would be used as venture capital to rehabilitate the war-torn Tigray region’s economy…[with] roughly US $100 million… Throughout the 1990s…, no new EFFORT [Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray owned and operated by TPLF] ventures have been established despite significant profits, lending credibility to the popular perception that the ruling party and its members are drawing on endowment resources to fund their own interests or for personal gain.” According to the World Bank, roughly half of the Ethiopian national economy is accounted for by companies held by a business group called the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT) cloasely allied with the ruling EPDRF party. EFFORT’s freight transport, construction, pharmaceutical, and cement firms receive lucrative foreign aid contracts and highly favorable terms on loans from government banks. “Generals” and other military leaders have managed to accumulate properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Last year, a regime general told Voice of America Amharic that he was able to build a number of multistory buildings worth tens of millions of dollars because he was “given bank loans”.
There is an old Ethiopian saying which roughly translates as follows: “There is no beauty contest among monkeys.” A pig with lipstick at the end of the day is still a pig as the old saying goes. There are no good corruptoids. In any power struggle, it is not uncommon for one group of power players to accuse another of being corrupt. Bo Xilai (once touted to be the successor to President Hu Jintao in China) Liu Zhijun and other high level Chinese communist cadres are facing criminal and political sanctions for alleged abuses of power and accepting bribes. Mikhail Khodorkovsky (once considered the “wealthiest man in Russia”) was jacked up on “corruption” charges and given a long prison sentence. Corruption show trials are a powerful weapon in the arsenal of dictators who seek to neutralize their opponents. As I argued in my commentary "Africorruption”, Inc.", the business of African “governments” including the Ethiopian regime in the main is corruption. Those who seized political power in Ethiopia in 1991 may have believed they were fighting for freedom and democracy, but once they got absolute power, they became absolutely corrupt. They began to function as sophisticated criminal enterprises with the principal aim of looting the national treasury and operating government as a criminal syndicate and a racket. If the regime is serious about corruption, it should go after the real “holy cows” of corruption, not just the unholy cows that have been forced to become scapegoats.
Scapegoating or "anti-corruption”?
The so-called “corruption investigation” appears to be a case of scapegoating. Tradition has it that on the day of atonement a goat would be selected by the high priest and loaded with the sins of the community and driven out into the wilderness as an affirmative act of symbolic cleansing. It made the people feel purged of evil and guiltless. The “corruption” suspects were supporters, defenders and handmaidens of the regime. Now they are made out to be loathsome villains. The sins and crimes of the regime are placed upon their heads and they driven out into the wilderness. The high priests of the regimes are telling the people they have been cleansed and the community is free from evil. In this narrative, the regime “anti-corruption warriors” become the white knights in shining armor. But no amount of scapegoating can divert attention from the real situation. It is wise for those who live in glass houses not to throw stones.
How to deal with “horruption”
I am compelled to invent a new word to describe the horrible “corruption” in the ruling regime in Ethiopia. That word is, “horruption” (horrible corruption). The extended definition of this word is found in the World Bank’s corruption report on Ethiopia referenced above.
What is the best way to deal with horruption in Ethiopia? Simple. Line up the right social forces to fight corruption. Allow the free press to flourish so that it can aggressively and doggedly investigate and report corrupt officials and practices for public scrutiny. Establish an independent prosecutorial office properly budgeted and staffed (supported by certified international anti-corruption experts) to go after not only the small winnows but most importantly the big whales and sharks splish splashing in a sea of corruption. Take comprehensive measures to increase the transparency of all public institution and translate into action the mandate of Article 12 of the Ethiopian Constitution (Functions and Accountability of Government). Reduce the regime’s involvement in the economy. Allow the functioning of an independent judiciary that is capable of adjudicating corruption cases with full due process of law. Let civil society institutions flourish so that they can maintain ongoing vigilance and work at the grassroots levels to provide anti-corruption awareness, education, training and monitoring. Let there be a genuinely competitive multiparty system that can hold the ruling party and its officials accountable. In short, institutionalize the rule of law. Then we can act against “horruption” instead of talking about corruption.
The regime thinks they can distract attention by talking about “corruption” and selectively arresting a few of their own members and supporters and putting them on show trials. That is nice political theater but it will not solve the problem of horruption unless one believes, to paraphrase H.L. Mencken, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the Ethiopian people.”
Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino and is a practicing defense lawyer.
Ethiopia: Corruption and the "miseducation" of Ethiopian youth
By Alemayehu G. Mariam
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” said Nelson Mandela. For the late Meles Zenawi and his apostles (the Melesistas) in Ethiopia, the reverse is true: Ignorance is the most powerful weapon you can use to prevent change and cling to power. They have long adopted the motto of George Orwell’s Oceania: “Ignorance is Strength”. Indeed, ignorance is a powerful weapon to manipulate, emasculate and subjugate the masses. Keep ‘em ignorant and impoverished and they won’t give you any trouble.
For the Melesistas education is indoctrination. They feed the youth a propaganda diet rich in misinformation, disinformation, distortions, misguided opinions, worn out slogans and sterile dogmas from a bygone era. Long ago, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, “Father of African-American History”, warned against such indoctrination and miseducation of the oppressed: “When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his proper place and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.” The rulers in Ethiopia continue to use higher educational institutions not as places of learning, inquiry and research but as diploma mills for a new breed of party hacks and zombie ideologues doomed to blind and unquestioning servility. “Zombie go… zombie stop… zombie turn… zombie think…,” sang the great African musician Fela Kuti. I’d say, “zombie teach… zombie learn… zombie read… zombie dumb… zombie dumber.”
For over two decades, Meles and his gang have tried to keep Ethiopians in a state of blissful ignorance where the people are forced at gunpoint to speak no evil, see no evil and hear no evil. Meles and his posse have spent a king’s ransom to jam international radio and satellite transmissions to prevent the free flow of information to the people. They have blocked internet access to alternative and critical sources of information and views. According to a 2012 report of Freedom House, the highly respected nongovernmental research and advocacy organization established in 1941, “Ethiopia has one of the lowest rates of internet and mobile telephone penetration on the continent. Despite low access, the government maintains a strict system of controls and is the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa to implement nationwide internet filtering.” They have shuttered independent newspapers, jailed reporters, editors and bloggers and exiled dozens of journalists in a futile attempt to conceal their horrific crimes against humanity and vampiric corruption. They have succeeded in transforming Ethiopia from the “Land of 13 Months of Sunshine” to the
“Land of Perpetual Darkness”.
But my commentary here is not about the Benighted Kingdom of Ethiopia where ignoramuses are kings, queens, princes and princesses. I am concerned about the systemic and rampant corruption in Ethiopia's "education sector”. The most destructive and pernicious form of corruption occurs in education. Educorruption steals the future of youth. It permanently cripples them intellectually by denying them opportunities to acquire knowledge and transform their lives and take control of the destiny of their nation. As Malcom X perceptively observed, “Without education, you are not going anywhere in this world.” Could Ethiopia’s youth go anywhere in this world trapped and chained deep in the belly of a corrupt educational system?
I will admit that in the hundreds of weekly commentaries I have written over the last half dozen or so years, I have not given education in Ethiopia the critical attention it deserved. I have no excuse for not engaging the issue more intensely. In my own defense, I can only say that when an entire generation of Ethiopian scholars, academics, professors and learned elites stands silent as a bronze statute witnessing the tyranny of ignorance in action, the burden on the few who try to become the voices of the voiceless on every issue is enormous.
I have previously commented on the lack of academic freedom in Ethiopian higher education and the politicization of education in Ethiopia. In my February 2008 commentary “Tyranny in the Academy”, I called attention to the lack of academic freedom at Mekelle Law School. I defended Abigail Salisbury who was a visiting professor at that law school when she was summarily fired by Meles after she published an academic commentary on her experiences at that law school:
…I was absolutely shocked, then, when I started reading my students’ work. Out of the hundred third-year students I teach, probably forty of them had inserted a special section, right after the cover page, warning me of what might happen to them were their paper to leave my hands. A number of students wrote that they would never give their real opinions to an Ethiopian professor because they fear being turned in to the government and punished. Others begged me to take their work back to America with me so that people would know what was going on…
In my September 2010 commentary, “Indoctri-Nation”, I criticized the Meles regime for politicizing education. The “Ministry of Education” (reminds one of Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” (Ignorance)) at the time had issued a “directive” effectively outlawing distance learning (education programs that are not delivered in the traditional university classroom or campus) throughout the country. The regime had also sought to corner the disciplines of law and teaching for state-controlled universities, creating a monopoly and pipeline for the training of party hacks to swarm the teaching and legal professions. I demonstrated that "directive” was in flagrant violation and in willful disregard of the procedural safeguards of the Higher Education Proclamation No. 650/2009. It did not faze them. (It was time to mint a new legal maxim: “The ignorant are entitled to ignore their own law and invoke ignorance of their own law as a defense.”)
The “directive” was at odds with the recommendations of the World Bank (which has been assisting the regime in improving education administration and delivery of services) for increased emphasis on the creation of a network of “tertiary educational” institutions (e.g. distance learning centers, private colleges, vocational training services, etc.,) to help support the “production of the higher-order capacity” necessary for Ethiopia’s development. In its 2003 sector study “Higher Education Development for Ethiopia", the World Bank had recommended “a near term goal [of] doubl[ing] the share of private enrollments from the current 21% to 40% by 2010.” By 2010, the Meles regime had decided to reduce private tertiary institutions, particularly the burgeoning distance learning sector, to zero!
In my October 2010 commentary, “Ethiopia: Education Unbanned!”, I was pleasantly surprised but unconvinced by the Meles regime’s apparent change of strategy to abandon its decision to impose a blanket ban on distance learning and reach a negotiated resolution of instructional quality issues with distance learning providers. I pointed out a few lessons Meles and his crew could learn from the bureaucratic fiasco. (Is it really possible for the closed- and narrow-minded to learn?)
I focus on educational corruption in Ethiopia in this commentary for four reasons: 1) I was appalled by the corruption findings in the recent World Bank 448-page report “Diagnosing Corruption in Ethiopia”. That report, with bureaucratic delicacy and hesitancy, demonstrates the cancer of corruption which afflicts the Ethiopian body politic has metastasized into the educational sector putting the nation’s youth at grave risk. 2) There is widespread acknowledgement that education in Ethiopia at all levels is in a pitiful condition. For instance, a 2010 Newsweek “study of health, education, economy, and politics” showed Ethiopia with a population of 88 million had a literacy rate of 43.3 percent, and ranked 98 out of 100 countries on education. 3) Few Ethiopian educators and scholars are examining the issue of educational corruption and its implications for the future of the country and its youth. Hopefully, this commentary could spur some of them to investigate corruption in education (and other areas) and conduct related policy research and analysis. 4) I had promised in my first weekly commentary of 2013 to pay special attention to youth issues in Ethiopia during the year. Nothing is more important to Ethiopia’s youth than education. Youth without education are youth without a future and without hope. Youth without education are emblematic of a nation in despair.
World Bank findings on corruption in the Ethiopian education sector
The WB report on the education sector alludes to an Ethiopian proverb in assessing the culture of corruption and impunity: “Sishom Yalbela Sishar Ykochewal” -- roughly translates into English as follows: “One who does not exploit to the full his position when he is promoted will lament when he no longer has the opportunity.”
Ethiopia’s education sector has become a haven and a refuge for prebendalist (where those affiliated with the ruling regime feel entitled to receive a share of the loot) party hacks and a bottomless barrel of patronage. The Meles regime has used jobs, procurement and other opportunities in the education sector to reward and sustain loyalty in its support base. They have been handing out teaching jobs to their supporters like candy and procurement opportunities to their cronies like cake. “In Ethiopia’s decentralized yet authoritarian system,considerable powers exist among senior officials at the federal, regional, and woreda levels. Of particular relevance to this study is the discretion exercised by politically appointed officials at the woreda level, directly affecting the management of teachers.”
In “mapping corruption in the education sector in Ethiopia”, “the World Bank report cautions that “corruption in education can be multifaceted, ranging from large distortions in resource allocation and significant procurement-related fraud to smaller amounts garnered through daily opportunities for petty corruption and nontransparent financial management.” Corruption in the education sector is quadri-dimensional “affecting the selection of teachers for training, recruitment, skills upgrading, or promotion; falsification of documents to obtain qualifications, jobs, or promotions and fraud and related bribery in examinations and conflict of interest in procurement.”
The “selection of candidates for technical training colleges (TTCs)” is the fountainhead of educational corruption in Ethiopia. According to the WB report, “students do not generally choose to become teachers but are centrally selected from a pool of those who have failed to achieve high grades.” In other words, the regime’s policy is to populate the teaching profession with, for lack of a better word, the “dumber” students. Such students also make the most servile party hacks. But it is a spectacular revelation that the future of Ethiopia’s youth -- the future of Ethiopia itself -- is in the hands of “those who have failed to achieve high grades”. Ignorant teachers and ignorant students= Ignorance is strength. Could a greater crime be committed against Ethiopia’s youth and Ethiopia?
To add insult to injury, the selection of underachieving students to pursue teacher training institutes is itself infected by “bribery, favoritism and nepotism.” The most flagrant corrupt practices include “manipulation of the points system for selection of students to higher education.” The “allocate[on] of higher percentage points for results from transcripts and national exams than for entrance exams” has “enabled a large number of inadequately qualified students to join the affected institutes, sometimes with forged transcripts. This practice has affected the quality of students gaining entry to higher education and eroded the quality of the training program.” In other words, even among underachievers seeking to become teachers, it is the washouts, the duds and flops that are likely to become teachers!
Fraud and related corrupt practices in matriculation are commonplace. According to the WB report, there is
a significant risk of corruption in examinations…The types of fraudulent practices in examinations include forged admission cards enable students to pay other students to sit exams for them, collusion allowing both individual and group cheating in examinations, assistance from invigilators (exam monitors) and school and local officials (during exams), higher-level interference [in which] regional officials overturned the disqualification of cheaters, fraudulent overscoring of examination papers [by] teachers are bribed by parents and students, fraudulent certification of transcripts and certificates to help students graduate.
Although there are public officials who have considered reporting corrupt practices, they have refrained from doing so because there was “a strong sense that there is no protection to guard against possible reprisals directed at those who report malpractice.” There is no place for whistle blowers in Ethiopia's edu-corruptocracy.
Recruitment and management of teachers is a separate universe of corrupt practices. “In Ethiopia, the overwhelming bulk of expenditure in education is taken up by salaries of teachers” and there is a “high risk of bribery, extortion, favoritism, or nepotism in selecting teachers for promotion, upgrading, or grants.” The WB report found “nepotism and favoritism in recruitment were broad and frequent—namely that, in some woredas, the recruitment of teachers (and other community-based workers) is based on political affiliation, including paid-up membership of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).”
What is shocking is not only the culture of corruption in education but also the culture of impunity -- the belief that there are no consequences for practicing corruption. The WB report shows not only the “prevalence of fraud and falsification of teaching qualifications and other documents, reflecting weak controls, poor-quality documents (that are easily falsified), [but also] the widespread belief that such a practice would not be detected… For such falsification to go unnoticed, there is a related risk of the officials supporting or approving the application being implicated in the corrupt practice.”
The types of corrupt practices that occur at the management level are stunning. Managers manipulate access to “program of enhancing teacher qualifications through in-service training during holiday periods by using their positions to influence the selection of candidates. Hidden relationships are used in teacher upgrading, with officials at the zonal or woreda level taking the first option on upgradation programs.” The appointment of local education officials is not “competitive” but “politically assigned”. Collusion between local managers and teachers over noncompliance with curriculum, academic calendar, and similar practices is a relatively common practice and “reduces the provision of educational services.” This situation is made worse by “teacher absenteeism [which] is tolerated by head teachers, within the context of staff perceiving a need to supplement their income through private tutoring or other forms of income generation.” Poorly paid teachers supplement their incomes by “private tutoring [which] is widespread, with 40 percent of school officials reporting it as a practice.” Corruption also extends to “teachers paying bribes or kickbacks to management, mostly school directors, to allocate shorter work hours in schools so that they can use the freed-up time to earn fees as teachers in private schools.” The payola is hierarchically distributed: “Bribes received are likely to be shared first with superiors, then with a political party, and then with colleagues, in that order.”
Falsification of documents including forged transcripts and certificates occurs on an “industrial” scale and is “most prevalent in the provision of certification for completing the primary or secondary school cycles” and in generating bogus “documents in support of applications for promotion”.
Procurement (official purchases of goods and services from private sources) is the low hanging fruit. “In the education sector, a number of public actors maybe involved [in procurement], depending on the size and type of the task. These include national and local government politicians and managers.” Some people have a lock on the procurement system. Successful “tendering companies” are likely to have “family or other connections with officials responsible for procurement”. Procurement corruption also takes the forms of “uncompetitive practices” “including the formation of a cartel, obstruction of potential new entrants to the market, or other forms of uncompetitive practices that may or may not include a conspiratorial role on the part of those responsible for procurement.” Other procurement related corruption includes “favoritism, nepotism, or bribery in the short-listing of consultants or contractors or the provision of tender information.” There are some “favored contractors and consultants” who have a “dominant market position” and are “awarded contracts for which they were not eligible to bid.” Corruption also occurs in the form of defective construction, substandard materials and overclaims of quantities.
Construction quality issues are considered a significant problem in the construction of educational facilities, particularly in the case of small, remote facilities where high standards of construction supervision can be difficult to achieve. For example, a toilet block in a school collapsed a month after completion. The contractor responsible for building the facility was not required to make the work good or repay the amount paid, nor was the contractor sanctioned. The matter was not investigated. Such problems are a significant indicator of corrupt practices, particularly when the contractor is not ultimately held to account for its failures…
There is corruption in the “purchase of substandard or defective supplies or equipment. For this to go unchallenged by those responsible for procurement strongly suggests either a lack of capacity, corrupt practices, or both.” According to an example cited in the WB report, “a large fleet of buses purchased by the MOE [“Ministry of Education”] using Teacher Development Program funds and distributed to TTCs were found to be defective. The TTCs complained that the MOE had dumped the buses on them. The MOE subsequently sent auditors to determine whether the complaint was genuine.”
The amazing fact is that the regime reflexively decided to investigate those who filed the complaint, and not the reported crooks. They automatically assumed the technical training colleges were lying and sent their auditors to investigate them for possible false reporting of defective buses!! (Orwelliana: The criminals are the victims and the victims are the criminals.) There is evidence of theft and resale of school supplies or equipment. “One such indication relates to the alleged illegal sale of education facilities, with related allegations of nepotism. A city education office is alleged to have sold valuable heritage buildings in a secondary school to a private developer and then to have requested land to rebuild the school facilities.”
Changing the culture of corruption and impunity
The culture of corruption and impunity in Ethiopia must be changed. The WB report observes,
In Ethiopia, the pattern of perception suggests that outright bribery is perceived to be more corrupt than, for example, favoritism or the falsification of documentation. There is also a sense that some practices, such as expressing gratitude to a client through the giving of a small gift, are normal business practice and not necessarily corrupt. Finally, there is an underlying acceptance among many that the state has the right to intervene in the market if that is considered to be in the national interest, and there is little sense that such interventions could be at variance with ongoing efforts to promote the level playing field needed for effective privatization of service provision, including in the education sector.
It is unlikely that a corrupt regime has the will, capacity or interest to change its own modus operandi. As I have argued elsewhere, having the “Federal Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission” (FEAC) investigate the architects and beneficiaries of corruption in Ethiopia is like having Tweedle Dee investigate Tweedle Dum. It is an exercise in futility and an absurdity. FEAC is a toothless, clawless and feckless make-believe do-nothing bureaucratic shell incapable of investigating corruption in its own offices let alone systemic corruption in the country.
Pressures for accountability and transparency could come from domestic civil society institutions, but as the WB report points out, a 2009 “civil societies law” has decimated such institutions. The only practical and effective mechanism for accountability and transparency in the education sector is the institutionalization of an independent and energetic teachers’ union. But the regime has destroyed the real teachers’ union. According to the WB report,
Teachers in Ethiopia have historically been represented by the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association (ETA), founded in 1949. Following a long legal battle, a 2008 court ruling took away the right of the ETA to its name and all of its assets, creating a different organization with an identical name. Most teachers are now members of this replacement organization, for which dues are deducted from teachers’ salaries. The original ETA, now reorganized as the National Teachers Association (NTA), considers the new ETA to be unduly influenced by the government and has complained of discrimination against its members. Such concerns have in turn been expressed internationally through a range of bodies including the International Labour Organization (ILO 2009).
The mis-edcuation of Ethiopia’s youth and stolen futures
Education of Ethiopia’s youth is a human rights issue for me and not just a matter of professional concern as an educator. Corruption in the education sector is so severe that the future of Ethiopia’s youth is at grave risk. As Transparency International admonishes,
Stolen resources from education budgets mean overcrowded classrooms and crumbling schools, or no schools at all. Books and supplies are sometimes sold instead of being given out freely. Schools and universities also ‘sell’ school places or charge unauthorised fees, forcing students (usually girls) to drop out. Teachers and lecturers are appointed through family connections, without qualifications. Grades can be bought, while teachers force students to pay for tuition outside of class. In higher education, undue government and private sector influence can skew research agendas.
It is true “ignorance is strength”. The Meles regime seeks to create an army of ignorant youth zombie clones who will march lockstep and follow their orders: “Zombie go, zombie stop, zombie think… zombie learn... zombie dumb... zombie dumber...” If ignorance is strength, then knowledge is power. When “ignorant” youth gain knowledge, they become an unstoppable force.
It may not be manifest to many but Ethiopia’s mis-educated youth are on the rise. A quiet riot is raging among the youth debilitated by overwhelming despair and anguish. The youth look at themselves and their lost futures under a corrupt tyranny. They know things are not going to get better. For now the despair simmers but it will reach a boiling point. Mohamed Bouazizi was a 26 year old Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in December 2010. Dictator Ben Ali did not see it coming, but the fire that consumed Bouazizi also consumed and transformed not only Tunisia but also led to an Arab Spring. Moamar Gadhafi, the great “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution of Libya” died at the hands of youth he miseducated for 42 years. Informed, enlightened and interconnected Egyptian youth brought down the Mubarak regime in less than two weeks!
Ethiopia's youth will rise because there is no force that can keep them down. The only question is when not if. That is the immutable of law of history. In the end, I believe Ethiopia’s youth will remember not the deeds and misdeeds of those who miseducated them and robbed them of their futures, but the silence of the scholars, intellectuals, academics, professors and learned men and women who watched the tyranny of ignorance like bronze statutes. I am confident in my conviction that there will come a time when Ethiopia’s youth will stand up collectively, and each one pointing an index finger, shout out, “J’accuse!”
Ignorance is strength but knowledge is power! Fight the tyranny of ignorance. Educate yourself!
Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino and is a practicing defense lawyer.
Ethiopia: Abune Petros in our heart
By Yilma Bekele
On July 29th. 1936 Abune Petros was executed by the Italian fascist that were trying to colonize our country for his refusal to submit. On May 2nd. 2013 the monument that was built to commemorate our Holy Father was removed by the order of the TPLF party that is currently ruling our country. Our Holy Father died for the first time. The murder by a firing squad was an honor and showed his deep love for his people and country. The fascist killed his body but he made his home in every Ethiopian soul for ever and ever. We all carry Abune Petros in our heart. ‘Abune Petros Adebabaye’, ‘Abune Petros Hawelt’ is not just a location but the symbol of our pride and the true meaning of sacrifice for a higher cause.
The order to Kill Abune Petros was given by the fascist Viceroy Graziani but the trigger was pulled by solders from the North that were faithfully serving the fascist invader. The order to remove our monument to our beloved father was given by the TPLF party but the backhoe and flatbed truck was driven by modern day Banda’s.
They claim the removal is temporary. That is not the issue. Was it necessary is our question. Could it have been avoided is our point. Aren’t there some things considered priceless is our contention. The same people that moved heaven and earth to bring back our stolen Obelisk and erect it in its rightful place felt no qualms about dispatching daily laborers to bring our hero down and place him in a warehouse. We rejoiced when our obelisk was returned because it is the symbol of our glorious past. Although their leader dismissed our joy and happiness and tried to claim it as his peoples private history we bit our tongue and dismissed his rudeness for immaturity.
I agree it is difficult to personally relate to a stone like an obelisk. Nevertheless it is the product of our ancestors and a symbol of their ingenuity for that period in our past. But Abune Petros is a living symbol every one of us would have no problem claiming, admiring and silently thinking ‘would I have courage to act like him?’
Abune Petros is what I always thought we Ethiopians were like. I was raised at a time when being an Ethiopian was something special. There was not enough adjective to describe our country and people. Yes I am aware that we had lots of problems to resolve after all forging a nation is not a cake walk. There were many that were left behind and quite a few that did not get a fair share of what was on the table. We are still trying to come to terms with that.
That still should not dampen our glorious past. Abune Petros was one of those bigger than life Ethiopians that added a positive value to our experience. He defined patriotism, resolve, love, spiritual guidance and commitment to the truth. He accompanied our Emperor and the civilian army to Maichew and confronted the fascist army. He witnessed the gallantry of his people and the savageness of the European invaders. They came with modern weapons and poison gas to scare us to submission. We lost the battle but it only made us realize defeat was not an option. Surrender was not the language of the Ethiopian at that time. Yes times do change. A visitor would have a hard time believing the current generation descended from those that even washed the shoes of the foreigners least they take our soil with them.
Abune Petros continued to fight the way he knew. His religion and his love for his country were his weapons. From the monastery of Debre Libanos to far away churches he continued to rally his people to stand up straight and took the cry ‘By any means necessary!’ to drive the invader out of our cherished land. During his interrogation this is what he told the fascist authority when asked to accept Italy’s sovereignty over Ethiopia or face death.
"The cry of my countrymen who died due to your nerve-gas and terror machinery will never allow my conscious to accept your ultimatum. How can I see my God if I give a blind eye to such a crime?"
His last words before the bullets tore our bishop and Holy Father were:
"My fellow Ethiopians, do not believe the Fascists if they tell you that the patriots are bandits, the patriots are people who yearn for freedom from the terrors of fascism. Bandits are the soldiers who are standing in front of me and you, who came from far away to violently occupy a weak and peaceful country. May God give the people of Ethiopia the strength to resist and never bow to the Fascist army and its violence. May the Ethiopian earth never accept the invading army's rule."
His defiance and heroism became the battle cry of our patriotic army thru out the land and it echoed in our valleys and mountains from north to south east to west and the invader never saw a day of peace until they were driven out.
This was the man and his memory our new Bandas were trying to extinguish that day a week ago. They thought removing a statue would erase history. They tried to cover their mis-deeds with talk of progress. We are not against progress. We in the Diaspora contribute more than our share to help our country and people. As a matter of fact there would be no tall buildings, no dinner on the table and no profitable Ethiopian Airlines and no TPLF millionaire without remittance from the Diaspora. We just know that there are some things more important than others and our heritage, our history and our patriots cannot be kicked around wantonly. We are also well aware of TPLF’s habit of using wedge issues to divide us and hiding behind nation building while using a wrecking ball to destroy our history.
It is a sad sign of the times that our dear father’s memorial statue was removed without much protest. Those that preach about waging a ‘peaceful struggle’ against the new Bandas were nowhere to be seen holding a vigil. They were given an opportunity to unite and galvanize their people and use this Woyane insult against our history as a ‘teachable’ moment. Yes a little sacrifice is what is required to fight injustice. Yes there is imprisonment, injury even death in the struggle for freedom and dignity. People like Eskinder, Reyot, Andualem, Bekele Gerba , Abubeker and Woubeshet are behind bars because they choose not to submit to injustice and heed Abune Petros’s call to stand their ground. I am sure what gives them such determination is his everlasting pray “May God give the people of Ethiopia the strength to resist and never bow to the Fascist army and its violence.” We shall overcome.
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«"alemayehu g. mariam "» «"ali mohammed"» "education" «"human rights"» "usaid" agriculture «alemayehu g. mariam» birtukan china clinton «commodity exchange» dc9 economics economy ecx «eskinder nega» inflation «meles zenawi» «messay kebede» «messay kebede» mideksa murder wikileaks «yilma bekele»