Gezahegn Tadesse, 58, knows how corruption can be a danger to Ethiopia’s future, having lived through three governments.
“I have seen how corruption ate at the foundation of Emperor Hailsealssie I who was deposed in a 1974 revolution, how corruption helped ensure the demise of the military Junta ‘Derg’ in 1991 and how corruption helped fuel deadly anti-government protests in 2016 with the present government,” the Addis Ababa resident told Xinhua.
Nevertheless Tadesse is hopeful that Ethiopia’s largest anti-corruption drive launched in July would bring societal harmony and trust between the people and the government.
The anti-corruption drive has so far seen the detention of a deputy minister, a brigadier general, a former head of Ethiopian Roads Authority and prominent local and foreign business people in connection with embezzlement estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars in total.
DANGER TO STABILITY
Tadesse’s warning about the dangers of unchecked corruption is echoed by Costantinos Berhutesfa Costantinos, former Chairperson of the African Union Anti-Corruption Advisory Board, who added that corruption is becoming a source of tension and public complaints in Ethiopia.
“With Ethiopia having a small economy during the imperial government and the military regime ‘Derg,’ political corruption was the main reason for their demise,” said Costantinos.
“With Ethiopia recording unprecedented development in the past decade, the threat of ‘economic corruption’ is becoming more urgent,” said Costantinos.
Officials starting from Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to local cadres have also mentioned the problem of individuals trying to unduly profit from state bureaucracy as a critical problem in Ethiopia’s fight against corruption.
Already the Ethiopian government has established an anti-corruption commission, instituted incentives to whistleblowers and streamlined the federal attorney general office to better prosecute corruption practices.
Costantinos, while welcoming the government’s anti-corruption drive, urged it to encourage involvement of the civil society, professional associations, community organizations and media.
CHINA’S EXPERIENCE SEEN AS VALUABLE ASSET
With Ethiopia’s ruling party Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) looking to China to build a strong developmental state, with a professional, ethical bureaucracy at its head, some ask can China’s “zero tolerance” approach to corruption also work for Ethiopia.
Costantinos said while every country is different in its own way, there are experiences from China that Ethiopia could integrate into its anti-corruption drive.
“Political leadership including in anti-corruption drives requires intimate knowledge of public policy analysis, formulation, management and development of strategic plans to implement them,” he added.
He further focused on the need to mimic the Chinese experience of creating a motivated, meritorious civil service, where leaders of civil services are empowered to make civil services an active instrument in carrying out government policies.
However Costantinos cautioned that while the Ethiopian government has the major responsibility to combat corrupt practices, the increasing trans-boundary nature of corruption means collaboration with foreign governments is needed.
“Ethiopia should utilize international legal mechanisms in its anti-corruption fight, as corruption is not confined to national borders and money gained as a result of corrupt practices are often kept outside of Ethiopia,” he said. Enditem