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Ethiopia: Reflecting on Corruption

A report by Global Financial Integrity shows that Ethiopia has lost $11.7 billion to outflows of illicit funds in the last decade. In 2009 alone, the figure was $3.26 billion, exceeding both the value of its total annual exports and the total development aid it received that year. And it is on the increase.

The report painted the outflows of illegal fund in a more plain language noting:

The people of Ethiopia are being bled dry. No matter how hard they try to fight their way out of absolute destitution and poverty, they will be swimming upstream against the current of illicit capital leakage.

Meles Zenawi (Prime Minister of Ethiopia) at the World Economic Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, May 2010. Photo courtesy of World Economic Forum (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Meles Zenawi (Prime Minister of Ethiopia) at the World Economic Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, May 2010. Photo courtesy of World Economic Forum (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Janice Winter, a South African, wrote an opinion piece on Daily Maverick titled ‘Climate of Corruption in Ethiopia‘, which prompted many responses from both Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians. In her article, Janice highlighted the state of corruption in Ethiopia and called for strict examination of Melese Zenawi’s regime before the release of the Green Climate Fund which was a major point of discussion in COP17 climate talks in Durban.

The Green Climate Fund is a mechanism for transferring money from the developed to the developing world in order to assist the developing countries to counter climate change.

Reacting to Janice's article, Peter Auld said:

It should be fairly self evident that if you pay dictators to be dictators they will remain dictators.

Hopefully the Green Fund will remain at zero, and African begging bowls become a thing of the past.

Gabe A. Adamou praised Janice:

Kudos for Ms. Winters for setting the record straight. It is disgusting to see this blood-soaked tyrant who repeatedly ordered his security forces to shoot on peaceful protesters and who sent journalists and opposition political figures to jail for criticizing his dictatorial rule get a pass in the West, while the likes of Mugabe who are also tyrants but with less human right violations record than Meles are given pariah status. What is more repulsive is to hear that Western leaders and some in policy circles give him all the accolades for “his intelligence” and see that he is given large stage in regional/world affairs. It is encouraging to see independent journalists question the myth about him created by self-serving Western leaders and some lazy Western media journalists who parrot what they hear from official circles.

Al Mariam, a famous Ethiopian political commentator, in his rather extended response to Janice’s article further detailed the state of corruption in Ethiopia. In his article titled ‘Ethiopia: The Art of Bleeding a Country Dry: Ethio-Corruption, Inc. (Unlimited)‘ he stated:

I have long argued that the business of African dictatorships is corruption The devastating impact of corruption on the continent's poor becomes self-evident as political leaders and public officials siphon off resources from critical school, hospital, road and other public works and community projects to line their pockets. For instance, reports of widespread corruption in Ethiopia in the form of outright theft and embezzlement of public funds, misuse and misappropriation of state property, nepotism, bribery, abuse of public authority and position to exact corrupt payments and gain are commonplace. The anecdotal stories of corruption in Ethiopia are shocking to the conscience. Doctors are unable to treat patients at the public hospitals because medicine and supplies are diverted for private gain. Tariffs are imposed on medicine and medical supplies brought into the country for public charity. Businessmen complain that they are unable to get permits and licenses without paying huge bribes or taking officials as silent partners.

But Mulugeta Kassa does not agree with both Janice and Al Mariam:

Here comes Janice with her liberal contemplations and dare I state, jaundiced view of a South African who has turned livid by President Zuma being eclipsed by Meles Zenawi on issues of African concern. Her smear and sneer attack on Meles is nothing more than a punitive action by neo-liberals on an African leader who adamantly refuses to be arm-locked into accepting failed liberal policies. Much to the indignation and chagrin of Janice Winter and her army of befogged individuals from the discredited school of economic liberalism, Ethiopia today is a pluralistic democracy and as such would not sit on its hands while others try to circumvent democracy for there cannot be such thing as lawless freedom. To, therefore, claim that Meles is a dictator is as futile as trying to claim that the world is flat.

As the mainstream media kept on reporting the issue, Ethiopians on Facebook joined the debate. Abiy Tekelmariam, Ethiopian exiled journalist, who shared the link of the story wrote:

Officials of our generous developmental state share our wealth with rich nations.

Another Facebook user, Tessema Belay, reacted to Abiy’s status update:

“Yes!” We are being bled dry” … story of misery goes on…”

Another journalist in exile based in USA posted on his Facebook page:

After serious scrutiny of robbery of construction materials by some Ethiopians, Chinese construction workers said “do Ethiopians have a country called Ethiopia somewhere else?” and here, following an estimate of $11.7 billion of illicit money outflow, lets ask EPRDFites. “is that “Etvopia” real country geographically located around Malaysia and Arab banks?

Kiflu Hussein, Human Right activist based in Kampala posted the following comment on his page:

Daily stories of corruption in Uganda but no stories of corruption in Ethiopia.Why?Is it because like Joachim Bwembo put it in his recent piece that Meles & Co.are aboveboard & beyond reproach or is it because the press is totally muzzled? After finishing the piece I started, perhaps,I’ll jot down a word or two titled “Seeing Addis or Kigali from the sorry state of Kampala.”That may help to expound what Timothy Kalyegira rightly found a silly comparison between the “dysfunctional & normal “duties of a government.

According to the Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Ethiopia ranks 120 out of 182 countries and territories in the world.

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