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Corruption in Ethiopia

Corruption in Ethiopia


Belihu Amare November 28, 2018


Hailemariam Desalegn was Prime Minister (PM) of Ethiopia from 2012 to 2018. Previously he served as Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Minister of Foreign Affairs under PM  Meles Zenawi for 2 years. After the death of PM Meles in August 2012, he became Prime Minister and Chair of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).


Article 75 of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) deals with a single Deputy Prime Minister. According to this article “The Deputy Prime Minister shall: (a) Carry out responsibilities which shall be specifically entrusted to him by the Prime Minister. (b) Act on behalf of the PM in his absence.  The DPM shall be responsible to the PM.”


However, PM Hailemariam appointed two extra DPMs. The Prime Minister can’t create ministerial posts or executive offices by himself. Although the parliament has no any constitutional provision that allows it to elect three DPMs, the appointment was of the additional 2PMs was approved by the Parliament. 


PM Hailemariam justified the reason for the need to have three DPMs is to reduce the workload has and thus, he will focus on mega projects and coordination of cabinet members.


The Opposition Parties argued according the Ethiopian Constitution the country could not have more than one DPM. If the government cannot correct this, they even threatened to go to the court.  


Although the PM has 3DPMs that were expected the enabled him to have more time to follow up the implementation of the mega projects, he was not able to monitor the performance of the mega projects. At the end of the day the big mega projects were not completed as per plan. For example, it was planned starting 2014, Ethiopia will start exporting Sugar. But until 2017 Ethiopia was importer of sugar. Similarly, the other mega projects (GERD and fertilizer factories) are not yet completed. The country has lost billions of dollars that were expected to be earned from the export. It is assumed the lost opportunity is not less the embezzled money. In the contrary millions of dollars are paid for sugar import. Similarly, if the fertilizer factories were completed, we could have saved the millions of dollars we are paying for fertilizer import. 


One of the main reasons for the poor performance of the mega projects is lack of supervision and networked corruption. It is shocking to hear the extent of the damage.     


It is good job to bring the corrupt government officials to court by the Attorney General. But it looks the measure is restricted to limited individuals and one organization, METEC. Every individual suspected of crimes in all federal institutions and regions should be held accountable. 


So far, many individuals that have relationship with the corruption in METEC are arrested. But when we say METEC it includes the board and even PM Hailemariam. The Board of Directors of METEC is the second highest governing body, after the PM. 

Responsibilities of the board members include overseeing the overall management of the institution. They are required to actively involve in defining and monitoring the overall activities of the institution. They have to be informed of the ongoing operations and issues of the institution. They are required to approve the plan and budget of the institution and monitor if the implementation is according the approved plan and budget.


PM Hailemariam is also responsible for damages done in this respect. According to Article 74, of the Constitution of Ethiopia, his Powers and Functions include:

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1.      The Prime Minister is the Chief Executive, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, and the Commander-in-Chief of the national armed forces. 

2.      He supervises the conduct and efficiency of the Federal administration and takes such corrective measures as are necessary. 


It is hard to believe the purchase of the said ships and airplanes by METEC was done without the knowledge of the board and the PM. Who knows they may have authorized or endorsed the purchase. Or they may know the issue but preferred to be passive. In whatever case they are responsible, because they are the highest decision-making body and are entrusted to protect resources of the country. 


The other complicated issue is in Ethiopia’s largest ever anti-corruption sweep over 60 suspects (senior government officials, business people and brokers) were arrested in 2016 and 2017 for their involvement in deals that allegedly led to the embezzlement of Billions of Birr. State entities whose officials are involved include: Addis Ababa Roads Authority, Ethiopian Roads Authority, Shipping and Logistics Service Enterprise, Ethiopian Sugar Corporation and Deputy Minister of Ethiopia Finance and Economic Cooperation. Some of the business people had escaped from the country when they heard the decision of the government. 


The Ethiopian Government has indicated that the large-scale anti-corruption investigation and arrest of high-profile individuals is part of the Ethiopian government’s reform agenda, which was started at the end of 2016 following mass protests in different parts of the country.


As part of his peace deal PM Abiy has pardoned or made to be pardoned all the senior government officials and business people that were arrested in 2016 and 2017.  Both the cases of METEC and these officials and business people is quite the same. Both are corruptions that involve billions of Dollars. The big question is:


1.      How is the government going to reconcile the difference between the arrest in 2016/17 and those in 2018? Is it possible to pardon some and arrest others?

2.      Is the Attorney General going to bring back to prison the once pardoned officials or individuals?

3.      What about the top leadership that are entrusted to supervises efficiency of the Federal institutions? Do they have special immunity?


Pardoning others that were imprisoned by the previous government (PM Hailemariam) and arresting people with the same case by the current government (P.M Abiy) does not make sense. It does not look legal. Where is the transparency?


Every Ethiopian must appreciate all arrests based on evidence, but there should not be partiality between people with similar crimes.  All responsible government officials and business organizations should be treated equally. We would like to hear the response of the government to the above issues.


God bless Ethiopia!!



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