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Promotion of good governance and corruption as a constant melody

Ethiopian Observer editorial:


This editorial, first and foremost, likes to acknowledge Abel's initiative of the Pal Talk on good governance and corruption titled “To complement and support the efforts of the Administration of the Tigray Region that is currently undertaking promotion of good governance.” I listened to your panel interview with interest and stopped all other things to digest what has been shared from two veterans and concerned citizens of your audience. There was no time lost; fear and bitterness has no place on national concern; however the lip service excuses must not be celebrated and promoted. The price for not speaking up or for hesitation has been enormous, and I challenge every Tigrean who claims underlying love to put his/her words in action. We have to stay true to ourselves; justice is what the Tigrean people are demanding. It is about time to say no to corruption and bad governance. It is about frank admission, and no good house was ever built on bad foundation. We must have the courage to face the truth about our people’s future and live to our own best ideals honoring the martyrs and restoring our proud optimism. Abraham Lincoln reminds us that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

We need to build a strong institution, where the tenets of accountability, responsibility and transparency are internalized to last longer than any individual or leadership.  In the more rapidly changing world, what has worked in the past is insufficient, and therefore one needs a leadership that is able to adapt to a changing environment. If the current leadership needs to stay in power, its performance must change in response to the changing needs of the people. Leaders who lack vision, knowledge and flexibility blinded by their inadequacies should be humble enough to realize their shortcoming and drastically change their ways for betterment of the society or hand over their powers to better-qualified citizens. Sixty thousand fearless fighters paid so huge sacrifices, in order to empower the mass, which should have the final say or at the helm in all relevant issues instead of taking a backseat. This should be a clear message, which can energize and inspire people, bedrock upon which the future is built.

Tigrai needs a strong civil society capable of imposing new democratic conditions to fight corruption and in pursuit of good governance. The reality is however, any dissent is not tolerated and utter disregard for free thought, free expression and free press are much more prevalent to the level of suffocation. Any coercion or intimidation or instilling fear in the populace cannot lay foundation for the democratic rights of citizens. Blaming rent-seeking by selfish individuals and lecturing about micro-economy and GDP growth is absurd if the necessary watchdogs in the form institutions and economic reforms are not established. One has to measure development in terms of job creation, justice, democratic rights, equitable share of resources and fulfillment of the basic necessities such as shelter, food, fresh water, etc. To be honest the current situation in Tigrai as to the corruptive tendency of some public employees, who in a relatively short time amass wealth and/or are owners of real estate’s creating a wide gap of wealth distribution between the ruling elite and the poor. Who is then accountable for the public resources and budgets set to be implemented in fiscal years? Why individuals are continuously (allowed to lead) leading the same office without any accountability and transparency? Where are the results of the recommendations by the auditor general? This is a serious matter raised by everybody but now and then get accused by the corrupted officials as power mongers, remnants of the old regime, enemy of the people and all the negative words. People are now saying, no we cannot be deceived in eternity and get down from our back!

Abel, thank you for creating a platform that challenge and provoke us for the long overdue topic of a Pandora box. As a result of your discourse the discussion in few websites and Pal Talks were flooded 'with themes in good governance and corruption. In the interview that appeared on Aigaforum, their futile attempt to describe corruption and good governance, I was deeply troubled that the collections of jargons were not even properly and coherently put as I would have expected.  I believe that the problems we see today did not come up suddenly; they were there for a long time and therefore are not to be remedied by quick fixes. A system built on the culture of secrecy, parochialism and nepotism will always breed adverse political consequence and self-interest and consequently to a final downfall.

The environment seems to expose poor leadership as it splits power sharing not in meritocracy but by allowing unqualified and unskilled office holders to even higher hierarchy and position. We do know the idiom “scratch my back and will scratch yours”.  Difficult times require great and farsighted leadership. However, what we see presently is that there is a paucity of it. Being in public office it should be rewarding for the benefit of serving the people. As a saying goes “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” “Anyone who seeks to serve is in public office has ethical and fiducial obligation to get his/her administrative skills in order so that he/she can properly manage as required and in the vested interest of the public keeping the constitutional order and having a moral high ground.

It is not only appropriate to talk the root causes of corruption and lack of good governance without addressing its symptoms and its behavioral nature in any society. The term corruption has been dealt from scholars to known personalities all over the world.

Kofi Annan, the former United Nations Secretary-General presents the negative effects of corruption in this manner:  “Corruption hurts poor people in developing countries disproportionately. It affects their daily life in many different ways, and tends to make them even poorer, by denying them their rightful share of economic resources or life-saving aid. Corruption puts basic public services beyond the reach of those who cannot afford to pay bribes. By diverting scarce resources intended for development, corruption also makes it harder to meet fundamental needs such as those for food, health and education. It creates discrimination between the different groups in society, feeds inequality and injustice, discourages foreign investment and aid, and hinders growth. It is, therefore, a major obstacle to political stability, and to successful social and economic development (Annan, 2003).” 

Corruption comes in several forms such as favoritism, nepotism, awrjaism, regionalism, ethnicism, etc. by amassing of wealth, abuse of office, power intoxication, bribes, and seed of undue gains and benefits.  It is generally understood to contain the use of an official position for purposes of private enrichment or illegitimate advantage capable of inflicting colossal damage on a nation and its citizenry, by truncating initiatives for economic growth and political stability, education, health and social justice (Olawole & Olukayode, 2010, UNDP, 2008).

 It is obvious that corruption has posed challenges to society. It is disheartening to observe that the people who endure the brunt of deep corruption, bad governance and crises of all kinds are those who are poor, destitute or those without any connection to the upper or middle echelon of rulers. This inevitably leads to mistrust and lack of entrepreneurship and initiatives, lethargy, hopelessness, etc. leading to public opprobrium and irreparable mutual respect with the office holders. Corruption Perceptions Index in 2014 ranked Ethiopia 110/ out of 181 countries in 2013 it ranked 111 of 175 and 2012 113 out of 174. Criminalization and corruption are highly related and could be used interchangeably. In reality, corruption and criminalization presume that there is a correlation between political power and wealth in society. Perceived in the above context, the interaction of power with political practice or the ruling elites have been engaged in activities of criminal nature such as money laundering fraud, and theft. The control of state apparatus by a few has led to corruption and transferring the people’s wealth illegally either abroad in foreign banks or placing it in relative’s bank account or properties Ekpebu (1996) described the situation as follows: 

In office, the politicians turned the government treasury into large-scale private gold mine.  To remain in office, they used armed thugs to ensure better representation for their political parties and rigged elections in broad day light.

Corruption has been personified in every facet of civil servant; it is very visible and is not only endemic but systemic. There is massive bribery and corruption in the everyday transaction in the public and private domain and misappropriation of public funds without recourse. Agbo (2010) who states that ‘in Nigeria, we breathe corrupt air, eat corrupt foods and we are constantly surrounded by corrupt elements’ and that couldn’t be an exception to Nigeria if truth stretches its hands.

What upsets many experts is that the food deficit is subsidized by donated Food for Work (FFW): for certain amount of kilograms the peasant carries out backbreaking terracing work at afforestation and reforestation sites. (Asghedom Ghebremichael, PhD Canada:  21 Jan. 2016)

Communities participating in different FFW activities day and night such as construction of hillside terraces, planting and digging water reservoirs and mothers carrying their babies on their backs with scorching sun and dust is inhuman and unacceptable. No nation in the world developed with food aid.   Being filled with arrogance and undermining the authority of the people is a recipe to a disaster. Accountability and prudence must be achieved if people have to immortalize the martyrs who sacrificed themselves for the pursuit of good governance.  Party or government should be seen as a servant of the people and not as an instrument to gain wealth through short cuts or gift of the gab.

 We can save our nation from the self-destruction of corruption and bad governance if there are mechanisms for check and balance and introducing a zero level of tolerance at all spheres of governance. Besides, it is time to be responsive rather than creating and making enemies of all by changing the mindset as the world of yesteryear is not here anymore.

In the meantime, I would like to end my thoughts by applauding the Tigray Region Administrative officials for the bold move in recognizing its challenges and shortcoming of corruption. The leadership should urgently develop a strategy to include all its citizens in good faith and stand on the side of history, if not it will be exacerbated by the passage of time. It is time to face up to that reality. Thank you all, I do keenly wish you all the best!

Ethiopian Observer editors.

January 24, 2016

 

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