Commencement of light rail in Addis Ababa brought much excitement for supporters of the regime. As much as Addis Ababa is known for recurrent power outage, if not more, transportation problem is persistent and prevalent.
The 37 km light rail in Addis Ababa which is said to be the first in Sub-Saharan Africa could certainly make a difference in terms of solving transportation problem but only if power supply is reliable which is not the case in Ethiopia.
Even those residents of Addis Ababa who are not supporters of the regime are ok with the light rail project. More informed ones are critical of the social dislocation that the light rail project caused and more importantly they are well aware that Ethiopian government, unlike governments in the past, amassed huge financial resources from “donors” in the West and elsewhere the form of loan and grant. Due to lack of transparency, there is no clarity as to the amount of debt Ethiopia has since the coming to power of TPLF lead government.
While many tend to see that the light rail is more of a prestige project with perceived propaganda value, not a priority, they refer to reports from Transparency International that about $11 billion dollars was amassed as personal fortune and left Ethiopia – something that hints how corruption has become part and parcel of the regime in power in Ethiopia. What that means is, according to critics, much of the fund secured as loan and in the form of grant has actually been lost in a theft like manner.
This week a person of “authority” of anti-corruption board in Ethiopia, in a way admitted that high level corruption related to high ranking officials is not dealt with. clearly it will lead to confrontation with politicians from the dominant entity in the ruling coalition.
For people with deep thirst for change, the start of light rail might trick mind that change for the better is coming. And the truth is with the prevalence and intensity of corruption, and more importantly the potentially exploding ethnic based conflict, infrastructure development does not meant much. In fact, it gives little or no meaning.