July 16, 2020
I have always thought that a poor, aid dependent and least developed nation such as Ethiopia cannot eradicate poverty without good and accountable governance. A lead component of good governance is the elimination of graft, corruption and illicit outflow of funds. It is inevitable that poor and repressive governance leads to corruption and squanders investment resources. Corruption breeds insecurity, instability and inequality.
For almost three decades, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) dominated Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRD) regime inflicted huge pain and suffering on Ethiopian citizens, fused party, state and government into one and plundered the Ethiopian economy.
I should like to underscore one fundamental principle that guides this commentary: Where there is state capture by ethnic elites and their allies, corruption is pervasive and debilitating. Where there is no accountability in governance to mitigate excess theft, graft, commission and corruption, illicit outflow of capital is inevitable.
Why is fighting corruption important? Corruption is theft and diversion of resources from public hands to private and group hands. Corruption undermines social justice, creates insecurity and deepens instability. It erodes public trust in public officials and in institutions. It diverts capital and diminishes investments that serve the common good. It enriches a few people who are connected to political power. It creates a toxic environment among citizens and engenders income inequality. It contributes to instability. It forces citizens to migrate in search of opportunities. This is why social scientists agree that “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
The TPLF will long be remembered as an ethnic political party that captured the entire state and government; stole tens of billions of dollars from the Ethiopian poor; and siphoned off these billions and hid them in foreign banks, invested them in firms and institutions under extended family, unknown and non-traceable names. Hundreds of millions of dollars in investments have been made in real estate in the United States and companies in Hong Kong and Gulf nations.
The purpose of this commentary is to argue that tens of billions of dollars stolen by the TPLF from the Ethiopian poor over three decades of crushing and inhumane governance have been taken out of Ethiopia. The billions of dollars in precious assets that would have financed the equivalent of at least 10 Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dams were snatched away from the Ethiopian poor and hidden in numerous nations across the globe.
In order to steal, you organize, plan and execute systematically so that you are not traced. Corruption requires systematic planning and organization. State theft, graft, corruption and illicit outflow of funds perpetrated by the TPLF and its vast network of beneficiaries were planned and implemented carefully and systematically keeping into account future unexpected developments and scenarios, including change in government. This is among the lead reasons why Ethiopian embassies and consulates were staffed by TPLF trusted cadres and beneficiaries. Do not forget that Ethiopian embassies were dominated by Tigreans and supporters and inaccessible to the rest of Ethiopians. Embassies did not serve Ethiopia; but the TPLF and its cronies.
The weaponization of money
Today, many Ethiopians witnessing pain and agony within the country ask me if it would be prudent to change the Birr in order to deny the TPLF and its allies a vital tool in inflicting pain and destruction. Ethiopia is awash with huge quantities of Birr that are literally weaponized by those who possess and deploy it to propagate and to finance hate, killings and destruction across Ethiopia, most notably in Oromia.
Why Changing the Birr Might not be Effective.
Ethiopia is going through one of the most trying times in its long and distinguished history. As of July 13, 2020, the exact number of innocent civilians, including children murdered, hacked, stoned or clubbed to death following the deliberate premeditated assassination of the young Ethiopian artist Hachalu Hundesa is sill unknown. It is in the hundreds. Most were pre-identified and massacred on the basis of their ethnic and religious affiliation. Hachalu was an Oromo national who believed in his Ethiopian identity. He belonged to the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian faith. More important, he was a remarkable artist and a promising bridge in an ethnically polarized society. Such targeted killings of pro-Ethiopians are normalized in Ethiopia.
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