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Ethiopia’s Descent into Moral Decay

 Shimels Hussien _ Ethiopia

By Shimels Hussien (PhD)

Ethiopia, a nation often romanticized by Ethiopian nationalists for its history, heroism, religion and morality, now finds itself wrestling with a brutal reality. A deep and never-seen moral crisis has taken root, spreading like a noxious weed across various sectors of society. This crisis breeds disillusionment and cripples the nation’s progress. This essay delves into the pervasive web of immorality that ensnares Ethiopia, forcing a conversation about the harsh truths that threaten to tear the nation apart. It’s time to confront this reality head-on.

Savagery Everywhere 

A relentless tide of violence has swept across Ethiopia, shattering the fragile sense of security its citizens once held. Fear and uncertainty grip the nation as reports of kidnappings, rape, forced displacement, massacres, and killings become horrifyingly routine. This week’s news of the double murders of a teenager in Adwa and a middle-aged woman in Adigrat, Tigray, stand as grim testaments to this escalating crisis. The brutality they faced extended far beyond the act of killing. They were kidnapped and then subjected to a horrific sexual assault before being killed. These are not isolated tragedies. Similar violence plagues entire regions, including Amhara and Oromia where people are chopped like onion. Desensitization has set in, with brutality becoming a grim norm, barely registering a flicker of outrage. Perhaps most disturbing is the erosion of trust in those entrusted with public safety. Individuals sworn to uphold the law are implicated in these very crimes, further fueling the lawlessness. Ethiopians, regardless of background or region, live in a perpetual state of fear, wondering if they’ll be the next victim. This descent into chaos echoes the chilling events depicted in William Golding’s Book “Lord of the Flies”. Just as the stranded boys abandoned all sense of order and descended into savagery, Ethiopia teeters on the brink of a similar societal collapse. Ethnic divisions fracture communities, mirroring the disintegration of unity experienced by the boys in Golding’s tale. Without a unifying force and a commitment to the common good, Ethiopia risks succumbing to the same destructive impulses that consumed the boys on the island mentioned in the book.

Abject Professional Landscape

Ethiopia also faces a critical crisis in retaining and motivating its professional class. The current salary structure offers a meager standard of living even for highly qualified individuals. Shockingly, the average medical doctor makes a mere USD 130 monthly, and university professors with PhDs earn only slightly more at USD 150. This situation represents a significant decline compared to just two decades ago when doctors’ salaries averaged USD 500 and professors closer to USD 600 monthly. In essence, professionals in Ethiopia have experienced a dramatic decline in their real wages, especially over the past five years. This wage decline is further compounded by a rapidly rising cost of living. While salaries remain stagnant and declining, essential expenses for housing, food, and other necessities have skyrocketed. This creates a suffocating situation where professional careers, once viewed as a path to a secure and fulfilling life, now lead only to economic despair. The consequence is a demoralized and dispirited professional class. Despite dedicating years to rigorous academic pursuits, often at the best institutions in Ethiopia and abroad, these individuals struggle to meet even their basic needs. This erodes their motivation, leading to a sense of their work being undervalued and their potential unfulfilled. Furthermore, the current situation represents a broken social contract between the Ethiopian state and its professionals. By failing to offer competitive salaries that reflect expertise and qualifications, the nation risks fostering a culture of “improvised” and demoralized careers, with a chilling resemblance to the dystopian world depicted in George Orwell’s “1984.”

Illiteracy and the Erosion of Ethical Choice:

The foundation of any just and ethical society rests upon an educated populace. Ethiopia, however, grapples with a significant portion of its population lacking basic literacy skills. This illiteracy acts as a breeding ground for exploitation, mirroring the descent into savagery depicted in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Just as the stranded boys on the island became vulnerable to manipulation without a moral compass, Ethiopians lacking education are susceptible to similar exploitation. Imagine a farmer, unable to decipher contracts, easily falling prey to unscrupulous land grabbers. Consider a young woman facing poverty and unemployment. In these desperate circumstances, the concept of free choice becomes a cruel twist. Lacking economic opportunities, she’s left morally compromised and forced into unthinkable acts just to survive.

The Corrupting Touch of the Elite:

Ethiopia’s elite class, a group that should be a beacon of ethical leadership, stands accused of being a primary source of the moral decay. Many clawed their way to the top through a web of corruption, nepotism, and backroom deals, reminiscent of the ruthless power struggles in Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. This lack of ethical grounding permeates their actions. They prioritize personal enrichment over the well-being of the nation, amassing wealth through exploitative practices. The rot, however, extends beyond mere greed. Even the educated segments, those who should be bastions of integrity, succumb to the allure of easy wealth, joining the ranks of the corrupt. It is not uncommon to find medical doctors, professors, and academicians in unprofessional and immoral engagements as long as they make good money and leverage personal incentives. These are not isolated incidents; they paint a chilling picture of a moral compass gone astray within the very people entrusted to lead the nation.

The Poisoned Well of Business:

Ethiopia’s business landscape reflects the utmost disregard for ethical principles. The pursuit of profit reigns supreme, overshadowing any sense of social responsibility. Businesses engage in a race to the bottom, resorting to rampant malpractice, mirroring the grotesque consumerism satirized in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. Food adulteration has become commonplace, with even toxic chemicals finding their way into everyday staples. Counterfeit goods have flooded the market, jeopardizing consumer safety and stifling legitimate businesses. Counterfeiting everything is everywhere, be it birr or credential documents. 

Tribalism: A Political Cancer:

Ethiopia’s political landscape is another arena where ethical principles are routinely sacrificed at the altar of self-interest. Political parties prioritize narrow tribalist agendas over national development. This fuels ethnic tensions and hinders progress. As Barack Obama aptly stated during his visit to Kenya, “A politics based on ethnicity and tribal interests is doomed to tear a country apart.” Ethiopian political elites, however, continue to exploit these divisions for personal gain. Their focus remains on consolidating power within their ethnic groups rather than serving the collective good. This myopic vision not only breeds instability but also perpetuates a cycle of oppression, replacing one group of elites with another, all while the nation’s needs remain unmet. This cancerous tribalism devours not just progress but also the very fabric of humanity. The “othering” of those from different ethnicities fosters a chilling indifference. The suffering – massacres, rape, starvation – inflicted upon another group becomes a distant tragedy, a story devoid of empathy. This moral decay leaves Ethiopia a hollow shell, a society stripped of its humanity and teetering on the brink of collapse.

A Society Redefining Success:

The very fabric of Ethiopian society seems to be undergoing a dangerous shift. Material wealth and overnight riches are increasingly seen as the ultimate markers of success. Honest hard work and a commitment to ethical principles are losing their luster. The youth, bombarded by images of extravagant lifestyles portrayed on social media, lack positive role models. They witness a society where the morally upright struggle while the corrupt seem to flourish. This disconnect between societal values and reality breeds disillusionment and cynicism, similar to the moral detachment experienced by the protagonist in American Psycho.

The Erosion of Faith:

Traditionally, religious institutions have served as moral compasses, guiding society toward a higher purpose. However, in Ethiopia these days, even these bastions of faith seem to be succumbing to the corrosive touch of immorality. Religious leaders, entrusted with the spiritual well-being of their flock, exploit their position for personal gain. Donations meant for charitable causes are diverted to line their pockets. Mosques, churches, and other houses of worship, once sanctuaries for the soul, become breeding grounds for self-enrichment and cheating. This erosion of trust in religious institutions further weakens the moral fabric of society, leaving many Ethiopians feeling spiritually adrift.

A Nation in Despair:

The cumulative effect of these factors paints a bleak picture of a nation in moral freefall. Corruption runs rampant and unchecked by ethical constraints. Exploitation thrives in the shadows, preying on the vulnerable. The very institutions entrusted with upholding ethical standards are themselves entangled in the web of immorality. The young generation, lacking positive role models and disillusioned by societal hypocrisy, lose hope for a brighter future. Ethiopia finds itself at a perilous crossroads. The path forward seems shrouded in uncertainty. Can a nation so deeply entrenched in moral decay find redemption? Or is Ethiopia destined to continue its descent into a state of despair? This moral freefall carries a chilling echo of the societal collapse depicted in Lord of the Flies. Just as the island descended into violence without a moral framework, Ethiopia risks succumbing to chaos if ethical principles continue to erode. The fracturing of society along tribal lines mirrors the descent from unity to savagery experienced by the boys in Golding’s tale. Without a sense of shared purpose and a commitment to the common good, Ethiopia risks becoming a nation at war with itself. Can a nation so deeply entrenched in moral decay find redemption? Or is Ethiopia destined to continue its descent into a state of despair?

References:

  1. Orwell, G. (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four
  2. Golding, W. (1954). Lord of the Flies
  3. Burgess, A. (1962). A Clockwork Orange
  4. Ellis, B. E. (1991). American Psycho

Dr. Shimels Hussien is a Researcher and Ass. Professor of Public Health at St. Paul Hospital’s Millennium Medical College, Addis Ababa. He can be reached at: shimelsh@gmail.com

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com


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1 COMMENT

  1. Tigray regional state's (36.1%) capital has the highest rate of sexual violence of any city in Ethiopia, including the entire province of Oromia (24.1%), Amhara (22.6%), and SNNPR (8.2%) Tigray regional state's (36.1%) capital has the highest rate of sexual violence of any city in Ethiopia, including the entire province of Oromia (24.1%), Amhara (22.6%), and SNNPR (8.2%)

    National Library of Medicine(NLM)
    The National Center for Biotechnology(NCBI)
    Reprod Health. 2020; 17: 195.
    Published online 2020 Dec 9. doi: 10.1186/s12978-020-01050-2
    PMCID: PMC7724841
    PMID: 33298107
    Prevalence of sexual violence in Ethiopian workplaces: systematic review and meta-analysis
    Tigray regional state’s (36.1%) capital has the highest rate of sexual violence of any city in Ethiopia, including the entire province of Oromia (24.1%), Amhara (22.6%), and SNNPR (8.2%).

    Based on study location, Tigray national regional state had the highest prevalence of pooled Workplace Sexual Violence (WSV )36.1% (95% Confidence interval 12.8% to 61.5%), followed by Oromia national regional state 24.1% (95% Confidence interval(CI) 1.7% to 52.3%), Amhara national regional state 22.6% (95% Confidence interval 10% to 36.8%), Addis Ababa 18.8% (95% Confidence interval 2.2% to 40%), and SNNPR 18.2% (95% Confidence interval 12.2% to 24.9%). The pooled prevalence of cross-regional studies was 23.9% (95% Confidence interval(CI) 2% to 51.5%). The pooled prevalence of WSV was 20.9% (95% CI 16.8% to 25.7%) among studies that reported Sexual violence among females only, and 12.2% (95% CI 7.4% to 19.6%) among studies that reported Sexual violence in both sexes (Table (Table3).3). On the other hand, the pooled WSV prevalence among female Commercial Sex Workers (CSW) 28%(95% Confidence interval 3,59%), and university students 27%(95% CI 15,39%) were the highest.
    This systematic review and meta-analysis indicated that the pooled prevalence of workplace sexual violence in Ethiopia was 22% ranging from 17 to 28%. This finding was higher than the prevalence of workplace violence among Korean employees [75] and American employees [76]. However, it was lower than workplace sexual violence among Nigerian employees (63.8%) [77].
    Furthermore, in the sub-group analysis based on regional states, the pooled prevalence of workplace sexual violence was high in the Tigray regional state (36.1%) and low in Addis Ababa city (18.8%) and SNNPR (18.2%) region. However, it was almost similar in the Amhara National Regional State (22.6%), in the Oromia National Regional State (24.1%), and cross-regional studies (23.9%). The low prevalence estimates in the Addis Ababa city and SNNPR region could be due to better awareness of sexual violence practices in workplaces. The high prevalence from the Tigray region could be because a study with high prevalence among commercial sex workers and female administrative staff was included in the study that might affect the overall pooled prevalence estimate in that area. Besides, the studies conducted in Tigray’s regional state were only from a single city (Mekelle).
    Workplace Sexual Violence (WSV)is a situation where the employees are abused, threatened, intimidated to have sex or engage in acts of sex without their will in the circumstances related to their work and while commuting to and from work, involved explicit or implicit challenges to their safety, well-being, or health. It includes sexual harassment, attempted rape, and rape [5]. Workplace sexual violence (WSV) results in negative organizational culture, long-term health and psychological impacts on employees, damage to research integrity, and a costly loss of skilled workforce. It mainly affects workers in the most vulnerable work situations who have poor access to labor rights such as freedom of association, collective bargaining, decent work, non-discrimination, and access to justice. It also increases the likelihood of sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancies, and unsafe abortion. In Ethiopia, workplace sexual violence is one of the high burdens of sexual and reproductive health problems.

    As shown in the above extract from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI), Mekelle, Tigray’s capital, has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest crime rate among all Ethiopian provinces and capital cities. This high level of criminal activity distinguishes Mekelle as a crime hotspot, eliciting negative feelings from its citizens and the province as a whole. The data is just from Mekelle, and it shows that the city has the greatest rate of sexual violence than any other city, including numerous provinces.
    It is quite conceivable that thousands of sexual violence offenders remain unknown to the public and hide in a town or village. People wrongly believe that all recorded sexual violence during the two-year war was committed by Eritreans or Ethiopian army members (ENDF). In other words, thousands of sexual assaults erroneously attributed to Ethiopian federal army soldiers and Eritrean forces were almost undoubtedly committed by Tigrayans themselves.
    As a side note, throughout the two-year-long war, Tigrayans committed robberies against their own people, and they killed countless heroes among Tigrayans.

    All of these stories will not exempt Eritrean or Ethiopian army troops from the heinous and brutal crimes they have committed against children, pregnant women, and the elderly, even religious figures.

    xxx.(2020) “Prevalence of sexual violence in Ethiopian workplaces: systematic review and meta-analysis” Retrieved from The National Library of Medicine (NLM) and The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website: https//wwwdotncbidotnlmdotnihdotgov/pmc/artcle
    Thank you, Dr. Shimelis, for your insightful work.

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