September 25, 2013

The Depths of Corruption in Ethiopia

Filed under: Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 9:17 am
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ADDIS ABABA/LONDON (IPS) – Ethiopia may be one of the fastest-growing, non-oil producing economies in Africa in recent years, but corruption in this Horn of Africa nation is a deterrent to foreign investors looking for stable long-term partnerships in developing countries.

“Bankers, miners and developers presenting projects to investment committees in countries that fare badly in corruption rankings frequently struggle to get investment. Corruption raises red flags because it makes local markets uncompetitive, unpredictable and therefore largely hostile to these long-term players,” Ed Hobey, the East Africa analyst at the political risk firm Africa Risk Consulting, told IPS.

On May 11, in the biggest crackdown on corruption in Ethiopia in the last 10 years, authorities arrested more than 50 high profile people including government officials, businessmen and a minister.

Melaku Fanta, the director general of the Revenue and Customs Authority, which is the equivalent rank of a minister, his deputy, Gebrewahid Woldegiorgis, and other officials were apprehended on suspicion of tax evasion.

But the arrests have raised questions about the endemic corruption at the heart of the country’s political elite.

Berhanu Assefa of the Federal Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission of Ethiopia told IPS that these arrests highlighted how corruption has insinuated itself into the higher levels of officialdom.

“Corruption is a serious problem we are facing. We now see that corruption is occurring in higher places than we had previously expected. Areas vulnerable to corruption are land administration, tax and revenue, the justice system, telecommunications, land procurement, licensing areas and the finance sector,” he said.

Ethiopia ranks 113 out of 176 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International, a global civil society coalition that encourages accountability. The country has also lost close to 12 billion dollars since 2000 to illicit financial outflows, according to Global Financial Integrity (GFI), whose statistics are based on official data provided by the Ethiopian government, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Dr. Getachew Begashaw, a professor of economics at Harper College in the United States, told IPS that there was a fear that the recent high profile arrests were merely political theatre designed to placate major donors such as the World Bank and the IMF, and to give credibility to the new regime’s fight against corruption. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn took over leadership of the country after Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died in August 2012.

“They are using this as a PR stunt to appease not only the donors, but to also dupe the Ethiopian people. Because many non-party affiliated Ethiopians in the business community are complaining, and this complaint is trickling down to the average people on the streets,” he told IPS.

According to the World Bank, companies held by business group the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT) account for roughly half of the country’s modern economy. The group is closely allied with the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPDRF), an alliance of four parties.

EFFORT is a conglomerate formed from assets collected in 1991 by the EPRDF to rehabilitate the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia after it had been decimated by poverty and conflict. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is the lead party in the EPDRF coalition.

Tigrayans, however, only account for eight percent of the country’s 90 million people. According to Abebe Gellaw, an exiled Ethiopian journalist and founder of Addis Voice, a web platform that provides news that is otherwise censored by the Ethiopian government, EFFORT has become a business racket for the Tigrayan elite who are monopolising major sources of the country’s wealth.

“The TPLF controls key government institutions and a significant portion of the economy. For over 15 years, EFFORT has been used by the TPLF to channel public resources and funds to the coffers of the TPLF through illegal deals, contracts, tax evasion, kick-backs and all sorts of illegal operations,” he told IPS.

Azeb Mesfin, Zenawi’s widow, currently manages the multi-billion-dollar business empire.

She claims her husband paid himself a modest salary of 250 dollars a month, yet the online website “the”, which publishes the net worth of the richest people in the world, recently divulged that Meles was in fact one of Africa’s wealthiest leaders having amassed a personal fortune of three billion dollars. This has led many to question the provenance of the erstwhile leader’s wealth – when he had no known business engagements.

Illicit financial flows as a result of corruption are a major hindrance to a country’s development, undermining institutions, economies and societies. According to the Africa Progress Panel’s Africa Progress Report 2013, the continent is losing more through illicit financial outflows than it receives in aid and foreign direct investment.

A commitment to greater accountability and transparency to curtail illicit financial flows should occur on both the national and international levels, according to E. J. Fagan, deputy communications director at GFI.

“Reforms and policies are needed to strengthen customs enforcement and make governing apparatuses more transparent. The international community can create a multilateral system of automatic exchange of tax information that African countries like Ethiopia can access, so as to make it difficult for illicit actors to hide money and transfer large amounts of illicit money without detection,” he told IPS.

Begashaw added that corruption in the social sphere also breeds social inequality, disenfranchisement and a breakdown in national unity and civil society.

“The very existence of parastatals and TPLF-affiliated endowed business conglomerates like EFFORT is a major source of corruption. The Birr (Ethiopian currency) will depreciate and inflation will skyrocket. The capacity of the state to provide public goods and services will decline. Free market competition will be eroded. Government revenue will be reduced and the budget deficit will rise.

“If they are really serious about combating corruption, they should start doing so from the top,” he said.


September 24, 2013

Brain drain: more Ethiopian doctors in Chicago than in Ethiopia

Filed under: Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 8:38 pm
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Brain drain is so severe in Ethiopia that the nation’s health minister has complained there are more Ethiopian doctors in Chicago than in his own countryThe good news is that the East African nation has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and is recovering from the nightmare decades of civil war and famine. Tackling the is high on the priority list of the government, which has opened 13 new medical schools in the last two years. But training the doctors is still a huge challenge.

One physician who is playing a key role in Ethiopia’s bold medical initiative is Senait Fisseha, an associate professor of at the University of Michigan. She’s leading a U-M effort to develop a postgraduate for doctors of obstetrics and gynecology that is fast-becoming a national model for Ethiopia.

Fisseha said that U-M has learned from its work in other African nations—especially Ghana—that one of the best ways to retain medical talent is to offer doctors training and other opportunities to advance their careers.

“People don’t want to leave their country if they have the option to stay there. Nobody wants to be a second-class citizen somewhere else,” Fisseha said.

Last year, Fisseha established a postgraduate OB-GYN training program at St. Paul’s Hospital in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, with the help of Tim Johnson, chair of U-M’s department of OB-GYN, and Joe Kolars, senior associate dean for Global REACH.

Her work is funded by a $1.6 million grant from an anonymous foundation. She has received an additional $270,000 per year for the next five years from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American International Health Alliance.

When she began working at St. Paul’s, the hospital only had two OB-GYN doctors. One was an administrator and the other was the department chair, assisted by 16 midwives.

“They have about 250,000 visits per year and they do about 4,000 deliveries. That’s equivalent to what we do at U-M,” Fisseha said. “But we have over 80 OB-GYN faculty, 24 residents and 25 fellows.”

Since the start of the partnership with U-M, the hospital has been able to recruit six more OB-GYN physicians who decided to leave their private practice or jobs at nongovernmental organizations. The doctors—who can make seven times more money in private practice—were willing to trade higher pay for better career opportunities, Fisseha said.

When the OB-GYN training program started last year, seven residents were enrolled and 13 are taking part this year.

“Now, there are 200 OB-GYNs in the country with a 90-million population,” Fisseha said. “In four years, we will be able to contribute about 50 OB-GYNs. It’s a quarter of what the country has now. It’s a massive contribution.”

Postgraduate training programs are extremely rare in Ethiopia. After students earn their medical degrees as undergraduates, they’re sent out into the field as generalists, often working on their own with little supervision.

“They are the surgeons. They are the OB-GYNs. They learn to do everything while they are deployed to the rural areas after and internship,” Fisseha said.

The U-M doctor knows Ethiopia well because she was born in Addis Ababa and experienced much of the violence and tumult of the dark days.

Fisseha came to the U.S. in 1989 after finishing high school. After earning degrees in medicine and law at the University of Southern Illinois, she decided to do her residency at U-M, impressed by the university’s work in Africa.

“We go and deliver,” Fisseha said, summing up U-M’s approach to capacity building—transferring knowledge and skills.

After finishing her residency in 2006, she was eager to start a training program in Ethiopia, but the timing wasn’t right yet. The prospects started looking promising two years ago when progressive officials in Ethiopia began mobilizing global resources to improve in the country.

“Everybody who travels to Ethiopia says that this is a robust time for change,” Fisseha said. “It’s easy to implement things. You can move things quickly. People function differently.”

Fisseha has also been collaborating with other departments in the medical school and arranging exchanges between Ethiopian and U-M faculty in other fields, such as surgery, nephrology, radiology and anesthesia.

A program in general surgery was launched this month and planning is in place to start internal medicine and radiology training programs in 2014. The partnership is now expanding beyond the medical school and she has colleagues from the Ross School of Business and the William Davidson Institute as well as biomedical engineering collaborating with her in Ethiopia.

The country also has much to offer U-M medical students, she said.

“The kinds of diseases they see in Ethiopia are very rare here,” Fisseha said. “Diseases are detected early in the U.S. For example, you don’t see advanced breast cancer eroding through the breast. You only see it in textbooks.”

Ethiopian doctors are also highly skilled at practicing cost-effective health care because of limited resources.

“It’s a tremendous learning environment for our students,” Fisseha said.

September 12, 2013

Ethiopia to Continue Land Grabbing and Forced Resettlement

Filed under: Land grab — ethiopiantimes @ 9:01 pm
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By  • Sep 12, 2013 • 1 Comment

photo by TURKAIRO

photo by TURKAIRO

Millions of acres of Ethiopia’s most fertile lands are being offered to foreign investors, often in long-term leases and at bargain prices. At the same time, through its ‘villagization’ program, the Ethiopian government is forcibly displacing hundreds of thousands of Indigenous Peoples in order to free up their land so the transnational agro-industry can move in and grow foodstuffs and bio-fuels for export. It is a process of dispossession in which Indigenous Peoples are being forced to become dependent on aid handouts having lost their land and their ability to produce their own food.

For over a year, the Anuak and other Indigenous Peoples of the Gambella region of Southwest Ethiopia have been forced into government created villages which seldom contain the amenities promised to them. There is little access to food, arable land, water or electricity.

Last year the Anuak implicated the World Bank in the many severe human rights abuses that are being carried out as part of this resettlement. Last April, Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim announced, “The World Bank Group shares these concerns about the risks associated with large-scale land acquisitions. He conceded that more efforts “must be made to build capacity and safeguards related to land rights—and to empower civil society to hold governments accountable.”

The World Bank has been a key investor in several more land grabbing scandals across the developing world, despite their stated principles of respecting Indigenous People’s right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent before projects that affect their lands.

However, in this case, the World Bank, with its links to the Ethiopian Government’s Protection of Basic Services Program (sponsoring the villagization), has denied evidence that their funds are linked to villagization and says they haven’t encountered any human rights violations in the area.

An independent panel at the World Bank has been created to investigate the issue. The Inspection Panel, argues the position of denying the allegations of financing human rights abuse is not sound, saying: “The two programs depend on each other, and may mutually influence the results of the other.”

In a letter sent to the panel last year, Ethiopian refugees say some people have been forcibly relocated from their land, which is now being leased to foreign investors. “These mass evictions have been carried out under the pretext of providing better services and improving the livelihoods of the communities,’ says the letter. “However, once they moved to the new sites, they found not only infertile land, but also no schools, clinics, wells, or other basic services.” It also says they were forced to leave their homes and abandon their crops just before the harvest, and were not given any food assistance during the move. Those farmers who have refused to move from their land have been targeted for arrest, beating, torture and killing,” the letter says. The refugees state that they have been severely harmed by the World Bank financed project which is contributing to the Ethiopian Governments program of forced villagization.

US and UK development agencies have been tied to the same alleged abuses, especially in the Lower Omo Valley. Around the same time the World Bank was implicated for its sponsorship abuses and land theft, the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) were accused of ignoring evidence of human rights abuses including intimidation, beatings and rape.

A farmer from the Gambella region is attempting to sue the UKgovernment after claiming that its funding of a project led to such human rights abuses against his family. The man–known as Mr. O–told his lawyers he was evicted from his farm, beaten and witnessed rapes as part of the “villagization” scheme.

According to his lawyers, Mr. O asserts that his family was forced to resettle in a new village where there was no replacement farmland or access to food and water. When he tried to return to his former home, Mr. O says he was hit repeatedly with a rifle butt and taken to a military camp by Ethiopian soldiers where he was gagged and subjected to further beatings.

Despite the list of human rights complaints and strong criticism from many human rights organizations, the Ethiopian government has vowed to continue with its villagization program in the coming years.

The government has already moved 200,000 households into 388 resettlement centers. Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute has said that it’s up to the officials of the World Bank, USAID and DFID “to swiftly re-examine their role and determine how to better monitor funding if they are indeed not in favor of violence and repression as suitable relocation techniques for the development industry.”

Ethiopia currently receives more foreign aid than any other country in Africa–over $3 billion a year–the major donors being the United States and the United Kingdom.

Ethiopia – 22 people died in 9 months in wells and holes dug for construction

Filed under: Ethiopia,Uncategorized — ethiopiantimes @ 8:42 pm

September 4, 2013

Ethiopia: Meles Zenawi’s selected speech: completing the story

Filed under: Ethiopia,Meles Zenawi — ethiopiantimes @ 9:08 am
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Ethiopia: Meles Zenawi’s selected speech: completing the story

By Hindessa Abdul

It has been a year since long time Ethiopian ruler Meles Zenawi died of unestablished causes in a Belgian hospital somewhere between June and August of 2012. The Government hasn’t come out clearly about the cause of his death.

During the last several weeks the state run media were preoccupied portraying a person akin to a saint. The praises showered upon him were more than needed to canonize him. 21-gun salute was fired; millions of trees planted; fellow leaders of neighbouring countries were at hand to give pomp to the event; scores of parks renamed after him, and the list goes on and on.

University professors, army generals, cabinet members, and party operatives were paraded to give testimony about the deeds of his excellency. They said he was an intellectual, a military strategist, a farmers’s best friend, and man of the people.

ETV even took a page from North Korean manual on cult of personality. They took us to his office showing the working area displaying a document he allegedly was working on; Koreans already did that telling the story of Kim Il-sung (the senior Kim). If that is any indication, everything Meles touched may be preserved as historical relic.

For those whose thirst about Meles’ myth were not quenched, the Sunday shows came up with the selected speeches that tried to make an entertainer out of the chief priest of “revolutionary democracy.”

Meles had all the answers for every question under the sun; he was talking to the rubber stamp parliament ready to giggle at every phrase uttered; he was addressing the youth, the business men, the revelers at a millennium party, you name it.


While the nation propaganda machine wants to paint a demigod, it is only fair to complete the story. As they say, journalism is “the first rough draft of history.” Here are some of his pronouncements that were willingly left out:

In April 1990 a year before Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) controlled Addis Ababa, Meles had an interview with the late CIA and National Security specialist Paul B. Henze in the TPLF’s Washington office. “We can no longer have Amhara domination,” Meles told him. While it was no secret that Henze sympathized with TPLF, he still confronted the rebel leader to which Meles tried to soften a bit: “ When we talk about Amhara domination, we mean the Amhara of Shoa, and the habit of Shoan supremacy that became established in Addis Abeba during the last hundred years.”

In a visit to the Tigray region shorty after his ascendance to power the then Ethiopian President played to the emotions of the public somewhat in the line of Hitler’s rhetoric about the Aryan race: “We are proud to be born out of you…we are proud to be gotten out of you.” ( Enkwae abhatkum tefetirna…enkwae abhatkum terehibna )_ That part of the speech is always left out when ETV takes sound bytes from that “historical” speech, not to offend the “nations and nationalities.”

In August 1994 (some say it was October 1995), Meles Zenawi visits the U.S. and confers with members of Ethiopian community in Washington D.C. Flanked by his yes-men like Seyoum Mesfin, Berhane G.Kristos, Dr Tekeda Alemu and other TPLF top brass, Meles was entertaining questions from the audience. A lady asks him what his vision was for Ethiopia ten years from then. Meles responded his vision was to make sure the people eat three times a day._ Decade after the promised era, Ethiopians scavenge for left overs at restaurants or in city waste disposal sites.

In an interview with Professor Donald Levine – a renowned U.S. sociologist and professor of Ethiopian studies – the late premier retorted: “The Tigreans had Axum, but what could that mean to the Gurague! The Agew had Lalibela, but what could that mean to the Oromo! The Gonderes had castles, but what could that mean to the Wolaita?”

That comment was to haunt him on the eve of the 2005 general elections where he was afraid to face any opposition politician for debate. In his last appearance prior to the vote, Meles explained that gaffe saying it was taken out of context. But he implied that the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture (then Ambassador to France) Teshome Toga who hails from Wolaita Zone was put in charge to counter the perception his words created. Teshome eventually oversaw the return of the Axum Obelisk in April 2005.

When history is written by historians rather than victors, those speeches and comments hopefully will get their rightful place in the interest of posterity.

September 3, 2013

Blue Party to Stage Anti-Government Rally on Sunday

Filed under: Blue Party — ethiopiantimes @ 7:33 am
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Addis Ababa — Ethiopia’s youngest opposition party, the Blue Party, says it will try again to hold a demonstration against the government.

The party had planned to hold a protest this past weekend, but was stopped when more than 100 members were arrested.

The Blue Party held a successful demonstration against the government in June, Ethiopia’s first anti-government protest in eight years.

The party planned to hold another one on Sunday. The protest never materialized, however, after police raided the party office the day before, arresting more than 100 party members. The party says police also beat party members and confiscated equipment.

Blue Party Chairman Yilkal Getnet said all arrested members were released, but the party will go to court to seek compensation. “For all the wrong doings what the municipalities and the Addis Ababa police commission has done, that was illegal, that was against the constitution, that was against the proclamation for peaceful demonstration. We will make it a legal case. All the materials they took, the sound systems, the generators, the flyers, the logos, more than 500,000 Ethiopian birr ($26,000) is estimated [for] all the destructions,” said Yilkal.

The party says it holds the City Council and the Addis Ababa police accountable for the raid.

The Blue Party was established in August 2012. Their first protest in Addis Ababa in June attracted thousands of demonstrators. The party announced that if the Ethiopian government did not listen to their demands, such as releasing political prisoners, another demonstration would be staged in three months.

Yilkal said they have not received a response to their demands from the government. “The government is not interested to answer all our questions. They rather resent us, they try to crush the party, and false accusations against the party leaders and the party.”

The Ethiopian government organized an anti-extremism rally Sunday at the same time the Blue Party had planned their protest. More than 40,000 demonstrators showed up, but some say they were forced to attend by local authorities.

Government spokesman Getachew Redda said the only reason the Blue Party could not hold its protest was for security reasons. He said a clear distinction should be made between those who want to demonstrate and those who want to sabotage.

The official denied Blue Party members were beaten by police, and he said he doubts the Blue Party has 100 members.

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