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The remarks Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) made this week regarding corruption during discussions with large taxpayers have thrown into doubt the government’s commitment to combating the scourge. Responding to the latter’s complaints about the prevalence of corruption in the public sector the premier urged them to rebuff government officials who ask them to grease their palms. The premiere’s remarks amount to a disingenuous attempt to put the blame for the burgeoning corruption in Ethiopia on members of the private sector who are willing accomplices of corrupt government officials. While there is nothing wrong with asking taxpayers to refrain from encouraging or being complicit in corruption, the government must first declare that the problem primarily lies at its door. Before pointing fingers at them the PM should have explained why the government failed to appoint upstanding citizens to office and the measures it has taken to hold corrupt officials to account.

The endemic level of corruption in Ethiopia is one of the drivers of public discontent in the country. Though Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) and several other government officials at the federal and regional levels have openly acknowledged that there are far too many corrupt individuals within government structures, no substantial effort has been taken thus far to purge them. These individuals, who are driven purely by personal enrichment and do not care an iota about the fate of the nation and its people, are behind the proliferation of bad governance and graft in practically all government agencies, education and health centers, municipalities, revenue offices, financial institutions, justice and law enforcement organs, among others. They aid and abet both overtly and behind the scene the commission of various crimes and bad governance, bully hardworking folks, submit fabricated reports to superiors, and use the state-owned media they control directly or through proxies to advance their goal. Unless the government displays the courage to clean house, the political instability that has been rocking the country for years now is bound to get worse.

Successive Ethiopian governments have always admitted that corruption is a bane and vowed to root it out. The measures they have taken towards this end, however, have not made things any better. In fact, corruption has virtually become a norm in Ethiopia. There are several factors which have brought about this sad state of affairs. Chief among them is the absence of any sort of accountability for essentially all the actors mired up to neck in the plague. Although the administration of Prime Minister Abiy launched, in late 2022, a national anti-corruption committee tasked with coordinating the government’s campaign against corruption, identifying the actors involved in the practice, and bringing them to justice, the few prosecutions it has caused to be instituted to date have not had a noticeable impact.

Corruption has had and continues to have profound and far-reaching consequences that have adversely affected Ethiopia’s social, political, and economic fabric. Rampant corruption has undermined the country’s democratic institutions and thereby public trust in the government, eroded the rule of law, and perpetuated a culture of impunity. It has led to inefficiency in public service delivery, diversion of public funds for personal gain, and distortion of economic priorities. As a result, essential services such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure have suffered, disproportionately impacting marginalized communities and exacerbating income inequality. Corruption has also stifled economic growth and deterred foreign investment as it entailed unfair competition and lack of a level playing field for businesses. The misallocation of resources due to corrupt practices has hampered sustainable development efforts and impeded poverty reduction initiatives.

Preventing and combating corruption requires a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach involving a host of stakeholders at the local, regional and federal levels. Needless to say the main responsibility rests on the shoulders of the government. As such it’s incumbent on it to demonstrate the required political commitment to make it a thing of the past within the shortest possible time. This calls for, among others, a ruthless drive to own up to the major role its officials play in the pandemic and clean its house before condemning others. By upholding the rule of law and holding corrupt individuals accountable, the government must foster a culture of accountability, respect for the law, and adherence to democratic principles. Otherwise, the future of Ethiopia is bound to bleak.

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