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In general, the tendency of a given bureaucracy is always towards increased degeneracy (obsessed with self-serving and self-perpetuating objectives) particularly as conditions change for the worse. In poorer countries like ours, the proclivity of the bureaucracy is always to derive rent from its vocation. Incomes being what they are, particularly in the state sector of the poorer countries, outside service seekers are usually more willing than conceded to extend their involuntary generosity to bureaucrats to have things done. Poor societies tend to tolerate such misdemeanor, as they are considered petty in the scheme of things. Nonetheless, such behavior are formally labeled as ‘petty corruption.’
Grand or political corruption is when the upper echelon of the state/government, raises such petty behavior of the lower rung bureaucrats to the nth degree. Some of these high officials engage in a protracted embezzlement of massive proportions, as if the whole heist is part and parcel of their job description. When individuals in senior positions openly relish their parasitic accumulation with gusto and impunity, then destabilizing troubles start! To stop such societal destabilization, a determined anti-corruption regime, like the one put in place by Ethiopia’s former command and control government becomes, unfortunately, necessary. Since that was done at the back of a strict socialist ideological diktat, it didn’t leave much room for errant behavior, both at the level of the individual as well as the collective. As a result, the project was somewhat successful. For example, only three decades ago a tourist camera that was left in a coffee shop at the Tiananmen Square would still be found days later, untouched! Those days are certainly gone, be it in China or Ethiopia. As a result, Ethiopia’s current government, to a lesser extent China’s as well, would be hard placed to institute an effective integrity system in their overall governance structures/operations without resorting to severe measures against offenders, small or big. But this is easily said than done!
A society that claims to espouse democracy and regional devolution as the very foundation of its federal composition, will find it difficult to impose universal integrity system, without first establishing, a priori, a code of conduct that is widely and vigilantly practiced across the board by individuals as well as member organizations. In the absence of such clear/observable and universally codified rules against all sorts of corruptions, there will remain an escape route via the various regional administrative nuances, mostly associated with unquestionable but at times absurd manifestation of identity politics. Unenlightened self-governance potentially harbors limitless tolerance towards degenerative practice, so long as it is executed by ‘one of the buddies.’ Unfortunately this primordial instinct further fuels centrifugal tendencies that are now in the ascendance in many parts of Africa. To secure the peace, the least African governments must do, is forcefully and disgracefully remove the grand parasites that depend on structural nepotism for their continuous accumulation from high offices! See Gumede’s article on page 52.
If known corrupt officials (at the highest levels) are kept in positions of power/responsibilities, longer than expediently necessary, then the implied assumption or the received impression is; corruption is not only tolerated by the state, but is actually welcomed and even rewarded! Luckily, the inquiring Ethiopian public already knows who the accomplished thugs are, both amongst the top party/government officials as well as within the public at large. EPRDF has announced this budget year will be the year of major purges, prosecutions etc. The Ethiopian people are promised 2005 will be a year of major house cleaning and progressive renewal. Concerned citizens are looking forward to its swift and fair execution. The outgoing president of China, Hu Jintao was very clear on the issue of corruption. ‘If we fail to handle this issue well (the rampant corruption in the system) it could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state.’
EPRDF’s topical agenda as elucidated by its paramount leader also reaffirmed the importance of the issue. “First we have to clean up the bush where the criminals are hiding (read-setting up institutions with proper laws, rules and regulations.) Once that is done, we can clearly see who is doing what. Thereafter, we will go to the people to help us root out the criminals both from within us (party/federal government/regional states) and from the society at large. We cannot do this alone, because ‘one of our hands is already tied.’ The crooks within us are well entrenched and do not want our ‘cleaning mission’ to succeed. That is why we have to make the nexus of anti-corruption, good governance and democratization people driven mass movement. We have to do this, not only because it is right, but it is also a question of survival, a matter of life or death for our party and the state!” Meles Zenawi. Good Day!