Friday, March 8, 2013

Ethiopia: When Foreign Investors and Donors become complacent on crimes of corruption of the ruling regime

The struggle for democracy and freedom is a war on the crimes of tyranny. We have to make sure crime doesn’t, shouldn’t and would never pay. We have to declare criminals mustn’t getaway anywhere in the world to protect the people and save the country.

By Teshome Debalke

No one yet scratched the surface to examine the extent of the Ethiopian ruling regime led by Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) intricate economic crimes against the people of Ethiopia and Donor countries.

Ethiopian ruling regime led by Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) The gullible foreign community either knowingly became complacent on the crimes of the regime or taken for a ride as victims of the elaborate corruption of the savvy regime.

The accomplices of the regime in Diaspora that carry Western passport and talking the language of business have lots to do to cover up for the regime and can no longer be ignored in their conspiracy to commit crime against the people of Ethiopia.

TPLF understanding of the international community’ gullibility and low expectation, its grasp of the kinds of foreign investors’ have the appetite to make quick bucks in extractive industries, its ability to target corruption prone Diaspora investors and its awareness of the changing world power politics and where the resources are channeled are some of the its assets to shield its criminality with relative ease. To its credit, TPLF ability to organize it operatives to sing its tune as well as the opposition division on irrelevant issues helped it getaway with almost everything it does in the last two decades of its rule.

Absence of organized and independent investigation, the regime and its accomplices got away with crimes of the century. The regime’s sophisticated control of the flow of information, the means and ways of economic production, and key economic sectors with its clandestine business enterprises are part of the elaborate institutionalization of corruption to hide its crimes.

The recent conference held in India regarding the massive land grab by foreign investors’ in Africa opened another window of opportunity to look deeper in the regimes operation. The fact land is the regimes main political tool to engineer its ethnic cleansing, extortion and wealth transfer to its cronies as well as a means to earn foreign exchange by parading investors tells us its preference for partner in crime are from unexpected places. It also explains why the regime held onto land; to take the population hostage to sustain its rule.

Little has been done formally to scrutinize the regime and its accomplices that are running amok; destabilizing the population.

The conference that was organized by Centre for Social Development (CSD) of India in association with Kalpavriksh, PEACE, and The Oakland Institute of the USA. The gathering was one of a kind that exposed the Ethiopian regime’s elaborate corruption and impunity, thanks to Obang Metho of the Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia. It also reviled investors’ impunity when they partner with authoritarian regimes in Africa.

Missing in the discussion was the ruling regime’s run parasitical enterprises that are colluding with foreign investors to legitimize the land grab and the institutionalize corruption. But, foreign governments’ complicity; ignoring international standards and convention when dealing with nations under authoritarian regimes were articulated by both participants.

For example, India investors along others that are enticed with lucrative incentives by the ruling regime to invest in Ethiopia are aware of the obvious corruption but willing to participate anyways. It reviled the level of impunity of the regime, foreign investors and the respective foreign governments that support the regime and the respective investors.

The conference opened up the tip of the iceberg what has been done behind closed doors and away from the Media with 100s of Asia and the Middle Eastern investors. Many more politically motivated Diaspora investors also conspired to shield the regime from scrutiny while they enjoy the benefit of high level corruption. In the eye of the law, all investors knowingly or unknowingly became accomplice of the regime’s crimes of corruption with little or no legal justification for their actions.
The follow up Debate hosted by Rajiya Sabha on RSTV, Indian World program titled Lands and Natural Resource Grabs in Africa was also a rare opportunity to get the primary offender to answer the burning questions. But, like always, the regime fear of the Media out of its control choice to hide. The program featured Ambassador Vijay Sakhuja of India; defending investors and his government’s extension of credit for the Ethiopian regime’s sugar industry project. The Ambassador’s repeated attempt to hide behind sovereignty defense of regimes, investors and government was simply diplomatic double talk than reality. Lack of transparency in land grab and the related rampant human right violation and corruption is a crime of international law and convention and can’t hold water hiding behind diplomatic technicality. When he referred it as ‘local matter that isn’t the concern of his government or foreign investors he, in his official capacity admitting the government of India is a willing participants; implicating its complicity in crimes of corruption and human right violation in the land grab affair. 
The absence of the Ethiopian regime’s representative in the panel discussion made the Ambassador unofficial defender of the regime when he volunteer to speak on it behalf . The last time we checked the Ethiopian Ambassador was Genet Zewdie but the official embassy website wouldn’t revile who at presents represents Ethiopia interest in the Embassy. It should be recalled Ambassador Genet Zewdie was instrumental to entice investors by offering them unlimited access to Ethiopian land ‘for as long as they want; almost for free’.

Executive Directors Anuradha Mittal of Oakland Institute and Obang Metho of the Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia (SMNE) raised important issues the regime must answer sooner or later. They further exposed the accomplices are not only private investors but foreign governments including India itself, as the official representative reviled.

The Indian Ambassador that is alleged to have family investment in Ethiopia continue to defend Indian investors and his government’s extension of credit line worth over 600 million dollar to build Sugar industry that is directly related with land grab reviled the complicity of the Indian government and the web of interest groups that are given an open season on the public land in partnership with TPLF led regime and affiliated businesses.

Whether the ruling regime misled investors or they conspired with the regime for their own self interest requires further investigations and inquires. But, what is clear with the statement of the Ambassador; crimes of the ruling regime are local matter that doesn’t concern foreign investors or governments. In other words, the government of India providing credit line worth over 600 million US dollar for the regime to develop just sugar industry is legitimate investment.

These kinds of impunity by foreign investors and governments are the results of TPLF’s intricate misinformation in its plan to institutionalize corruption in order to legitimize its misrule and grand corruption. Indian as well as other governments in Asia and Middle East that are not capable of finding out they are doing business with the ruling party owned businesses and exporters in the name of investment must be complete fools or conspiring with the regime. Therefore, to claim propping up the ruling regime’s businesses interest by financing its enterprises is a local matter and expecting the people of Ethiopia to honor the agreements is like claiming ignorance of the law as a defense. Such self incriminating statement from an official government representative of India further reinforce the crises of foreign investment in Ethiopia and through out Africa is bigger than the small time tyrants’ corruption.

Though, Oakland Institute and Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia just began to scratch the surface of the regime’s and investors’ transgression and foreign government and Aid agencies’ complicity, the responsibility squarely rests on Ethiopians- advocacy groups, opposition political parties, the Media and think-tanks that must be better organize and coordinate to get to the bottom of hundreds of crimes of corruption of the regime and its accomplices as well as the complicity of foreign investors, governments and Aid agencies.

Beyond land grab, there are many other economic crimes the ruling regime perpetuates in every sector that cries for extensive investigations. The occasional reaction of one incidence after another isn’t enough to bring about accountability of the responsible parties for crime against the people an the nation.

For example, among the most damaging institutional offenders are the TPLF owned banks, saving and loan, money transfer outfits and credit establishments that have a stranglehold of the financial market. The infamous Wogagen Bank’s role in financing the regime’s corrupt practices, including money laundering is an area that requires extensive investigation by experts. The clandestine Bank that is exclusively run for the benefit of the ruling regime’s crony businesses is the center of crime of manipulating the financial sector as well as financing its corrupt businesses outfits.

Under no law and convention the international community can defend these kinds of flagrant violation of the regime while they are showering it with grants and loans in the name of Ethiopia… development and helping the poor.

In all cases, the role of the ruling regime owned businesses including, 100s of enterprises disguised as The Endowment Fund for Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT) that control the bulk of the economy are yet to be investigated by independent body in order to bring the conspirators to justice.

With all the crises in the economy and the rampant corruption of the ruling regime and its accomplices visible for necked eye, the absences of organizations that investigate and take actions on the crimes remain unattended. The struggles to bring about democratic rule; where crimes of the ruling regime’s and its accomplices’ corruptions must be the # 1 priority. The so called Medias and pseudo institutions that recycle propaganda to help the regime continue its corruption must also be accountable.

Ethiopians in Diaspora with vast knowledge and the resources should establish organizations exclusively to fight corruption and other economic crimes of the regime, the investors and their accomplices in the form of Transparency International. They can use the available resources like Global Coalition for Africa Principles to Combat Corruption in African Countries to clean up rampant institutional corruption that has become the hallmark of the ruling regime of Ethiopia and many so called investors.

Independent Medias have the responsibility to dedicate a good part of their time and resources and collaborate with others to expose rampant corruption never seen in the history of the country.
The ruling regime controlled Federal Ethics and Corruption Commission that supposedly fights corruption is the # 1 conspirator in covering up for the mother-of-all-corruption of the regime’s affiliated Merchants of Death. The political front Commission in its two decades of existence has never investigated the ruling regime’s businesses that are the main cause of corruption while it is chasing small fishes to cover up for the big fish that is gabbling up everything in sight.

The regime’s self-serving Commission sole responsible person to fight corruption is Commissioner Ali Sulaiman Mohammed. Unknown to many Ethiopians, no one knows why he was hand picked as a Commissioner of the toothless agency. Since there is no information about his credential on the official website of the Commission, it is obvious the regime’s strategy to setup dummy agencies and hide its officials to hoodwink the public and the international community obevious.

Other organizations that claim to fight corruption continue to cover up for the regime. The famous Transparency International’s sister Chapter in Ethiopia, Transparency Ethiopia setup as non governmental organization to fight corruption is as toothless as the government Commission. Led by Dr. Berhanu Asefa, Chair of the Board, the organization has noting worth of its name to expose or educate the public on the rampant corruption of the ruling regime. In fact, the latest news on its website is in August of 2010. How TE carrying the good name of well known corruption fighter without doing anything worth its name and repetition of the parent organization justify its existance demand inquiry and investigation.

In article titled The Art of Bleeding a Country Dry, Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam articulated the level of the Ethiopian regime’s corruption.

“The devastating impact of corruption on the continent’s poor becomes self-evident as political leaders and public officials siphon off resources from critical school, hospital, road and other public works and community projects to line their pockets. For instance, reports of widespread corruption in Ethiopia in the form of outright theft and embezzlement of public funds, misuse and misappropriation of state property, nepotism, bribery, abuse of public authority and position to exact corrupt payments and gain are commonplace. The anecdotal stories of corruption in Ethiopia are shocking to the conscience. Doctors are unable to treat patients at the public hospitals because medicine and supplies are diverted for private gain. Tariffs are imposed on medicine and medical supplies brought into the country for public charity. Businessmen complain that they are unable to get permits and licenses without paying huge bribes or taking officials as silent partners.

Publicly-owned assets are acquired by regime-supporters or officials through illegal transactions and fraud. Banks loan millions of dollars to front enterprises owned by regime officials or their supporters without sufficient or proper collateral. Businessmen must pay huge bribes or kickbacks to participate in public contracting and procurement. Those involved in the import/export business complain of shakedowns by corrupt customs officials. The judiciary is thoroughly corrupted through political interference and manipulation as evidenced in the various high profile political prosecutions. Ethiopians on holiday visits driving about town complain of shakedowns by police thugs on the streets. Two months ago, Ethiopia’s former president Dr. Negasso Gidada offered substantial evidence of systemic political corruption by documenting the misuse and abuse of political power for partisan electoral advantage. Last week, U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelley stated that the U.S. is investigating allegations that “$850 million in food and anti-poverty aid from the U.S. is being distributed on the basis of political favoritism by the current prime minister’s party.” [As of December 2011, over two years after the investigation was launched, the State Department has not publicly released the results of its investigation”.

The Professor’s bone chilling expose of the regime’s corruption must be formally followed up by advocacy institutions and independent Media to challenge the offenders in every international venue available.

Ethiopians should also become vigilant and demand the regime’s operatives and puppets to disclose their business holding and call on the international community for independent investigators towards bringing the conspirators to justice.

The struggle to bring about democracy and rule of law isn’t limited to chasing the ruling regime and its conspirators in crime against humanity and corruption. It requires strong and independent institutions, including the Media as vanguard of the people’s interest to transform the nation ruled by law than by the jungle directives and proclamations of the regime.

Time and time again we Africans miss the forest for the tree when we cheer individuals and groups that steer our emotion to be against anything than for something and fall for the same tyranny over-and-over again.

This time around must be different, and the signs are encouraging and calls for celebration. Ethiopians are no longer divided by… to the benefit of tyranny. The grassroots movement that emerged since Woyane tyranny lost hands down in the May 2005’s election not only taking root but scaring the paranoid regime and all others that see division as a means to their end.
Ethiopians are united; there is no other way out for Woyane tyranny but to surrender. The desperate regime’s scramble to preserve its corrupt ethnic tyranny will cost it more than surrendering peacefully.

Woyane operatives and supporters also have two choices. They either abandon Woyane to join their people in the struggle while they can or loss their freedom forever.

The struggle for democracy and freedom is a war on the crimes of tyranny. We have to make sure crime doesn’t, shouldn’t and would never pay. We have to declare criminals mustn’t getaway anywhere in the world to protect the people and save the country.

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