No doubt, people were stunned by the national security agency’s swiftness

No doubt, people were stunned by the national security agency’s swiftness in putting to jail prominent businessmen and some of most powerful government officials, accused of corruption. Their action has ignited several speculations throughout the city’s gossip corridors, capturing the imaginations of many, with the main discussion revolving around whether it was prompted by political motives and comes as a result of party bigwigs infighting and, additionally, if more arrests are yet to come.

Names have been flying around at liberty, never mind the fact that many of the individuals, from the political and business environment, were enjoying their freedom at the same time as being talked about as potential suspects. Indeed, there were several more arrests made in subsequent days, in connection with those put in police custody a week earlier.

Nonetheless, determining who the powers are behind such a move, largely perceived by the public as bold and long overdue, has remained a matter of interest to those at the gossip corridors.

Seeing Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn as a leader whose political power is yet to be consolidated, many are of the view that he does not have the leverage that his predecessor enjoyed in exercising his personal clout, whether to order the arrests or the release of individuals, gossip observed. Some seem to have concluded that there are other powers at play, who have masterminded the downfall of such connected people.

These are not ordinary people, who can simply be dismissed as low ranking officials found in graft and pursued by anticorruption Czars, or businessmen who were found committing fraud. The politicians are high ranking party and government officials, with enormous – and near Napoleonic – power over the fate of many taxpayers. They are strongly connected to people who continue to hold powerful government and party positions, gossip claims.

The businessmen, too, are wealthy and with huge resources under their command, including assets in transport, commercial real estate and manufacturing sectors.

Obviously, law enforcement agents cannot possibly arrest people of such stature without the head of the government ordering them to do so, or at least giving his blessing. Not only was there a meeting by senior government officials prior to the arrests, but Hailemariam also consulted the heads of the three main regional states, gossip disclosed.

Unlike his predecessor, the Prime Minister has developed a culture of giving a heads up and seeking the consent of Abay Woldu, of Tigray; Ayalew Gobeze, of Amhara; and Alemayehu Atomsa, of Oromia regional states, before he makes executive decisions on issues of national sensitivity, gossip disclosed.

Aside from the not so surprising conspiracy theory that the recent arrests are motivated by EPRDF infighting, Hailemariam’s administration has opened a Pandora’s Box that gossip foresees will be difficult to close. Despite major bewilderment, reservation and a wait and see attitude by many at the gossip corridors, when it comes to some of the suspects’ allegations (Melaku’s in particular), the overall move by the administration remains very popular among members of the public. Yet, some are apprehensive over the a public that has passed its verdict and convicted the suspects as guilty.

All the suspects have a constitutional rights to be presumed innocent until such time that they guilt is established in an open court where they have stood up to their accusers in their own defence, says gossip. It would be fateful and self defeating if Hailemariam’s administration fails to live up to this standard, claims gossip.

Despite such note of caution, an excited public that sees an administration, which has finally reared its head against those who are taught to act with impunity inside the government or those perceived to be untouchable from the private sector, wants this to continue, gossip observed. It wants to see many more in the city administration, defence department and the telecom sector held accountable for their alleged misdeeds, or wealth, which the public knows they have accumulated improperly, claims gossip.

It is largely seen as a political suicide for Hailemariam’s administration to undercut its latest undertakings and retreat from the fight against grand graft, gossip claims. What is more anticipated though is how those behind this move have planned to wind this up, gossip observed.

Published on May 19, 2013 [ Vol 13 ,No 681]



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