Sour Note of Corruption

Ever since Former Prime Minister Tamrat Layne was unceremoniously deposed from his post for alleged abuse of his executive powers, metaphorically speaking, he was one sugar that has gone sour.

Bribery, in its legendary tales form, is little more than a type of undeserved material gift made to influence people in power. Evaluated in detail, the amount given is in the form of property like a mule or a kilo of honey or worse. For a person earning a nominal salary, the extra income matters. There is an old Amharic proverb – “He who makes no use of his powers for his personal advantage will regret when he is demoted.”

Never mind that Tamrat was vilified for allegedly betraying his own ethnic group. The fact is Tamrat is undeniably the highest profile executive to lose his power in such a manner. For his folly, he was sent to jail, having been found guilty of the misuse of powers.

He may have been a person deeply immersed in a socialist ideology but he ignored a slew of personal and public principles. I am reminded of an old public virtue – “as it was, to be the vanguard of the oppressed class or may be a man with a fluid head very open to change.”

At any rate, he seems to have benefited from his days in jail. When he was freed, he found God to salvage his reputation and find a refugee. He has now become a deep preacher of the words in the Holy Book and Gospel. He has said he believes in the belief that the political paradigm has now shifted and it is high time for a national reconciliation between the government and members of the diversity of opposition voices.

We may not subscribe to his latest wisdom but we cannot totally rule it out either. There could be a few truth bearing points in his arguments. He blames for sugar tasting have now grown up to tangible crimes of bribery or corruption administration or rent collectivism in its global or perhaps more diplomatic language. In the words of former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Tamrat chose to keep “delighting himself with the taste of sugar.”

Funny how sugar has since become scarcity in Ethiopia. At a time when Ethiopians are expecting the establishment of at least 10 mega sugar companies and an expanded industry that will significantly boost its production enough, not only to quench the domestic demand for sugar export, the country seems to be in short supply. The mass production of sugar, for local and foreign use, could have brought the nation much needed foreign currencies like coffee and horticulture commodities.

The country seems to have gone back to old times. Loans were obtained from the local banks for these new industries. The hardly earned and borrowed foreign currency was spent to purchase sugar from abroad. Some of the functional sugar industries are said to have produced enough to meet the local demand.

Facts on the ground show that the produced or purchased sugar could not be delivered. They are kept piled and stocked in the available stores. The relevant officials push all around the table as it were. Drivers of the heavy duty trucks complain to be waiting idly for lack of unloading and loading operations.

In the meantime, the “grass is suffering” when the giant elephants fight one another. Consumer Protection committee members try to find the needle in the hay. Shopkeepers on their part either sell a kilo of sugar at exhorbitant prices if at all they have had hoarded sugar in safe places hidden during normal days.

Mothers of little kids who want sugar added in their feed suffer from the sight of crying children tears rolling down their cheeks. Little cafes and tea houses are also vulnerable. They find it a life or death struggle for their business survival.

Tamrat Layne’s legacy of sugar tasting has now become almost epidemic to almost little officials down the vertical line of the hierarchy of power. No amount of general auditors bad debt and unaccounted could not so far materialize into substantive accountability.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Jan 14,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 871]



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