Editorial
Scapegoats and thieves
Ethiomedia Editorial | March 24, 2008
Dictator Zenawi
Grinding a scapegoat
The scenario is becoming all too familiar in Ethiopia. Whenever fraud, abuse, waste, mismanagement, incompetence, malfeasance and corruption are detected or made public, the regime corrals a few scapegoats and throws them in jail. Just recently, there was a story about gold bars that just walked out of the bank. A whole bunch of people were reportedly canned for allegedly swapping fake gold for real ones in the bank vault, or for being duped by unscrupulous gold dealers. Now that inflation is galloping through the cities and countryside like one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, scores of so-called speculators, traders and money changers are rounded up and jailed for causing all sorts of shortages, and steep increases in the price of food stuffs. The skyrocketing cost of living in Ethiopia is blamed on yet another villainous and elusive crook called “The Global Market.” And an accusatory finger is even pointed at Him for withholding rain, and exposing 9 million people to famine. For everything else, blame the “The Sinister Opposition”.

The regime would like to blame everyone for Ethiopia’s political and economic ills. As for itself, it wants the credits, only the credits and nothing but the credits. It announced triumphantly that Ethiopia’s economy is expanding by leaps and bounds, 10 per cent annually for the past five years; and 2008 will be a banner year with an increase of 10.8 percent. Export trade has grown by 32 per cent in just the past eight months. Crop production has risen by 45 per cent in the past five years. Addis Ababa is fast becoming a great African metropolis with concrete buildings sprouting everyday. Everything is hunky-dory! Only one problem: The regime can not cherry pick and trumpet only its successes, while completely evading all responsibility for its colossal failures. If the shoe fits, one must wear them; and not pass them off to the scapegoats. But we are not buying the scapegoat story! Here is why.

Scapegoat #1: Gang of Thieves or the Bank of Dumb and Dumber

For the past few weeks, we’ve been told that the Ethiopian bank was scammed out of millions of dollars in gold bars. It could have been a gang of thieves, cat burglars, swindlers and hustlers who walked straight into the bank vaults, swapped hundreds of real gold bars with gilded steel plated ones, and just walked out. Or it could have been dumb bank officials who purchased millions of dollars worth of gold bars without checking what they bought. It is easier to believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus than it is to believe in the cockamamie story of a gang of thieves or dimwit bank officials causing the bank rip-off.

Scapegoat #2: Speculators, Profiteers and Money Changers

Lately, a new group of scapegoats is lined up to take the blame for the country’s inflation and economic ills: “speculators, hoarders, profiteers and money changers”. These villains supposedly created market shortages in food stuffs and other necessities, driving up prices. Black marketers in foreign currency supposedly created exchange fluctuations causing further chaos in the economy. All that is horsefeathers. The U.N. says merchants and traders are not to blame for shortages and price spikes in agricultural commodities! But assuming the merchants and traders are responsible, why did it take the regime so long to detect and root out such “economic criminals”, as they are called now?

Scapegoat #3: The Global Market

But for the small matter of food shortages, inflation and that sort of thing, the national economy is on cruise control. It has been expanding phenomenally over the past 5 years. Export trade alone has grown by 32 per cent in the past eight months. The cost of living in Ethiopia continues to skyrocket because the “global market” has conspired against Ethiopia. Alas, “We don’t have the economic capacity to control it.” We are the victim of evil global market forces, and we have no idea what to do!

Scapegoat #4: God

Famine, the Black Horseman of the Apocalypse, is riding shotgun in many parts of eastern and southern Ethiopia. Famine has been the international face of Ethiopia for decades. According to humanitarian agencies, in 2008 an estimated “8 million people in Ethiopia will require food aid, 1 million of them urgently.” Obviously, someone should be responsible for long term food security planning for the country. But all that is in His hands. In any case, the whole famine thing is related to the “failure of the mid-year (meher) rains and will not affect our speedy economic growth”. God forgot to send the rains over the past year, so in the final analysis He is solely responsible for any famine that may occur. (Anyway, why can’t those people just eat cake!)

Scapegoat #5: “The Opposition”

Blame everything else on the opposition. Had the CUD not won the 2005 elections, everything would have been fine. There would have been no massive human rights violations. Hundreds of thousands of people would not have been thrown in jail. 191 people would not have been massacred, and thousands more wounded. There would be no need for civic society, rule of law and all of that other democratic stuff. (It would have been nice if there were no Somalia.) There would have been no H.R. 4421, H.R. 5680 or H.R. 2003. No questions about accountability. In fact, had there been no opposition, Ethiopia would have been Utopia.

Total Failure of Leadership

Taking responsibility for one’s failures is a defining moment in the life of any political leader. Jim Collins, leadership guru and teacher to senior executives and CEOs at hundreds of the world’s top corporations says the best leaders (Level 5 leaders) routinely credit other people, external factors, and good luck for their companies’ success. But when they mess up, they stand up and courageously shoulder the blame. They don’t run around looking for cover, or fall guys. When will a leader in Ethiopia stand up and take full responsibility for an endless series of collosal blunders and mistakes that have cost the country so much in lives lost, and the economy in wasted and stolen treasures and wealth?

Afterthought: Has Ethiopia Become a Den of Thieves?

The inescapable fact is that thieves are everywhere in Ethiopia. The cops always show up after the robbers have made of with the loot from the bank or the open market. Curiously, they are at the scene of the crime always a day late (but never a dollar short), to arrest and jail the very witnesses who could testify against the robbers. Frankly, in the dense fog of deceit, disinformation and hypocrisy, we are unable to tell apart the cops from the gang of robbers!

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