The Role of Development Aid in fuelling Corruption and Undermining Governance in Ethiopia Seid Hassan

July 5th, 2013 Print Print Email Email

My own research as well as the research of other scholars show that the control of donor resources allowed the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), not only to consolidate political power that it seized in 1991, but also virtually penetrate the Ethiopian society at the grassroots level and expand its repressive and predatory tentacles.*

This paper also makes use of my ongoing studies regarding corruption in Ethiopia. The concluding part of the paper ties the corruptive practices of the TPLF/EPRDF when it was a liberation front (that is, the humanitarian aid-corruption nexus) with its current and similar activities (that is, the capture and misuse of development aid.) The paper exclusively focuses on the development aid -corruption nexus.

The paper uses theme-based cases (heavily donor-funded projects) in order to illustrate the captured nature of development aid and extent of corruption in the country. The theme-based cases used as examples of capture include corruption within the so-called Productive Safety Net Programs, privatization of state owned enterprises, trade mispricing and illicit financial outflows, the judicial system, resettlement and villagization programs, health extension programs and corruption within the primary and higher education expansion programs.

I use the concept of state capture (the highest and most intractable form of corruption) as a framework of reference to explain the predatory nature of the Ethiopian state. State capture is a form of grand corruption initially observed in post-communist countries evolving to captured-economies during their political and economic transitions. The concept gained traction after experts working for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund described the phenomenon of corruption that was found in transition countries of Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union. The paper shows the Ethiopian corruption experience being a stronger form of the state capture that was observed in East and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The paper establishes that, by creating opportunities to the highly organized groups and elites, donor aid has led to a legacy of corruption, maladministration, cruelty, brutality, money laundering and the establishment of a ruthless oligarchy in Ethiopia. I show that the type of corruption which has transpired in Ethiopia is the strongest and highest form of corruption known as State Capture. The paper documents how various powerful ethnic, social, personal, regional, political and economic groups in Ethiopia were able to extract rents and use it for their own political survival and hegemony. The case studies in the paper show the captured nature of the donor-funded projects by the ruling elites in Ethiopia and how those who are able to capture the foreign aid resources are using them as tools of control and repression. The work also shows how, when it comes to Ethiopia, donor aid has poisoned the wells with deep corruption and, by implication, the unholy alliance between donor aid and corruption and donor aid and tyranny. In addition to foreign aid being used to finance repression, it has exacerbated the extent and level of the income gaps between the haves and the have-nots while at the same time increasing the vulnerabilities of the poor. The increased level of rent-seeking that one finds in the country indicates that foreign aid has undermined governance in the country.

By exploring the heavy-handed use of development aid by the ruling party and the culpability of donors and aid agencies, the paper provides analytical support behind aid and corruption, aid and extraction of rents and the type of corruption that one finds in Ethiopia. The paper also shows that misusing and abusing of foreign aid by the TPLF/EPRDF is a learned behavior it acquired when it was a guerrilla force.

Taken together, therefore, both humanitarian aid and a large portion of development aid have exacerbated the already worse governance structures of the country. Despite the huge annual influx foreign aid (to the tune of $3.3 billion by 2009 and rising), life in Ethiopia has gotten worse, not better- with the poor getting poorer, income inequality worsening, citizens leaving their country in drones trying to escape the onslaught of poverty and oppression that has been aided and abetted by foreign aid and, close to 20 million Ethiopians still depending on foreign aid. In short, all that foreign aid begat is absolute dictatorship, repression, kleptocracy, aid dependence. The paper inescapably concludes that development has been a curse and both Ethiopia and its people would have been better off without foreign aid than with it.

* This short write-up is the synopsis of a much longer piece. It is the second installment of the three (and possibly four) short blogs which are intended to introduce the reader to research papers published in Ee-JRIF, Volume 5, and No. 1. In particular, this short write-up summarizes the rather lengthy paper entitled as “Aid, Predation and State Capture: The Role of Development Aid in Fuelling Corruption and Undermining Governance: The Case of Ethiopia.” Those interested in reading the (non-technical) entire manuscript will definitely benefit from the extensive literature that I have used and incorporated in paper.

This work is motivated in part by the studies and findings supporting the research and investigative findings made by Human Rights Watch (2010(a) & 2010(b), 2012(a) and 2012(b)), Epstein (2010), Hassan (2009), BBC (2011), Nigussa et al (2009), Bazezew (2012), Endale, Debalke (2012) and several others.

The specific article and six more articles are published in Ee-JRIF, Vo. 5, No. 1 (2013).
To access the journal and the articles, please follow this link:
To access the Development Aid Corruption Nexus, please follow this link:

  1. ከመቅረት ሃያ መዘግየት ይሻላል?
    | #1

    ርዳታና ረጂዎችን በተመለከተ
    ምነው ምሁሮቻችን ሰፋ ያለ ውይይት በመረጃ የተመረኮዘ ጽሁፍ አላዘጋጁም ርዳታ የተባለ ወረርሽኝ በሽታ ሲጨርሰን
    አፋቸውን ምን ለጎመው? እነሱም የዚህ ሰለባ ስለሆኑ ይሆን? አገር ውስጥ ያሉት 99% ድህነትን እንዋጋለን የሚሉት ድርጅቶች የአገሩን ምሁር ስራ ሰጪዎች እነሱ ስለሆኑ ይህንን ነጭ ዝሆን እስከመቼ ነው የምንከባከበው?

    ለዚህም ጥሩ ምሳሌ የሚሆነኝ በአንድ ወቅት በዛሬይቱ ኢትዮ ድረ-ገጽ አንድ ፕሮፈሰር ርዳታና ለጋሾን የሚቃውሙትን ወገኖች ለማንካሰሰ የጻፉት ትዝ ይለኛል ብትመለከቱት ታገኙታላችሁ
    ምሁሩ ርዳታንና ሰጪዎችን ጥሩነት ለማጉላት ምክንያት ያቀረቡት- ርዳታ ድርጅት ያሉ ሰራተኞች የጠገበ ደመወዝና የሚያስቀና መኪና ስለሚነዱ ምቀኝነት አድሮባችሁ ነው ብለው ጻፉ ለፕሮፓጋንዳ ፍጆታ እንጂ ለውውይት በር አይከፍትም

    ታዲያ ርዳታ መስጠትና መቀበል በሰው ልጅ ታሪክ አዲስ አይደለም የሚክድም የለም
    ችግሩ የአንድን አገር ሕዝብና መንግስት ለማንበርክክ መሳሪያነቱ ነው

    አስተያየቴም ይህን እኩይ ተግባር በመመልከት ነው

    የርዳታና ረጂዎች ስራ አንድን ሕዝብና ዜጋ ከፎርስድ ፊድ ከማድረግ የተለየ አለመሆኑን ማን አጥቶት? ለምን ቢባል መረጃውን መመልከት ነው የተረጂው ሕዝብ ጥያቄ ወይም ውይይት ያረገበት ሁኔታ የለም

    ምሳሌ የሚሊኒየም ጎል ብንመለከት አላማው ቅዱስ ነው
    ችግሩ ያለው
    ሀ. ለጋሾች ግቦችን ሲተምኑም ሆነ አስፈላጊውን ገንዘቡን ሲወስኑ – ከታዳጊ አገሮች የሕዝብ ተወካይ አካል የሆነና ገለልተኛ እንዲሁም ተቃዋሚውን የሚወክል አልነበረም
    ለ. ገንዘቡ ለማን እንደሚሰጡ የሰጡት ገንዘብ የት እንደዋለ ለመጠየቅ የሚችል ገለተኛ አካል አይታወቅም
    ሐ. የሚሊኒየም ግቦች ቢሆኑ የታዳጊ አገሮችን አቅም ያገናዘቡም አይደሉም
    መ. ስምንተኛው ግብ ብንመለከት ታዳጊ አገሮች አገራቸውን ለለጋሽ አገሮች እንዲከፍቱ ያስገድዳል
    ሠ. አቅም ግንባታ የሚል ውሸት ፕሮፓጋንዳ ትምህርት በለጋሽ አገሮች ዩኒቨርሲዎችና ምሁሮች ለታዳጊ አገሮች ይሰጣል እንጂ ተቃዋሚ ወይም ትችት የማያስተናግድ መድረክ እንዳልነበረ የሚታወቅ ነው
    ረ. ሪፖርቱም ትሬንጉም ለለጋስ አገሮች ምሁሮች ካድሬነት ስራ ገንዘብ ጥቅም አስገኝቶአል
    ሰ. የፓለቲካ ካድሬነት ስል ሪፖርት ጸሀፊ በመሆን ትሬኒንግ መስጠት ተጠቃሚዎችም ናቸው ስለዚህም ገንዘቡና ዝናው ምስክርነቱም ርስ በርስ ነው

    ሸ. ርዳታ ድርጅቶች ያላቸው ኔትወርክ ከባንኮች ከመንግስታት እንዲሁም ትላልቅ ኩባንያዎች ጋር ያላቸው ትስስር አስፈሪና ለተጠያቂነት የማያመች አስከፊ ደረጃ ላይ ነው

    በእኔ እይታ ብቻ ሳይሆን አለም ዜናዎች እንደሚያሳዩት
    ርዳታ አላማው ለረጂው ክፍል በሌላው አገር መንግስትና ሕዝብ ጉዳይ ጣልቃ ገብነቱን የሞራል በላይነት ካባ ይሰጠዋል
    በሕዝብና መንግስታት ላይ ተቀባይነቱ ያለጥያቄ እንዲሆን ከጥርጣሬ ራዳር ውጭ እንዲሆን ማድረጉ የማይቀር ነው
    ምስጋናዬን እያቀርብኩ መጪውን ጽሁፍሆን እጠባበቃለሁ

  2. Kato
    | #2

    This phenomenon is not new. Aid money diverted to sustain and strenthen dictatorial regimes has been the case and is still the case in many aid recipient countries. In those countries as is the case in Ethiopia corruption has devoured regime officials and their sattelites that it is practically impossible for them to get out of that. 22 years says it all.
    The million dollar question is just why this donor so called civilized countries still provide that aid well knowing that the money is being used not to alleviate the problems of the needy, instead to intimidate, incarcerate and oppress. Why do they do that? Is it indifference or do they profit from what is happening in Ethiopia?
    Trying to answer those questions is not necessarily easy. An indifferent donor that has little or no interest in the people would of course pump in financial aid as they already know that it is going to be used to foster and strengthen that dictatorial regime and in the mean time the donor countrie’s hidden agenda or for that matter not really hidden agenda is going to be tackled and taken care of by that dictatorial regime that is on the receiving end. So in effect what is happening here is that so called ” scratch my back and I will sctatch yours”. This in itself is a type of corruption. Because there is a saying that goes like “Never go to bed with someone you are helping” if that happens the donor countries ethical and moral integrity has to be questioned big time. The unfortunate part is there isn’t much we can do about that except trust in our own people to overcome the burden our people are carrying. So my theory is not only the recipient is corrupt (what do the donor countrie’s expect: the fact is a money you haven’t earned thru hard work, is like precious water spilled on sand) but also the donor countries as much. Seeing the dilemma the Ethiopian people are going thru, year after year and the donors repeating the same thing again and again makes them corrupt as much as the regime officials are.
    Ethiopia will survive this, it is only a question of time.

  3. ከመቅረት ሃያ መዘግየት ይሻላል?
    | #3


    1.ግልጽ መሆን ያለበት ነገር ርዳታ የሚሰጠው በውጭ ጉዳይ ሚኒስቴሮች የበላይ ተመልካችነት ነው
    2. ርዳታ የተረጂውን አገር ሕዝብና መንግስት አመለካከት ለመለወጥ እጅ መንሻ ነው ሶፍት ፓወር እንበለው
    3. ለዚህም የርዳታ ድርጅቶች የሕዝብ ልማድን ባህልን የመንግስት ፖሊሲና ሕግን ኢንፍሉየንስ ለማድርግ ተደራጅተውና ታቅደውና ይንቀሳቀሳሉ
    4. የተረጂ መንግስትና መሪዎችን ባለስልጣኖች ስራቸውን ይክታተላሉ ይጽፋሉ
    5. ሪፖርትም በቀጥታ ለመንግስታቸው ያቀርባሉ ባይባሉም ለአማካሪነት ይጠየቃሉ ከተራው እስክ መንግስት ባለስልጣናት ሕዝቡ ውስጥ እየኖሩ እውቀት አላቸውና መረጃ ሰጪዎች መሆን ይችላሉ
    6. ገበያና ማእድን ትልልቅ ፕሮጀክቶችን በተመለከት ለአገራቸው ድርጅቶ መረጃ በማቅረብ ሊጠቀሙ ይችላሉ

    ጉቦ መስጠት ማለት አንድ ፊት ለፊት ይህንን አድርግልኝ ብሎ ሊሆን ይችላል
    ሌላው የውሽት ምስክርነት በመስጠት ያልሰራሀውን ስራህ የሰራውን አልሰራም ማለት ልሆን ይችላል
    ያለችሎታህ እውቅና ስጥተው ሃላፊነት ላይ እንድትቀመጥ ማድረግ ሊሆን ይችላል

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