Corruption and Educational Institutions in Ethiopia

Corruption and Educational Institutions in Ethiopia

By: Dejene A. Janna



Corruption is broadly defined as the abuse of public office for private gain, or the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Various measures of corruption levels at the country level exist, from subjective perceptions indices to more objective experiential measures, and the pros and cons of these indices have been adequately explored elsewhere (Svensson, 2005; Treisman, 2007). Moreover, like the heads of Hydra’s dragon, corruption presents itself in many shapes though all originate from the same body politic. Forms of corruption differ from one another in terms of both the source of power that is exploited and the impact they have on the economy and the society of a given nation.

Corruption in Ethiopia

These days, corruption is endemic in Africa and anti-corruption strategies are politicized and largely failed across the continent. Ethiopia is not an exception; where Ethiopia brings a new expertise is in the art of covering up corruption by public officials.

Though, Ethiopia ranked 174th out of 188 countries on HDI (UNDP, 2016) and 108th in the least corrupt nation out of 176 countries and scored 34/100 on corruption index, still a sort of high paradox has played out in Ethiopia over the last decade. While its economy has thrived, its political landscape has been overwhelmed by rampant corruption. For example in the year 2013, more than 50 high profile people, including government officials and businessmen, were arrested during an anti-corruption crackdown in the country.

The recent anti-corruption crackdown was reported on last week of July, 2017; based on the report of Xinhua News Agency; 34 senior officials, businessperson and middlemen have been arrested in Ethiopia’s biggest anti- corruption sweep in years. Speaking to media, the Minister of Communication Affairs Office; spokesperson, Dr. Negeri Lencho said, the detainees include government officials from Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation, Ethiopian Sugar Cooperation, Ethiopian Roads Authority and Addis Ababa Roads Authority. However, the spokesperson declined to disclose the names of the detainees and the specific crimes they are accused of committing.

These are not the only times when the government purportedly acted against corrupt officials, the same was happened in the year 2016; i.e. the regime claimed that it arrested 125 people over corrupt practices; though, nobody knows who they are to this day. Since the formation of an Anti-Corruption Commission in 2001, at the height of a factional infighting within the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the regime has been using β€œthe fight against corruption” as a political strategy of settling internal power struggles as well as rooting out officials whose loyalty to the regime is questioned.

Therefore, one can conclude that a government that is politically irresponsible can’t be fiscally accountable. There can be no effective specialized anti-corruption institutions without free media, vibrant civil society, independent justice system and competitive political space.

Education and Corruption in Ethiopia

β€œEducation is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” said Nelson Mandela. For the late Meles Zenawi and his apostles (the Melesistas) in Ethiopia, the reverse is true: Ignorance is the most powerful weapon you can use to prevent change and cling to power. They have long adopted the motto of George Orwell’s Oceania: β€œIgnorance is Strength”. Indeed, ignorance is a powerful weapon to manipulate, emasculate and subjugate the masses. Keep them ignorant and impoverished and they won’t give you any trouble.

For the Melesistas education is indoctrination. They feed the youth a propaganda diet rich in misinformation, disinformation, distortions, misguided opinions, worn out slogans and sterile dogmas from a by gone era. Long ago, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, β€œFather of African-American History”, warned against such indoctrination and miseducation of the oppressed:……..

β€œWhen you control a man’s thinking, you do not have to worry about his/her actions; you do not have to tell him/her not to stand here or go anywhere. S/he will find his/her proper place and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary” (G. Mariam, 2013).

Academic activities such as studying, teaching, inventing, leading, administrating and other responsibilities in a university or college require at a minimum academic freedom. Unfortunately, the rulers in Ethiopia continue to use higher educational institutions not as places of learning, inquiry and research but as diploma mills for a new breed of party hacks and zombie ideologues doomed to blind and unquestioning servility.

Hence, academic freedom in higher education institutions of Ethiopia is drier than the Saharadesert (Tedla D., 2012).

Ethiopians who have been part of these institutions as a student, teacher, or any other workers have been grilled by this desert. Although, no one can tell better than we, the victims of this inferno; national and international human rights organizations have documented the absence of freedom of expression, association, and assembly in the colleges and Universities of Ethiopia. Higher-education students’ activities are monitored routinely by government agents who are registered as students while, in fact, their primary mission is spying for the minority government. Furthermore, the spy agents play the governments divide and rule game by promoting fight among students on ethnic line. As a result, students live in fear of the government and each other. Only students loyal to the Ethiopian Peoples Democracy Front in general and the Tigrai Libration Front (TPLF), in particular, could escape this harassment although they themselves could spy each other as well.

Now a days, in Ethiopia, the pattern of perception suggests that outright bribery is perceived to be more corrupt than, for example, favoritism or the falsification of documentation. There is also a sense that some practices, such as expressing gratitude to a client through the giving of a small gift, are normal business practice and not necessarily corrupt. Finally, there is an underlying acceptance among many that the state has the right to intervene in the market if that is considered to be in the national interest, and there is little sense that such interventions could be at variance with ongoing efforts to promote the level playing field needed for effective privatization of service provision, including in the education sector (Transparency International).

Since early 2000, the government of Ethiopia is expanding and constructing a number Universities; but construction quality issues are considered a significant problem in the construction of educational facilities, particularly in the case of small, remote facilities where high standards of construction supervision can be difficult to achieve. For example, part of a block in a university collapsed a month after completion. The contractor responsible for building the facility was not required to make the work good or repay the amount paid, nor was the contractor sanctioned. The matter was not investigated. Such problems are a significant indicator of corrupt practices, particularly when the contractor is not ultimately held to account for its failures (World Bank, 2013)


  • Ethiopians ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has been using β€œthe fight against corruption” as a political strategy of settling internal power struggles as well as rooting out officials whose loyalty to the regime is questioned.
  • If the Ethiopian government refuses to address the issues of corruption and quality of higher education, the current flourishing economy will likely evaporate, as it will be too late to take sustainable measures.
  • Ethiopian government has to admit the basic structural changes, and show willingness to allow development of multiparty democracy system in the country.
  • F Though, the ongoing non-violent revolution in Ethiopia has both encouraging and discouraging news about the near future for the country: the discouraging features of the non-violent resistance includes: massacres of innocent civilians by the TPLF and the neglect of the atrocity by Western Media. Whereas the encouraging features of the resistance includes: the revolution is ignited and ushered by millions of determined young people and is a grassroots movement against repression and corruption.
  • The non-violent revolution has created some sort of solidarity between the two largest ethnic group Amhara and Oromo; for these reasons, the resistance against dictatorship entered into irreversible phase that will consolidate democracy in Ethiopia.
  • The prevalence of the recent political corruption in Ethiopia had had a number of consequences. It affects country’s GDP and rewarded unproductive employees in both private and public sectors.

β€œEducation is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world,”

Nelson Mandela