Ethiopia, A Failed State.

Published Sept. 12, 2023, 6:51 p.m. by Gizawu Tasisa (PhD)


In this segment, I present the argument that the current Ethiopian government has fallen short of its legitimate responsibilities and now exists in a quasi-state of being, as elaborated below.

The current government of Ethiopia is unable to perform the functions of the sovereign -nation-state in that it cannot project authority over its territory and peoples, and it cannot protect its national boundaries. The governing capacity of this state is weakened in that it is unable to fulfil the administrative and organizational tasks required to control people and resources and can provide only negligible public services in some big cities and towns and a few countryside.

The government is composed of shabby and defective institutions. From its face value, the Council of Ministers barely functions, if not at all. The parliament, judiciary and bureaucracy have lost their professional independence or professional ethics. I will briefly show this in the paragraphs to follow.

One of the institutional blemishes begins from the council of ministers. An insider informant divulges that the council of ministers led by PM Abiy Ahmed follows an individual maneuver approach towards making decisions. Forcefully persuading them along his views and needs or intimidating them, the PM approaches members one by one with regard to the issue on the table. In the first place, most of the members of the council have strong corruption links. Due to this, they have no moral strength to challenge Abiy’s views but remain complacent. After colonizing each of them in this manner, he calls a meeting of the council where the decision now becomes a rubber stamp.  The PM’s national issue decisions like the war in  Oromia, Tigray, and Amhara regions and the intrusion of Eritrean forces; the building of the so-called new national palace and park, and budgeting these projects without the legal procedure and knowledge of the Ministry of Finance and the parliament are among many maneuvered or sole decisions of the PM.

 The failure of the system  and corruption emanated from how the parliament came into being. The majority of the ruling party (Prosperity Party) in the parliament are not genuinely elected by the constituents they claim to have come from. The constituents of most districts even don’t know that these MPs represent them in the parliament. This fraudulent representation tempted the MPs to commit corruption and remain docile in the parliament, with no confidence at all. I will turn to corruption later.

 No formal discussion or decision was made by the parliament on the blackout of the internet in western Oromia for the last 5 years, the inhuman killings of people in Oromia, the abduction and imprisonment of thousands of people in Oromia and recently in Amhara regions. The parliament is maneuvered in many ways to make decisions in the interest of a few top plotted authorities. One of the tactics to do this is delay in distributing proposals or reports to the non-PP MPs.  For example, minutes of the preceding parliament meetings and reports are not distributed to the opposition MPs in good time, while the ruling party members in the parliament get it in advance. Such misconduct and discrimination have been repeatedly asked by the disadvantaged ones. Also, by avoiding critical questions from a few members of the parliament, the nominal PM question sessions are wasted by the PM’s diverted, mockery, storytelling and sometimes intimidating answers. This is an indication of evasion, lack of integrity, and respect for the MPs, trailing national interest, despite the PM’s insincere claims. This has become the routine of such sessions and other public events, indicating failure. 

Ethiopia is also suffering from deteriorating basic human development indicators, such as infant mortality and literacy rates. The UNDP Report 2022 shows that Ethiopia ranked 175th out of 191 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI) 2021/22, placing it in a low human development category. The Human Development Index measures a nation’s health, education, and standard of living.

This is due to the fact that schools and universities in most Oromia, Tigray, Amhara, Afar, Benishangul Gumuz, and Gambella regions have been made dysfunctional since 2018. This again is due to the war in Oromia and Tigray and the rising conflicts in these regions. Thousands of students joined the Oromo Liberation Army in Oromia for example to fight for freedom. They are anguished by the government and a lack of trust and hope to build a better life in the country. These are among the age between 15-64 which accounts to 58% of the population and is considered active work force. Farmers have not produced enough agricultural products since 2018 due to frequent displacements in the country. This caused hunger and starvation as well as a shortage of food staff provision and businesses are collapsing.

The living standard of citizens is far below poverty with the inflation rate as high as 37% compared with 8% of the world. In reality, the actual inflation rate that depicts the true nature of inflation is now more than 56%.

Armed forces fighting against the government for the freedom of their nations are sprouting everywhere more than ever. The recent negotiation between the OLA and the government was a deceptive and time-buying tactic move by the government and ended with no tangible effect.

Graduates and intellectuals are fleeing the country to safer countries as they feel their life is at risk. At the moment, there no single day free bloodshed in the Ethiopian empire and there is a conflict and chaos everywhere than ever in the country. Ethnic conflict is widespread at an alarming magnitude. The role the government is now playing is uncertain. It is not clear whether it is worsening the conflict, indifferent, or proxy.

Within itself, the government is unable to enforce rules and regulations in different sectors and public services and corruption has developed now into a norm in the country. One example is corruption in the education sector. Even one of the government’s offices divulged more than 200,000 fake degree certificates, the majority of which are offered to government officials; (www.zegabi.com/articles/60200).  This epidemic phenomenon covers regional and top federal authorities and offices, a study conducted by the Government Expenditure Management and Control Office of Ethiopia reveals. According to Zegabi.com, the ministry is confused about what to do because its action could affect the activities and services of government offices in which the counterfeit degree holders are working. Since this is a system-wide practice from the top to the grassroots, it is irreparable by the current government.

As indicated above, it is possible to say that corruption is widespread across the country, from top to down officials. This begins with the prime minister himself. On 27th July Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed received an electric car from Haile Gebressellasie, the owner of Hyundai Marathon Motors, as seen below. 



Following this top-down epidemics, a survey shows that corruption is everywhere in Ethiopia in public, private and even religious institutions.  Since it is beyond the scope of this article to cover all, the first top 5 customer complaints  are: 

1.City councils and their chain of command structures:corruption in allocating pieces of land, birth or marriage           certification, selling and buying properties.
2. Immigration offices: corruptionin issuing and renewing a passport.  
3. Revenue and customs authority:reducing taxation from the government's supposed revenue,  laundering money for personal gains.
4. Investment commissions:corruption in certification and ratification of documents and
5. Banks: corruption in certifying bonds, rectifying borrowing for investment etc.

For example,  a person living in the UK was interested in investing in the piece of land by his existing hold in Finfinne and applied to the Finfinne administration office/municipality. He showed his bank statement and other required documents to the  authority next to the mayor. After looking into the documents and the amount of money in the account, this person told him to forget the 6m birr from his account. The customer didn’t understand and asked him what it meant. With a mouthed smile, he said to him, Hmm! You diaspora people don’t understand the language (corruption language); and referred him to another person in parallel. The demand from this official was the same, i.e., to give them 6m birr. The despairing customer dismissed his request and went back to the UK. One week later, an official from the diaspora office in Ethiopia called him and apologized for the encounter. He advised him to come back to Ethiopia and promised to facilitate the case. Then he went back to Ethiopia and the official referred him to the project official in the mayor’s office. After examining his document, the official asked to give him 2500birr (this time by the name of running cost), yet the document was to be endorsed by former top officials mentioned above. Though the customer approached the top officials again, they continued asking for the same amount. Finally, he ripped copies of his documents in front of them and said to them ‘you are here not to serve the country, but destroy it’, and left their office, back to the UK.  

The anti-corruption proclamation of Ethiopia defines corruption offence as any offence committed in relation to a government service or public interest in violation of the duties proper to a government or public service by seeking, exacting a promise, or receiving any gratification or advantage for himself or for another person or group of persons or inflicting harm on another person; and includes corrupt practices, acceptance of undue advantage, traffic in official influence, abuse of power, maladministration; appropriation and misappropriation in discharge of duties, extortion and disclosure of secret, and shall include such other similar cases.

The Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission of the country is supposed to control corruption but is unable to do it because of the immunity perpetrators. The commission sporadically states that action is being taken against those committing corruption in line with the proclamation. However, these actions are usually taken on those in the weakest link of the corruption network. If it were genuine, they should have started from the PM himself .

The nullified human rights violation and justice system is another indicator of the Ethiopian government's failure. Evidence shows that there are a minimum of 22 official prisons in Oromia only. The prisoners in such prisons are supposed to be seen by the court in 48 hours if their case escalates to that, otherwise, they should be released.  All police stations in Oromia districts are detention centers. As it stands, the number of such centers is more than 330. In these detention centers 7 OLF political leaders including Abdi Regassa and Michael Boran and more than 100,000 OLF supporters and members are incarcerated. There are 50-100 detainees in each center making an average of 75 detainees. In addition to this there are tens of hidden detention centers. Such detention centers are at local authority premises and army barracks. The place and number of these detention centers are known only to the people working in connection with the Information Network Security Agency founded by Abiy Ahmed.

These political prisoners are languishing in prison, some diagnosed with life-threatening diseases with inappropriate or no treatment. Despite the court setting them free a number of times, the police refused to release them. They are moved from one prison to another in circulation, which makes it difficult for the family and humanitarian organizations to trace their whereabouts.

 Article 9.3 of the constitution stipulates that everyone shall have the right to be brought before a court of law within 48 hours after his arrest. S/he shall have the right to be specifically informed that there is sufficient cause for his arrest as soon as he appears in court.

Also, Article 25 asserts that all persons shall be equal before the law and shall be entitled to equal protection of the law without any discrimination whatsoever. All persons shall be entitled to equal and adequate guarantees without distinction of any kind such as race, nation, nationality, colour, sex, language, religion, political or social origin, property, birth or other status.

These regulations are breached by the current government. None of the authorities have moral grounds to stop one another from corruption and nepotism or other forms of fraud and bribery. Let alone legality, societies’  ethical values,  humanity, and social structure are washed away.

The government armed forces including the defence are fragile and the said vow to defend the constitution and the government remained rhetoric. There is no  defence force tasked to protect the territory from external forces,  for example, from the intrusion by Sudan and Eritrea. Initially, the involvement of Eritrea in a war in the North was due to insufficiency and lack of confidence by the Ethiopian national defence force. Another evidence is that most of the armed forces involved in the war were regional militia and special forces. So, where is the defence force to defend the country when the government was not even able to stop TDF (domestic war), it failed in reality and lives deceitfully. Recently, the director of the anti-explosive department was captured red-handed at a meeting with 26 plotting a conspiracy. This department is responsible for every move of the prime minister even checking the pen he should use during signatures. It is this department that gives instructions to the republican guard and even to the defence force if necessary. This phenomenon has extended the fragility of the armed forces including the defence force. A considerable number of them are joining anti-government armed forces. In general, the government armed forces have lost their capacity and professional independence.

These subtleties are signaling civil war in some places, ethnic violence or genocide, and predatory government and bureaucratic behaviour. This State failure comes in degrees and is often a function of both the collapse of state institutions and societal collapse.

To recap, the current Ethiopian government couldn’t provide core guarantees to its citizens and others under its jurisdiction in the four interrelated realms of freedom, security, economics, and politics. It cannot maintain a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence to minimize internal conflict. It cannot formulate or implement public policies to effectively build infrastructure and deliver services or effective and equitable economic policies. In addition, it cannot provide for the representation and political empowerment of its citizens or protect civil liberties and fundamental human rights. Thus, this state manifests that it can no longer deliver physical security, a productive economic environment, and a stable political system for its people. Thus, is a failed state.

No doubt that the current government can’t absorb this shock and maintain the state of Ethiopia as it is a systematic malevolent. The sad thing is not these perpetrators, but that the Western world remains indifferent or supporting such failed government. Recently we heard that the IMF is giving $ 4 million to the Ethiopian government. It looks like this is to boost corruption and become stakeholder of corruption.

Ethiopia suffers from crumbling infrastructure, uncertain utility supplies and educational and health facilities,. The government  creates an environment of flourishing corruption and negative growth rates, where honest economic activity cannot flourish. The safety and security of the citizens are jeopardized by the government that was supposed to ensure the safety of citizens.

The toll of lives lost in Ethiopia remains a distressing enigma, leaving many to wonder what it will take for the government, humanitarian organizations, and Ethiopian opposition groups to take decisive action in addressing the crisis. The public eagerly awaits their response. It's evident that the discourse on this matter is just the tip of the iceberg, and one can only hope that experts who are keenly following the crisis can provide deeper and more comprehensive insights to enlighten us further.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer, Gizaw Tasissa, PhD, and do not necessarily reflect the stance or views of Finfinne News Network (FNN).

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