Revitalizing crippled institutions with proven leaders!
Most government institutions in Ethiopia are the epitome of purposelessness. Although the powers and duties they are vested with are set out in their establishment legislation, the performance of the vast majority leaves a lot to be desired. As the leaders at their helm, who were appointed for purely political considerations, are by and large unfit for office on account of the fact that they lack the requisite capacity and moral character the institutions have virtually become crippled. Rampant nepotism has demoralized honest employees and compelled seasoned professionals to quit rendering government agencies the personal fiefdoms of incompetent persons. If the government bureaucracy is not transformed immediately in a manner which enables it to carry out its mission effectively, it is bound to collapse in on itself. Needless to say the business-as-usual approach cannot succeed in transforming the institutions. Only a systemic change underpinned by merit will do.
In the past few weeks a slew of new faces have been put in charge of different state institutions. The installation to positions of responsibility of individuals on the basis of their educational qualification, experience and integrity is a welcome beginning. Nevertheless it is prudent to separate the wheat from the chaff when undertaking a fundamental reconstruction of decayed institutions. This is instrumental in ensuring that the exercise brings about the desired change and is not hijacked by devious types. Efforts to address problems that had for ages prevented institutions from providing the services expected of them need to give greater importance to meritocracy than ethnicity, religious belief or gender. Doing so goes a long way towards putting legal frameworks, conditions of work, human resource deployment, transparency and accountability front and center. It also contributes significantly to the proper management and modernization of institutions.
Strengthening government institutions is a critically important task in terms of, among others, upholding the rule of law, delivering good governance, protecting the basic liberties of citizens, ensuring the prevalence of social justice, realizing the equitable sharing of national resources, combating corruption and lawlessness. It’s when the tarnished reputation of institutions is repaired the pubic and the government may be rebuild trust and take the nation building process forward. The success of this endeavor depends on the credibility of the individuals appointed to public office in the eyes of the people. This calls for a recruitment of capable, upstanding and experienced Ethiopians from all walks of life. There’s no use for spineless persons that ascend the ladders of power primarily due to ethnic, gender, religious or other factors. If political appointees demonstrate rectitude and self-confidence in deeds the institutions they lead will display similar character as well. Those headed by hypocrites and sycophants though are destined to crumble.
With the exception of the Federal Auditor General, whose credibility is relatively better thanks in no small part to its hard-hitting reports, the public has practically lost all trust in and considers irrelevant such other institutions of democracy as the National Electoral Board, the Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman. To make matters worse untold damage has been caused by the enfeebling of the justice system into a rubber stamp for the executive branch of the government. The inability of the courts to be held in the high regard they rightfully ought to have enjoyed as well as the blatant violation of the human dignity of citizens by the police, security forces and prisons have all precipitated the eruption of public resentment which has been simmering for decades. The capturing of other state machineries by organized plunderers has exacerbated the suffering of the country and its people. One of the top priorities of the current administration should be to purge these elements from all government structures and replace them with capable leaders imbued with a sense of public service. Otherwise, it will be impossible for democratic institutions to discharge effectively the solemn responsibilities entrusted to them.
A cursory examination of the unhealthy political environment in Ethiopia clearly points to the deeply flawed nature of its institutions. The most prominent of the flaws characterizing Ethiopian politics for some time now is the blurring of the line between state and party to an extent that has allowed a cabal of powerful individuals to subvert the rule of law. Such lack of distinction between the government and the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has meant that the law been misused as an instrument to attack rather than protect the weak and the defenseless. The EPRDF’s apparent interest in erasing the distinction between the state and party is attributable to the desire to control every aspect of life and do whatever it wants with impunity. That is why it was bent on transforming institutions of democracy, the security apparatus, opposition parties, civil society organizations and the like into pliant tools that d its bidding. The days when “untouchable” cadres abuse state institutions without consequence must come to an end if the latter are to be liberated and serve the public to the best of their ability.
No system has hopes of thriving if it is reliant on certain individuals or groups. It has to be anchored in institutions if it is to be self-sustaining and durable. This requires the creation of institutions that abide by the rule of law. Obviously, these institutions need to be staffed with a leadership and employees who not only love their people and fellow countrymen, but also are committed to carrying out the duties assigned to them with a sense of responsibility. Then transparency and accountability will become hallmarks of the conduct of government affairs; Ethiopians will come to duly appreciate both their rights and obligations; corruption and maladministration will be shunned; it will be enough to be an Ethiopian to serve one’s country; ethnic, religious, ideological and other differences will no longer be sources of friction or deadly conflicts; and each and every Ethiopian will be prepared to give their time, money and energy to the nation’s cause. All this cannot be achieved without putting in place a system of checks and balances. There is no point talking about nation building in the absence of strong institutions. Let’s revitalize crippled institutions with proven leaders!