Corruption is a threat to human rights in that it erodes accountability and results in impunity. Given the interdependence of human rights, the impact of corruption on the whole spectrum of human rights; economic social and cultural rights as well as that of the civil and political rights is significant. It fundamentally distorts the machineries necessary for the realization of human rights namely good governance and rule of law.
Corruption undermines a government’s ability to deliver goods and services. It results in discriminations in the use and enjoyment of human rights. It further undermines the ability of individuals to access justice and corrode their role as active participants in decisions that affect them within the public service. Corruption has a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups such as women, children and the poor as it decreases funds available for the provision of basic services like education, health and social services that these groups are mostly dependent on.
When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice beneath new generations. – Solzhenitsyn
It is in the wake of the Public Protector’s findings regarding an upgrade to the President Zuma’s private residence in Nkandla that, the importance and our tolerance for Chapter 9 institutions comes to the fore. Having presented her findings to the public, the Public Protector was hailed by some as a heroin to a South Africa that is ridden with corruption, whilst some questioned her credibility and the integrity of her office. It is submitted that these debates are ordinary in a vibrate democracy like South Africa’s and should be welcome. However, what should not be welcome are unsubstantiated remarks aimed at undermining the office of the Public Protector, or any of the other Chapter 9 institutions, namely, the South African Human Rights Commission; the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities; Commission for Gender Equality; the Auditor General; and Electoral Commission. These institutions, as provided for in section 181 of the Constitution, form a cornerstone to the sustenance of democracy and are important for the full realisation of other democratic principles such as accountability, respect for the rule of law and human rights.
It is often heard (from all concerned) that corruption levels in Africa and particularly in Ethiopia are of concern. Corruption is not only a violation of law and order, but a massive cause for the exacerbation of poverty already entrenched in the society. It frustrates any genuine effort exerted towards societal and economic development both by the government and the people. The ill sides of corruption are not to be undermined nor should efforts to fight it be played up as a political game just to prolong the life of a specific regime posing as the “good guy”. The fight against corruption must not be a tactical step for public attention and a ploy to win the sympathy of people. The fight against corruption by all Ethiopian stakeholders should investigate the root causes of corruption to address the problem sustainably for the following reasons: Ethiopia is cultivating tens and thousands of graduates from universities and technical colleges every year and the lack of jobs is becoming a serious concern.
According to a report by Global Financial Integrity, Ethiopia lost close to $12 billion since 2000 to illicit financial outflows. This is simply disaster in the making. The government must be serious in its fight against corruption because the government’s credibility and whatever level of legitimacy it might have been commanding is put to question. Therefore, in the government cadres’ language, “fighting corruption ought to be a survival issue”.
Every time I hear of anti-corruption efforts in my country, my pain is immense and is summed up by a phrase in the Amharic language “sedo masaded”, roughly translated as “trying to arrest after cutting lose”; the question is why “cut lose”? Why not fix the fence? Why not shut the door to thieves and the corrupt? The question for all of us is how to secure the house. The solution lies in “institutionalising the rule of law”; subsequently, if anyone subverts the system, all due processes of the law must ensue and no one should be considered or consider themselves above the law.