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Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Ethiopia cracks down on corruption
Meles Zenawi
Some former allies of the prime minister were arrested
By Nita Bhalla in Addis Ababa

Eighteen senior Ethiopian government officials and prominent businessmen have been arrested in a major crackdown on corruption.


The Prime Minister... may just find those closest to him are stealing from right under his nose

Political analyst
Amongst those arrested in police raids on offices and homes are politicians who were once highly regarded and trusted by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

They are being accused of embezzling millions of dollars from state coffers.

The government has warned that this was "just the first step" in its war against corruption.

Top brass

Two of those arrested, Seye Abraha and Bitew Belay, were until recently senior members of the Tigray People's Liberation Front, the main party in the ruling coalition government.

Ethiopian soldier
One of those accused is said to have made money from the war with Eritrea
The two men and eight others were expelled from the party in March after challenging the prime minister's authority.

Sources say they opposed Mr Meles's attempts to address corruption in the country.

Seye Abraha was also board chairman for Ethiopian Airlines and was involved in the purchasing of arms for the Ministry of Defence during the two-and-a-half year border war with Eritrea.

Sources say that millions of dollars passed through his hands.

Family affair

Ato Seye's brothers, Assefa and Fiseha have also been arrested for the illicit transfer of public enterprises to individuals and enriching their family.

A government source said "too many people in the country were mysteriously gaining wealth overnight" and that this had to stop.

President of the ruling EPRDF government Dr Negasso Gidada said at the weekend that "corruption has riddled state enterprises to the core".

He added that the government would show "an iron fist against corruption and graft as the illicit practices had now become endemic".

But sources in Addis Ababa question how far the government will take this new zero tolerance stand.

"The Prime Minister will need to seriously consider how far he takes this, as he may just find those closest to him are stealing from right under his nose," said one source

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23 Nov 99 | Africa
Moi confronts corruption critics
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