ADDIS ABABA (Reuters)—Ethiopia’s attorney general said on Monday that a five-month long investigation into procurement processes at the huge military-run conglomerate Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC) has revealed vast corruption.
“For six years METEC made international procurements totaling $2 billion without any bidding processes,” Berhanu Tsegaye told a news conference after announcing the arrest of several dozen security officials.
In August the government ousted METEC from a $4 billion dam project on the River Nile due to numerous delays in completing the project.
Attorney general Berhanu Tsegaye accused senior members of the security services on Monday of ordering an attack on the new prime minister and announced a string of arrests and investigations that struck at the heart of the establishment.
Berhanu Tsegaye said evidence showed “the senior leadership of the national security agency” told members of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Oromo ethnic group to attack him at a rally in June – a jolting assertion in a diverse country recently rocked by ethnic clashes.
Under other investigations, Berhanu added, arrest warrants have been issued for 36 security agents accused of abusing prisoners, and for more than 30 officials from a military-run firm, where he said inquiries had uncovered mismanagement.
Reuters could not immediately contact the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), or the industrial conglomerate named by the attorney general – METEC.
The accusations against the security services and METEC – a key player in the state- and military-dominated economy – struck at what had been two pillars of power until Abiy came to office in April.
Abiy has since pushed through a series of radical reforms that have challenged the dominance of the security services and upended policies and hierarchies that have been in place since his ruling EPRDF coalition came to power in 1991.
He has pledged to open up state-held sectors to investors and acknowledged widespread police brutality that he likened to state terrorism. He has also made peace with neighboring Eritrea and announced pardons for previously outlawed Oromo rebels and other groups.
A grenade attack killed two people at a rally in Addis Ababa in June, soon after Abiy left the stage. Authorities arrested five people in September, saying they were members of the formerly exiled Oromo Liberation Front that Abiy had pardoned.
“The evidence we gathered shows that the senior leadership of the national security agency instructed Oromos to carry out the attack because it would mean that the prime minister – an Oromo – was killed by Oromos,” the attorney general told a press conference. “It would (also) give the impression that he is not endorsed by the Oromo population.”
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