Codes, Hypocrisy And Appeasement
The Reporter (Addis Ababa) March 15, 2000
Addis Ababa - It allows people to know and understand what is going on in those places where they have the right to know what is going on. It gives to the people what they need to make informed judgements. It thus empowers the people. This must be the greatest value in transparency.
A consultative meeting of NGOs, in which the draft code of conduct was to be discussed, was held more than two years ago at the ECA. The document discussed way back then was later endorsed by the member NGOs. "We shall be transparent and accountable in our dealings with the government and community partners, the public, donors and other interested parties. We shall use all available opportunities to inform the pubic about our work and about the origin and use of our resources," Article 4.1 of the Code now reads. What's more, "We shall promote harmony, collaboration, and team spirit within and outside the sector," says Article 7.2. One is led to believe that transparency is recognized as something valuable also among NGOs.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs recently conducted an investigation at "African Cradle," an NGO set up to facilitate the adoption of orphans. This had followed a tip given by sources that the children awaiting adoption were being sexually molested by some employees of the organization.
The Ministry soon afterwards presented its findings, according to which it concluded that the children were indeed being molested by the physician at the children's clinic of "African Cradle."
Having obtained a copy of this report, The Reporter attempted to contact the owner of the organization, Mrs. Amber Stime Kassa, who refused in unequivocal terms to respond to the allegations. The executive director of the organization was said to be on sick-leave and could not be reached for comment. Finally, Dr. Amanuel Gebre Kidan, the very person who was directly and personally accused in the Ministry's report, also refused to say anything.
The evil here lies not merely in the violation of the rule of transparency, not merely in the refusal of these individuals to adhere to the Code of Conduct for NGOs; the greatest evil lies in their refusal to be answerable to the public, the same public whom they incessantly profess to be serving, the same public in whose name they amass funds from donors. The allegations in MOLSA's report concern the well-being of orphans, the most vulnerable groups in our society, and if the officials/employees of African Cradle had any respect for our society, the least they could do was respond to those allegations.
It is for the public prosecutor to decide if MOLSA's findings constitute enough evidence to take the case to court, and it is for the courts to determine whether crimes of child molestation have indeed been committed at African Cradle. In the meantime, however, it is for the rest of us to conclude that the Code of Conduct for NGOs, far from being implemented by NGOs, is now a living evidence of the hypocrisy prevalent in the NGO community. And so far as the "Code Observance Committee," which was set up among NGOs by this same document, somehow manages to enforce this code, the document will only continue to be a "Code of Appeasement," intended to leash the government that reportedly has been cracking down on the NGO community.