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Visit to Ethiopia
1 Nov 2014
Three days prior to our flight to Addis Ababa, the US embassy in Ethiopia issued a terror alert about imminent possible attack on Addis by Somali based militants. Cancelling our trip because of that was out of the question. We have to get used to the fact that security and health threats have become an integral part of our modern day life. One has got to make a choice between letting fear to imprison you on one spot or taking the risk to travel regardless the threats,
We (I and my wife) arrived Bole International Airport in the evening of the 19th October after covering the 3200 kms from Douala to Addis in four hours and some minutes. We stayed at the residence of our host Col Adeck Moise and wife Beatrice.
The nights in Addis were pretty cold at this time of the year. The first thing that cannot escape any visitor’s notice is the extensive ongoing building projects, Ethiopia is in the midst of a building boom with tens of thousands of multi storey buildings sprouting all over the place. This is a country with limited resources that has been able to keep a lid on corruption and exploit the citizens’ sense of patriotism to forge ahead. Look, for example, at the country’s national airline. Ethiopian Airlines has a fleet of 80 aircrafts. Compare with Nigeria or Cameroon (two resource rich African countries). While Nigeria’s national carrier is nothing to write about, reports say there are at least 150 privately owned aircrafts in Nigeria used by the super rich. A few decades back, Cameroon Airlines used to compete with Ethiopian Airlines. Today, nobody mentions Cameroon as a serious player in Africa’s aviation industry. Ethiopia will soon complete the biggest hydro electric dam on the African continent financed by Ethiopians and constructed by Ethiopians.
I had the opportunity to visit museums and some tombs of past Ethiopian leaders to learn more about this African country that was never colonized and a country that emerged from devastating famine and war to become one of Africa’s unsung success stories. Addis Ababa is the undisputed capital of Africa. The imposing AU building in Addis (a gift from the Chinese government) is a testimony of Ethiopia’s central role in African diplomacy.
Addis Ababa (meaning New Flower) was named by Emperor Menelik II when it was founded in 1887. Ethiopia’s 225th and last emperor Haile Selaisie I ruled from 1930 to 1974 when he was overthrown by the military under the leadership of Mengistu Haile Mariam. History has been kinder to Haile Selaisie’s legacy than to Mengistu who is currently living in exile in Zimbabwe. The Red Terror Martyr’s museum is a private initiative to expose and condemn the Mengistu era repression of opponents of his Communist government. Many will never appreciate the other side of the Mengistu administration.
I had the opportunity to visit the tomb of Emperor Haile Selaisie I and wife within the Holy Trinity Cathedral of the Ethiopian Othodox church in Addis. The other relics from his rule like his bed and clothing are available in the various museums. Haile Selaisie I is considered Divine by the Rastafarian Movement with roots in Jamaica. The late Bob Marley immortalized the Emperor’s 1963 speech to the U.N. with his record titled ‘war’. (Audio link to record) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XHEPoMNP0I
We had the opportunity to drive 100 kms out of Addis Ababa along the Addis-Djibouti highway to see rural Ethiopia and the Great Rift Valley.
Ethiopians are interesting people. They are as simple as well as they are sophisticated. Others use donkeys as a means of transport while others use sleek cars. To get integrated into their community, you must learn to speak Amharic and also get used to eating injera.
Link to video demonstration on eating injera
Ethiopians are generally very patriotic to the extent that they forget that they are part of Africa. At the entrance to a museum, one Ethiopian asked us, “Are you from Africa?” I smiled because I had a similar experience in Mauritius (another African country some of whose citizens do not know they are Africans).
Njei Moses Timah