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August 31, 2006

Ato G

Weichegud! ET Politics on 16 days stolen from Ato G. Read it here. They should hand out awards for this kind of writing.

Posted by aheavens at 3:43 PM

August 28, 2006

Reasons to be cheerful #1

DSC0071Here's another reason to be cheerful, to offset all the misery listed below. Bale Mountains National Park - what a place.

I've just spent four days with a film crew as they did a piece on the biggest distribution of malaria nets in Africa's history - more than 20 million will be handed out across the country over the next few years. It is the kind of scenery that it is impossible to catch on camera.

And I can't believe I have spent the past years moaning about the rainy season. It is clearly the best time of year to be in Ethiopia (as long as it doesn't flood). You get Old Testament-style thunderstorms; fresh, fresh air and greenery so intense it looks like it came off one of those Technicolor postcards from the 60s.

See more on Flickr.

Posted by aheavens at 3:13 PM

August 21, 2006

Emergencies

They are going to have to come up with a new definition for the word 'emergency'.

At the moment Princeton University's Wordnet says an emergency is "a sudden unforeseen crisis (usually involving danger) that requires immediate action".

But that is nowhere near strong enough to describe what is currently unfolding across Ethiopia. It is not so much a one-off, unpredictable thing that we are going through - more a constant series of mostly predictable things.

A few months ago, during the dry season, it was a drought. Now, during the rainy season, it is a devastating flood. In the background, there is the steady spread of deadly Acute Watery Diarrhea, now into Addis Ababa. Outside the headlines, Ethiopia is currently rolling out its largest ever distribution of insecticide-treated nets following warnings of a possible malaria epidemic. And don't forget the measles and the chronic child malnutrition.

Then The Economist reminds you:

To the south, in the Ogaden desert, [Meles Zenawi] has been fighting with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a rebel group that seeks autonomy for south-eastern Ethiopia. On August 11th Ethiopia reported having shot dead 13 ONLF fighters slipping across the desert from Somalia. Ethiopia's recent military incursion into Somalia in defence of the Transitional Government in Baidoa threatens imminent conflict there against Islamist militias based in the capital, Mogadishu.

On top of this comes the distinct possibility of a conflict with Ethiopia's arch-enemy Eritrea in the north, where perhaps as many as half of Eritrea's young men are massed under arms on its side of the disputed border.

Most of the time, you can put this all into some sort of perspective. Yes it is terrible - but don't forget the growing economy, the construction boom, all the other parts of the country that aren't going through a crisis at this precise moment, the great film industry, the flower exports, the athletes, the stunning scenery, Lalibela etc, etc, etc.

But when you come back from a month-long break and all this hits you in one day, you can start to feel a little overwhelmed.

Posted by aheavens at 5:15 PM

A tale of two books

Here's a round-up I just did for GlobalVoices about Ethiopian bloggers' reaction on the release of two publications - one by prime minister Meles Zenawi, the other by elected-then-imprisoned Addis mayor Dr Berhanu Nega.

Meles' report 'African Development: Dead Ends and New Beginnings' can be downloaded here [PDF of the first draft - English]. I'm looking forward to reading it over the next few days (seriously, no irony intended, it should be interesting, especially the idea of donors being 'rent-payers').

You will need to be an Amharic reader if you want to get into into Berhanu's book The Dawn of Freedom (PDF of the Introduction - Amharic). Is anyone out there translating it into English?

Fortune had a great piece of analysis of both books yesterday, headlined 'It was never this clear in Ethiopian politics'.

Up to now, it is amazing how little has been written about the actual policies of the main parties fighting it out on the streets and in parliament. Understandably, most of the media coverage and the political rhetoric has focused on the rallies, the clashes, the killings and the arrests. The unsigned Fortune article, however, says these new new publications are notable because they set out the a clear ideological divide at the heart of all the violence.

This is in reality a centre-left direction that Meles clearly wants to see the Revolutionary Democrats take the country to. This is similar to the social democratic parties in Europe who moderately accept market-driven allocations of resources with a significant public sector role within the thriving private sector. They favour state intervention in the economy in matters they believe pertain to public interest.

For anyone who reads Meles' paper, his enthusiasm for these ideals and his out-and-out suspicion of the private sector is evident.

Although he supports limited state interventions in the economy when only the private sector fails, Berhanu's well-articulated and coherent book represents the voices of the opposition camp... There is an element in Berhanu's book that advocates individualism - that is contrary to the collective rights of nationalities as strongly advicated by the Revolutionary Democrats - that takes his views to the centre-right...

If you ignore the fact that one of these voices is of a man in Kaliti prison - and if you forget June and November last year - this could almost be an excerpt from a debate in any left-to-right swinging parliament across the democratic world.

Posted by aheavens at 4:02 PM

I'm back

But, more importantly, so is the Sub-Saharan Informer. And so are Ethiopia's Blogspot blogs.

The Sub-Saharan Informer disappeared from the news stands two months ago after a series of tussles with the ministries of Information and Foreign Affairs. Read more about them here and here. On Friday, it returned with a strong front page and a four-column 'Letter of Explanation' inside. The letter hasn't made it to the website. So here's an excerpt:

SSI continued its regular work, meeting deadlines and fulfilling all requirements, and then on June 22 we heard from our printers that our publication had been banned from printing, just as we were ready to go to print with a new issue. What was particularly frustrating about this was that our printers were notified long before us, and we were given no prior warnings or updates in regards to the nature of the changes then or since.

We would like to thank those government authorities who were ready to listen to our grievances and stepped in to resolve the stand-off between us and the Ministry of Information.

The Blogspot blogs disappeared from the nation's computer screens a month earlier. The event sparked a flurry of accusations, claiming that the government had imposed a blockage - accusations that the government denied. Last week, the reports started coming through that they were back again. Here is Enset's report End of the blockade? and Ethio-Zagol's entry Blogs unblocked.

Now that I am back I can confirm that ethiopundit is currently open and legible in another window on this machine. The only thing is that it took an age to download (as did Weichegud! earlier on this evening). More likely a glitch than a sinister slowdown.

UPDATE: Having said that, the following websites still seem to be missing in action: www.cyberethiopia.com, ethiopianreview.homestead.com, www.tensae.net, www.ethioforum.org, www.cyberethiopia.com, www.quatero.net.

Posted by aheavens at 3:28 PM