Ethiopian bloggers take on the USA

It was almost as if everyone had got together and agreed to start working on a common theme.

Ethiopia's bloggers turned to the United States of America en masse over the past two weeks and examined its relationship with their home country from all angles.

It was no surprise that Ethiopia's diaspora bloggers – most of them actually based in the States – decided to focus on the political relationship.

Redeem Ethiopia led the charge with a diatribe that started with Uncle Sam's troubled history in the Horn of Africa and ended with what s/he saw as the country's misguided support for the current regime in Ethio – US Relations: Going Anywhere?:

Ethiopia remains the sole sizable country in the horn that has friendly relations with the US. Unfortunately, the US administration seems to think that this friendly relationship with Ethiopia can continue only so long as Meles [Zenawi – Ethiopia's prime minister] remains in power.

Ersasu of Carpe Diem Ethiopia focused on a letter from one of Ethiopia's imprisoned opposition politicians to the US Ambassador in Addis Ababa in Bertukan Mideksa: Let Freedom Ring. In doing so he found at least a couple of historical US figures to admire:

Every now and then individuals unjustly incarcerated by their governments create documents that leave enduring words of freedom for generations to come. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail is one such document.

Birtukan Mideksa’s Second Letter from Kaliti [prison] addressed to U.S. Ambassador Vicki Huddleston is an enduring voice of freedom for all Ethiopians. An admirer of the great American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Bertukan Mideksa’s yearning for an Ethiopian government of checks and balances, an independent judiciary, and a free media are lessons in tempered advocacy befitting a former judge of the Ethiopian Federal High Court.

Weichegud ET Politics shared her correspondence with US/African affairs commentator Mike Clough who wrote an editorial in the LA Times urging the US “to break with Meles and recognize that the OLF , and more importantly the Oromo people, need to be considered part of the Ethiopian political equation”. [The OLF or the Oromo Liberation Front is an often-armed “Political organization established in 1973 to lead the struggle of the Oromo people against Ethiopian rule” according to its website.] Weichegud had earlier criticised the editorial, wondering at Westerners’ often mindless love affairs with dangerous ethnic-based “liberation fronts”. He wrote back and she responded in Me and Mike:

Mike, why not pressure the US to break with Meles and recognize an opposition which has most probably won the elections? That includes the Oromo people, by the way. I am still cloudy on why your piece was disproportional in its focus on the OLF. Why wouldn’t you bat for all Ethiopians who have been the bane of this government’s existence? Also, not all people of Oromo background support the OLF, as I am sure you know (ask my grandmother), just as all Tigrayans don’t support the TPLF etc. So, in the midst of an election gone awry, when innocent Ethiopians were being shot at, when leaders of the opposition party were being jailed, it was curious that you focused on why the US should be speaking to and recognizing the OLF and not all the voices of the Ethiopian people. Your “main intention” still puzzles me, but maybe I missed something.

I am as puzzled as you by the US’ role in Ethiopia, Mike. The US should withdraw its support from the Meles government because affiliating the US with a discredited government is bad for US interests. Haven’t we established that through history? The EPRDF is self destructing, and US credibility can’t go down with it. More and more Ethiopians are becoming disillusioned with US policy, and having 77 million more people hating America is bad for America, especially in a volatile region like the Horn of Africa.

Bloggers inside Ethiopia spent more time talking about the country's cultural ties with the States:

Coffeechillisun described what happens when the word gets around that someone in Ethiopia is about to fly stateside in Intercontinental Donkeys:

Once a whole load of relatives, friends, friends of friends and other random people had heard about her Ethiopian Airlines luggage limit they had piled on the charme and came groveling with requests: “And tiniTiye festal bicha- Adja le setwa lidge, MTS, SIGHHHH, aras ecko nat…” [Que frantic batting of teary eyelashes and dabbing with frayed bits of soft]. This tiny coy bit of Adja in a little “ye 10 santim festal” turned out to be a little bit more: 2kg of Adja, 1kg of Berbere, 0.5kg of whole MiTmiTa kariya, 2kg of Qibe and some DirQosh thrown in to make a complete meal in case the plane got delayed by 1 week somewhere…

Multiply this with the other solicitors for free food transfer and my friend had about one small traveling bag left for her own stuff- she also has a sister who's in childbed. I was there long enough to see the packing and re-packing of various items. Wow, the glory of junk!

Things We Should Have Written Down, written by a native of Chicago currently living in Addis, highlighted the differing challenges of intercontinental travel for Americans and Ethiopians in Two Visas:

An Ethiopian friend who was lucky enough (depending on your point of view) to get a diversity visa a few months back still had to get documentation from every facet of his life before being approved. High school and college diplomas, birth certificate, proof of address, proof of income (there are limits), proof of employment, etc. Once he had all 500 pieces of paper, he had to submit to several intensive interviews with officials at the American Embassy. He is now in Texas, working and adjusting to life as an American citizen. Very few of the thousands that enter this lottery are as fortunate.

Earlier in the week I had called the Kenya Embassy here in Addis to get a visa for an upcoming work trip. I spoke with a woman on the phone, who was abrupt and rude. That is, until she asked where I was from. I told her I was an American, she told me to come right in. My visa to Kenya was ready in one day.

Addis Ababa Rocking Fun Zone, written by an Alaskan in Addis, described the joys of fasting, contrasting it with the food intake back home in Fast Finished:

It's definitely recommended for all you out there in the blogosphere and beyond. Fasting is in such contrast to the culture I know. I don't remember it being mentioned or encouraged in the Protestant Church I grew up in. It definitely isn't part of American culture. I think given the strength of some of the food companies, fasting might actually be considered un-American. Very unfortunate. It's really a great way to reconnect with food and regain a little balance in your daily life.

Finally, no GlobalVoices Ethiopian roundup would be complete without welcoming yet another blogger to the fold. I was just thinking… promises regular helpings of “Ethiopian books,films , music and personal tales”.

The foreign cultural ties and heroes he has chosen to highlight so far are purely European. In A Trip To Dire Dawa … he described a trek organised by the French Embassy and sponsored by French TV company TV.5:

In the afternoon, we headed to Harar, which was a delightful surprise. On the road, the scenery was one of the most beautiful and the view was glorious. We took to visit Rimbaud’s house, where the famous French Symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud’s memory is kept. He is no Balzac but the French consider him as one of the most glamorous poet. It was said that Rimbaud spent the last ten years of his life as a trader and gunrunner along the north and East African coast.

1 comment

  • sali

    is there anybody that can tell about living in addis? how is the city? is it modern or not? how is cinemas? entertainment? shopping? medical care? internet access? etc.

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