Monday, June 13, 2005

Day 7 : Recent study confirms that there is life in Addis

Photo: confusion square at full confusion

Alternative Thursdays –Week 6 (June 9, 2005)

Revolutions per Beats

Dedicated to the people who lost their lives at the hands of the law

“they who wish to hurt you work with in the law”


In Ethiopian culture, regular music in times of sorrow is seen as a sacrilege to the desisted person/persons. For such times there is a special type of music called ‘musho’ and the person who is gifted in the art of musho is called ‘musho awraaje’. The purpose of a ‘musho awraaje’ is to come up with verses about the late person to evoke sad emotions form people who are attending the mourning. Unfortunately, traditional musho hasn’t made it to the recording industry yet, if it had, this week’s revolutions per beats would have been a one hour musho session.

The decision to actually go on with his show came late afternoon. Not having the show will be a cowardly way out and to actually speak my mind during the show in the fortressed FM studio will leave me at the mercy of the federal police.

Solution: skip the dialogues and let the music speak. So I put together a ‘Ferenji musho’ in a CD and while there is still light outside I dropped it of at the studio to the technician in charge.

The show went through. The fact it went through with out any interruption makes me doubt the message got through. For me it was my two-cents for what was happening.

“we're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine
and the machine is bleeding to death”

Dead Flag Blues, GYBE

The entire monologue from the opening song can be found here


  1. Godspeed You Black Emperor (GYBE) – the dead flag blues
  2. Morrissey – the world is full of crashing bores
  3. Pink Floyd – comfortably numb
  4. Buffalo Springfield – for what it’s worth
  5. Ben Harper – Welcome to the cruel world
  6. U2 – ONE
  7. Bob Dylan – masters of war
  8. Fela Kuti – sorrow, tears and blood
  9. Marvin Gaye – what’s going on????

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Day 5, 6, & 7: A farewell to SMS/ Finfine Rocking Fun Zone

Pardon for the lack of daily updates I had gotten you use to. I was out of town on one of the days and the rest I was drinking my self silly to come in to terms with reality. my trip to Debre Zeit town on Friday can be summarized in the words of Radiohead “every thing is in its right place”. D/Zeit ain’t feeling the heat from Addis yet!

Text messaging (SMS) was introduced to the ethio-mobile community back in January. It didn’t take very long for users to adapt to the new technology and start utilizing it for means other than dirty jokes and pranks. One of the most efficient ways the CUD campaigned (see Texting for Votes) was using text messages that required the receiver to send it to at least five other people for the love of your country. After the elections, the amount of txt-msgs had dropped, until this past Monday when university students started being rounded up. Considering the mobile network was at full throttle that day, plus heaven knows what mischief being pulled at ETC, my communication was limited to txt’ing. As the week went on, the network problem worsened to blanking out at certain times of the day. In the meantime the txt-msging turned from informative to uplifting; most texts had a message to pass around on how we can have a subtle resistance to the EPRDF regime. Some notable texts include:

“IYARICO IYARICO, show your anger to the weyane regime by whistling at 3:00pm eth time. pass this message to 2 ppl if you love your ethiopia”, which actually took place on Thursday evening, the screams were heard from piazza, mercato, lideta to 22-mazoria.

“wear black on Friday and Saturday to pay your respects to the 26ppl massacred by the weyanes. pass this msg to 5ppl if you.....” I saw the usual amount of people dressed in black on the street but not enuf to say the msg had actually gotten through. As for myself, I wore a black rock-t (and you will know us by the trail of the dead), this time in reference to the federal police and the army. I even attempted to have a picture taken with members of the federal police, with me wearing my rock-t and them holding their toys, but they refused. Sure would have been “cool”.

Addis readers can add more of the txt-msgs in the comment section; these are the two I recall. anyhu, on Thursday I got a message to delete all the political txt-msgs from my cell phone because the police were doing random checks on the street, which actually sounded like BS but I still did because I was running out of space anyway. After that day I haven’t received nor been able to send a txt-msg. Looks like our generous leaders found out about the role txt’ing was playing in keeping the people connected. It was fun while it lasted.

In other munificent news, the federal government has agreed to put Addis Ababa under the administration of the Oromia region. OK! I have no problem with the city being in any killil (Region) as long as it’s peaceful but the fact this move came in the middle of this turmoil makes me wonder if these people (the EPRDF) aren’t clinically crazy. Oromia region, which refers to Addis as Finfine, has raised the custody question before but were told that Addis is neither a killil capital nor a country capital - it’s a capital for Africans and hence have managed to keep her status as so. Because of this, plus other historical reasons, the home for the African Union (AU) headquarters has been kept in Addis despite Libya’s lobby to have it moved.

This could be interpreted in two ways. One is the EPRDF’s obvious attempt to buy the Oromo people’s votes in the re-elections. The second explanation is another check-mate move in their attempt to drive the country into ethnic cleansing, which they have been forecasting for a while. Either way, (pardon me if I sound like a ‘Neftenya’) this is the most absurd idea. Addis belongs to no one; Addis is a melting pot for all ethnicities and nationalities - that’s why I love Addis, that’s why we all love Addis and we always will! Addis Ababa Rocking Fun Zone will have to change his name to ‘Finfine rocking fun zone’ and that just doesn’t sound fun!

Remember the pardon our generous mayor, Arkebe Equbay, passed out to taxi drivers with fines on the eve of the election. Well, looks like the EPRDF have been holding a grudge since their generosity didn’t buy them the votes they were anticipating. On Friday, the city reneged and revoked the licenses of hundreds of taxi drivers. Since we are on the subject of taxis, the city is seeing more and more blue-devils everyday. I will wait for Monday morning to say for sure if the strike appears to be over.

The happening of the past three days give a new meaning to the outdated term ‘Indian giver’, one who gives and takes as he/she pleases. Shouldn’t it be more like a ‘weyane giver’?

p.s. for the person who asked how the show went on Thursday, let just say it went good for now, more bloggin to come on that.

p.p.s. I sure would like to believe the emperor came in second. thanks for ruining the fun ;)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Day 4: sorrow, tears, and blood

Mr. Morton: Was it necessary you kill all of them, I only told you to scare them!

Frank: People scare better when they’re dyin’

(1968, once upon a time in the west)

At least twenty two unarmed protesters lost their lives yesterday when they clashed with machine gun wielding army, an army from hell that’s brought to keep the peace of the city as if the brutal federal police aren’t enuf. Well, just like frank, our prime minister has come out to be a brute. Since he is in command of the security forces, his orders were to shoot first and ask questions later. He didn’t want the protesters scared off by shooting in the air or using tear gas and water canons. So much for the most progressive leader in Africa.

No big news today, after yesterdays massacre the city is in relative calmness today but there is still tension in the air. The roads are still devoid of the blue devils that wreck havoc in regular times , the taxi union said they have nothing to do with the strike but the government has threatened to “put the out of use for ever” if they don’t return. Even if it’s not in the regular pace you still see activity in the city which is probably going to decrease as the day goes by, no protests have been reported so far but the stoning of busses has continued. The majority of the stores are closed, some opened only to sell their perishables. Businesses are doing what they were doing yesterday. The selfish ones who were lined up at the restaurant on bole road are still lined up today during lunch hours. All the banks are open. The bank owned by the EPRDF, Wegagen Bank has frozen regular cash transactions. CUD officials have been put under house arrest.

Alternative Thursdays (aka: Revolutions per Beats) is still scheduled to be on air tonight but this time I am actually scared. Scared of being part of the rotten state media that’s airing false propaganda and happy times music as if things are normal. I am scared of what I have on my hands, which is something most of the concerned citizens do not have, I have the power to say what I want to say to thousands of people before they cut me out followed by heaven knows what….

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

To Strike or Not To Strike: The Saga of Organized Protest in Ethiopia

The spirit of organized protests has dwindled since the time of the Derg. This fact although it’s real as day and night, needs to be further looked in to as to why. The last organized movement that started with students and went to topple a regime happened in the early 70s. His majesty at the time underestimated the power of students and relied upon his army, which led to the demise of the monarchy. The brutality of the days that followed the revolution, the white terror and the red terror, have made the people unresponsive to any kind of unjust government actions. The very students who led the revolution divided in to two groups and hunted down each other, street of Addis were littered with bodies of the young. Those who survived the day reminisce it as ‘abyot lijo’chuan beLach’ (the revolution ate her own children) and such trauma has left them incapable of voicing their concern.

Leaving aside Mengistu’s iron fist rule, ever since EPRDF came in to power waving democracy to the people, protests have been attempted but none materialize due immediate use of force and lack of uniformity in the public. Here are some highlights of the democratic journey:

Bank workers went on strike after the government suspended their union (correct me if I am wrong). The next day the government ordered the workers to return to their regular jobs or they will be replaced. Like they said, the once that refuse to give up got replaced by new ones who took advantage of the situation and submitted their application at the right time. Guaranteed the government would have accepted a baboon with the right credentials just to spite the protesters.

The second major one is the general business strike called in the light of a very unfair increase on rent. As usual the government ordered the businesses to open or lose their establishment and their license. again, many complied with the order while the once who stood by their demand got thrown out on the street and their places of business were given to advantage takers.

When we get to taxies, they have been a victim of several price increases on fuel that did not consider their buying power. Basically, when ever the taxi union contemplates a strike our good old government starts eyeing their taxi license.

By far the bloodiest one in Addis since the 74 revolution has been the AAU university walk-out demanding the return of their representatives who got sacked and replaced by cadres of the ruling party, including the current AAU president, Prof. Endrias Eshete, who I hope there is hell just so that he burns for eternity. On that day, piazza was a war zone; looting and ransacking took place, police opened fire on protesters. At least thirty people died and hundreds of students were taken to a detaining camp where they spent the next month being put through heaven knows what horrible things. After the dust cleared, students were allowed to return if, and only if, they signed some sort of accord drafted by some knucklehead stating that the students are liable for what happened and they will not do such things from now on.

Other peaceful protests have been staged in other parts of the country that our democratic government managed to crush. You can add the ones I left out in the comment section I just highlighted that ones that came to my mind in no chronological order. The common reoccurring themes you see here are that none of these groups got what they wanted or even got a democratic response, within the groups them selves, not every one was fully committed to their common demand and last but not least the public outside these groups did not react to these atrocities what so ever besides sucking their lips in awe or took advantage of the situation.

The economy plays a major role in the lack of a committed protest. In a nut shell, a strike means there is no flow of goods and services, which are means of generating income for most. The life style for most Ethiopians is hand to mouth, which can’t rily leave them with enuf to eat for the next day to participate in an extended strike. No wonder Africans or people in the third world resort to picking up arms, at least guns generate income. Well, if you are in Addis right now, you will be disgusted by the dichotomy that looms over the city. The people in mercato and piazza (the have-nots) are out on the streets for a common cause: release the kids you rounded up and give us back our democratic rights to voice our concerns on how this sham of an election is going. Why in the fuck are people in bole (the haves) lined up in restaurants like nothing is happening. The least they can do is stay at their home where no one would see them incase their sphincter loses control when things get out of hand in their fancyshmancy neighborhood. the city should have come to a stand still, remember everyone in the city believes in this change, and sometimes change needs sacrifices beyond shoving a piece of paper in to a ballot box.

You shouldn't wonder why EPRDF underestimates the power of the people. This is exactly what they have prepared for. “Sure protests will be staged, not everyone will participate so we will kill what we have to kill and show them who the boss is. Western media will give it a brief attention and go back to other current important issues like MJs never-ending trial and their knocked up pop queen. In the mean while, things will go back to “normal” over here and then we blame the whole thing on the opposition and throw them in jail. voila! It’s another five years for us.” the question is how long will it go on like this?

I won’t finish this with out saying something about the police and the army, who have no sense of sympathy and belonging-ship. The only belonging-ship these drones have is to who ever is sitting on the big chair holding a piece of meat telling them what’s right and wrong. How can they justify the beating and killing of unarmed civilians, their own flesh and blood, because orders are given from above? Remember the largest army in Africa Mengistu put together? it got thrown out on the street in 1991to beg for pocket changes and the people didn’t ignore their plight. Regimes come and regimes go but the people will still be the people.

Day 3: when the fedrals come crashing in

taxies went on strike as of today, no body knows how long their strike will last considering they buckled down to government orders when they went on strike some years back protesting the price increase on fuel. Still no uniformity in the public, eventho there are hardly any taxis on the streets, the city was more bustling that ever this morning. pavements were overflowing with pedestrians on the way to work. yesterday most governmental organizations passed a memorandum to their employees that they should be at work at their regular time or face the consequence. it’s hard to tell what’s happening with private businesses, most of them are continuing with business as usual behind their closed doors.

Still nothing happening where I am but clashes between the public and the police is intensifying uptown (piazza & mercato). People have put up more road blocks and taxies and buses that did not cooperate to the strike are being stoned and burnet. the federal police and the army is going house to house, crashing doors, arresting mostly citizens the PM Meles termed as ‘adegenga bozene’ (dangerous hooligans), who are basically young people in their late teens and twenties who do not have a job. There is a report a couple of people have been shot by the police around Abinet, which is not far from where I am right now.

Yesterday universities and colleges across the country walked out demanding the release of the release of their counterparts in Addis. The news we are getting from there is varied, the only thing we know of for sure is the heavy army presence in cities and towns were there are higher educational institutions.

At this very moment, the city has become deserted. The rains have started, probably the gods way of stopping the violence but the rains are not going to continue forever.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Day 2:when the fedrals come marchin in

I highly doubt if I need to start telling the story all over again on top of what’s all over the news including the famous picture of a kid being pounded with a rifle butt by the infamous federal police. The western media finally got what they were hankering for; those savage Africans are at it again.

The federal police reported they only arrested 370 students the numbers however have been tampered for damage control. I say that’s when they lost count, if they can count. Eye witnesses said they saw nine truck loads leaving the AAU compound on the first raid. Give me an f’in break! Nine trucks for 370 students for a brutal raid would be considered a first class transportation to the detaining camp. nobody knows the real figures, not even the police.

While the convoy of trucks was on its way to a detaining camp on the outskirt of the city, students of the Kotebe Teachers Collage (KTC) and area residents put up road blocks with everything they could get their hands on. The clash didn’t last long, they were no match for the heavily armed federal police, once again the police struck with brutality killing one girl and injuring several others. Once more they justified the arrest of 150 students from KTC. still no one knows the real figures.

Today on the news state media reported students clashed with police for reasons not disclosed. they continued to accuse the students of destroying government property which was a truck with no plates, hmmmm…strange I wonder who this truck belongs to…its 4WD…it’s got a machinegun mount on it….wait it’s painted camouflage. I seeeee, it belongs to the ministry of agriculture. On further accusations, they said the roadblocks put by the students caused traffic inconveniences, some parents complained they couldn’t get their kids home from school on time. What about the inconvenience caused by that stupid candle light vigil they held to protest the peaceful opposition protest held over the weekend. I stand here as a witness for the amount of distressed mothers calling the FM station for the whereabouts of their children at 9:00pm. No one mentioned that.

The government takes us for fools but I see where they are coming from. this morning everything was back to relatively normal conditions, buses and taxis were running as usual, if not all some stores are open, 8-5ers were on their usual daily routine. How can they not take us for fools? Does this look like a city where the opposition won 100% of the seats?

Tomorrow would have been the day the final election results are released. This date how ever as been postponed by another month for July 8th. The National Election Board (NEBE) sought the extension to “clarify” the issues in the disputed constituencies.

What a way to start the extra month of anticipation by an intimidation campaign focused on students thoughtful enuf to realize that time is the ultimate way to stonewash the peoples mindset, students who have always taken the burden for the people. And what a way for the public to pay back the students who stood for rights of everyone.

more stories are unfolding as you read this.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Day 1: breaking rant

While I am sitting here typing away this blog at the safety of my office on stolen work time, I just heard AAU students are surrounded by scores of solders for unknown reason. form the various reports I get on my cell phone, the chaos seems to have started there in the middle of the night and moved on to piazza and mercato, the two most populated urban locations in Addis. As I am expecting the next client to walk in at any second, stores in mercato that closed fearing a riot are being forced to open by the federal police. This should be the point when you start to wonder where I am. Still in Addis, Five kilometers from the epicenter (AAU). Despite my proximity everything looks awfully normal where I am and this is all the information I have. The radio didn’t mention anything during the midday news. surprised?

May the force be with us. I will keep you posted

Alternative Thursdays - Week 5 (June 2, 2005)

Revolutions per Beats

Notice I left out the “Part” bit, that’s how it’s going to be from now on ‘cause the revolution is never ending.

When ever I am out seeking service, be it governmental or private, I get this transient but reoccurring thought in my head whether the majority the Ethiopians are ready for real change or just along for the ride. You can see the absence of patience from the restless drivers who long to hear their horn blare to the guy you cuts you in a queue just because he is convinced his matter is more important than yours and then denies you the apology or the gratitude you deserve for letting him go with his unethical deed. Then you have the guards who make you confess your life story before letting you pass to the person you find on a swivel chair who think you are there because you have nothing better to do. Wait! Just when you think you got your idea on two legs, someone will blatantly steal your ground work just because he can’t be bothered to come up with a fresh idea. You see the absence of caring and courtesy in all of them, something that we Ethiopians claim to have in ample amounts. What’s worse is, most, if not all of this people have gone out to exercise their “Democratic Rights” on May 7, 2005. When I started my political rants, I aforementioned change is not something that should be left for the politicians, rather it is up to the individual. Are individual changes we expect to come from the elections?

Individual thinking is the root of radial change, its’ the common dreams we germinate inside us that grow up to link us all. It’s then that we can work on bigger ideas like voting for the “right” person. At the moment, the only common goal we seem to have is ousting EPRDF. Then what? Life will go on the same way until the day we realize nothing has changed then demand for yet another change of regime, completing another stagnant march.

In Ethiopia we have a saying for such situations, “tatbo chika” (muddy regardless of washing), still everyone seems to want new cloth, what is the use of wearing new cloth with out completely rinsing your self.

Play list

  1. The postal service – this place is a prison
  2. Granddaddy – revolution (beetles cover)
  3. U2 – I still haven’t found what I am looking for
  4. Dave Mathews Band – Typical situation
  5. Rolling Stones – Time is on my side
  6. Mohamud Ahmed – Gize’ Degu Neger
  7. Funkadelic – One nation under a groove
  8. Bob Marley and the wailers – small axe
  9. Fugges – Ready or Not
  10. Michael Jackson – man in the mirror

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Alternative Thursdays - Week 4 (May 26, 2005)

Revolutions per Beats: Part 3

I should have mentioned Teddy Afro earlier as he is the very “NOW” thing in Addis but waiting has also got me to digest his new album. Teddy Afro has been an Ethiopian musical sensation for some 6years. My first acquaintance came in a period when I started to get aggravated by the excessive use keyboards in Ethiopian music. It didn’t take me very long to yank his first album Abugida from the CD player throw it in to the condemned pile. I have a very damn good reason for that.

After I moved back, I heard the song “Tarik Tesera” (history is made) he wrote for his sensational match up, Kenenisa Bekele; a 21 year old athlete, and what an athlete, who is expected to replace our one and only Haile Gebresilase. Despite the use of the keyboards, it is a very good song; very timely considering it was right after our two gems, Kenenisa and Haile, came in first and second at the Athens Olympics 10000m, where Kenenisa came spearheading the Ethiopian flood. The story is, Teddy wrote the song right after watching the race while he was still intoxicated with the triumph so he captured his and every other Ethiopian feeling in his lyrics. The music video is a real tear jerker when you see the part where Kenenisa overtakes Haile but refuses to leave him to far behind but Haile gives him the ‘go get them’ nod (sniff sniff). “Tarik Tesera” was a transition point for teddy, since then I can say his music has been conscious of happenings including the one he wrote for bob Marley also in time for the 60th birthday celebrations. Who would forget the cheesy yet catchy line “Rita Marley, bring the body”.

His recent album is called ‘Yasteseryal’, which translates to “it heals” in reference to the divine, is by far the most socio-politically loaded album to come out in recent years. I didn’t pay much attention when it first came out until I went in the studio for my 3rd week Alternative Thursdays and got a barage of requests to play “Teddy’s new album”. Very irritating at the time nonetheless got me curious. So I got the album, I subdued my hatred for tacky keyboards arrangements, and clicked play.

It is exactly for moments like this why I love to music, to know there is someone somewhere who feels the same way, someone who has been creative with our mutual feelings. The title song ‘Jah yasteseryal’, is not just Teddy’s and my feeling. I need no more explanation for the excessive “teddy’s new album” requests for the song is the feeling of every Ethiopian who is fade up with the misery train we are aboard, fade up of being passengers with no idea of destination, fade up with always expecting change to come from the train conductors. It’s time we take the wheels but prepare our selves for the tracks ahead for The tracks ahead need awareness and patience and positivism and vision. The tracks we’ve left behind should be a lessons and not legend we live of off.

yasteseryal exhaled my expectations in every way. The synthesized sound use although present, the level of detail and songwriter-ship makes it tolerable. Some times the use of cheesy sound clips give the album a comical relief from the deep national trance it puts you in to.

So when I went in to the studio and found out teddy afro is banned from the airwaves, I wasn’t too surprised. In fact I had prepared a substitute song to play anticipating this cheep, oppressive, narrow minded move fearing the enlightenment of the people. As Pink Floyd said “The show must go on” so the show went on with a huge regret not to have included teddy in Revolutions per Beats WHILE I COULD HAVE! i am sorry everyone.

Play list:

  1. Leonard Cohen – Democracy
  2. Catpower – Free
  3. Controller Controller – History
  4. Johnny Cash – Man in Black
  5. The Specials – a message to you Rudy
  6. The Tragically Hip – Natical Disaster
  7. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Rise or Fall
  8. Modest Mouse – Float on
  9. Teddy Afro – Jah Yasteseryal Tom Waits – Starving in the belly of the Whale
  10. King Tubby and Soul Syndicate – Leaving Babylon dub
  11. Dub Pistols – World Gone Crazy
  12. Dj Shadow – War is Hell