Saturday, January 28, 2006

Public Announcement #2

“Dir Biyabir Anbesa Yasir “

This just occurred to me.

Hitherto I have kept this blog personal; to keep my word I will keep it this way.

In the mean time, blogs like aqumada are flourishing with so much literary goodness and we need more and more like his.

I am starting a new blog called Revolutions Per Beat solely for the arts specifically music. It’s not actually new. When I registered RpB back in MAY 2005, it was meant to be a sister blog project for the radio show I was hosting back then. When I left Alternative Thursdays, I dropped the idea as a hole up to now.

Unlike, Satisfy my Ego, RpB is open to anyone who wants to contribute:

Reviews of CDs and Concerts (in
Ethiopia or abroad)
Any work related afro/Ethiopian music scene.

Anyone who is interested email me - mcminale at gmail dot com

In accordance I am posting ‘a tale of two festivals’ on the RpB.

ps. I will need some help with HTML

Friday, January 27, 2006

A tale of two festivals

Last week was marked by two festivals each with a different theme, both musically exhilarating and one marked by terror. Here is the story.

TIMKET (January 16 - 18)

Blood thicker than holywater?

Among the followers of Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Timket (Ephipany) is celebrated on January 17th to mark the baptism of Jesus Christ. Like Meskel, it is the most colorful holiday in the Ethiopian calendar but unlike Meskel it is lasts for three consecutive days making it more of a festival.

Day 1- Jan 16th , Ketera: All tabots leave their respective church to spend the night outdoors, most preferably near water. The tabots and the priests who carry them are draped with colorful fabrics and people escort their neighborhood church’s tabot to its designated spot. A mass is held in the evening and the church members and other orthodox Christian followers spend the night around the tabot singing spiritual songs.

Day 2 – Jan 17th, Timket: Early in the morning, prayers are held around the water. The water then gets blessed by a high priest who later sprinkles (hosing down is more common this days) the mass with the (now) holy water. The pool of holy water is opened to the public for a few hours of cleansing sins and splashing around. All tabots, except for Kidus Michael, start their gracefully-slow procession back to their churches. Each tabot is followed by their congregation dressed in white traditional outfit singing, chanting and dancing.

Day 3: Jan 18th, Kidus Michael (St. Mike) Day. The Kidus Michael tabots that stayed an extra night out return to their churches. The fact there are at least half a dozen Michael Churches in Addis make the day as crowded as the actual Timket day.

My favorite part of the Timket festival is the Music. The hymns of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church are a delight even for a non-believer who is musically inclined. The sullen voices of the priests together with intermittent Ka’chels and drum emanate a dreamy atmosphere impossible to resist. Other more upbeat church songs are also sung and chanted amongst the followers. One not related to the church but is a common musical accompaniment to the Festival is the Harmonica Dance. The dance involves an amateur harmonica player blowing repetitive rhythms while the others clap and dance in a circle.

There is more to this year’s festival. The fact people are agile and they have no other way to let out their angst makes occasions like this the perfect opportunity to speak out. Recall the Great Ethiopian run - the 10 kilometer inner city marathon turned to a non-EPRDF-Authorized peaceful protest. similarly, this year’s Timket had more musical additions; the words of the regular festive songs were changed to anti-operation songs that fiercely criticized the regime and it’s cadres. Clashes between the public and the police were reported throughout the three days resulting in loss of life and scores of injuries.

Meskel square has a nice coverage of the festival plus a photo set from heaven. Reports and reactions on the incidents can be found here, here and here.

to be cont……

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

How to diffuse a Grenade

I have seen every Rambo and Delta Force movies enuf times to get an idea of how hand grenades work but I definitely don’t know how to diffuse them. apparently the federal police can.

Ethiopian police report grenades defused in capital

The two grenades that exploded Monday night were said to have been thrown by “some one” in the middle of the night. Now, these grenades are being found in every corner like easter eggs.

This reminds me of a similar story on the new from a few months back. A gift package was sent to a manager of Ethiopian Telecommunication sub city Branch. The Manager who suspects the greasy cellphone-box he orders his guard to take the package to police. at the police station they the unwrap the package and find a pin with a ring hanging from the box. The police immediately call the bomb squad, the whole area gets cleared. the person in charge of defusing “the bomb” slowly approaches the box and pulls the ring. BOOM, he dies on the spot. This story is morally wrong on so many levels.

Addis readers learn more about grenades on wikipedia, it might come in "handy".

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Explosions in Addis

Two bombs went off in Addis last night. One bomb exploded near Teklehymanot Square (aka. somalterA) close to the commercial bank of Ethiopia. I am not exactly sure where the other one is. My sources also told me that no one was hurt by the explosions.

This doesn’t smell like doggie fart. Following the growing number of student protests and last week’s incidents at the Timket festival, EPRDF is hankering for some finger pointing.

Update and Correction: The location of the second bomb is now official. The mofos have bombed my old high school (they are still mofos). A grenade was thrown into Black Lion High School Hospital Student Dormatory in the night. Both incidents involve a grenade.

The Blacklion bombing most probably has to do with a general school strike planned for this week. I expect ENA and Walta to link the student walkouts to a panic caused by a grenade thrown in to a school compound in the middle of the night.

What’s EPRDF’s fixation with grenades anyway?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It’s alright to get caught buying back what you’ve lost

This is old news worth commiserating about.

German buys back stolen camera on eBay (Reuters, 29/12/2005)

I don’t know what is so special about buying back stolen belongings. I thought that’s what pawn shops and court houses are for??? If anything, the headline should have been more like “Local Crooks Now Use the World Wide Web”. Then again, ebay is just a modern day pawn shop.

There have been a few occasions where I had to buy back what was stolen from me and I didn’t have to visit ebay for it instead I paid a visit to SomaliTerA (R.E.T: somalian district), a shabby quarter right in the heart of Addis. Before the city administration went on a frenzy of leasing prime land to possible developers and kicking out the original settlers, somalitera use to be the place to go for stolen goods, mostly automotive parts. There were stores lining up both sides of Teklehaimanot Road catering to all your needs…Toyota specialist, headlight specialties, rare cars specialists….you name it. The rule of thumb with a car theft is any part can get stolen except for the sound. Parts like the parking lights and side mirrors are a piece of a cake of a job. Unattended valuables on the back seat, like digital cameras are a treat no one could resist. Given more time and cover, your wheels, dashboard and front seats are hot items.

To my knowledge, no one wants to be a victim of theft. There is even a huge business that revolves around making every external part of a car theft proof. I ain’t taking high-tech gadgets here. The process involves putting stucco on screw heads; welding pieces together, wire meshing, basically anything to make the thieves life hard. This days car alarms are becoming more common, the problem is the alarm it self is a target commodity. The fact is there is no such thing as 100% theft proof car. No mater how safe my car is and how vigilant I am there is that one day I succumb to my own clumsiness.

Why didn’t I go to the law? For a few reasons. The simplest are; it’s my own bloody fault and I have no confidence in the justice system - it doesn’t matter where in the world. Here in Addis, the police will right out tell you that it’s wiser to settle it with out their intervention. The not so simple one; this is a line of employment by it self, the people that sell the stuff are not necessarily the thieves; they merely buy it for cheap from those who steal and sell it back to the rightful owner or some one with a similar need for a marginal profit. This is just another struggle for survival in a poor country. Even if I manage to get the police to intervene, it will do nothing but ruin my trust-rating for no good outcome.

Nowadays, Somalitera is nothing but a fenced off barren land with a future of becoming a site for a private hospital (the worst kinds of crooks) but the essence still remains. If you slow down your car on Tekelhaimanot Road, chances are there will be some one knocking your window to ask what you are looking for. If indeed you are in search of your belonging then they ask you when and were it was stolen, if you are lucky they advise you right then “meRkebu Gebtwal” (R.E.T. the vessel with your goods has arrived) then continue to the last remaining crook-land in Addis, American GeBi (R.E.T. American land). How ironic. If the vessel is running late they take your number, nine out of ten times, you will get a call with in 24 hours.

Ethiopian crooks haven’t discovered ebay-terA yet. Just incase they do let’s all keep checking for ‘Freedom’. It was stolen from us a while ago and we have been looking for it in all the wrong places.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Dictator Voyeur

Care to guess whose?

I hope no one is interested in secretly watching the private parts of Meles or Musevini or Al Bashir or Mubarek. If you are, you are in wrong wrong blog. Try Walta.

In any case, most of us get so lost in our problems we forget to notice what else is happening around us. They say IT has made the world a small place but what good is ‘knowing’ if we don’t do something about it. Ignorance sure was bliss. When it comes to being there for those in need, our world is still a stark planet. I honestly don’t know how to go about helping folks in other countries besides deeping in to my pocket but that’s a whole post on it’s own.

Well, we all remember Rwanda. Dafrur has been a major hotspot since around end of 2004 but it seems that things are far from improving. If humanity wants to keep the human”kind” status then it’s now or never. Otherwise a few years down the line we will be weeping to ‘Hotel dafrur’ or another similar Hollywood dramatization of a disaster we chose to ignore at the time.

The most disgusting part of this is, in most of the situations, the removal of one or a handful of people can solve the problems. I may have made that statement sound too simple but the truth from my current experience, the menaces are smoothly sailing through their sea of dirty deeds.

These couple of websites I found lets us peep in to the dirty doings of dictators, wretched foreign policies and our ignorance to others.

This is a web site I have been dreaming about until I came across it. A website dedicated to dictators. HA!. Some of the dictators in the list are dead and the rest might as well be dead. We are not doing bad either, ethiopia has two delegates. but c’ome on…Hailesselasie and no Megistu? the later had his office built over the Hailesilasies grave after he had him strangled to death. Now that’s creepy. Mengistu currently lives happily in the mountains of Zimbabwe.

This one is a sort of ‘watch blog’ for countries with internal crisis. To access type ‘’ just fill in the blank with a country name. So far, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Congo, and Niger have been under watch. This ain’t a complete list but it gives an idea of our world as we don’t know her.

With web sites like these, it will be hard for downpressors like Al Bashir and Meles to find a welcoming neighbor (not even a flaming voyeur). When it’s time for them to go on exile, we will be singing along with Peter Tosh.

…..You can run but you can't hide
telling you all along that day….

Friday, January 06, 2006

Merry Gena

The Humvee Nazi

The moment we’ve all been waiting for is here my friends. America the mighty has struck the authoritarian EPRDF government with a punishment that is going to make direct aid cut “child’s play”. All hell has broken loose for the rulling party, the day has turned pitch dark in the quarters of Meles Zenawi. oh the humanity... where is the justice in this world

US Amb. Vicki Huddleston announced yesterday…oh…I don’t know how to put this… “the US would no longer sell US Humvee military vehicles to Ethiopia"

Thank you, you beacon of democracy, thank you thank you… denier of the Humvee.

In the mean time, the EPRDF central committee held an emergency meeting to discuss the looming catastrophe from the Humvee ban.

Top Ten EPRDF solutions to ‘No Humvee for you!’

10. Confiscate the four civilian Hummers in Addis Ababa

9. Returning diasporas (especially from the USA) can only bring in a Humvee to be eligible for our generous duty free privilege.

8. The Homer (my suggestion)

7. Elephants - they were good enuf for sharpshooters hunting Bengali tigers why can’t the Agazi snipers use them.

6. Al Qaeda (aka ISUZU) - what better way to spite the US than making a truck nicknamed after their arch nemesis the official truck of the Ethiopian army.

5. Who needs Humvees when we’ve got fertilizer?

4. A cart drawn by one horse, one ox, one donkey and one camel. How many horsepowers would that be? (Bereket ‘child’s play’ Simon suggested this one)

3. Wey-ye-yet – a close reminiscent of The Homer but actually exists

2. His Excellency Ato Yaregal Aysheshum - his name says it all (rough translation Mr. He-will-do-it He-won’t-back-out)

1. With all the democracy and development, we will be making Humvees in no time

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Tyranny doesn’t like Company

Back when I was a student, I worked for the university’s fancy catering company. Working at ‘the house’ as we dubbed it was my portal to the cream of the crop of Canada. From the famous David Suzuki to the infamous Mike Harris but one encounter with a famous canuck stands out the most. It was a banquet for law school graduates. The guest of honor for the lawyer infested (sorry wonk;) event was the future prime minister of Canada Paul Martin. For me coming from Ethiopia where we are use to behemoth leaders who fear their own shadow, it was a big deal to be in the same room as future PM Paul Martin. Besides a couple of RCMP officers who were busy chasing hor'dourves, the security was non-existent. PM Paul was going around mingling with every one, munching on every thing passing his way. It was an honor to serve those salmon rolls to PM Paul. that was until he gave me a rather powerful tug looking for more. At that moment, it wasn’t him that needed the protection, it was me and my plate of salmon rolls. Canadian PMs have a reputation for dislocating human jaw.

When we come back to Ethiopia; in my quarter of a century existence, I have lived to see two tyrants and only one situation I could say I came close to one. It was with Mengistu Hailemariam when I was a young lad of seven or eight. I was at the football stadium with my father to see the East Africa Cup final between Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. Mengistu was ~100m away. even for my maturing cortex the people between me and Mengistu did not seem like bone-crackin’-gun-slinging cadres. Most were regulars of the Addisaba stadium. I remember that moment when G/Medhin Haile scored the tie goal on the 91th minute, Mengistu was on his feet shaking his fist. Mind you, when Mengistu starts shaking his fist the next thing to expect is a bottle of red dye (or was it?) and if you know a thing or two about the Red Terror clearing the stadium at mach speed is the wisest choice. But the fist shakin’ that day was nothing but a tyrant expressing his joy.

The thing about Mengistu, despite his tyranny I could say he wasn’t afraid. Sure he had his KGB trained entourage but he still went around the country in his land cruiser visiting his brain children - resettlement villages and state farms. Where ever he went he got ceremonial welcome by kids holding flags and bouquets of flowers with the adults dancing before his face.

Meles has taken fear to a new level. especially ever since the election, going to the bathroom has become a perilous journey; eating has become a task only imaginable in Fear Factor and when it is time to leave his fortressed office and palace, the road of Addis Ababa become the river of Styx. Attending public gatherings is not an option; the people could be infested with a plague that transmits through eye contact. The amount of solders stationed on his path makes the city look like the buffer zone between Ethiopia and Eritrea in times of economic crisis. For his safety, cars get rerouted to unknown destinations and pedestrians get whooshed off the street like flies at GirGiro’s butchery. In Meles’ world children can’t be trusted with flags and flowers. Those items can easily be used as fatal weapons in the hands of the right kid.

Even those born during the EPRDF regime are already learning the meaning of absolute hate at an early age, what else would you expect after such scenes…

Thrust me they ain’t on no school trip [photo courtesy]

What makes all this fascinating is, despite the scarcity of real life contact, Ethiopians know the face of their oppressors like the palm of their hand thanks to the state owned TV station. Most of the time after the 8 o’clock news, there is a not-so-short reportage on the doings of be it Mengistu or Meles. As if they are trying to reassure us that they are doing something worth their position. Gods forbid they go abroad ‘cause then we get treated for a multi part full hour special on their useless trips.

Anyhu..before I finish I will share with you a recent example of tyranny at its finest. PM Meles was in Tanzania attending the swearing-in of the new Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete. Of course his departure and arrival was a pain in the bottom for any one who was around Africa Avenue (aka Bole Road) on those particular times. Unlike Meles, who celebrated his “re-election” not by firing bullets to the sky like any other warlord but by gunning down unarmed civilians, Prez Kikwete took the presidential oath in front of thousands of Tanzanians. You think Meles could learn a thing or two but he was too busy acting cool with his Raybans on. As per usual ETV journalists have tagged along to cover NOT the ceremony but Meles’s gallant trip. Like a local camera man at a 13year old’s bat mitzvah, all they did was follow the PM Meles around. Not only that, they got so distracted by PM Meles’s grace the commentator kept referring to the new Tanzanian president “Prezident Kikiweki”. I kid you not.

The only thing I learned from that particular ETV reportage is that PM Meles needs a...what do you call that thing ferengi's doo....tan. All that being an indoor captive of his own fear has ruined that African luster he had back when he was a "freedom" fighter.