It is that time of the year when we are all anticipating
the holidays and waiting eagerly for the New Year
that will herald the end of the old. The past 12
months - 13 for those that follow the Julian
Calendar - have not been the easiest to bear; there
have been more woes than pleasures for most of us.
The New Year is upon us once again, though this year it
comes with an air of solemnity, falling not only in
the holy month of Ramadan but also on a Friday, a
fasting day for those of the Ethiopian Orthodox
faith. Perhaps, it is fitting that we should end
this particular year in contemplation and with
fasting, considering that it has been a gruesome one
for those both at the bottom and the top of the
human food chain.
As with every year, the time has come for us to take stock
of the past months and what they have meant for us
as individuals, a society and a nation.
The first year of the third millennium of the Ethiopian
existence did not bring with it the renaissance and
flickers of hope that it was so hyped up to bring.
On the contrary, what it did bring with it was
crippling inflation, job losses, lack of
electricity, no foreign exchange, the ratification
of somewhat ridiculous bills into law, and, of
course, the complete annihilation of what was
supposed to be the political opposition to the
That is simply scratching the surface, though. To be
honest, I am not in the least bit nostalgic that
this particular year has finally come to an end. As
the Amharic saying goes, "tosachinen yizo yiheed".
The past year was a first for many things.
It was the first year that we had the opportunity to
experience text messaging (SMS) through fereka. The
service would work on some days for some numbers and
not work for others, while the whole thing would
switch up on different days, just to keep things
interesting. I was never fully aware why the mobile
telephone subscribers of the Ethiopian
Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) were forced to
wait turns to use a service that they were being
charged for. The fact remains that it was one of the
most senseless manifestations of the complete
incompetence of the telecoms monopoly that will not
release its grasp on the throat of the Ethiopian
SMS befereka (or in turns) was not a phase that I enjoyed
going through this year. Good riddance to that part
of the year.
If I am on the subject of fereka, I may as well mention the
big white elephant in the room, which is the issue
Now, let me be fair in mentioning that the issue of
electricity has gotten a little bit better in the
last month. The power comes on earlier in the
evening and is more consistent on the days that it
is provided. Industries have also been given the
option of working after eight o'clock at night to
make up for the lack of power during the work week.
I suppose these are things to be grateful for.
NOT! Lets be real; this is the 21rst Century, and we are a
nation that is not lacking in hydropower options.
The fact that we are sitting in the dark and still
laying claim to being the political and diplomatic
capital of Africa and the cradle of civilization
shows us just how warped our life views really are.
It is one thing to be sitting in the dark for a few
months or so, but this has been going on for far too
With all the money that is being spent on infrastructure,
it is a shame that we have nothing to show for it.
Being in the dark is one thing, but when added to
all the other woes of the year, then it is the worst
of any curse.
Moving on, there is also the hot issue of the lack of
foreign currency that has practically brought the
private sector to its knees and is not doing better
for just about any other sector in the country. In a
nation that is dependent on imports and relies
heavily on foreign currency to do just about every
single thing, the foreign currency crunch has been
something that has made an already harsh existence
even worse that it is.
Let me also not forget to mention that we have been hit by
a sort of epidemic known in its politically correct
version as "Acute Watery Diarrhoea"; that there were
fears of swine flu; and several other pandemics that
were mentioned by non governmental organizations,
though they were dutifully ignored by the
government. In the same boat is the drought that
also occurred this year. It was the very same
drought that the government chose to deny and that
the media covered extensively.
As if the year was not bad enough with all the large scale
problems that were going on, there was a lot of
insult that was added to injury. Birtukan Midekssa,
the first female leader of political party that the
country has ever seen was thrown back in jail over .
. . a discrepancy, over a statement, over words. It
brings to mind that childhood saying, "sticks and
stones may break my bones but words can never hurt
me". We now know that words can land you in jail to
serve out a life sentence; and by extension can dash
whatever hope were left in the political process in
Another dashing of hopes was seen when Tewdros Kassahun
(Teddy Afro) was sentenced to prison time after
being convicted of vehicular homicide. Though the
pop star was recently released, his jailing was a
huge blow to the population which had placed him on
a pedestal and considered him to be the
personification of the political struggles that are
taking place in the country.
Perhaps the greatest tragedies of this year were the deaths
of three icons of Ethiopian society: Sinedu Gebru,
Amede Lemma and Tilahun Gessesse. With their deaths,
Ethiopia has lost a generation that was willing to
put its life at risk to fight for the right things;
even with the right thing was not the most popular
As far as I am concerned, good riddance to 2001!
I hope the next year is nothing like the one that we have
just ended: I hope that our nation, our people and
we as individuals are in for a better ride this time
around. I wish you all a happy new year, one that
bears great fruit that wipes out the woes of years
past, and brings with it the miracle of hope that
will once again inspire us to greatness.