Twice a week, the days are
getting dark as a result of power cuts. The otherday, I went to the barber only
to find the doors closed. There was a power cut that gave the staff at the
barber shop a unscheduled holiday. They had closed shop and let everyone go
home. The photocopy shop was also closed. That day, our neighbourhood was
awfully silent, the kind of silence that sends a cold shiver down your back. For
once, there was no sound of either blasting music or spiritual songs.
I did not realise how much
electricity has become part and parcel of our lives. The cell phone makes an
unpleasant alarm sound when it needs recharging. You feel sick worrying about
the impacts of power cuts. Your computer remains dead and still. This is
irritating if you have a deadline to meet, which may be a matter of bread and
“Electricity has become the
backbone of our lives. if not the pillar of our freedom. Freedom, did I say?
Yes, it has everything to do with freedom as we have to live every second and
minute. We need to enlighten our flesh and soul.” I was thinking aloud. There
was no power for my computer on which my life depends, so to speak.
I had to walk out for want of
something else to do. I went to Arat Kilo area, where I sometimes find refuge
from solitude and boredom, to chat with old friends. I met the bearded Ayele
whom we amicably call the bookworm. I find him another source of
enlightenment. Chatting with well versed people can be quite live saving. You do
not have to look for a lamp post to read books all the time there is a power
“So, the world is indeed
turning global in every sense of the word. We are having a little taste of what
it felt like living in Gaza during the recent Israeli attack. You can cite
another example in recent day Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe,” said Ayele ignoring
I had asked him to give me his
views on what it means to live without electricity.
He browsed through the pages
of an Amharic weekly and showed me an advertisement posted promoting the sale of
generators of varying capacity. The coffee was delayed as the café was using
butane to make it.
“You know what?” Ayele said as
he tried to explain how he came to know about the power cut that morning. “The
radio suddenly went dead while I was listening intently to interesting news from
BBC, and I do not understand why they keep us in the dark by not informing us of
the time schedule of the power cuts like they were doing in the past couple of
For him, the presence of
darkness was made conspicuous not by any radio announcement, but by the sudden
silence of the radio itself. Ayele smiled and put down the newspaper on the
table preparing to sip the coffee before it got too cold.
I thought power cuts would be
a thing of the past when the officials told us that they were going to lease
generators and augment the required demand. And they have been generous in their
I have little knowledge of the
extent of the power deficit, or the required megawatts. I do not want to discuss
the implications the power cuts would have on the overall economy of the
country, although it is not hard to guess. I am in the dark about these serious
subjects. But what I can talk about is the emotional and normal economic impacts
of power cuts on the lives of ordinary people within my orbit, and what they
tend to do during such power cuts.
Knowing how sceptical Ayele
could at times turn out to be about such matters, I had to be content with what
he was willing to tell me.
Ayele is a retired civil
servant who avoids discussing political topics or serious issues that may
trigger irrelevant arguments that prove nothing in the end. He keeps much to
himself and spends his time reading books, listening to foreign radio stations,
or watching foreign TVs. Power cuts, or the lack of information about them
enormously irritate him.
Some people think that we
cannot live without electricity for more than a few hours. They may have a
point. Electricity has become an invaluable luxury in this country since its
introduction here after the Second World War. Although the coverage has shown a
great leap forward since recent years, the supply is still wanting.
I met an old woman on my way
home and asked her what she thought about the power cut.
“For your information,” she
started, “I am coming from the flour mill. All the grinders are sitting idle and
They have nothing to do, she
said. They told her to come back the next morning.
“The power cut is a curse to
us women. You men do not worry much whether there is power or not, but we have
to burn wood to bake injera on the earthen oven under the choking effect
of the smoke and the heat from the naked fire,” she explained. “You are asking
me about the recent problems. Let me tell you that our civilization is not only
unpredictable, but not lasting too.”
The afternoon was hot from the
scorching heat of the sun. We stopped at a bar for a bottle of an ice cold beer.
We could not find one. There was no power. We had to sip hot coffee instead.
What an irony of demand. If you cannot find cold beer you look for hot tea or
coffee to quench your thirst.
Refreshments aside, people do
feel quite dull and gruesome in the absence of power and light.
The other day, I was walking
along a street when I heard several small generators roaring on the sidewalks,
breaking the silence. We should be grateful for these.
This current state of affairs
could be seasonal until Gibe III starts generating electricity, if we go by what
authorities in the field say. We might as well have our own gas fuel from Kalub,
or renewable geothermal energy from Aluto or Langano.