July 06, 2008

Arrival in Addis

We arrive in Khartoum, Sudan, and the site from the air is a small city with corrugated structures, little to no paved roads, and expanses upon expanses of orange sand punctuated by barely-green fields. It may be just an impression, because the heavy dust in the air was obscuring the view of the ground.

We stop in Khartoum for 20 minutes, while half of the plane disembarks there. Women who had previously entered the plane with bare heads, now exit it with a collection of somber headscarves. We wait another 10 minutes because of plane traffic. The airport is completely empty.

I sit next to an Ethiopian woman who has lived in Alberta, Canada for the last twelve years. She has only been back to Addis once, and her mother has never met her four-year old child. She's very nervous and excited, and tells me that she spent a lot of money buying her family and friends perfume, clothes, makeup etc that completely filled four suitcases.

Addis' aiport is nice - what a difference with Kinshasa's one. The custom official is sloooow though, and I'm nervous that he's waiting for a bribe. I come up tp the window nad realize that he's just very thorough in his job, and he doesn't ask me a thing. On the way to the hotel, the driver points out the presidential and vice presidential palace, both built in the 1960s. I can barely see anything because it's pitch black, but I nod with interest. There are stop lights, the roads are 4 lanes and very well maintained, and all cars are decent-looking. There's a profusion of city buses.

In the evening, I order room service: Yebeg Wot Alicha (lamb marinated with tumeric accompanied by traditional injera bread) and Gouder (Ethiopian wine). The food is really bland, and I wonder if it is made bland for me, or if the dish is just meant to taste that way. The wine is quite nice, it almost tastes like it has honey in it. The waiter approves of my choice of food (it's all Ethiopian) and tells me how many more job opportunities there are in South Africa, having traveled to Pretoria, Durban and Johannesburg himself. He says that since Ethiopia has never been colonized, there is 80% unemployment rate. There are some many more opportunities in South Africa and he feels the South African don't take advantage of the opportunities. I don't quite understand the connection with colonization, thinking of Congo that won its independence from Belgium in 1960, and in very poor shape.


Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see photos !!

steve in wisconsin said...

Glad you arrived safely.

I read your blog regularly via RSS but must have missed something... Why are you in Addis again?

strudel said...

Mussolini's Invasion and the Italian Occupation
As late as September 29, 1934, Rome affirmed its 1928 treaty of friendship with Ethiopia. Nonetheless, it became clear that Italy wished to expand and link its holdings in the Horn of Africa. Moreover, the international climate of the mid-1930s provided Italy with the expectation that aggression could be undertaken with impunity. Determined to provoke a casus belli, the Mussolini regime began deliberately exploiting the minor provocations that arose in its relations with Ethiopia.

In December 1934, an incident took place at Welwel in the Ogaden, a site of wells used by Somali nomads regularly traversing the borders between Ethiopia and British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland. The Italians had built fortified positions in Welwel in 1930 and, because there had been no protests, assumed that the international community had recognized their rights over this area. However, an Anglo-Ethiopian boundary commission challenged the Italian position when it visited Welwel in late November 1934 on its way to set territorial boundary markers. On encountering Italian belligerence, the commission's members withdrew but left behind their Ethiopian military escort, which eventually fought a battle with Italian units.

In September 1935, the League of Nations exonerated both parties in the Welwel incident. The long delay and the intricate British and French maneuverings persuaded Mussolini that no obstacle would be placed in his path. An Anglo-French proposal in August 1935--just before the League of Nations ruling--that the signatories to the 1906 Tripartite Treaty collaborate for the purpose of assisting in the modernization and reorganization of Ethiopian internal affairs, subject to the consent of Ethiopia, was flatly rejected by the Italians. On October 3, 1935, Italy attacked Ethiopia from Eritrea and Italian Somaliland without a declaration of war. On October 7, the League of Nations unanimously declared Italy an aggressor but took no effective action.

In a war that lasted seven months, Ethiopia was outmatched by Italy in armaments--a situation exacerbated by the fact that a League of Nations arms embargo was not enforced against Italy. Despite a valiant defense, the next six months saw the Ethiopians pushed back on the northern front and in Harerge. Acting on long-standing grievances, a segment of the Tigray forces defected, as did Oromo forces in some areas. Moreover, the Italians made widespread use of chemical weapons and air power. On March 31, 1936, the Ethiopians counterattacked the main Italian force at Maychew but were defeated. By early April 1936, Italian forces had reached Dese in the north and Harer in the east. On May 2, Haile Selassie left for French Somaliland and exile--a move resented by some Ethiopians who were accustomed to a warrior emperor. The Italian forces entered Addis Ababa on May 5. Four days later, Italy announced the annexation of Ethiopia.

Johanna said...


J'ai decouvert ce blog il y a quelques semaines mais je n'ecris que maintenant parce que 1-je suis faineante et 2-je n'osais pas jusque la!
je serai a Bukavu de septembre a decembre et je me demande si on peut echanger des emails sur ton experience au Congo.
Merci, et j'espere a bientot.