June 09, 2005

Ken's Election Coverage

Hey all,

I can't come to you with fun news today. If you are following this blog, you are probably aware of the political situation in Addis. This is my first civil-uprising and I’m definitely anxious, though I was much more so yesterday than today. Addis is tense and people don’t really know what is going to happen, but things seem to be escalating.

Monday, students at the University of Addis Ababa protested. The evening news showed images of students standing on the walls of the university, waving and agitated. Their actions broke the month-long ban on protests that had been in place following the day of the election. I made an early exit from work at the advice of co-workers, not wanting to get in a trouble spot, and quickly found my way home.

Tuesday, I returned to the office, but reports soon after began coming in of trouble at Mexico Square. Students at the technical college apparently began protesting and the military showed up in force. It was my first chance to see the white hats of the riot soldiers; they look like something out Star Wars, with tails coming off the top of the hats to protect their necks. Also Tuesday, I made a quick in-and-out at work to grab some materials and meet with a coworker.

Tuesday evening, we took dinner to a relative who had recently lost a person close to her. We’d taken dinner to show our condolences, but left in a rush when we heard sounds like you’d hear outside a soccer stadium coming from the Megenenya area. Children walking quickly and excitedly away from Megenenya told us that the university students had been released. We quickly left the area and as we reached the main road, we saw hundreds of people gathered in groups. It was the next day we learned that violence had broken out in the area shortly after we left, with our friend even driving through the middle of gunshots, though we don’t know if people died.

Wednesday was the true day of tragedy. We stayed home except for a short-time to go to the bank, stock up on groceries, and close down my wife’s office. Throughout the day, we received reports of significant protests at Mercato. The local evening and international news confirmed that over 20 people had been killed, young people, mostly. The pictures that came in from journalists at the hospitals were horrific, but the realization that a lot of young kids and students had died was the most painful of all. Honestly, I’m not even connected with this country except through my wife, but I was incredibly upset.

Also Wednesday, the taxi strike started. In the one or two hours we were outside, I counted four taxis, which didn’t match what we heard on the evening news. Taxis in Addis are hugely important and probably account for more than 50% of all public transport. If the taxis strike, you essentially have a de facto general strike. A lot of people walked to work, but a lot of people simply stayed away and offices and shops began to close.

The strike continued today, Thursday, with about the same effect. There were a number of private cars moving around town, but no taxis. Again, today, I only saw four of them. Much of the time, it’s just military cars moving around, but they are plenty to give me a scare, though I probably have less to worry about than most people.

This is hard and sad time. It’s difficult to concentrate on work with so much going on, but that’s not so relevant right now. Yesterday, I was really upset, like most people, but today I woke up much more energized. However, the day – filled with news reports and phone calls from friends and coworkers, gradually frazzled me.

We are kind of in a holding pattern, just waiting to see what happens. It’s really difficult to say, right now, because tensions on both sides seem to be running hot and continuing to increase. I don’t want to have to spend the next month in this place, but if that’s what it takes, then that’s what we’ll do. Best of luck to all.

Before signing off, I will throw a quick kudos to CNN, who I thought presented a fairly good report on the events in Addis. It was CNN International, however, so I don’t know if you in the U.S. got a look at it. Like I said, though, it’s a small props as CNN has at least eight years of ridiculous reporting to account for.



Blogger baseless said...

Ken, ayzoh wendime, you have taken the right steps to keep yourself safe, and just keep a low profile. It would not be of help to packup and leave... in fact, that would be like leaving it all for the rest to figure it out on their own, and just leaving them at a time when they are at a low point in their lives. Sorta goes along the lack of coverage from CNN and other outlets at times where we think they need to look into what's going on: they just leave it all boil on its own while they do their own thing. See where I am getting at? Don't stress out too much, remain strong for yourself and those in your digs. Anyways, take care of yourself, and keep us udpated.

12:09 AM  
Blogger Tyrel said...


This election chaos won't last too long. The dust will settle soon. Things are going to be okay.
God Bless Ethiopia


2:05 AM  
Blogger ketch2252 said...

Hey Ken, thank you for the reports. We appreciate your views and opinions

7:24 AM  
Blogger bisrat said...

ken thank you for the news we're all crying for our beloved country please keep us informed .Thank you and may God protect you and your family . SAN fransisco ca Bisrat.

10:34 AM  
Blogger Visitor said...

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5:52 PM  

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