Wednesday, January 31

Military Rule?

Today Addis truly reflects the virtual police state in which we live. Over the past week thousands of federal policemen have descended upon the city for the AU summit and, while this may help to ease the fears of the most corrupt African leaders visiting from abroad, residents here feel anything but safe. I have never seen the city like this—a comparable number of forces were deployed during Meskel (but concentrated entirely around the Square), but the atmosphere now feels even more oppressive due to their overwhelming omnipresence.

Under the watch of conspicuous rooftop snipers, federal and military wagons currently rule the roads, spilling out dozens upon dozens of blue-clad, heavily armed soldiers at a moment’s notice. These policemen are literally EVERYWHERE, waiting with guns cocked outside retaurants and cafes, schools and churches, in abandoned lots and on crowded corners, both on the main streets and side roads.

The rules of the city have also changed. At any given time, the roads suddenly close to allow for the procession of passing dignitaries—-walking on certain sides of the road becomes instantly prohibited and it is also forbidden to cross except at designated crosswalks. Now, anyone who has ever visited this city knows that traffic here is chaotic at best and, though there are no signs or roped off areas to signal any of this, residents here are somehow expected to anticipate these new rules—evidenced by soldiers who angrily shout incoherent demands, gesture threateningly with their machine guns or the backs of their hands, and chase down those who forgot to comply. The line between security and military rule appears increasingly blurred as the week progresses; though I am not aware that a city-wide curfew has been imposed, a friend and I were followed almost to our doorsteps the other night by a federal vehicle…apparently walking a couple of blocks after midnight is now considered a ‘suspicious activity’.

A couple of days ago one policeman boasted of the ‘excellent’ training that he had received from the Americans in “fighting the terrorists”. Figures. (Considering the quiet, local terror instilled by the blank, dehumanizing stares and gleaming AK-47s of these federal troops, I suppose the irony of this statement is almost humorous…) I guess it really shouldn’t matter much that the oppression here has now become equally visibly represented, but somehow it does...


Anonymous said...

Thank you. This is the kind of information we are starving for. The daily going ons in the country and in the lives of many ethiopians.

Look forward to your continued engagement and posting.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad your back with your post ... you have been missed. You see through eyes that empathize and grasp the shimmering outlines of injustice. I hope that your gaze will also fall on the courage and dignity that everyday people muster in squeezing joy out of the unbearable burdens of 'privatized' Ethiopia.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Mengedegna for your concern as a human being. It never ceases to amaze me that Western governments which include the World Bank and the IMF, the so-called defenders of human rights, knowing full well that Ethiopia has become a police state for over a year, and that the pseudo-democratic TPLF/EPRDF Marxist-Leninist repressive government, which controls every aspect of the economy and is holding the Ethiopian people hostage by murdering, torturing, imprisoning and maiming its citizens, continues to receive the blessings and support of the United States and others. What is even more sardonic is that these Western governments have the effrontery to disparage selectively the policies of some countries outside their sphere of influence whom they perceive as being against their interests, (although these countries do not murder, torture or imprison their own citizens), while evil governments with close affiliations to them are not reproached for their horrendous actions.

Anonymous said...

maybe you have not seen Newyork city. in newyork we have one police for every 4 person. too many. all countries do this. don't be a derg

Anonymous said...

To anonymous above,
I am in New York. I came here running away from the murderous Derg and now we have the murderous Woyanne replacing them. We do not have one policeman to every 4 persons in New York. It shows that you don't even know the population of New York City.