rulururu

post Harvest Time

December 7th, 2009

Filed under: Economy — Lissan Magazine @ 15:33

Ethiopia. Now is harvest time
by Julie Zaugg

Fertile land. Indians and Saudis are preparing for their first harvest on Ethiopian soil. Ethiopia intends to make over 2.7 million hectares to foreigners.

The smell of curry pervades the house where his wife, dressed in a sari, is busy cooking the meal. “I never eat African”, declares Hanumantha Rao, swallowing a mouthful of dahl, the traditional Indian lentil-based dish. Despite this, the Madras-born manager today lives in Africa, at the heart of one of the most fertile regions in Ethiopia, a verdant plateau stretching west of Addis-Ababa towards Sudan.

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Ethiopia. In June 2009, the Indian company Karuturi took up intensive farming here. The harvest will be exported to Asia and Europe.

Eleven months ago, Hanumantha Rao  moved 4,800 km away from his home to supervise the growing of maize, rice and vegetables for the Indian company Karuturi. Karuturi, the world’s largest producer of cut roses, had decided to diversify its activities into agribusiness. The rise in global food prices, which peaked around mid-2008, makes it a very promising sector for investment. This is especially true for Ethiopia since it has privileged access to Europeans consumers: Ethiopian goods which fall under the Everything But Arms deal are exempt from taxes and quotas. Furthermore, the country has plenty of land and it is cheap. “The government leases it to us for 127 birr [11 francs] per hectare per year.” Moreover, for the first five years, the company does not pay anything. “In India, we could never have obtained such a large area. Trying to buy 10 hectares is difficult.”

The Bako farm, 250 km west of the Ethiopian capital, is the first piece of the jigsaw. Spanning 10,918 hectares, it is found at the end of a red-earthed, waterlogged path, stretching as far as the eye can see.

Men in fatigues, armed with AK-47s, are guarding the entrance. Right now, the “farm” amounts to a wooden awning over a few plastic chairs and three state-of-the-art tractors. The company has imported 30 tractors from the United States and brought in 10 water-pumps and 30 generators from India. This technological deployment is in stark contrast with the archaic tangle of small plots around the farm where Ethiopian farmers still use ploughs and scythes. On the right of the awning, maize covers a neat square of 1,000 hectares. The first harvest is due in October. Part of it is intended for export.

White gold. Karuturi, whose headquarters is in Bangalore, is actually mainly interested in rice. “We are conducting tests on 10 hectares, to check whether the soil is suited to this kind of crop, which practically does not exist in Ethiopia.” Eventually, the company is planning to produce five million tons of rice a year here. The rice will be exported to Asia — mainly India — and to a few African countries (Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya). Peppers ocupy an additional four hectares. Courgettes, beans and onions will also be grown here for the European and American markets.

“The locals do benefit from the fact that we are here,” Hanumantha Rao maintains. “We are bringing them both our agricultural know-how — with our machines, fertilisers and  pesticides — and jobs: 98% of Bako’s employees are locals. Only the management, a dozen Indians, are not [local].” What’s more, he promises, “We are going to build a school and a clinic to get closer to the local community.”

This does not stop him from barking at his workers, in English, while his assistant throws small change to the children running after the tractors. In their rubber boots and their beige anoraks, the two Asians stand out next to the Ethiopian workers who are barefoot in the black mud. Three-quarters of them are day labourers and receive 20 to 25 birr per day [around 1.70 francs]. Some have complained to a local paper that they were only paid 7 to 8 birr [ 60 centimes].

What was growing here before, on the land now cultivated by Karuturi? “Not much,” according to the manager. In fact, the locals used to grow tef, the major cereal in the Ethiopian diet. They also used the land as pasture. This is not allowed any more. The company has installed a fence and dug a trench around the farm, in order to stop the cattle from trespassing. Seven months ago, the situation got very tricky: armed with machetes and sticks, the villagers attempted to attack the Karuturi employees. The police were called in.

Despite these setbacks, the Indian firm has no intention of stopping now. It has its eye on 300,000 hectares further west, in the region of Gambella. “The Ethiopian government have already provided 40,000. We should get the rest in four or five months. We will grow sugar, rice and palm oil for export,” explains Hanumantha Rao. He is due to go there the following day, together with a delegation from Cargill which came in specially from New York.

Here comes the sheikh. Ethiopia attracts a lot of investors. In 2008, Saudi Arabia was hit full force by the rise in world grain prices and got scared. What if it couldn’t feed its 25 million inhabitants, many of whom are poor immigrants? In order to ensure its food security, King Abdullah has decided to outsource Saudi food production and created a public fund of US$5.3 billion to provide loans at preferential rates to Saudi companies which wanted to invest in countries with strong agricultural potential.

In January 2009, the King received with great fanfare the first sacs of grain produced abroad: Ethiopian rice courtesy of Jenat, a joint venture between three Saudi companies (Tadco, Almarai and Al-Jouf). The project had been put in motion by a man as discreet as he is powerful: Sheikh Mohammed Al Amoudi.

Born to an Ethiopian mother and a Yemeni father, the sheikh got Saudi citizenship and made a fortune in construction and real estate. With US$9 billlion in personal assets, he ranks 43rd on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people. In Ethiopia, he employs 40,000 people through Midroc, a consortium that runs factories, hotels, hospitals, malls, a gold mine and …Elfora. Elfora produces meat, poultry and agricultural goods for export to Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Yemen, Djibouti, Egypt, Ivory Coast and what used to be Congo Brazzaville. The company runs three farms in Ethiopia.

A land of vines and zebus. One of these farms is in Meki, a dusty town located 134 km from the capital, in the heart of the Rift Valley. Goats and zebus graze on yellowing pastures that stretch to the horizon. Not many crops around. Here and there, herdsmen with their plastic containers swarm around a community well bearing the logo of the NGO that built it. Water is a precious resource in Ethiopia, but this has not stopped Elfora from installing a sophisticated irrigation system on the hundreds of hectares under its control. “Water and fertiliser are automatically applied to each plant through a computerised dripfeed,” Getachew* explains. He is the person in charge of this operation set in the midst of vines gently sloping down toward the Arsi mountains. “We are experimenting with grapes on 15 hectares, but we also grow white haricot beans and maize, and we’re about to plant tomatoes and peppers.”  Everything will go to the Middle East, Israel and the rest of Africa.

Further south, a barbed wire fence stands at the edge of the road on the outskirts of Awassa. A white sign marks the entrance to Elfora’s Melge/Shallo Farm. Five years ago, Al Amoudi was given 3,000 hectares by the Ethiopian government but he is only just starting to farm it. A sea of white tarpaulins stretch to the horizon. Those are the greenhouses. Suspended several metres off the ground, people are busy erecting the heavy metal frames. The Dutch horticulturist Jan Prins has been allocated 1,000 hectares on the farm to grow vegetables for the sheikh.

According to Gelata Bijiga, the manager of the farm, “The first vegetables will be ready in five months. They are intended primarily for Saudi Arabia, but also for Dubai, Bahrain and Europe.” In the Spanish-made greenhouses, seedlings are already sprouting in the little plastic containers sitting directly on the ground. The wooden tags tell you what they are: celery, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, radish, beetroot, fennel. All the employees are Ethiopian. “We have 300 workers right now. There will be 1,000 in due course,” the manager says. The Saudis don’t pay much better than the Indians. “But working conditions are good,” a worker says while watering the seedlings. “Farming in Ethiopia is hard work. Here, at least I learn about modern agriculture.”

Others are not so lucky. The local villagers who used to let their herds graze on this state property don’t have access any more. At first, this generated tensions. “They tried to force their way in,” Gelata Bijiga remembers. “So we threatened them with legal action and things calmed down.” A 2002 UN report indicates that on another farm at the edge of the desert area in the northeast, Elfora managed to get rid of the Afar nomads who used the area as pasture in the dry season, by making it mandatory to buy plots in “pasture zones”.

2.7 million hectares. In fact, the government is very pleased with the influx of foreign capital. “Ethiopia is a rural country: 80 per cent of our jobs and around 45 per cent of our GDP come from agriculture,” says Abeba Deressa, the Minister for Agriculture, sipping a cup of the strong local coffee at his desk in Addis Ababa. “However, out of the 74 million hectares of arable land, only 14 to 18 million hectares are exploited to date — predominantly (95 per cent) by small farmers growing subsistence crops. Foreign investment is therefore crucial.” The idea is to increase productivity, improve infrastructures, create jobs and get technology transfer.

The state owns all the land in the country, a remnant from the socialist Derg regime of 1974-1991, and has done a quick survey to establish an inventory. It will provide foreign investors with 2.7 million hectares — 1.6 million of them before October — at very favourable conditions.

“We are offering leases between 50 and 99 years at minimal rent (US$10 to 12 to the hectare), five to seven years of land tax exemptions, and zero tax on imported machinery,” the Minister boasts. The government is trying very hard to help foreign firms set up shop. If an investor brings in 30 per cent of the capital, the Development Bank of Ethiopia will provide the remaining 70 per cent.

“Demand is so strong that we can hardly respond to it,” Abera Deressa beams. The country has already registered 1,311 projects, the largest being the 300,000 hectares leased to Karuturi. Among other beneficiaries, Djibouti has received 7,000 hectares to grow wheat, while the German Flora Eco Power (with 13,000 hectares), the Italian Fri-El Green Power (30,000 hectares), the American Ardent Energy Group (15,000 hectares) and the British Sun Biofuels will produce biofuels.

Mohammed Al Amoudi has several projects up and running. He wants to “plant sugar” with Syngenta on 30,000 hectares in the Northwest. He is trying to get another 100,000 hectares in the province of Benishangul Gumuz to produce biofuels together with the Malaysian firm Agri Nexus. He also grows coffee, tea and cereals on 19,200 hectares under the aegis of his certified label Ethio Agri-CEFT, which supplies Starbucks. Abeba Deressa reckons that within three to five years, there won’t be any more land to lease in Ethiopia.

River diversion. However, the situation is not exactly rosy. From the investors’ point of view, Ethiopian government offices are often quite uncoordinated. They sometimes allocate the same land to two different buyers. They may also promise land which turns out not to exist. Flora Eco Power almost abandoned its Ethiopian project when the local management of its biofuel factory simply disappeared, leaving behind a US$10 million debt and 150 unpaid workers .

For the farmers who are deprived of their land, there’s nothing to celebrate either. They get no compensation for the land itself. If they are lucky, they get some minimal recompense: the equivalent of ten years of harvest and a little something for the improvements they made on the land. As to the herders, who previously used the land for grazing, they get nothing. As the Minister puts it, “They can just go somewhere else.”

The environment itself is degrading, through the destruction of forests and the intensive farming which requires so much water and pesticides. In order to irrigate its 30,000 hectares, Fri-El Green Power is going to divert part of the Omo river, on which an entire region depends.

Questions are put to the Minister. Does it make sense to let foreigners have all this land, while five million Ethiopians depend on emergency food aid for their survival? Aberra Deressa evades the point with a smile: “Good question, but we cannot afford to close our doors to the global economy.”

In the offices of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, filled with leaflets describing the humanitarian work carried out in Ethiopia, people cautiously observe the game being played out on the continent. Mafa Chipeta, the Coordinator for the East Africa region, refuses to put any blame on Ethiopia. “For years,” he says, “we have been shouting in the dark trying to get investors interested in the Ethiopian farm sector. Now that they are coming in, we can’t very well start dissuading them.”

This is particularly the case if Ethiopia wants to eventually break out from the yoke of  humanitarian aid. “Small farmers will never be capable of feeding the whole population of Ethiopia. Only intensive farming and technologies imported from abroad can make this happen.”

The process must indeed be supervised, but one should not be too zealous, the international civil servant warns. One should avoid repeating the mistakes of the World Commission on Dams. They established such stringent rules to protect local communities and the environment that foreign investment completely dried up. “Countries that could afford to do so, like China and India, have carried on building dams. But others, the poorer countries, had to give up. When this happened, the international community lost all influence overnight.”

Mafa Chipeta, pensive, looks through the window of his office overlooking the Bole district where skyscrapers and Chinese factories are sprouting like mushrooms. “How can a country develop if it never takes any risks? Let us give Ethiopia a chance to try the adventure.”

source: farmlandgrab.org

post RACISM

December 7th, 2009

Filed under: Opinions — Lissan Magazine @ 14:25

Two days ago we had a small article with a link to a blogpost based on a racist comment about Ethiopia and Ethiopians written by a Swedish doctor who is doing a group-biking tour through Africa. We were forced to delete the article because the woman (name: ANNA ADIELSSON) have erased the blogpost after her site was raided by critical comments from many Ethiopians and other concerned individuals. Now, fortunately, we got an information from an Ethiopian friend from Sweden who was smart enough to save the content of the message of this woman before it was deleted and put it in her site. You can read below the original content of the blog and some of the comments which we have taken directly from abeshaunited.com.

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RACISM: “MISERY” IN ETHIOPIA – a racist edcuated swedish doctor´s view of contemprary Ethiopia

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This post is written by an educated Swedish doctor ANNA ADIELSSON. 2009 she spend at least 8000 Euros to cycle from Egypt all the way through Africa to South Africa. In many of her blogpost she portrays a very distrubing view of “Africa” but it´s the way she describes her MISERY in Ethiopia where pour racism emerges which is uncomfortable to hear from a contemporary doctor. This post, originally in Swedish, has now been limited to views on her blog but here we are republishing it. Keep in mind that Anna herself says that she do not regret any word or opinions she has written now when she is back in Sweden and can flush down her shit with 4 liter of drinkable water as if it were a human right…

Here goes her comment….

The journey through Ethiopia is starting to resemble a military survival training more than anything else. Nothing is working and we are constantly exposed to new trials, including mental and physical terror of the local population. On the road, it feels like we literally are in a war zone, given all the abuse and attacks we face. Only yesterday, I was repeatedly spat on, both with pure (?) Saliva as full mouths with water, whipped with cords, hard-hitting with sticks over butt, back, legs and arms, stoned high and low, beaten with palms and fists , streamer over the buttocks and thighs, and attempts to collapse nudge ning of the cycle. In addition to this we are constantly subjected to taunts, insults, mocking laughter, and interestingly enough, even unpleasant calls to give money. It has now gone so far that most of us in total have lost all respect for the indigenous population. Not least, any form of sympathy and empathy that has ever existed, completely disappeared. As dirty and unpleasant young adults screaming, “You, you, you, give money, money” on the most aggressive way possible, we scream back, if the situation permits, “Get a job you lazy bastard,” “I rather burn my money than give it you “or” I hope you starve to death “.

This behavior is probably not easy to understand when you’re sitting at home orderly. After the last few weeks on a daily basis and constantly being subjected to the above abuses, however, has a deep and sincere hatred turned up in me, which I thought I was able to feel for any living being, let alone for something that at least during this century, in theory, considered to belong to human nature. In practice, however, there are precious few similarities. In urban Ethiopians are possibly slightly more well tempered, but absent in rural areas, it is complete anarchy that exists and I feel all the time that my personal safety is threatened. Without a doubt we are exposed female cyclists for their violence and abuse in a significantly greater extent. Cowardly bastards who they are. Once we stop or try to defend ourselves, flees to save the bunnies out of the bush.

I have therefore begun to armed me with a handful of stones as soon as I can see a horde of kids from a distance, to the slightest provocation with all my strength to throw them into the group and then ride away as fast as I can. Cycling has really been of secondary importance in these war-like conditions, where each day’s journey is about having so small wounds as possible to enter the next camp. It now remains only four days in this cycle godforsaken country and we sincerely hope that no one in the group will have time to come to serious injury, before we leave for good people to their fate. We all agree on that no Western aid can ever serve this beggerparadis the long term. Should they ever get straight to the misery in which they live, they need their own power to reverse the trend and masa their lazy asses up off the ground and begin to make an effort. As one of South Africans on the trip noted, is not a racist before you start traveling through Africa, it will be guaranteed as it comes to understanding how they act and behave!

Unfortunately I do not have much positive to pass this time either. I guess we are in a true African experience, but I’m getting more and more doubts about whether this really is something for me.
Sure, I can understand that all roads can not be first-asphalt, but their fucking dirt roads is of course a joke with all the rocks and holes that make the almost impossible to travel on.

Sure, I can understand that water can be scarce, but how is it possible that we have oversight on two lakes of Vätterns size, but that it is possible to procure a drop of water to the hotel where we currently reside. I have not showered and washed my hair in five days. I have during this time cycled over 60 mil in 35 degree heat and thick indescribable road dust. I have slept in the bush with sand, dust, insects and shit. I will not be able to shower until the next rest day for seven days. Call me spoiled Westerner, but I can not accept that there is no water available throughout the day. I shit in your fucking shoulder presses and “maybe tomorrow”. On top of all, it is not to wash the clothes I’ve used, for further use without any kind of washing would be a nuisance.

Sure, I can understand that all toilets are not the tip top standard, but to have two public toilets throughout the hotel, where we camp, without any form of running water is ridiculous. An attack of diarrhea and then the toilets are unusable. As one of the guys in the group told the hotel manager, “If you do not get some running water soon, I will fucking shit right here in front of your reception.
Sure, I can understand that all the waitresses do not have a high quality education, but also the most stupid Ethiopians ought to take that one can not disclose the note to a hungry visitor, who waited an hour without getting food and then expect to get paid for the order placed. Examples of how pathetically bad everything works in this country are many and long. One wonders nutshell, how they can live under these conditions without ever act and at least try to improve the situation?!

The latest on my new wheels, is that they are at a FedEx office in Addis Ababa. The hope is that we can forward the package to Nairobi, where we will in two weeks. The odds of my ZIPP wheel will survive the journey there is daunting, because of the road conditions ahead. “Prepare yourself for the worst road condition on the entire tour,” is the message on our bulletin board for the upcoming week. Given the wretched roads we already cycled on, I can not even pretend to me how they can become even worse, but it can apparently …

Call me whiny. I stand for! This trip is much more stressful than I ever could have imagined. I do not think there is someone in the group undergoing this journey without difficulty. The only thing that keeps me somewhat of good cheer, is that at least I have good health. After Addis Ababa, it was as if a diarrhea epidemic had broken out in the group. Day after day of rest sat nearly 15 people on the truck and when we awoke the next morning the whole camp was surrounded by puddles diarrhea and toilet paper flying around the whole area. Restrictions on burying their excrement, which was forgotten. A pretty horrible sight, but fully to understand considering that diarrhea was so acute that many do not even have time out of the tent before the pants were stuffed. Less nice when we also have no running water available …

Well, time to find an internet cafe and hope that incompetents in this country can achieve some form of power (which we had last night) and internet connection, even if the water does not work. Hope to hear from me again in a week, when we arrived, Kenya and traveled through Lava stone-desert!

Ref: Anna Adielsson

Futher information about Anna can be found at her web page and blog (English). You can also reach her on her email anna_adielsson@hotmail.com. Since Anna´s racist blogpost has reached the Ethiopian digital community she has now limited the access to her postings. However, in many of her other posts the racist attitude and language still maintains…

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This is a brilliant comment from “Proud Ethiopian”(nickname) that has reacted towards Anna´s “misery” blogpost but since the posting is not public anymore we publish this response here!!!

After reading Anna’s post ‘Misery’ depicting her ‘miserable’ experience ‘cycling’ through rural Ethiopia, I am both shocked and appalled by her vile criticism, deep seated hate rate and condescending tone.

Once again, I am reminded that ignorance has no barriers and that smallness of mind creates evil hearts. Without resorting to the same petty name calling and racial epithets – here are my reactions to your offensive comments.

First of all, as a woman and a human being, I condone no acts of unprovoked torture or abuse on anyone without any instigation. So if what you say is true, it is indeed unfortunate and terrifying to have suffered ‘mental and physical terror’ as you put it, being spat on, stoned, whipped with cords, beaten with sticks, palms, and fists, and attempts to push you off the cycles. Having said that however, I find your reaction to these acts of random thugs and a few angry kids – a frightening exposé into the very psyche and nature of many ‘misguided’ and ‘sheltered’ souls like you, Anna, who call themselves ‘tourists’ or ‘friends of Africa’.

Let us examine the very words you used to describe your ordeal and the despicable reactions of your friends on your blog – which hold so much racists fodder and conjure up bile images of oppressive behavior and hateful attitudes.

1. Ethiopia is a nation of proud people with a glorious history of conquest and freedom far more than Sweden, therefore we don’t need nor ever asked for your ‘sympathy nor empathy’.

2. The dirty and unpleasant young adults screaming “you, you, you give money, money” are only using the few English words they know to communicate with you (which is more than you did to at least pick up a few words in their language to appease the situation instead of saying and feeling “get a job you lazy bastard, I rather burn my money than give it to you or I hope you starve to death” – again these words speak for themselves – and should make you embarrased and ashamed – because poverty has no no race nor region so one day you will fall vitim to it too and when that happens I hope people will not wish on you what you wish on those less fortunate.

3. ’Cycling has really been a secondary importance to these war-like conditions and god forsaken country’ – you really think that a country struggling to feed its people, educate its young, combat an onslaught of Malaria, HIV, and countless other infectious diseases has the ’luxury’ to trolop around the countryside for recreation?- shoving in the faces of the destitutethey meet how great they have it with their tailored bike gears, water bottles and malaria pills. WAKE UP and SMELL REALITY for you live in a dream land (protected by your father’s trustfund and a stolen inheretance of centuries of slavery and colonial rule).

4. As one of the South Africans on the trip noted – if you’re not a racist before you start traveling through Africa… Let me guess is this by any chance a ’White South African’ who has enjoyed years of racial subjugation and oprression of black people – how predictable!

5. I guess we are in a true African Experience, but their fucking dirt roads is ofcourse a joke with all the rocks and holes that make it almost impossible to travel on – again these roads were not built for your comfort nor are they as they were for the last 400 years a playground for the rich white folks. So if you don’t like it GO HOME! This trip is no more than a reflection of who you really are! A person’s truest nature is exposed in the harshest of times and yours is prevalent. There is no place for a biggotted racitst in this world.

6. Other incidious and inflamatory words used were: People who have not kept up with Evolution; the most stupid Ethiopians ; Hope that incompetents in this country can achieve some form of power ; Cowardly bastards; We all agree that no Western aid can ever serve this beggerparadise. Should they ever get straight to the misery in which they live, …they need to get their lazy asses off the ground and begin to make an effort. Aside from the bad english, spoken like a true bigotted, self-centered, heartless individual led by fear, hate, anger and one devoid of self-awareness and common sense. YOU HAVE NO PLACE VISITING or ASSOCIATING WITH AFRICANS – GO BACK TO YOUR SHELTERED WHITE CASTLE in SWEDEN and maybe then you don’t have to sleep in the bush with sand, dust, insects and shit. Nor accept that their is no water available throughout the day – You ask – how can they live under these conditions without ever acting and at least trying to improve the situation – it’s called crippling poverty due to exploitative global economic systems, uneven balance of power and conscriptive political environments that Ethiopia and many African nations find themeselves in but you wouldn’t know that what with your knowlege base being from Discovery channel and the Lonely Planet Guide. Ignorance is Bliss isn’t it ?

7. As for your friends who replied by saying : you are tougher than them, so you can do this – I say it’s Africa and the dirty and unpleasant kids that are essentially tougher and more dignified than Anna for they go through the indignities of having no shower, no water, no electricity nor food on a daily basis while they see throngs of wealthy Europeans used their land and homes as a giant playground and recreational outpost without paying for it as if they are entitled to it. Welcome to AFRICA and I hope your journey in Kenya is just as Miserable as your soul is.

In other words Payback is a Bitch!

source: abeshaunited.com

post The Art of Silence

December 1st, 2009

Filed under: Life Style — Admassu @ 16:45

A lot of us haven’ t learned to speak out about who we are or what we want. Being still and reserved have traditionally been passed on to us as a virtuous act. As kids, we might still remember, we used to listen to the older men and women while they discuss or argue. We have listened to what they were saying without bringing up our opinion on the discussed matter even though we knew that these people were partially wrong in some points.

“Oh…” they would say admiring our suppressed silence. “….oh, how well mannered is this kid! One never hear him say anything!” That is how most of us grew up: Listening a lot and avoiding arguments and oral confrontations.

How is this behavior affecting our life when we are grown up? Of course, there are also the lucky ones among us who fortunately had liberal parents who allowed them to say what they think. But how about those of us who were not that lucky? Now, many of us are living somewhere away from our traditional and geographical boundaries. Do this traditional attitude influence our life when we are out there dealing with all odds of existence?

The answer (my answer) is definitely a huge “YES!”

I am a good listener. I avoid oral confrontations usually but I fortunately have also developed the habit of arguing when I should. That part of me has taken quite long time to develop but I am happy that it didn’t remain buried. And I want to keep also that listener part of me as a priceless gift of my tradition.

The other day, I was sitting with a group of Ethiopians in a cafe in Frankfurt.  In the group was this elderly gentleman whom the others frequently called “General” and he did most of the talking. The old gentleman was wearing a huge shabby jacket which he didn’t bother to take off the whole time. I could see how the German winter was affecting his physical appearance.

I was wondering why the others were calling him General  because, despite his well-mannered complexion, there was nothing about him that showed this highest military grad. But the topic discussed about was very interesting that I decided to ask about this matter later.

The General was reciting many military stories from the time of Haile Selassie. Some of his stories were so grasping that I thought all along that one should write a book or do a film about it. But for this old gentleman seemed this small audience of five to six men to be enough. How I wished to tell him to go out there and shout out his stories to the rest of the world because those were far more better stories than any of the Hollywood blockbusters. But I didn’t dare to interrupt his story and tell him what I was thinking.

The old gentleman whom they all called General has finished telling his stories. He went to his home saying that he was too tired an too old to deal with this cold weather outside. With genuine courtesy, we all stood up bidding him a good night. After he was gone, I asked the others why they were calling him General.

“It is not his nick name…” They said. “…he is a real general. A general who went through all the necessary academical and military procedures and was given the title officially.”

This is not the first time that I met landsmen or women who are living their life abroad in a silent anonymity. Keeping their amazing stories to themselves and looking sometimes for an anonymous opportunity like this one to share their experience to five or six listeners.

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