post Wives of Deposed Dictators

February 21st, 2011

Filed under: General Issue — Lissan Magazine @ 12:40

The Exile Factor: Wives of Deposed Dictators
Behind every tyrant on the run with a trunkful of loot, there’s usually a spouse.
by Jerome Taylor

It’s not exactly the kind of career you would see advertised at the local Job Centre. But in the world’s all-too-numerous autocratic kleptocracies there are few positions more lucrative and gilded than becoming the wife of a dictator.

Successful applicants may have to spend their lives with some of the world’s most unpleasant men, but in return, she can expect palaces, power and sumptuous living standards – even when things go wrong.

With careful risk management by a dictator (a private jet on permanent standby and a healthy stash of bullion in offshore bank accounts are recommended), the threat posed by revolution and overnight ousting can be mitigated to acceptable levels. But wannabe WODs – Wives of Dictators – should be aware that there is always a small chance of the starving masses bashing down the palace gates and demanding a piece of the national pie, and should also plan their metamorphosis into Wodds – Wives of Deposed Dictators.

The toppling last week of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s 24-year reign is a sharp reminder to the world’s dictators that nothing lasts forever. It may also prompt their wives to make escape plans should the winds start blowing in the wrong direction.

Leila Trabelsi, Mr Ben Ali’s second wife, was clearly well prepared. According to reports this week, the 53-year-old daughter of a fruit seller, who rose to become the country’s most powerful woman, organised the removal of more than £37.5m worth of solid gold bars from Tunisia’s Central Bank before she fled via Dubai to Saudi Arabia. Bank officials have denied the allegations, but the reports came as little surprise to ordinary Tunisians on the streets, who compared the Trabelsi and Ben Ali families to mafia-like organisations that squirrelled away vast amounts of the nation’s wealth in preparation for a life of luxurious exile.

For while many ruthless strongmen – such as Charles Taylor, Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein – end up in court, the innocent wives of the world’s despots do not need to worry about threat of prosecution. Ms Trabelsi’s flight to well-funded exile is just one of a number of such journeys that have been made by partners of toppled dictators over the past five decades. The great political upheavals of the 1970s and 1980s led to scores of regime changes in Latin America, the Middle East and South-east Asia.

As largely pro-Western dictators were toppled by popular revolution, many chose to settle in Europe and the United States. The Shah of Iran’s wife, Farah Pahlavi, still divides her time between Paris and Washington DC, while Imelda Marcos fled to Hawaii to plot her eventually successful return to Filipino politics.

More recently, Saudi Arabia has become something of a favoured destination for strongmen of the Muslim world. Mr Ben Ali is following in the footsteps of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in seeking sanctuary with the Al Saud dynasty.

Not all flights into exile go according to plan. Elena Ceausescu tried to flee alongside her husband Nicolae in a helicopter as their notoriously brutal regime crumbled against Romanian street protests. They got as far as the town of Targoviste before revolutionaries within the army forced them to land, subjected them to a swift show trial and executed them.

For those who escape such rough justice, a life of luxury is not always guaranteed. Sarah Kyolaba Amin, the Ugandan dictator’s fifth wife, made ends meet post-divorce working as a lingerie model in Germany before moving to the UK, where a café she ran in London was closed for a while by health inspectors.

Mussolini’s wife fared a little better. While Il Duce’s mistress Claretta Petacci was executed by Italian partisans, Rachele Guidi Mussolini survived the war and spent the rest of her life running a little pasta restaurant in her home village of Predappio. Catering, it seems, is not a bad fallback.

But the real lesson is surely that, if you want to be a successful Wodd, keep a bag packed for a potentially sharp exit.

The good WODD guide: Who’s holed up where?

Michele Bennett
The sophisticated Bennett married Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier in 1980 with a wedding that reputedly cost $3m. In Haiti, the Duvalier regime used fear and repression through the Tonton Macoute secret police and plundered millions that were transferred to European bank accounts. The couple fled to France for a luxury lifestyle on the French Riviera, complete with Ferrari and multiple properties. A police raid on their Mougins villa in 1986 unearthed a notebook logging spending including $168,780 for Givenchy clothes and $270,200 for Boucheron jewellery. They divorced after a decade and reports suggested that Duvalier lost much of his fortune in the divorce settlement.

Sarah Kyolaba Amin
Idi Amin’s fifth wife Sarah fled with him to Libya when he was toppled in 1979. By 1982, she had left him to seek asylum in Germany, where she worked as a lingerie model. In 1999, she narrowly escaped a jail sentence for running a cockroach-infested café in London. Now aged 55, she is thought to be an events organiser in Tottenham. Last year, she collected an award for Amin, which posthumously named him best Ugandan president of all time.

Begum Sehba Musharraf
Begum Sehba Musharraf spent much of the latter part of her husband’s reign receiving female dignitaries from Laura Bush to Princess Rania of Jordan. Facing accusations of violating the Pakistani constitution and gross misconduct, Musharraf resigned from his post as President in 2008 and the couple moved to a luxury apartment in central London.

Farah Pahlavi
Married the former shah of Iran in 1959 at the age of 21. For the most part she was a popular figure, while the regime itself was increasingly seen as being aloof from the people. In 1979, she fled Iran with the deposed shah and their children after months of protest led to an Islamic revolution. The deposed shah, who is thought to have stashed away a fortune before fleeing, moved his family from country to country. Since they left, she has suffered personal tragedy with two children apparently committing suicide. But the family fortune remains considerable.

Mirjana Markovic
She was said to be the driving force in her marriage with Slobodan Milosevic, the “Butcher of the Balkans” who died of a heart attack while on trial at The Hague for crimes against humanity. Now in exile in Russia, she was accused by Serbian prosecutors of making tens of millions of pounds through cigarette smuggling. Said to have a penchant for furs, caviar and French perfume and would fly a plastic surgeon in from Italy.

Catherine Martine Denguiadé
Jean-Bédel Bokassa began to lose his grip on power in the Central African Republic in 1977 when he decreed that all schoolchildren must wear uniforms. Mass protests ensued, partly because the country’s only uniform supplier was owned by his wife, Catherine. When Bokassa was deposed in 1979, the couple fled to France and lived in a chateau just outside Paris, which sold to a mystery buyer for around £762,000 earlier this year. In December 2010, Catherine accepted a state medal of honour from CAR’s current President François Bozizé.

Bobi Ladawa
Married in 1980, Bobi Ladawa became Mobutu Sese Seko’s second wife (although he is also said to have fathered illegitimate children with Ladawa’s twin sister). In 1997, the couple fled Zaire (DRC) after 32 years of Mobutu rule during which he embezzled around £6.3bn. They eventually found refuge in Morocco, but Mobutu died of prostate cancer later that year.

Margot Honecker
The wife of the former leader of East Germany and herself a former education minister, Margot Honecker fled to Moscow in 1991, to avoid criminal charges related to communist policies before Germany was reunified. Nicknamed the ‘purple witch’ in recognition of her blue-rinse hair and hardline policies, she was forced out of Russia by Boris Yeltsin a year later. Honecker has since lived in Chile and gets by on an old age pension.

Wubanchi Bishaw
Finally ousted in 1991, Ethiopian leader Mengistu Haile Mariam and his wife fled to Zimbabwe where Robert Mugabe received them as guests of honour. In 2006, Mariam was foundguilty of genocide and of ignoring a famine which killed one million Ethiopians during his 17-year rule. The couple were last reported to be living between two heavily-guarded luxury villas in Harare and Lake Kariba.

Leila Trabelsi
The newest member of the exiled wives set, Leila Trabelsi reportedly fled to Saudi Arabia to join her husband, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, a week ago following weeks of protest against his corrupt rule in Tunisia. Reports suggest one of her final acts was to collect gold from the country’s central bank. The former hairdresser was known for her love of fast cars – the family owned dozens – and fine clothing bought on frequent shopping trips to Dubai.

Samira Shahbandar
The second of Saddam Hussein’s four wives, Samira Shahbandar reportedly had an affair with Saddam while they were both still married. She fled Iraq to Lebanon after the US invasion. In an interview with the Sunday Times in 2003, she said that Saddam had given her $5m in cash and a hoard of jewellery and gold before she left the country.

Satomi Kataoka
One of the more unusual WODDs in that she met her husband after he fled the country. Alberto Fujimori was elected president and ruled Peru for ten years but adopted dictatorial powers to fight left-wing rebels. He fled to Japan amid a corruption scandal in 2000, and met Japanese hotel magnate Satomi Kataoka. He was arrested in Peru in 2005 when he attempted to launch a new bid for presidency and married multi-millionaire Kataoka from his cell a year later. He remains in jail after being found guilty of abuse of power and ordering killings by the security forces.

Imelda Marcos
The despotic regime of Ferdinand Marcos oversaw political repression and human rights violations. Thousands were killed and the country’s economy ruined. When the couple fled the palace after popular protests, Mrs Marcos was found to have left behind more than 1,000 pairs of shoes and 15 mink coats. Mr Marcos is estimated to have looted billions of pounds from the country. Imelda returned to the Philippines in 1991 when she was convicted of corruption, a verdict that was overturned the following year.

source: The Independent

post Dictators in Exile

February 21st, 2011

Filed under: General Issue — Lissan Magazine @ 12:00

Death, Exile Come With Being a Dictator
The Associated Press

– Some ended up in prison, others were butchered at the hands of their own people. A lucky few lived out their days in comfortable exile or in positions of privilege in the lands they ruled.

India’s independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi said dictators “can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall.” That hasn’t always proven true. Russia’s Josef Stalin, North Korea’s Kim Il-Sung, China’s Mao Zedong, Spain’s Francisco Franco, Albania’s Enver Hoxha and Syria’s Hafez Assad all died in power. Augusto Pinochet of Chile arranged a comfortable retirement before handing over power. The global record of bringing tyrants to justice has been mixed.

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic stood before an international tribunal to answer for his regime, but he died before a verdict could be rendered.

Liberia’s Charles Taylor has been indicted for war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone and awaits trial.

Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega is serving a 40-year term in a federal prison in Miami for racketeering, drug trafficking and money-laundering after U.S. troops entered his country and arrested him in 1989.

But history’s master tyrant, Adolf Hitler, escaped retribution by committing suicide in Berlin before Soviet troops could capture him in 1945.

Pol Pot, whose Khmer Rouge regime was responsible for the deaths of up to 2 million Cambodians, died in the jungle in 1998 as remnants of his vanquished movement were preparing to hand him over to an international court.

For dictators, great power entails great risk. The price for years spent firmly in the saddle can be high.

For nearly 25 years, Nicolae Ceausescu wielded vast powers as the Communist boss of Romania, even defying the Kremlin, which tolerated him because of his firm hold over his people. Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were executed by a firing squad on Christmas Day 1989 after revolutionaries toppled his regime.

That seemed like a merciful end compared with that of Samuel Doe, the shy, soft-spoken master sergeant who overthrew Liberian President William Tobert in 1980.

Power and corruption soon got the best of him and after 10 years of dictatorial rule, Doe was himself overthrown _ tortured, mutilated and brutally slain.

More fortunate are those who can call on a foreign leader for a safe haven once their regime is on the rocks.

Idi Amin, who as president of Uganda ordered the massacre of thousands of his countrymen and impoverished his people, managed to get away to Libya after neighboring Tanzania overthrow his regime in 1979. Amin later settled in Saudi Arabia, where he died in 2003.

Ethiopia’s Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam escaped to Zimbabwe in 1991 as rebels led by ethnic minority Tigreans closed in on his capital, ending a 17-year dictatorship notorious for its bloody purges.

Mengistu has a luxury villa, bodyguards and a pension _ payback for having provided Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe with arms, money and training facilities during the 1972-80 war to end white rule in former Rhodesia.

Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier of Haiti used his family’s longtime ties to France to escape retribution when the Haitian military ousted his regime in 1986.

“Baby Doc” was named president for life at age 19 following the 1971 death of his father, Francois, “Papa Doc,” who had ruled with the help of the notorious paramilitary Tonton Macoutes.

Despite promises to liberalize, the younger Duvalier muzzled the press, wrecked the economy and ordered the torture and killing of hundreds of political prisoners, finally provoking mass protests and a coup that chased him from the country.

Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic wasn’t so lucky. One of Africa’s most ruthless dictators, Bokassa was ousted in a French-backed coup in 1979 after a bizarre 13-year rule that included proclaiming himself Emperor Bokassa I.

Bokassa was accused of killing and eating those who dared criticize him. His purported crimes included the 1979 massacre of 100 children who complained about school uniforms they were required to buy from his factory.

After seven years in luxurious exile in Ivory Coast and France, Bokassa returned to Central African Republic in 1987 expecting to be welcomed. Instead, he became the first deposed African chief of state to be publicly tried on charges of murder, torture and cannibalism.

He was acquitted of cannibalism charges, but convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to 20 years in prison, and he was freed in September 1993.

Bokassa died three years later and was honored with a state funeral.


post The Beautiful Gatherer

February 20th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 18:58

The Beautiful Gatherer
To the Hadza of Tanzania, amongst the last of the hunter-gatherers of Africa

I think of Amama as the Beautiful Gatherer. Although she could forage better than anyone else, she would still work at the task, longer than any other woman. But she could never eat it all. My Amama gathered to give. So everyone could eat baobab fruit and undushipi berries.

She made me dolls of clay. I saw them emerge from nothing. I thought she had sprinkled them with secret dust and chanted a special blessing. I’ve always treasured those dolls; hoping my children will value them also.

Amama, scarred by snakebite and thornbush. Scarred by the loss of Koku. Too old to climb; fell from a baobab tree, trying to bring her a gift of honey. In my culture, husbands and wives often come and go, but Amama and Koku stayed together. The Beautiful Gatherer and the Valiant Hunter.

She was there throughout the Mai-to-ko. I was covered in animal fat, bedecked in beads. She laughed with me, as I sang and danced. She was there at the cutting. Holding me after, as I wept, then smiled. Things never seemed so bad, when you were in Amamas embrace.

Animal fat again. Used this time, to soften antelope skin. My first skirt of impala, embellished by shells and beads. Beads chosen by me, sewn on by Amama. I walked around in radiant parade, shining like the Ishoko.

I still wear the necklace that she made for me, using zebra bones, Maasai beads and porcupine quills.

I remember the many times, weaker-muscled, helping her pound baobab seeds and marula nuts; then falling asleep in her arms.

Today, we laid her in her hut and set it on fire. Then we turned and walked away, leaving that place.

Over time, we have become experts of movement. To a place of berries or a colony of weaver birds. To a place over there where the tubers are. To a site we have settled before. But today, we moved because of Amama. My Amama, who remains my guiding star: throughout the Serengeti, along the shoreline of Lake Eyasi. My template for dignified womanhood.

People liked to be in her presence; they gathered around her. When they didn’t have enough, she would give fruit or a tuber. My Amama, the Beautiful Gatherer.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2010.

Amama – grandmother
Koku/Akaye – grandfather
Mai-to-ko – female puberty ritual
Ishoko - Sun

post Ethiopian Law Newsletter 6

February 15th, 2011

Filed under: General Issue — Lissan Magazine @ 00:45

6th Edition

Dear Customers;
Wishing you a happy new year we present you our sixth edition of Ethiopian Law Newsletter. Please enjoy it and give us your comment about it.
For further information here is the contact address of our law office.

Telephone: 00251115151290; 00251116551720
Cell Phone: 00251911623555; 00251958001090

Kind regards

Be Careful Of Defacto Divorces without Legalizing the Divorce in Court
Currently, marriage under Ethiopian law is an institution that is to be entered into with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. The spouses have equal rights during the entry of, the lifetime and dissolution of the marriage. So when a marriage is dissolved, for any of the legal reasons this legal principle entails various effects for spouses so intending that dictates adherence to legal procedure as the most convenient path to follow.

What is Defacto divorce?
So what is defacto divorce? This occurs when partners in a marriage separate (be it through mutual agreement or one spouses abandons the other) and start leading their separate lives. Though not legally divorced, these people are “divorced” in fact and usually remarry, produce heirs and own property.

Divorce and Division of Common Property under Ethiopian Legal System
When a marriage is dissolved by divorce the issue of division of property will come to the scene. Property in this respect is divided in to two: personal and common property.

1. Personal property – Property possessed by the spouses on the day of their marriage or property they will come across, even after the marriage, through personal donation or succession shall be their personal property. Property they acquire through the exchange of their personal property (even if such property is money), or from money obtained from the sale of such property will continue to be their personal property if they inform the court and recognizes it as being personal.

2. Common property – The primary legal presumption is that all property is common property even if it is registered in the name of one of the spouses unless the spouse concerned can provide he is the only owner. Specifically, all income derived by the spouses, including income they obtain from their own efforts, from the common property they have acquired over the years, income derived from their personal property or donated to the spouses is considered common. And if property obtained by sale of personal property or its exchange if not declared to the court and decided upon, it well be on the moment of liquidation and division
…Read more

Investing in the Lubricant and petroleum oil business in Ethiopia
According to the Ethiopian investment laws any investor can engage in the areas of lubricant and petroleum oil business, with a very little reservation. These areas of investment open for foreigners also. i.e any foreigners who want to invest either wholly or in partnership with domestic investors can engage in the above areas of investment. However in the area of petroleum only the distribution of the petroleum oil is permitted. The importing of petroleum oil is specifically given to the Ethiopian Petroleum Agency. However the import and distribution of petroleum oil is free to engage for any foreign or local investor …Read more

VAT Exempted Items in Ethiopia
If you have wondered what things are exempted from payment of VAT the following items are the ones provided by the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority as lists of VAT exempted transactions. If you want to know about these items here is the list.

1. The Sale or rent of a dwelling house which has been used for at least 2 years,
2. Financial service,
3. Local or Foreign currencies and warranty distribution or importation except for cents and medals research services,
4. The import of Gold for the presentation to the National bank of Ethiopia,
5. Religious or spiritual related services given by religious institutions,
6. Educational services given by educational institutions and child care given by kindergartens,
7. Electricity, kerosene and water supplies (does not include water processed by Factories)
…Read more

Period of Limitation in Criminal Cases According to Ethiopian Law
Do you know about period of limitation? Period of limitation means when one person who can be a plaintiff or a defendant has a time limit for raising or presenting a question. Here in below you will find list of period of Limitations listed under the Ethiopian criminal code.

In criminal cases: Period of Limitations in criminal cases are divided into two. They are suit period of limitation and sentence period of limitations. …Read more

The Right to Appeal over a Tax Authority’s Decision
In relation to income tax the Ethiopian Income Tax Proclamation 286/2002 provides the following information.

Even though Income Tax issues are not as familiar as civil cases, any tax payer can appeal on a judgment rendered by the Tax Authority.

If a tax payer has a complaint over a tax judgment the tax payer must fulfill the following criteria to appeal to the tax appellate court.

1. The tax payer must deposit the 50 percent of the due tax payment in controversy to the Tax Authority.
2. The tax payer must appeal within 30 days from the receipt of the notice of the tax judgment or the judgment of the complaint hearing committee. …Read more

Declaration of Absence and its effects under Ethiopian law
Do you know the existence of a concept of absence of a person according to Ethiopian law? So if you are missing for more than two years and no one really knows your whereabouts there is a possibility that you may be declared absent by Ethiopian courts. Below you will find out how it works.

According to The Ethiopian Civil Code Declaration of absence takes place where an interested party applies to the court to declare absence,

The Legal Implications of Declaration of Absence: Since the declaration of absence is equivalent to declaration of death, according to Ethiopian law, declaration of absence has more or less similar effect like death. So let’s see the effects of declaration of absence.

On Marriage: The marriage of the absentee will automatically be dissolved on the day on which the judgment declaring the absence has become final.

On Ones Estate: In case of succession a succession opened after the date of the last news of the absentee shall devolve without taking into account the portion which may eventually be assigned to the absentee. Of course, this happens only in cases where the absentee would …Read more

Normal Hours of Work and Their Possible Arrangement According To the Ethiopian Labour Proclamation
Are you an employer or employee who wants to know your normal hours of work? Here is an important note for you in this regard.

The issue of Normal hours of work is one of the important information an employer or an employee should know about. Because such hours are the basis of the apportionment of working time, according to the needs of an employer organization. When we come to the subject matter of normal hours of work we find the Ethiopian Labour Law Provisions of Normal Hours of work,

Can You Simply Ignore Anybody’s Offer for Business?
Today we will give you a brief idea about silence to a business offer and its implication according to Ethiopian Law.

Before that let’s begin with the following questions.

1. Is silence acceptance or refusal according to Ethiopian law?
2. Are you required by Ethiopian law to specifically refuse or accept any offers of business made to you?
3. What will be the legal implications of your silence to offers made to you?

One may ask if he can simply ignore a business offer according to the Ethiopian law. According to the Ethiopian Civil Code, in a normal circumstance, one can ignore a business offer made to him/her. In other words, in principle Silence doesn’t amount to acceptance. …Read more

Is mistake strong enough to cancel a contract according to Ethiopian Law?
If you want to know if a mistake in a contract can be strong enough to cancel it according to Ethiopian law you might want to read this.

A mistake in an everyday life is inevitable. likewise it is natural to make mistakes when writing a contract. There might be minor or major mistakes involved in a contract. The minor mistakes can be corrected easily. But as for the major ones can be strong enough to cancel a contract.

Major Mistakes
Of course, the mistake must be Decisive and Fundamental to be considered as a major one. The mistake to be a major mistake that can invalidate a contract should fulfill the cumulative requirements of Decisiveness and Fundamentality. …Read more

Requirements of Form One Should Observe As Per Ethiopian Law
In establishing contractual relationships one should observe the formality requirements of the law. In this regard we will look at the requirements of form one may be required to observe while entering into agreements in Ethiopia.

According to the provisions of the Ethiopian Civil Code though in principle it is possible to enter into contract orally, by conduct, through signs some contracts are required by law to be made in a specific form the failure of its compliance could result in the invalidation of the contract. In other words though Contracting parties are at liberty in choosing the form of their contract under the Ethiopian law, when the law prescribes a special form for specifies contracts, contracting parties should observe it to ensure the legality of the agreement. …Read more

Period of Limitation under the Ethiopian Labour Proclamation
If one wants to know how period of limitation is dealt within the Ethiopian labour law, this note can give you some ideas.

Period of limitation in a labour issue varies based on the nature of claim the plaintiff may have against the defendant.

In a general employment relationship, unless a specific time limit is provided otherwise in the labour law proclamation or other relevant laws, an action arising from an employment relationship shall be barred by limitation after one year from the date on which the …Read more

Probation Period under the Ethiopian Labour Proclamation
Do you want to employ a new employee under probation? Are you new employee under period of probation period? Here is a relevant note on probation under Ethiopian law.

A probation period according to the labour law of Ethiopia is a period allocated for the purpose of testing a person’s suitability to a post in which he/she is expected to be assigned.

Probation period shall be made in writing when the parties agree to have a probation period. This period should not in any case exceed forty five consecutive days.

Alimony/Spousal Support under the Ethiopian Legal System
In most of the civilized legal systems around the world, if one spouse earns more money than the other spouse, he or she is required to pay spousal support. This is usually a payment independent from child support, with the amount being set by the court based on the spouses’ assets, incomes, ages, health, standard of living, ability to be self sufficient, contribution to each others’ career, length of marriage and more.

The revised family code recognizes the need for spouses to support each other during the life time of the marriage. (The Revised Family code arts. 49(1), 210 (a)). However, it seems to shift from this position once the marriage is dissolved, in exception to the support owed to the children concerned, all contact should be severed between the spouses. Either for this or other reasons (non consideration included) the topic alimony is neither referred to nor provided for in the code, barring its existence in rulings concerning the dissolution of marriage.


post The Arab in Addis Ababa

February 13th, 2011

Filed under: Tourists on Ethiopia — Lissan Magazine @ 22:42

The Arab in Addis Ababa
By Faisal al Yafai

I wake up suddenly in the skies over Africa and everything is quiet. Outside, the last wisps of white cloud vanish as we break cloud cover descending into Addis Ababa and, in slow motion, a carpet of green unravels below. As far as I can see, dark, lush fields stretch away, the sunlight through the clouds creating patchworks of lighter shades here and there. But everywhere to the horizon, where the grey mountains rise, is covered in a canopy of green. If this is what this cradle of civilisation looked like millions of years ago, it’s not clear why our ancestors ever left.


I’m telling this to Tewodros in the Piazza the next afternoon. Teddy (”Please call me Teddy, you are not my mother”) is a fearsomely clever man, with angular eyebrows, grey stubble and fingers that seem too long for his hands.

The Piazza isn’t really a place; it is a collection of streets tailing off from a central roundabout, with Addis’s most famous sight, the neo-classical cathedral of St George, overlooking it. The area, which features Italian-style architecture from the (brief) Italian colonial days, is one of the best places to come to find great coffee, good pastries and relaxed conversation.

But you have to know where to look and luckily Teddy can guide me. (For a price: I start off paying him 500 Ethiopian birr a day (Dh110) and it increases by 100 birr (Dh22) daily, but Teddy is such good company, I’m happy to overlook this quirky attitude to pricing.) I first meet him in a pool hall off the Churchill Road; he’s a man who talks endlessly about his family, but spends his days driving and his nights playing pool. While we talk, ageing cars and the ubiquitous blue taxis and minibuses splutter along. Aster Aweke, an Ethiopian-American singer, oozes out of the music store opposite, a beautiful voice rising and falling with words I can’t understand. Everything is slow; the sun and the dust take the edges off our words.

This, to me, is what I came to Ethiopia for - good coffee and good conversation. But it’s hardly worth pretending other people see it that way. You can’t avoid the fact that Ethiopia is not high on the travel lists of most people; memories of the 1984 famine and the starving children of Ethiopia still linger. Even in Ethiopia, Addis is often just a stop on the way to the astonishing carved churches in Lalibela or the hiking of the Semien mountains.

But there is much to experience in Addis, as everyone calls this sprawling city, if not all that much to see. The main sights - the enormous Holy Trinity Cathedral, the Derg and Yekatit 12 monuments, respectively remembering the lives lost under communist and Italian rules, even the new urban parks that are filled with residents picnicking - all can be seen in two days, leaving plenty of time to take life slowly, like the Ethiopians.

After lunch, we head to Mercato, reputedly the largest market in Africa, but in reality a slum with things to sell. Corrugated iron shacks house the endless stalls, which stretch out in all directions. We walk for two hours through this alternately pungent and aromatic market, where everything on Earth is for sale. People call out to us and rush over to grab my hand and lead me somewhere I don’t want to go; deeper in the market, we are ignored, and the streets widen to reveal mosques and people in jallabiyas. Here people greet me in Arabic.

In the midst of the endless stalls, I find a beautiful stone statue of the Queen of Sheba, the semi-mythical ruler of an ancient city state in what would be modern-day Yemen. But at her feet sits a lion, the symbol of Ethiopia’s emperors, and beside her is an obelisk, a symbol of Axum, the city in the north of Ethiopia that was the centre of a 10th-century BC city.

For the Ethiopians, the Queen of Sheba (whom they call Makeda) is part of their royal line and they tell a different story to the one known from biblical and Qurannic texts, a story that shows the country’s intimate connection with both Christian and Islamic histories. For while the Abrahamic religions tell of the Queen of Sheba hearing of the wisdom of King Solomon and travelling to Jerusalem to meet him, the Kebra Nagast (”The Glory of Kings”), the Ethiopian national epic, recounts how the queen bore King Solomon a child, who eventually left Jerusalem for Axum, taking with him the Ark of the Covenant, and founding the line of emperors that stretched unbroken from him until the last emperor, Haile Selaisse, was deposed in 1974.

Such legends are what histories are made of, and there is no doubting the extensive links between Ethiopia and the Arabian Peninsula. It isn’t just the language, with fragments of Arabic bursting through Amharic, nor the familial lines (I meet Yemenis and Saudis who are married to Ethiopians), nor even how Ethiopians share the slim noses and wide eyes of the Peninsula Arabs, more than their African cousins to the west. It’s something else, to do with the warmth and welcome of the city, with the way people are always quick to smile.

A day later and we go walking in the Entoto Mountains that surround Addis to the north. A couple of small churches dot the hills and walking between them is an easy and pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Lush green hills and barely used trails greet us and the sky is so close and so blue above us, it feels as if someone has turned down the oxygen and turned up the contrast.

Down in the city, I noticed very few tourists: occasionally I would catch a glimpse of a couple of bright backpacks on packed buses, or see a middle-aged couple quizzically pondering a map. But up here, the walkers are mainly foreigners, part of the enormous NGO contingent that works in the city, taking a respite from the noise of Addis.

It’s past nightfall when we return to Addis and I am in need of a shower and a good meal. For the latter, a friend takes me out along the Bole Road, a crowded strip of restaurants, coffee shops and nightclubs that stretches south-east from the city, almost as far as the airport. This is where Addis residents with money come to spend it and it is where we find a restaurant called Habesha, which features traditional dancers.

The food is excellent, a mix of spicy wat stew and vegetarian dishes, all placed on the doughy bread injera, a staple of Ethiopian cuisine with a slightly spongy texture that - you find after a few days - is astonishingly versatile, adapting its taste to bland eggs or searing hot meat.

Around us are the performers and the noise is extraordinary. A group of dancers have commandeered the marble floor between the tables, while diners watch them “in the round”. Each set of dancers perform ensembles from a different region, with costumes. The performers are prodigious, popping their bodies and rhythmically snapping their arms, chest and legs in time to a fast beat, more like gymnasts than dancers.

It is lunchtime the next day when Teddy and I drive up to the National Museum on the main King George VI St. On the way in, a group of teenagers on their lunch-time break from school call to me and I spend half an hour talking to them. They know their history, pointing out statues in the museum grounds and telling me the tales behind them. They are happy, smiling teenagers but, between the lines, you can read the scars of Ethiopia - at least one has family with Aids, while another tells me his father was killed in the war with neighbouring Eritrea a decade ago.

The museum itself is small, spread over four floors, and houses some nice artefacts from the period of the last emperor. But it is in the basement that the real attraction lies. It is here that two casts of hundreds of bones belonging to a hominid that walked the Earth 3.2 million years ago have been reconstructed.

The finding of the tiny Lucy in 1974 in the burnt valleys of Hadar marked a new chapter in the understanding of human evolution - she walked upright but had a small brain, overturning the old theory that humans developed large brains first.

Alone in the dimly lit rooms below the museum, facing the dark eyes of the reconstructed Lucy, I think of her and her families, walking out across the fields and mountains of Ethiopia and on to the wider world. And I think of the teenagers I’ve just met, eager to be part of the modern world and held back by disease and war. Like Ethiopia, the human race has come so far. And yet, like Ethiopia, we have so far yet to go.

If you go

The flight
Return flights on Emirates ( from Dubai to Addis Ababa cost from Dh2,065, including taxes

The hotels
Kuriftu Guest House (; 00 251 11 662 3809) on Bole Road has homely apartments with living and dining areas from US$120 (Dh440) a night for stays less than two weeks. For proximity to the Piazza, try the Ras Hotel (; 00 251 11 551 7060), which likes to boast that Nelson Mandela is a former guest. Double rooms start from around $25 (Dh92). At the top end is the Sheraton Addis (; 00 251 11 517 1717), which also offers private three-floor villas. Prices for a double room start from $410 (Dh1,506), including breakfast, free internet access and taxes.

By Faisal al Yafai
source: The National

post A Man of Quiet Strength

February 13th, 2011

Filed under: General Issue — Natty Mark Samuels @ 20:31

A Man of Quiet Strength

Excuse me, I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation just now. You were talking of heroes like Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu. But I never heard you mention the man Abune Petros.

You spoke of iconic clerics, who had put their lives on the line for what they believed in; their beautiful implementation. And as you know, my new-found friend, some lost their lives. One such was Abune Petros.

A brilliant teacher who became an inspirational bishop. He had followers and friends far and wide. High official who never lost his humility. The fascists mistook his gentleness for weakness. So initially, they did not realise the great strength he possessed. They tried to break his solidity. When they could not, they murdered him.

Abuna Petros went to his death the same way he had lived: humility and dignity intertwined; a man of quiet strength.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

post To the Most High

February 13th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 20:11

To the Most High

St.Giyorgis Cathedral,
In Addis Ababa,
After League of Nations betrayal.
I saw Tafari Makonnen
Approaching and Kneeling
Praying to the Most High.
I saw Ras Tafari
Broken by the lie
Praying to the Most High.

Sacred Lalibela,
The mountains called Lasta,
The worst days of his life.
I saw Tafari Makonnen
Bowing and Kneeling
Calling to the Most High.
I saw Ras Tafari
Water in his eye
Praying to the Most High.

Ethiopian Church,
Old Jerusalem,
The start of his exile.
I saw Tafari Makonnen
Prostrating and kneeling
Pleading to the Most High.
I saw Ras Tafari
The groan and the sigh
Praying to the Most High.

Somerset England,
Geneva Switzerland,
Fighting for Ethiopia.
I saw Tafari Makonnen
Praising and Kneeling
Appealing to the Most High.
I saw Ras Tafari
Head towards the sky
Praying to the Most High.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2006

post Songs of Ndongo

February 1st, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 02:35

Songs of Ndongo

A Poem for Voices

1st Voice
I was a slave
Running from Luanda
Finding sanctuary
Alongside Queen Nzinga.

2nd Voice
We ran from Luanda
We ran from Benguela
From the ships to Brazil
The ships to Cuba

1st Voice
I ran and ran
To be a free man

2nd Voice
All the way to Matamba;
To fight with Queen Nzinga.

Mbundu Man
From the Kingdon of Ndongo
Enslaved by the people
From the Kingdom of Kongo.

1st Voice
They tricked the Mani Kongo
With their words
And their brand of Christianity.
Needing numbers
For their sugar trade
On the isle of Sao Tome.

Church and Crown
Church and Crown

2nd Voice
Slavery made easier
With those two around.

Crown issued the license

1st Voice
Levied the tax

Church gave the blessing

1st Voice
Morality lax.

1st Voice
Her brother the King
Sent her to Luanda
To speak for Ndongo
The trusted Ambassador.
Turned to Christianity
The name Anna de Souza
The Portuguese Governor
Her new ‘godfather’.

2nd Voice
A great diplomat
Signed a promising treaty
Governor changed his mind
The continuance of cruelty.

1st Voice
The Portuguese invader
Was a skilled manipulator.
He tricked the Mani Kongo
He tricked the Ngola
Outdoing the brother
But couldn’t ensnare the sister

3rd Voice
Heard her brother committed suicide
Is it true?
Is it true?

2nd Voice
Ndongo was weak
Nzinga is strong
Time to build anew

Watching the Kwanza flow,
She sat by herself,
Singing songs of Ndongo.

1st Voice
She sat for awhile
Delaying as long as she could
The entrance into exile

Queen Nzinga
Great River Kwanza
I shall return
But now I have to go.
I shall return
The question is when
The answer I do not know.
River and land
Beautiful land
Time to leave Ndongo.

Into the place called exile
She led them by the hand

Queen Nzinga
This is war
This the first battle
We shall return to Mbunduland

Watching a river flow,
She would sit by herself,
Singing songs of Ndongo.


1st Voice
So off they went
Into Matambaland
Taking the Kingdom
Of Matamba man.

2nd Voice
Exodus of Ndongo
Mbundu citizen
Some stayed with the puppet man
Puppet King of Lisbon.

1st Voice

2nd Voice

3rd Voice

Queen Nzinga
How could he call himself Ngola?
When the only voice he hears
Is that of the Portuguese governor

1st Voice
But they came
To fight alongside Queen Nzinga
From the Portuguese army
The African defector

2nd Voice
Men who became slaves
Running from Luanda

3rd Voice
Soldiers for hire -
The Imbangala

3rd Voice
The Imbangala
Dislocated through drought
Raiding and killing
Rout after rout
They worked for the Portuguese
So Ndongo would cease
The feared mercenaries
Who founded Kasanje
From the central highlands
Around the Kwango River
Once our enemies
Now allied with Queen Nzinga

1st Voice
Young people in her army

A force called Kilombo

2nd Voice
Left family ties

To join a Kilombo

3rd Voice
Fighting together

Freedom Kilombo

Watching a river flow,
She would sit by herself,
Singing songs of Ndongo.


3rd Voice
She married the Imbangala chief
A bonding
A treaty of defiance
Brand new attempt
Of the vision of alliance.

2nd Voice
But then betrayal
Imbangala invaded Matamba
Husband against wife
Kasanje fighting Nzinga

1st Voice
He tried a few times
To beat this fighter
But he couldn’t dethrone
The Queen of Matamba.

1st Voice
Then one day
The Dutchmen came
Conquering Luanda

2nd Voice
Queen Nzinga
In another alliance
Dreaming of old Kabasa.

1st Voice
She fought the puppet King
Alongside Netherlander
At the stronghold of Mansango
At the Battle of of Kombi
Leading her soldiers
Dreaming of Ndongo.

2nd Voice
But the daylight changed
Return to nightmare
Reinforcements from Brazil
With the Dutch defeated
She was forced to return
To sit on Matamba Hill.

3rd Voice
She won at Ngolome
But lost at Kayanga
They captured her sister
And drowned her in the Kwanza.
Her soldiers wept beside her
On the return to Matamba

Watching a river flow,
She would sit by herself,
Singing songs of Ndongo.


1st Voice
She ruled her people
For forty years
Queen of no surrender
She stopped the invader
From going further
Invading the interior.

2nd Voice
After all the battles
Often leading from the front
She died a peaceful death
Dying in Matamba.

1st Voice

3rd Voice
Military strategist

2nd Voice
A great freedom fighter

We salute you Queen Nzinga.

Watching a river flow,
She would sit by herself,
Singing songs of Ndongo.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2008.

post Leaders meet in Ethiopia

February 1st, 2011

Filed under: General Issue — Samuel M. Gebru @ 02:16

African Leaders meet in Ethiopia

By: Samuel M. Gebru
January 31, 2011

Dozens of African heads of state and government converged this past weekend in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the annual summit of the African Union (AU). The AU is the continental intergovernmental organization of African states headquartered in Addis Ababa. Dubbed the “Dictator’s Club” by the continent’s human rights activists, the AU is a successor of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) that was founded in Addis Ababa with the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I as one of its founders.

The AU Summit featured the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, who addressed the African leaders in a keynote speech as the President of the G20. President Sarkozy cautioned the leaders, saying that unless they carefully listened to and addressed the grievances of their people, they could face serious public discontent. He was careful not to mention any particular state, except in the case of lambasting the Cote d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo for refusing the step down, and Egypt and Tunisia.

Interestingly, Egypt and Tunisia were not discussed at the summit. Chairman Jean Ping of the African Union Commission, the AU secretariat in Addis Ababa, stated that the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt occurred too late to include in his report. It’s easy to tell that those civilian uprisings were the talk of the day though. Furthermore, leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria were conspicuously absent at the summit. This could very well be because the latter two are worried about possible uprisings.

Although exciting that President Sarkozy highlighted good governance and human rights, its unclear how far his words will go. Authoritarian governments, most who do not fear using live ammunition against their citizens, lead a great deal of AU member states. Particularly interesting about Egypt’s case is that the government is not firing live ammunition into the crowds of rioters, controlling them using water canons, tear gas and plastic bullets. President Sarkozy warned against using force to put down public protests:
“Allow me on this sensitive subject to speak very bluntly. I am going to speak as a friend, because one owes the truth to one’s friends. When faced with innocent victims, our consciences cannot but be pricked because violence from whatever sources is never a solution. Because violence only breeds more violence, because violence on all continents engenders misery and suffering.”

Some major issues that the AU has to contend with now include:

* The electoral dispute and subsequent violence in Cote d’Ivoire since November 28, 2010
* The Government of Kenya’s continental campaign against the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, seeking a common African stance against the ICC in hopes of deferring its court proceedings for the electoral violence in 2007-2008 and the court’s double standard on Africa
* The likely split of Sudan, Africa’s largest state and the implications of South Sudan’s sovereignty
* Maintaining, increasing or decreasing the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), where peacekeeping efforts are looking grim

Some of Africa’s leaders continue to be drunk on power and their actions are increasingly depicting that drunkenness at the African Union. It is profoundly unfortunate that what could and should be a very powerful organization is quiet on the issue of human rights. More unfortunate is perhaps the fact that not many, if any, African leaders have the moral high ground to criticize each other.

Africa’s problems certainly require African solutions but the mechanism to accomplish that vision has proven itself a sinking ship.


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