Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
The giggles started when the seventh journalist in a row said that his question was for Egypt’s water and irrigation minister, Mohamed Nasreddin Allam.
Allam bared his teeth when a Kenyan journalist accused him of hiding behind “colonial-era treaties” giving his country the brunt of the river’s vital waters whether that hurt the poorer upstream countries or not.
“You obviously don’t know enough about this subject to be asking questions about it,” he snapped before later apologising to her with a kiss on the cheek.
Ethiopia’s long-distance runners are among the best in the world, winning seven medals at last year’s Olympic Games. Generations of athletes have trained in the cool highlands of Asella but the weather there is changing, apparently as a result of climate change. There are now worries that this could have an impact on the country’s future runners.
For many young Ethiopians, this is where dreams are made. Internationally famous athletes like Haile Gebrselassie and Kenanisa Bekele have trained in these very parts.
The Ethiopian press corps put Thijs Berman, the EU’s chief observer for the country’s May 23rd elections, under some serious pressure at his first press conference since arriving last Wednesday – less than five weeks before the poll.
“Won’t you just rubberstamp a precooked election?” said one.
“How can you do your work with less than five weeks left?” another.
“You have 150 observers for 43,000 polling stations?!” a third.
Berman, a seasoned election monitor who has Afghanistan’s mess of a 2009 poll on his CV, took it all in his stride and even showed flashes of humour.
It’s one of those photos. The type you can’t get out of your head. There’s just something about it that draws you in. You keep coming back to look again.
It could be because she’s beautiful. Dark brown eyes, gently rounded cheeks, bundles of black curls held atop her head by a carefully tied scarf, the start of a smile she’s trying to suppress, a smile you know will charm when set free.
When you work for a news organisation in a country like Ethiopia, people often tell you “nobody cares” about the stories you report. What they mean, of course, is that nobody in the West cares. Most of the time, they’re right.
But with Ethiopians about to hold national elections for the first time since a 2005 poll ended with a disputed result, about 200 protestors killed in the streets by police and soldiers and opposition leaders jailed after Prime Minister Meles Zenawi accused them of trying to stage a revolution, there’s every reason for the public in the West to take notice.
When news of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash broke this morning my heart sank at the thought of covering yet another negative story about Ethiopia.
It’s particularly galling for Ethiopians that the airline is one of the few international success stories for a country known mostly for famine and war.
So far, media coverage of China’s involvement in Africa has mostly been about investment. Stories of Chinese engineers in hard hats standing by roads up mountains in Ethiopia. Stories of Chinese farmers moving to Zambia.
But, in a push to extent its economic reach, China is now making a very real effort to export its culture to the world’s poorest continent. Last year the Asian giant overtook the U.S. as Africa’s top trading partner, confirming to the West that it has a real battle on its hands to maintain its influence over African nations.
Africa has known for a long time that it’s not going to get everything it wants from the Copenhagen climate talks. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who is representing the continent in Denmark, has been managing expectations by saying so for more than six months now.
But that realism is tempered by increasingly tough words from a man who has already said European emissions may have caused his country’s infamous 1984 famine.
The first time I interviewed Birtukan Mideksa I was struck by how careful she was not to say the wrong thing. It was 2007 and we were standing in the garden of a community centre in the part of Addis Ababa where she was raised. She had just been released from prison and the locals — many of whom struggle to feed themselves — had each given about a dollar to throw her the party-cum-political rally we had just attended and to buy her an old Toyota Corolla car to help her back on her feet again.
Such was her care when talking to me that, after less than five minutes, I discreetly switched
off my recorder knowing the interview would never make a story, and continued the conversation only out of politeness and professional interest in Ethiopian politics.