E
thiopia ......
13 months of Sunshine
With 13 months in the year, Ethiopia has plenty of time to be distinct.  Ethiopia is the cradle of human
kind, keeper of the lost ark of the covenant, kingdom of the mythical Pester John, land of the most
consistently hot spot in the world - the Danakil depression, the only country in Africa to avoid
colonization by the Europeans, watershed of the Nile, and most importantly my home since  
November 2005.  
Ethiopia is seven years behind in the Gregorian calendar (it's 2000)
because, as they say it, it took seven years for the Magi to return
from giving mirth and frankincense to that little boy from Bethlehem.  
This adds to the uniqueness of their calendar that consists of 12
months of 30 days each and a 13th month before the new year of 5
days.  They also start their day at 6:00am, which makes setting up
meetings a challenge as 3:00 pm for me is 9:00 o’clock for them.  
Christmas is celebrated on Jan. 7th.  This year, on September 11,
the Ethiopian New Year, we rocked in new millennium ......and what a
bash it was.   
Ethiopia came about by the begating
of Menelik I.  The Queen of Sheba
was trumped into bed by the wise king
of ancient Israel, Solomon (who
obviously wise enough to spot a
beautiful woman when he sees one).   
Menelik I, supposedly upset at Dad for
abandoning his mother, snuck out of
Isreal in the pitch of night with the Ark
of the Covenant. As the story goes,
currently resides in the Church of the
Holy Mary in Axum.  No one is allowed
to see it and it’s guarded by one monk
who can never leave nor receive
visitors – or I would imagine their
heads will explode like the Nazi’s in
“Raiders of the Ark”.  

Each Jan. 19th, Ethiopian Christians,
worried that another derelict will run off
with their treasure, celebrate Timkat
(the epiphany) in which churches
across the country come out and
displaying faux Arks so to confuse any
potential “artifact dealers”.    
Modern Ethiopia still holds links
to the begating of Menelik.  
Emperors up until the unseating
of Haile Selassie in 1974 claimed
themselves to be the direct line
of Sheba and Solomon.   (Tiny 5’
4” 80 yr old Haile Selaissie was
literally told to step down from his
gigantic seat and supposedly
buried at the bottom of the latrine
that the coup leader Migistu
used.  Mingestu was recently
convicted in abstenia of crimes of
genocide).  While there is a
laundry list of past glories, the
past century for Ethiopia has not
been so beautiful.   It suffered
from massive droughts, famine
and war.   In the 1930’s it was
occupied by Musilini’s Italy and
was one of the first fronts of the
WWII.  After annexing Eritrea, it
experienced a 40 yr. civil war.  It
was also invaded by Somalia
twice, with a wink and nod by the
US and USSR.

While the most popular images of
Ethiopia are of starving masses,
the reality is that during each of
the famines Ethiopian have
suffered, there were sections of
the country that had food but the
Emperor and Mingestu, refused
to mobilize provisions to the
drought areas.  In his early
years, Haile Selassie ensured
many developments to the
county, such as the first car,
airplane, telephone, university,
electricity and TV but because of
his arrogance these
developments led to his down
fall.  He encouraged students to
study abroad.  But when they
returned and noticed the vast
differences from their historically
isolated country they began to
question then protest the
monarchy.  A quintessential
moment to Selassie’s down fall
were images shown on the TV of
a terrible famine in the north,
side by side images of the
Emperor feeding steaks to his
pet lions for his 80th birthday
celebrations.  TV also brought
about the slow decline of
Mingestu, as images of
emaciated people spurned
humanitarian outpouring with the
help of Live Aid and Band Aid.  
Sadly all the food and good will
sat on docks and rotted because
Mingestu purposely stopped food
from going to the rebellious
north.  As he said “if you want to
catch a fish....you dry the pond”.  
But his final blow was  the fall of
the Soviet Union, who could no
longer fund his insatiable diet of
arms.  Through out these
famines, however, people in
Addis and other parts of the
country ate well.  In fact they
were often unaware of the
famine unless they had family
from the north.  The starving
Ethiopian is a consequence of
politics.  
Politics still hamper Ethiopia.  
There is the continued conflict
between the Meles and Issias, the
Prime Ministers of Ethiopia and
Eritrea respectively, who were
once rebel pals out to make a new
vibrant and peaceful Horn of Africa
when they came to power.  Their
camaraderie as rebels has since
turned to a feud that has led to at
least 20,000 soldier deaths during
the border war in 1999-2000.  It is
also widely believed that PM Meles
manipulated the last election in
2005, arresting opposition leaders
and charging them with genocide
after riots broke out to protest the
election results.  In addition, last
year Ethiopia invaded Somalia to
support the UN sanctioned
government and fight the United
Islamic Courts which has called on
a Jihad against the infidel Ethiopia.
 Eritrea, always the needle in
Ethiopia's side, is helping instigate
this battle.  This of course has lead
to greater tensions on the Eritrean
border.  But through out this,
growth continues.  Like usual
Addis blossoms but now even
some development is happening in
the outer regions if slowly.  
Ethiopians are extremely
resourceful and with improved
politics hopefully their potential will
be realized.

And of course politics is where I
come in.  However the politics I
deal with are the politics outside
the country.  Ethiopia host
refugees from Eritrea, Sudan, and
Somalia, to whom my organization,
IRC, provides a number of
assistance.   
Axum Steale
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Tigrinian women in house
Adwa Mountains.  The site of the Ethiopian's victory over
the Itilians to stop the colonization of their country
Priest during an Easter vigil, Lalibella
Harvesting teff near Axum. Teff is the grain used for local bread, njera
Harvesting teff near Axum. Teff is the grain used for local bread, njera
Tigrinian girl
Monk on the top of the Mastiff at the monastry, Debre Damo
Harvesting teff near Axum. Teff is the grain used for local bread, njera
Tigrinian boy and donkeys
Plowing an old battle field, Tigray
Tigrinian family in Sheraro
Waiting for the people to climb up to Debre Damo
Bringing the camels to market, Tigray
Tigrinian women
Waiting for the people to climb up to Debre Damo
Priest reading the bible, Lalibella
Debre Damo
Camel herder, Tigray
Debre Damo
Tigrinian woman and child
On top of Debre Damo
Landscape of northern Ethiopia
Saho refugee and her child
Market day near Lalibella