New Kinijit Kid On The Block

August 12th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

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A Poem by the New Kinijit Kid On The Block

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A Poem by the New Kinijit Kid On The Block

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Move Over Zenawi!

I woke up this morning in agonizing pain
Tyrant Zenawi being the reason
So move it on over. Move it on over
Move over tyrant Zenawi ’cause a smarter, kinijit kid is comin’

Yeah! Listen to me Zenawi before you start to whine
Your time is up! Now time is mine
Where is your side? This side is mine
Move it on over. Move it on over
Move over little Zenawi ’cause kinijit kid is comin’

I am one of the underground kids
On the streets of Addis
Blink, some of us you miss
I live in tunnels, sewers and drainage holes
I feed off your dirts and leftovers
You better deal with me now! I am going nowhere
Tomorrow, I will be your worst Nightmare
Move it on over. Move it on over
Move over Zenawi ’cause a fearless underground kid is comin’

I am also one of the kids
Whom you locked up in your filthy prison cells
Whose voice you tried to silence
Then murdered on the streets of Addis
Move over Nazi Zenawi
Move over Killer Agazi
Move it on over. Move it on over
Move over ’cause a resurrected, angry kid is comin’

This Poem is dedicated to all kids who have fallen victims to Zenawi’s tyrannical regime.

underground1.jpg In hiding

Blink and you will miss the underground children in Ethiopia’s capital city.

They live in tunnels, sewers and drainage holes, hidden beneath Addis Ababa’s teeming streets.

They move from one makeshift shelter to the next, chased away by police or the rivers of water and refuse that flow when the rains come.

Growing up amidst the traffic, they learn to hustle at a young age seeking change or selling small items to drivers at traffic lights.

underground2.jpg Hidden

Across from the main post office, there is a sewage drain. It draws little attention.

Thousands of people walk across its steel bars every day without giving it a second thought. This is good for Mohammed and his friends. They do not want their home to be discovered.

The space is not more than half a metre high, and though it is five or six metres long, only one small portion is covered and unexposed.

When it rains, the boys huddle together among the rubbish and waste.

underground3.jpg Crowds

Encountering the street kids who live underground is not easy, but once we talked to a few, dozens appeared.

As we walked in the shadow of the city’s main buildings, the children emerged from dark side streets and from nowhere at all.

Soon we were surrounded by boys.

underground4.jpg Hustle

For the children who have found shelter, however destitute and impermanent, the difficulties truly begin when they come up from underground and face the realities of their daily life.

They must hustle for food scraps, avoid police, and beware exploitation and abuse.

Many children perform odd jobs for restaurants and cafés to get bread and leftovers. Sometimes shelters will give out food, and there are soup kitchens that serve cheap meals.

underground5.jpg Hana

There are fewer girls but they are there. Hana, a 15 year-old, comes from Ziway, a town south of Addis.

She left home and came to Addis after an incident in which she accidentally lost her family’s cattle and feared her father’s rage. She hopes to return one day.

“Here you don’t have much to worry about,” she said.

“If you get something to eat, that is good. When you don’t have any, you pass the time either sleeping or chatting with friends.”

underground6.jpg Sex

When they do have money, from begging or doing odd jobs, Hana and her friends often go to the cinema.

One of the girls described her attitude to sex.

She said that to be safe from both pregnancy and HIV/Aids she always uses a condom. She claimed she did not face serious dangers in this regard, and said no-one had ever forced her to have sex.

underground7.jpg Henok

Henok Tesfaye came to the streets when he was 11 years old after losing his parents in a car accident. Ten years on, he is used to life on the streets.

He lives beneath a main road in an unused hole dug for telephone cables. The roof is made of concrete blocks placed side by side across a small opening.

To keep rain out, Henok and his roommate spread plastic sheets underneath old windscreens.

A small hole is both the door and the window to their tiny home.

underground8.jpg Numbers

Among the reasons for the high numbers of street children in Addis Ababa are extreme poverty, hunger, violent conflict and drought in rural areas.

Often, the children come without families, orphaned by disease, escaping abusive and neglectful parents, captivated by tales of wealth and opportunity in the big city.

An exact number is too difficult to pin down accurately, but various estimates put the total number of street kids in Ethiopia between 60,000 and 150,000.

underground9.jpg Dawit

As we were talking to Dawit, 12, he eyed a rubber wristband and we gave it him, but the next day it had gone.

“It was stolen last night,” he said, crestfallen. “When I was sleeping, someone grabbed my neck and started choking me. They said: ‘Give it to me or I’ll take your life.’ So I gave it them.”

He shrugged his shoulders and walked off with a friend down the busy street – unnoticed.

Text and pictures: Will Connor and Mesay Berhanu

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