Ethiopians at last ready to party like it’s 1999? – Give me a break! – August 20, 2007

August 20th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

“We could spend smarter,” said Fasile Abebe, a 34-year-old taxi driver, gesturing to a man begging beside a fast food restaurant recently renamed “Millennium Burger”. “He won’t be partying with Beyonce. I have no time for this Millennium.” (more…)

“We could spend smarter,” said Fasile Abebe, a 34-year-old taxi driver, gesturing to a man begging beside a fast food restaurant recently renamed “Millennium Burger”. “He won’t be partying with Beyonce. I have no time for this Millennium.”

It’s a disgrace that Sheikh Mohammed Al Amoudi spends multimillion dollar on world-class entertainers for the millennium whereas hungry children in the cities live in tunnels, sewers and drainage holes.

Read Reuters’ report below and Have Your Say about it.

ADDIS ABABA, Aug 19 (Reuters Life!) – More than seven years after most of the world marked the start of the 21st century, Ethiopia is putting the finishing touches to its own millennium bash.

Using the Julian calendar, an ancient system of measuring time abandoned by the West in the 16th century, Ethiopia enters its new millennium on Sept. 12 with a huge concert expected to draw hundreds of thousands of partygoers.

Organisers hope U.S. singer Beyonce will headline the New Year’s concert with popstar Janet Jackson and rapper 50 Cent also rumoured to appear in a 20,000 capacity venue being built on Addis Ababa’s priciest avenue.

President Girma Woldegirogis has billed the celebrations a time to focus on fighting poverty and advancing democracy in the Horn of Africa country of 81 million people.

But, reports that Saudi-Ethiopian tycoon Sheikh Mohammed Al Amoudi is paying $10 million to build the Millennium concert hall has angered some in Ethiopia, which ranks 170 out of 177 in the United Nation’s Human Development Index.

“We could spend smarter,” said Fasile Abebe, a 34-year-old taxi driver, gesturing to a man begging beside a fast food restaurant recently renamed “Millennium Burger”.

“He won’t be partying with Beyonce. I have no time for this Millennium.”

Boasting medieval cities, ruined castles and palaces, Ethiopia is often described as the cradle of humanity after the remains of a 3-million-year-old skeleton called “Lucy” was discovered in 1974.

But for all its rich heritage, Ethiopia has struggled in recent years to shake off the effects of cyclical famine, centuries of feudalism and nearly two decades of Marxist totalitarian rule under Mengistu Haile Mariam which spawned the “Red Terror” purges.

RECONCILIATION?

The millennium celebrations are likely to provide a welcome distraction for Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government whose troops are embroiled in a conflict in neighbouring Somalia where they were deployed in December to bolster the interim government.

Meles also faces armed opposition in the ethnically Somali Ogaden region where separatist rebels killed 74 people in an April attack on a Chinese-run oil exploration field, and worsening ties with Eritrea over their disputed border.

Despite the country’s troubles, many Ethiopians are optimistic the millennium may usher in a new period of reconciliation among its myriad ethnic groups.

The president pardoned 38 opposition leaders, activists and journalists last month who were convicted of trying to overthrow the government following disputed 2005 elections. It released another 31 detained opposition supporters on Saturday.

The vote, Ethiopia’s freest, provoked two bouts of violence in which 199 people were killed, 800 wounded and 30,000 arrested, according to a parliamentary inquiry.

“This rapprochement is indeed a result of the feel-good factor that the millennium has brought about,” said Mulugeta Aserate Kassa, public relations chief for the committee organising the celebrations.

“It’s time for the nation to undergo a renaissance. A renaissance in our way of doing things — and in our acceptance of a democratic society.”

Other events in a year-long festival include a 10 km Millennium Race led by legendary long-distance runner Haile Gebrselassie, the unveiling of 11 new national monuments and opening of a coffee museum in Bongo, where the Arabica coffee variety originated.

Hiwot Binyam, a 27-year-old lawyer, cannot wait for the party to begin.

“It’s fantastic. We want to leave behind our image as a place of war and poverty,” she said.

“This gives us a chance to showcase our rich culture with over 80 ethnicities living together relatively peacefully. And we love to party.”

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