How Ethiopia Is Taking A Step Forward and Few Steps Backward By Jonas Clinton

February 25th, 2014 Print Print Email Email

Ever since I was a 9 year old kid in Calgary, Alberta in 1984, Ethiopia has held something special in my heart.

My connection to Ethiopia began in earnest when I saw disturbing images of destitute and famine victims before my eyes on cold Canadian winter. I cried for days and became depressed. I asked myself how humans can die before our own eyes so fast especially when the problem seems man-made. I quickly convinced my school to fundraise money and my parents donated generously to charity organizations.

Little did I know how Ethiopia would shape my professional life later on. Because of what I saw on TV then, I studied international development in university and worked for years, mostly in Asian countries, with Non-Governmental organizations. However, Ethiopia was my first love. I have wanted to visit Ethiopia for such a long time embrace the unique cultural and historical facts of the country.

The Ethiopians I would meet later in life would always tell me about the proud history of the country being the only non-colonized country in Africa. I was impressed. I loved Ethiopian food, the coffee was amazing and my visit to Toronto almost always included frequent visits to Ethiopian restaurants all over the multicultural city. My non-Ethiopian friends would always complain about my fascination to such a “poor and miserable country”: – they would say.

I would repeat what my Ethiopian friends would tell me and tell them what we see on TV in just propaganda to raise money for charity organizations.

Three weeks ago, I went to visit Ethiopia for a month with my young kids. I remember looking outside my plane as we approached Bole International Airport and observing all green lands all over the country. How can this country starve?

As our flight landed and we exited the plane, we were met Ethiopian returnees from Saudi Arabia. These Ethiopians seemed sad and confused – how could they be miserable and scared about returning “home” from the brutality in the Arab world. Perhaps, they know what I don’t after all it was my first visit to the East African nation.

After a long lineup to get a single visa – we exited Bole. Soon I would learn everything in Ethiopia is linked to bureaucratic mess unless you are privileged to be Chinese or white like me. There were constructions everywhere and it was hard to walk freely as beggars would surround you in no time. And then there are the federal police who seem to follow and observe you where ever you go. I would even see familiar faces following me where ever I go.

It bothered me that I did not have to line up to get to government buildings and even shopping malls. That was strictly for the black faces of Ethiopia the guards would often tell me in their broken English. What happened to being a proud non colonized country?

Washrooms are a luxury placed in shinny buildings for patrons only. There are no public washrooms and the Ethiopian parliament is debating how much to charge for urination in a public arena. According to the government, only 15% of Ethiopians have access to washrooms out of a near 90 million population. How silly is that when the government neglected to build any public washrooms to begin with. Then again – in Ethiopia looking down on the poor is normal. I hope the powerful Ethiopians realize that social safety net for the poor is the hallmark of how one measures the advancement of such a country.

The middle class Ethiopians I would meet would tell me about how the government was perfect and would try to somehow impress me with their expensive jewelry and buildings they have built. They offer me expensive imported drinks such as Jake Daniel’s Blue Label Whisky when ever I visit them in their mansions while I was looking forward to trying local drinks. Ethiopia’s middle class are mostly made up of people with very little education gained from a long distance institution in India and work in the many NGO’s.

When the discussion turns to Ethiopian politics, they would tell me there is no opposition in Ethiopia with the exception of one representative out of 447 in Ethiopia’s House of Commons. For them, the opposition belongs in prison as they are against the state. Imagine putting Justin Trudeau in prison in Canada only because the government does not like what he says about them. I wonder if I could meet the only opposition member but I am warned that the government might not like that and I might pay a high price for it. In a shantytown that is Addis Ababa, anything is possible.

The streets of Addis are literally full of young prostitutes mirroring the poverty that exists in the country. It seems nobody wants to talk about them as well. Is this the Ethiopia that I observed from a distance and that Ethiopians have been telling me about?

I felt sad and confused.

I cut short of my visit and decided to fly out of Addis early by the government owned – Ethiopian Airlines. The Airlines is average by any international standard yet Ethiopians are very proud of its success. The success of the airlines is open to discussion as its numbers and financial reporting in never audited independently.

A day before I left Ethiopia, an Ethiopian airlines plane was diverted by its co-pilot, Hailemedhin Abera Tegegn. The allegation is that he took control of the plane while the main pilot was in the washroom and instead of flying it to its original destination, he flew it to Geneva. Upon arriving in Switzerland, he asked for asylum. Instead, he was arrested and now faces a possible prison of 20 years.

Ethiopia quickly asked for his return claiming he has mental issues. That was retracted as criticism mounted why such a person was flying a plane. His sister attempted to explain however her Facebook account was hijacked by the government and as she opened yet another account to explain her brother’s misgivings, she was imprisoned instead.

According to his aunt based in the United States, Abera, comes from a well to do prosperous middle class family with strict academic discipline and a job he seemed to enjoy. However, he had mysteriously lost a beloved uncle in recent weeks who was politically and eloquently against the government. In Ethiopia – where public demonstration or opposition to the government is seen as treason, he was a surpassed voice of millions not able to speak freely – an almost prisoner citizen.

According to the family – he wanted to show the world the horrible situation in Ethiopia for Ethiopians. Beyond the dotted minor advancement of constructions, mansions and restaurants – Ethiopia’s advancement has very little regards to human rights and security. He felt he was a victim of it all even as he was passed over promotions at work because he was an Amhara and saw his Tigre colleagues prosper.

I saw what he and everyday Ethiopians experience and I wondered why Ethiopians were not speaking out. For Abera – perhaps his alleged action is a desperate attempt to tell the world that something is indeed wrong with Ethiopia’s selective advancement.

Jonas Clinton lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

  1. Annonymes
    | #1

    Dear Jonas,

    First of all thank you for the love you had to my country and it was unfortunate that you could not be be able to see ‘the Ethiopia’ you were expected to see!!!
    By the way like you, I was working in one of the UN agency and trying to reach the rights of children for basic social services.

    I agree with most of the observations you had, we Ethiopians had been suffering from all sorts of repression you can imagine. However, what I dont agree with you is:
    1. Ethiopians never accepted the repression and suffering that the current governemtn had impossed on them since they came to power. We had a historical events where we had lost hundreds of people for boycoting the 2002 Ethiopian election; and the world especially the western prefered to keep quite, in fact they had supported the governement both financially and politically to stand strong. No matter what, but the people of ethiopia will continue to fight until we get our freedom back from the merciless opperasion of the tayrants.
    2. the second point I would like to mention is that you during your stay you met some Ethiopians and discussed certain poilitical issues. this guys never represent the vast majority of the Ethiopian people, for one thing this are the most previlaged guys who have the lexury of living better life and do not in anyway represent the opperesed people and the intelectual people neither.
    I wish you had met other people to get sense of the real situation of the people at the grassroot level!

    But I appreciate your observation and thank you for sharing the pain we endur from everyday due to lack of freedom to express our thoughts and convictions in our own country!!
    We have a lot of struggle and civil resistants are going on here and there in protest of the regime and I hoe one day we will have ‘Government of the people, by the people for the people’

    Thank you very much for your reflection and I hope you wont drop Ethiopia, support the Ethiopian people in the struggle against opperasion to get freedom and justic!!

  2. Brutal Regime!
    | #2

    Many thanks to Mr. Jonas Clinton. The world we live in would be a pleasant place if it had more people like you. But unfortunately, people like Susan Rice that holds a high position in US government has sided with the TPLF brutal regime by closing her ears and eyes not to hear and see the cries, the agonies of hundreds of thousands innocents Ethiopians that are thrown and locked up in cold prisons, the deaths of staggering number of innocent Ethiopians and the voices of over 85 million Ethiopians and so on… It is a wonder, why people like Susan Rice criticized and demanded the dictator of Ukraine to step down for gunning down 75 people in the broad day light, and yet gave undying support and admired the late brutal evil dictator of Ethiopia that abused his power, looted the country, incarcerated, tortured hundreds of thousands innocent Ethiopians, gunned down over 200 innocent Ethiopians including children in a matter of minutes on the street of Addis and slaughtered over 400 innocent Gambelans. IF NOTHING ELSE, AS A MOTHER, WHERE IS THIS WOMAN’S CONSCIENCE WHEN ETHIOPIAN MOTHERS CONTINUE TO LOOSE THEIR CHILDREN AT THE HANDS OF BRUTAL REGIME IN EVERYDAY BASIS!? WHY IS THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION IGNORING THE SUFFERING OF ETHIOPIANS?

  3. tasew yimetal
    | #3

    that’s very good analysis but who will listen? this people they think they are above god. they don’t think even they will die.

  4. To Jonas Clinton
    | #4

    Dear Jonas,
    Thank you putting all your open and well rounded observation and feelings about Ethiopia. It is true every thing witnessed and thank you for bringing your observation to the global audience. The inequality, the confusion, the horrible condition of roads lack of sanitation and washing rooms are just few. But you make one of the biggest mistake as other Ethiopian (Diasporas) who are returning from visit. The only difference yours is opposite and I like it. When ever I hear about Ethiopian’s beauty or ugliness they talk about Addis Ababa. That is just makes me angry and all observation made by looking only Addis does not justify the entire Ethiopia. For your information you should be an open minded person and you should know what is the main purpose of your trip. if you want to see the historical places of Ethiopia you should go North or West and enjoy, if you are enjoying cultural trip go South and meet your ancestors, but if you are just to find out Ethiopian politics you should stay in Toronto and talk to someone. So to find out the true beauty of Ethiopia you should go deep. Addis Ababa will give you the political and other governmental corruptions but the rest of Ethiopia will give you Ethiopia’s beauty. Also you need to categorize what Ethiopians need the most mostly. 1. Freedom 2. Equality . 99 Washing Room.. . I hope you get my point. I am not saying you get wrong but I am saying if you go little farther deep you will find out the true beauty of Ethiopia where politics does not have power to touch it. But for the first time I was able to read all articles by someone about Ethiopia. Please return and visit the rest of Ethiopia and give us some good assessment . Good Job

  5. Shalom
    | #5

    This is the dumbest and shallowest opinion i have ever read.
    What a small small mind. You’re amazingly stupid. Very little exposure and twisted perspective towards the developing world!!! You need some education. You’re almost 40 but you think like a 9 years-old kid. How nauseating is to see an old man with a annoying whinny attitude and a baby mind!!

    | #6

    ኣይትብከ’ንዶ ዘብከየኒ ከምዝብልዎ ዓይነት ነገር ……………….!

    The classical የአባይን ልጅ ውሃ ጠማው………………!

  7. Samson
    | #7

    The author shows what is presented as a conclusion after an analysis of the Ethiopian political, economic and social conditions, observed within addis and not less on the public toilets (LOL), by a supposed friend of Ethiopia. What the article displays is an absence of a desire to go to the bottom of problems and instead lazily follow the beaten track. Unless the author believes we are a bunch of idiots or are zealot narrow minded tribal elites in the mode of Tamagne, this is a failed attempt to mask once identity in the name of empathy. It is time to unmask your true identity – if I may suggest.

  8. Dawi
    | #8

    [[..However, Ethiopia was my first love. I have wanted to visit Ethiopia….the unique cultural and historical ….facts of the country…]]

    You are 38-39 years old now. Correct?

    When you were nine years old and probably a rich white privileged boy it was acceptable to romanticize that nation and so on. It surprising to see that you have not recovered from that addiction today.

    The reason I say that is you didn’t even do the minimum work of comparing & contrasting the Asian countries you practiced your neo-liberal “developmental” craft to your romantic place, Ethiopia. How come? Was that too much for you?

    And on top of that you stayed in the big City of Addis for a short time socializing with those who drink “Jake Daniel’s Blue Label Whisky” and flew back immediately to your familiar spot.

    I can’t beleive you have the audacity to write you “experience” as if it has any value? To me it was worthless to say the least.

    Traveling to the country side where your addiction started and seeing with your own eyes of those who “starved” then would have given you some complete recovery. You surely missed that treatment!

    I advice you to go back and do that for your own sake.

    BTW, the City you complained about Addis had been showering with Red, Black, Gold, Blue label of the house of Walker, even 40 years ago and beyond. What is new? There was nothing new there.

    Next time, please tell us something new.

  9. First Nation
    | #9

    ” Ever since I was a 9 year old kid in Calgary, Alberta in 1984, Ethiopia has held something special in my heart.
    My connection to Ethiopia began in earnest when I saw disturbing images of destitute and famine victims before my eyes on cold Canadian winter. I cried for days and became depressed. I asked myself how humans can die before our own eyes so fast especially when the problem seems man-made. I quickly convinced my school to fundraise money and my parents donated generously to charity organizations.”
    Wouldn’t have been better for this dude first to worry about the genocide of native Americans in Canada and to learn about his british or european ancestors who fled destitution,starvation, cannibalism and poverty in England or Europe ?
    I really wonder why such article by an arrogant and ignorant person is posted on this website.

  10. Alemu
    | #10

    What was the point of posting here this rubbish article by an ignorant, arrogant and dubious person ? He says he heard this and that about Ethiopia in his country’s media, should that interest us Ethiopians ? We have also no interest to know if he is a pedophile, homosexual etc. This dumb guy doesn’t know his history, also not that his country and its western allies are the main reasons for problems in Ethiopia. Instead of having a humble attitude and apologizing for his country’s and it’s allies crimes this guy has even the nerve to behave like a humanitarian, what a joke. This is the 21st century and he and his likes have lost influence on non-whites. The truth is a white man can never be a humanitarian in Africa. To be honest unless the owners of this website want to offend Ethiopians i see no purpose in posting this trash.

  11. Abegaz
    | #11


    You hit the hammer on the nail. We have a government that owns everything: the whole land, the institutions like the defense and security forces, the election commission, the civil service and what have you not. It is financed by the west hence resourceful. Human rights are not respected. If you speak, you get arrested or killed. You can imagine the enormous task we got to removing this government.

    The government postures itself as a progressive developmental democratic state. It prints money and build bridges and roads and calls it development, and provides that as a showcase to the Western world. If I print money I can build many things in short time and make myself rich. But I would not call that a normal richness. That is not real growth. Every time the government prints money people get poor by the day. They go from eating three times a day to one time a day. The buildings and roads you saw are the results of this badoo economics. There is no real development in Ethiopia.

  12. Melaku Girma
    | #12

    The violent political culture of the 60′s generation should not be inherited by Ethiopia’s young generation which accounts to 65% OF THE TOTAL polpulation .The 60′s generation got to power by force that’s why they only understand force to be the only way they give up their power. This kind of attitude is heavily exhibited by Hailesselasie ,Mengistu Hailemariam , Meles and the “advisor” to the current Prime Minster (Mebratu Gebre Hiywot). Violence (War) is not the answer for any problem that might arise internally or externally . Eventhough the current powerful government steals day and night adding to the misery of the people including the poor Amhara, the young Amhara generation should not oppose this because his ancestors not too long ago duuring Hailesselasie’s time were wearing shoes while Tigray people were dieing from drought AND SUFFERING FROM A LEPORSY EPIDEMIC. It was estimated all of Tigray and parts of Wollo would have perished if the 60′s generation didnot overthrow the genocidal Hailesselsie regime. Abera the hero of his generation saved his life in the best way he knew how, he even made the issue of the retrieving close to 50 billion dollars that is deposited in Swiss Bank accounts by the past Ethiopia’s Amhara leaders or the current Tigre leaders be a talking agenda in many stages.He did more for his country than majority of us ever did for Ethiopia.

  13. Angel
    | #13

    Mr. Jonas Clinton,
    Please know that 90 million of Ethiopians love and appreciate thoughtful and kind people like you. At the same time, as you are aware, the TPLF regime dislike, belittle and dehumanize peace loving Ethiopians and people like you. So far, on this website alone, the comments of #5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 are from the brutal TPLF regime and their paid agents. I beg you to continue to be the voice for the voiceless Ethiopians. May the loving God bless you and your family!

  14. Angel
    | #14

    Abugida, here is your own words:
    “Noting that Woyannes, Shabias and Hatemongers are infecting our forum, we have decided to moderate every comment. Sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused you!”

    Then why are you giving a platform to Woyanes like #5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 to belittle, insult and disrespect honorable people like Mr. Jonas Clinton?

  15. ጉረኞች
    | #15

    Dawi the cry baby. I gather that he visited የባለዘመነኞቹ Tigre’s house. Don’t blame the guy, that is how they show off how the country is developing in two digits growth, which you are proud off. God bless his heart, he did only a keen observation.

    | #16

    አቶ “Angel” #13 እንዲሁም #14

    የውሃ እጥረት አለ ላለው ጉዳይ፣ በእርግጥም የአባይን ልጅ ውሃ ጠማው, ብሎ ማለቱ ምኑ ላይ ነው፣ ሰዳቢ እና “brutal TPLF regime and their paid agents.” የሚኮነው

    ካልገባህ አብራሩልኝ ማለት እንጂ፣ ተሽቀዳድሞ ለከት ማጣት ለምንም Angel|ነት እንደማያበቃ መገንዘቡ በምን በጠቀመ!?

  17. Dawi
    | #17


    Who is the “cry baby” here?

    Unlike you, at least Woyane/EPRDF doesn’t deny they have corrupt officials among them. They have hacked few of them recently. They were not all from one nationality either. Unless you come up with a better alternative to deal with our structural problem, keep quite at least.

    This notion of yours that a “Tigre’s house” is “how they show off” is just plain silly of you and rooted in jealousy of those who are more successful than you. Success represents compensation and if some abuse their privilege, it is their own pocket not yours.

  18. Angel
    | #18,
    If you are NOT one of those blind supporters of TPLF regime, please accept my apology.

  19. Angel
    | #19

    You are one of those unreasonable, remorseless, guiltless and shameless TPLF cry-baby that denies and support blindly the crimes of TPLF no matter how despicable their crimes might be — from controlling the entire Ethiopian govt, dividing Ethiopians by ethnic groups and religions, taking the country to unnecessary war with Somalia, leaving the country landlocked, robing the country and stashing the stolen money in foreign banks around the world — remember Tinsia’s radio report about the names and the amount of money the members TPLF have stolen and stashed it in various banks around the world — starting from your darling mass murderer evil dictator Meles and his wife Azeb. Members of TPLF continue to sell the country’s land, sell Ethiopians as slaves, still using small children as commodities, locking up, torturing and slaughtering law-abiding Ethiopians as we speak, massacred over 400 Gambians…
    You Dawi and the likes of you can lie and try to deny every chance you get, but the crimes of TPLF are endless and absolutely impossible to hide it all. The likes of you are indeed SHAMELESS AND A BUNCH OF SOCIOPATHS!!!!!

  20. Samson
    | #20

    For how long are you willing to stay a prisoner of ancestors? Worshiping and admiring those who speak your language of hate while have no second thoughts on those who differ to agree with your twisted thinking? You can worship a white guy in disguise of an Angel – or was that you – as you want, but as much as you want and dream the stubborn facts will never change a bit no matter the rant. You may imagine Ethiopia to be as written by your protege, but the facts on the ground will tell you otherwise. Ethiopia is on the rise, perhaps two steps forward and one step backward, but nevertheless going forward. That momentum and inertia is not to halted by naysayers in your mold. Spare us your understanding of democracy and development, at least, until you grasp what those two words mean in context of to the wider world in general and our country in particular. If you want to call me “cry baby” and “Tigre’s house” for expressing my feelings, I will see that as a badge of honor and will wear it happily anytime of the day.

  21. Angel
    | #21

    Samson aka Dawi,
    You really think that Ethiopia is on the rise — no matter how many people have been locked up, tortured, massacred, how much money have been stolen, the only seaport given to Eritirea, land taken by force from Ethiopians, even murdered in Gambela, Gondar and Wollo and their land given to Saudis, Indians, Chinese, etc. — Considering where you are coming from, it is a given that you and the likes of you justify all the crimes that are being committed on Ethiopia and Ethiopians — well, Adolf Hitler and Stalin had/have delusional supporters too and they wear symbols of badge of honor — the KKK. May God open the hearts, eyes, ears and minds of people like you for the sake of humanity.

  22. ጉረኞች
    | #22

    It seems you mixed up the word corruption and success. For you guys, the typical trade mark is more of corruption than success, from top to bottom.

  23. Samson
    | #23


    Please, for God’s sake don’t bite off more than you can chew. Nobody is beyond reproach, but Humanity, Hitler, Stalin, KKK? Wow, good grief. I feel like you are like beyond help at this time. Your mind (what is still left) is clouded with hate and anger for you to be considered a rational person. Going out and get some fresh air might help a little – just saying.

  24. Angel
    | #24

    Me, hateful? LOL! I suggest you look in the mirror if you want to see what a hateful person looks like! Simply laughable, totally delusional and totally in denial at best! Unlike you, God has given me good conscience and kind heart to notice the injustice that is being committed by TPLF to my motherland and fellow Ethiopians. The only thing I hate is HATE IT SELF and INTOLERANCE! Go reread my #21 reply to you again and again. You can deny, but it is impossible to hide the facts that TPLF have left Ethiopia LANDLOCKED, DIVIDED ETHIOPIANS BY ETHNIC GROUPS AND RELIGION, BILLIONS OF ETHIOPIANS’ MONEY HAVE BEEN LOOTED, THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF INNOCENT ETHIOPIANS HAVE BEEN INCARCERATED, UNKNOWN NUMBER OF ETHIOPIANS HAVE BEEN TORTURED AND KILLED, UNKNOWN NUMBER OF ETHIOPIANS HAVE BEEN EVICTED FROM THEIR LAND ILLEGALLY AND THEIR LAND HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO SUDAN FREE AND CLEAR, HUNDREDS OF GAMBELANS HAVE BEEN SLAUGHTERED AND THEIR LAND HAVE BEEN SOLD TO FOREIGN BILLIONAIRES, ETHIOPIANS HAVE BEEN SOLD TO ARABS AS SLAVES, ETC. It is obvious that Woyanes like yourself justify all the crimes that is being committed on Ethiopia and Ethiopians, have no remorse what is so ever and no respect or love for Ethiopia/ns. People like you, only see the abundant food and wealth you have accumulated illegally and shamelessly by looting 90 million Ethiopians. As we speak, the mass majority of Ethiopians live in fear of being locked up and even ambushed at any given moment by TPLF regime, as it happened to the copilot’s well accomplished uncle and countless innocent Ethiopians. While Ethiopians are struggling to make ends meet, thousands and thousands of children look for food in city trash damps and Ethiopians dying of starvation as we speak — TPLF are building their wealth and GREATER TIGREA at the cost of the blood and sweats of Ethiopian people they despise. It is unfortunate and a shame that Abugida is giving people like you a platform to spread lies and deny the facts. People like you belong to Aigaforum.

  25. Tasew
    | #25


    I am with Samson on this. You better stop drinking the kool aid or else you are doomed to fail. The “facts” you enumerated are “facts” from the hate mongers of ESAT and Ginbot7 not facts based on reality. Just for you own sanity shop around and try to get some real information from real people. Ethiopia is way much different and in a better situation than you wish and dream for it to be. If you believe we need to fight Eritrea to get it back, then start by telling your friends at ESAT and Ginbot7 to tell their boss Esyas to volunteer to give his country back to us :(

  26. Angel
    | #26

    To the likes of Dawi, Samson and Tasew,
    You can try, but it is absolutely impossible to hide the facts on the ground. Please read how the United State government slams the TPLF regime human-Rights-Abuse:
    It sure is BS:

  27. Angel
    | #27

    Here is one of many articles that have been written about how TPLF abuse Ethiopians and loot the country. Please read: most of the people that are listed here didn’t get rich by hard work, but by shamelessly looting the poorest country in the world:

    Done talking!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. Lemma
    | #28


    የአይጥ ምስክርዋ ድንቢጥ ሆንክብኝ:: abbaymedia, revoulutiondemocracy, ethiomereja እኮ
    ነው አቶ ጣስው “stop drinking the kool aid” የሚሉህ ያሉት:: ምነው ጃል ብንደማመጥ?

  29. Angel
    | #29

    One more for the road:
    Woyanes want Ethiopians to forget the unspeakable crimes TPLF have committed and still committing on Ethiopians like it never happened and not happening as we speak, but the shocking history of GENOCIDES in places like Germany, Rwanda, ETHIOPIA and other places in the world will never be forgotten. Ethiopians everywhere in the world, in and outside of Ethiopia have to make sure that, the history of the innocent Ethiopians victims and the agonies of their parents and families won’t be forgotten. Many thanks to Ethiopian websites for keeping the massacre in Ethiopia in their archives.

    Well wishes to all peace-loving Ethiopians!

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