Blame it on the general indifference in America to all things African, but Ethiopia is never in the news. On those rare occasions when a story surfaces about Ethiopia, I'm usually excited to hear it - though "excited" isn't the right word; maybe "anxious" is more precise. Whenever Katie Couric or Christiane Amanpour mentions it, I feel a mixture of skepticism, protectiveness, and joy. It's the way I imagine a parent must feel at their child's music recital.
It's been many years since the word "Ethiopia" has been so often invoked in the top headlines of the day. But the recent mentions of Ethiopia in the news evoke a different feeling in me. When they say "Ethiopia" on the nightly news these past couple weeks - as in "Ethiopia declares war on Somalia" or "US Airstrike on Somalia after Ethiopian tip" - I get a little queasy.
I don't know this country anymore. This is not my child.
Sadness, anger, and apathy have replaced any affectionate traces of patriotism. Let Meles do his little "We hate the Muslims, too" shuffle for Bush, let journalists continue to play up the Christian-Muslim divide between two countries that have rich, storied histories of BOTH religions. Let them have it.
Although every story about this East African Fiasco ends by punctuating the "historically Christian" Ethiopia, they fail to mention that Ethiopia is as historically Muslim as it is historically Jewish as it is historically Christian. They fail to cite the facts: that Ethiopia is more than 50% Muslim. That certain tribes on the border share a Somalian and an Ethiopian identity, passports, family members, etc.
This all leads up to what I just read in today's headlines. In a shocking move, the World Bank has approved of $175 million in aid to be given to the Ethiopian government. Though aid has its problems, that's not the disgusting part. This is:
"The program is focused on the very poorest of the poor in Ethiopia and on its own merits it needs to continue," [Trina Hague of the World Bank] said, "It doesn't cover the Somali region of Ethiopia and we will under the program be starting some piloting under the safety net. It won't be financed by the World Bank, but will have some bilateral food aid contributions," she added.
In essence, the World Bank has promised this money to Ethiopia, with the express stipulation that the Somali region of Ethiopia (which is a legitimate part of the country and has been for centuries, and which is also one of the neediest) not see any of it. If this isn't a textbook example of divide-and-rule, I don't know what is. Great Britain ca. 1900 would be proud.