For those who like the idea of being superstitious…

For those who like the idea of being superstitious, no other month is more enticing than the month of May, gossip observed.

Closer to domestic politics, it was in May 1991 that the most notorious military dictator, Mengistu Hailemariam (Col) fled the country, ushering in the advancing rebels, who then took control of Addis Abeba.

What followed was a complete change of the political landscape in Ethiopia. No less than 10 years in power, it was in May 2001 that the ruling party suffered a major crises within its leadership and, subsequently, purged dozens of its leaders. What followed was a series of arrests – of politicians, bankers and businesspeople, accused of crimes of corruption.

Ironically, it took another cycle, but a little over a decade, to see a series of arrests made once more,  two weeks ago, again of senior government officials and businesspeople accused of crimes of corruption. Some, at the gossip corridors, however, hold onto the view that it is merely a symptom of internal party in-fighting.

On a good note, it was also in May that the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was formed, 50 years ago, in Addis Abeba.

It seems an era has passed, not only in the purpose of the organisation’s formation – to spearhead the cause of political independence on the continent – but also in the batch of leaders.  Full of energy and passion, the likes of Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and, later on, the unpredictable and eccentric Muammar Gaddafi , now appear to have been replaced by a new ‘model’ of  African leader. To the relief of Ethiopian security personnel, this time around there was little of the drama associated with Gaddafi’s abruptness, although hotel owners and those to whom he was a benefactor would no doubt miss him, gossip observed.

It was ironic to see that Gaddafi’s absence was felt in the diplomatic and hotel corridors, which turned out to be uneventful, jammed only with suited individuals, as none of the bigwigs of the Africa Union (AU) dared to pay tribute to the good things he had done for the AU, albeit in his own rather colourful cranky manner, claims gossip.

The leader who brought a little colour to the gathering of the heads of state was the King of Swaziland, Mswati III, who came clad in traditional costume, gossip observed.

To the credit of Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (PhD), the chairperson of the AU Commission, former heads of state who once adorned the summit were invited, including – Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and Jerry Rawlings of Ghana.

Interestingly, the happiest people at the event last week ought to be members of the Addis Abeba traffic police department, who have received BMW motorcycles – their favourite make – donated to the department by Mohammed Ali Al-Amoudi (Sheikh), gossip disclosed.

Al-Amoudi, whose gifts to the Ethiopian state on such occasions have become his trademark, may have been under fire for failing to ensure the completion of the hotel inside the AU headquarters in time for the 50th anniversary, as it was originally intended. The 50 BMW police motorcycles he donated to the city government, however, were a pleasant sight to see paraded on the new boulevard of Africa Avenue, whose fine-tuning job will no doubt continue long after the 10,000 delegates have left, claims gossip.

The BMW motorcycles are only a few of many things that have come from his deep pockets, gossip learnt. Al-Amoudi has also brought close to 70 units of the latest models of Mercedes Benz and BMW to transport, not only the usual heads of state from Africa, but also those from outside of the continent, gossip disclosed. Glazed with palace plate numbers, inside these glittery vehicles sat Fracois Hollande of France and Dilma Vana Rousseff of Brazil, as well as John Kerry of the United States, gossip observed.

Yet, unlike the motorcycles, the vehicles are not a donation to the Ethiopian state, gossip claims. The administration of Hailemariam Desalegn has permitted the imports of these vehicles duty free so that they be used for the occasion, but returned to the owner for his personal use, as well as the use of the state when necessary, gossip disclosed.

Published on May 26, 2013 [ Vol 13 ,No 682]



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