Addis Abeba is a city besieged by a number of problems, with transport and electricity high up on the list. Despite the new light railway, minibuses, microbuses, taxis, bajaj and personal motor vehicles, thousands of people are seen lining the streets or terminals throughout the city patiently waiting to hop on board. Navigating the ever-expanding capital is no easy task either, with few street names, house numbers or even a proper map to speak of. One positive development, however, according to Girma Feyissa, is the renovation of the Addis Abeba-Djibouti railway, which he describes as the life blood of the country’s import and export outlets.
The 130-year-old Ethiopian capital seems to be nursing many ailments, turning into deathly dangers hovering over the heads of its dwellers. The city is in grave danger, waiting for the slightest reason to explode. Whatever takes place in the capital, be it in education, healthcare, culture or economics, reflects what will follow throughout the rest of the country.
The rule of law as provided and stipulated in the national constitution has to be respected by all and should be binding for Ethiopians. Unless these vital factors are watered and fed with the required inputs, by being obligated by the rules and provisions of the constitution, everybody has their hands on arms and political power and puts the laws into their own hands. In this situation, disintegration soon happens and a version of the Brexit will immediately follow.
The political leadership of the country takes its guidance from the House of Peoples’ Representatives, when convened routinely or in emergency situations – as is the case presently. But in a Parliament where all the seats are occupied by members of the Ruling Party, alongside a few associates, it cannot be about anything other than giving it some political and formal points.
We can, however, make some wise guesses and speculations; we can make analyses of some of the critical issues raised. Courtesy of science and technology, we are kept abreast to what is going on in the world minute by minute through the internet and mass media. We are trying to swim against the downwards flow of a strong river.
The establishment, led by a few senior politicians not even keeping up to date with world affairs, seems to be incredibly greedy and uncompromising with what is going on in their country let alone elsewhere.
Although choosing Addis Abeba as the seat of the government at the time, it could only grow in power and consolidation because of the introduction of modern modes of transport and communication. The Djibouti-Addis Abeba Railway line, connecting so many little towns and residences, like Modjo, Nazreth (Adama), Bishoftu (Debre Zeit) and others, cannot be kept aside.
Even today, that old railway line is as essential as the life blood of the country’s import and export outlets. The iron or steel line built by Chemins de Fer in the 20th century is now being renovated through state of the art technology, and will be driven by electricity. It has no equas in terms of importance since Emperor Menelik II. We should all be grateful to all those who made the necessary contribution to make the railway innovation project a reality.
But, when we turn our focus to what is going on in the city, as far as transport services and communications are concerned, there is very little we can talk about with our heads upheld.
Up to 95 percent of city dwellers either walk on foot or take city buses, microbuses, minibuses, small taxis or three-wheeled scooters. Also known as Bajaj, these three-wheelers traverse the bigger cities, like Bahir Dar and Hawassa, as well as other smaller towns and villages. Cycles and horse drawn, or even donkey drawn, carts are used to carry heavy loads from farms and cultivation areas.
There are also a considerable number of private automobiles rolling along the roads of the capital. Even if the accessibility of road infrastructure has been developed and extended, traffic accidents have become one of the deadliest by African standards.
If you come to Addis Abeba for the first time, you will find no city map to lead you to you need to go, except for a few places like embassies.
The very cause that created such big cities as Dire Dawa or its neighbour Harar could not be translated into action when it comes to Addis Abeba. The streets and roads have neither names nor numbers to speak of.
The transport services, despite all the modalities mentioned earlier, are not meeting the increasing demands in the city. You can see the queues at each bus stop or terminal. Getting a space inside minibuses, or Wuyiyit as they are known, makes you pray to the harsh treatments of the so called Gulbe’s, or drivers’ assistants. Even the highly spoken about “Light trains”, or tramways as they are known all over Europe, could not fulfil the purposes for which they were purchased and installed at unimaginable costs.
If we turn our attention towards the education area, except for the quantitative growth in the enrolment of university students, there is much to be desired both in terms of the quality and the developmental contributions they make in the field of research and qualitative growth.
This is not without any reason. According to Dr. Ayele Bekeri of the Mekele University and another professor of the Addis Abeba University in a dialogue last weekend, many lecturers are forced to work overtime to make up for their respective salaries. That would mean that they skip many lectures since they have no time.
The other issue confronted by city dwellers is the lack of a sustainable flow of electric power. There is also some bad news from the capital about some sort of cholera outbreak, killing untold numbers of individuals. We shall see how this will end in the absence of water and sanitation services. Are we to blame maladministration?
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