Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ethiopian farmers: The Starbucks Slave

Starbucks is claiming ownership to the coffee bean names Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe. Yes, Mr. Donald (CEO of Starbucks), your creativity is undeniable. It may annoy you or be of a discomfort to you that this poor country and these poor farmers are trying to deny you of all the profit you rightly deserve. I, however, can't help but imagine the anger it must bring upon the farmers who hand pick these coffee beans in the Harar, Sidamo, and Yirgacheffe regions for less than $1 a day to learn that their coffee is bringing Starbucks $8.5 billions dollars a year and is bringing you, Mr. Donald, a higher ranking in the fortune 500 list. That must be infuriating and humiliating for those farmers. They almost freely labor all day long for your great success.

Anyone who cares about fair trade and the poor, please go to the Oxfam link either by clicking on the Title of this blog or by going to the 'Oxfam' link on the right and join the petition against oppression.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Why we should avoid eagerly encouraging our young cousins in Ethiopia to come to America

Reason 1: Adolescents identify their own value and worth in terms of their social group. Teenagers in America, in Ethiopia, in Antarctica think in relation to peers. Most of their thought is consumed consciously or subconsciously by "what do I have to do to become more popular." So, the pressure of being an adolescent is great, but the pressure of being an adolescent immigrant is insurmountable. You don't speak the language of the others - and this is not only the English language but also the slang and moreover, this is not only verbal language but also physical language. There are a lot of dances, facial expressions, silly movements and other mannerism that are learnt over a long period of time. So, this adolescent immigrant becomes not only a foreigner to the country, but more importantly a foreigner to the other kids at school or in the neighborhood, a foreigner to friendships and groups, and eventually a foreigner to him or herself because an adolescent's understanding of oneself is in terms of social networks.
Reason 2: when we encourage the idea that America is the golden land of opportunities and the place where dreams come true, we deceive our people and our young children. America is a wonderful country, no doubt. Opportunities, however, can be found anywhere just as long as your eyes are open to them. When we encourage young Ethiopians to dream about coming to America, we enable them to close their eyes to opportunity and we cheat them out of the opportunities available in Ethiopia. Let us act to stop this violent spread of wrong information; America is great but so too is Ethiopia.
Reason 3: this is a more macro analysis but, nevertheless, Brain drain. A nation's one greatest asset is its people; and Ethiopia is losing a fortune.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Let's review the position of the Prime Minister in Ethiopia, shall we

Does anyone else find it strange that the Ethiopian Prime Minister has the authority to send troops or "military trainers" to another country without first consulting the parliament?

Let us review the powers of the Prime Minister in Ethiopia, shall we.

Appointment of the Prime Minister

1. The Prime Minister shall be elected from among members of the House of Peoples’ Representatives.

2. Power of Government shall be assumed by the political party or a coalition of political parties that constitutes a majority in the House of Peoples’ Representatives.
Article 74
Powers and Functions of the Prime Minister

1. The Prime Minister is the Chief Executive, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, and the Commander-in-Chief of the national armed forces.

2. The Prime Minister shall submit for approval to the House of Peoples’ Representatives nominees for ministerial posts from among members of the two Houses or from among persons who are not members of either House and possess the required qualifications.

3. He shall follow up and ensure the implementation of laws, policies, directives and other decisions adopted by the House of Peoples’ Representatives.

4. He leads the Council of Ministers, coordinates its activities and acts as its representative.

5. He exercises overall supervision over the implementation of policies, regulations, directives and decisions adopted by the Council of Ministers.

6. He exercises overall supervision over the implementation of the country’s foreign policy.

7. He selects and submits for approval to the House of Peoples’ Representatives nominations for posts of Commissioners, the President and Vice-President of the Federal Supreme Court and the Auditor General.

8. He supervises the conduct and efficiency of the Federal administration and takes such corrective measures as are necessary.

9. He appoints high civilian officials of the Federal Government other than those referred to in sub-Articles 2 and 3 of this Article.

10. In accordance with law enacted or decision adopted by the House of Peoples’ Representatives, he recommends to the President nominees for the award of medals, prizes and gifts.

11. He shall submit to the House of Peoples’ Representatives periodic reports on work accomplished by the Executive as well as on its plans and proposals.

12. He shall discharge all responsibilities entrusted to him by this Constitution and other laws.

13. He shall obey and enforce the Constitution.

Now here are some amendments under the article that states the powers and functions of the Council of Ministers (comprises the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Ministers and other members as may be determined by law)

8. It shall formulate the country’s foreign policy and exercise overall supervision over its implementation.

10. It has the power to declare a state of emergency; in doing so, it shall, within the time limit prescribed by the Constitution, submit the proclamation declaring a state of emergency for approval by the House of Peoples’ Representatives.

11. It shall submit draft laws to the House of Peoples’ Representatives on any matter falling within its competence, including draft laws on a declaration of war.

12. It shall carry out other responsibilities that may be entrusted to it by the House of Peoples’ Representatives and the Prime Minister.

13. It shall enact regulations pursuant to powers vested in it by the House of Peoples’ Representatives.

Now Most Important to me is to know the powers of the Federal Houses (Parliament):
Under Chapter 6 of the constitution are the amendments:

7. It shall determine the organization of national defence, public security, and a national police force. If the conduct of these forces infringes upon human rights and the nation’s security, it shall carry out investigations and take necessary measures.

8. In conformity with Article 93 of the Constitution it shall declare state of emergency; it shall consider and resolve on a decree of a state of emergency declared by the executive.

9. On the basis of a draft law submitted to it by the Council of Ministers it shall proclaim a state of war.

ALRIGHTY, so as open ended these amendments are it seems quite clear (and not to mention, democratic) to me that the Prime Minister must present to Parliament its intention to use national defense to support another state. It is irrelevant, your Excellency, that "we have the right to defend ourselves against these people. We have been very patient throughout this ordeal." Under your state's constitution, you should have presented this case to parliament BEFORE you sent troops. Now, those Ethiopians living in the Somali region and Ethiopia are under greater security threats. This action has upset the Islamic region in Somalia and the "holy war" they have declared on Ethiopia will put those geographically closest to the region, those living in the south east Somali region of Ethiopia in great danger of ground combat and attacks or even danger of more destructive weapons. The Prime Minister acted irresponsibly and prematurely and has carelessy endangered occupants of a large Ethiopian district.

Members of the Federal Houses, under amendment 17 of Article 55, I call on you "to question the Prime Minister and other Federal officials and to investigate the Executive’s conduct and discharge of its responsibilities."

I cannot quote it exactly but Ngugi wa Thiong'o said something like: Too much silence breeds misery in the state.

Monday, October 16, 2006

"There is enough excess food in the UK to feed all the hungry people in Ethiopia"

Once the UK’s 60 million people have met their daily nutritional requirements, there is sufficient food left over to feed 33 million people. There are an estimated 31 million undernourished people in Ethiopia.

Today is World Food Day. Stop and think about this:
One child dies of hunger every 5 seconds.
Hunger is the number one health risk: kills more people than HIV,malaria,TB combined.
To give a school lunch to a hungry child in a developing country, it costs 3 pieces of chewing gum (19 euro cents per day).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Nearly 60% of Ethiopian women were subjected to sexual violence

According to the Ending Violence Against Women report, out of 71 countries studied Ethiopia has the highest rate of sexual violence against women, including marital rape.
I mean we all know about the existing problem of Female Genital Mutilation, which I must note continues to be a great problem in Eastern Ethiopia and Somalia. But this report launched by the UN indicates that their is a different realm of abuse.
Most of the women are being abused in their own homes by their lawfully wedded husbands.
The BBC Report states: "It said some 100 countries had no domestic violence laws and marital rape could not be prosecuted in more than 50."
It needs to be investigated, what laws the Ethiopian Government has to protect women against such violence.


**So, I am going to briefly explain my understanding of the languages spoken in Ethiopia. From my explanation you will quickly realize that I am not a linguist nor have I ever taken a linguistics course. I am just interested in the 80 + languages spoken in Ethiopia and their similarities in origin.

The native (indigenous) language of Ethiopia is in the Cushitic family. The Cushitic family is one of the 6 Afroasiatic (the former term is side note: Hamito comes from the name Ham who is the Bible Character...he is Noah's son and then Semitic comes from the name Semite who is a descendent of Shem who is also Noah's son). Going back to the Cushitic languages (oh and Cush is also a son of Noah) - Somali, Oromo, Sidamo, Komso, and Saho Afar are a few of the members of the Cushitic, these dialects are closest to the native Ethiopian language.

Ethiopic (Geez) is a part of the Semitic language family (a sister family of the Cushitic family, both daughters of Afroasiatic languages or Hamito-Semitic). Ethiopic was brought by migrants from South Arabia and it was strongly used in the capital Aksum of the Ethiopian Empire (then known as the Aksumite Empire). In the 4th Century AD, the Emperor of Aksumite, Emperor Ezana converted to Christianity and so the state of Ethiopia converted to Christianity. Ethiopic (Geez) was used in the churches and it is still used in the church liturgy today. In the Ethiopic language family is Tigre, Tigrinya, and Harari.

On to the facts from factmonster:
Ethiopic (ēthēop'ik)
*Extinct language of Ethiopia
I. Semitic Family
A) Afroasiatic family of languages
1. South Semitic (Ethiopic) languages
a. North Ethiopic group
*Ethiopic is also called Geez or classical Ethiopic
*Some time before the 14th cent. A.D. it ceased to be a spoken tongue in Ethiopia
*It long remained the medium for Ethiopian literature
*The liturgy of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church uses Ethiopic (Geez)
*Tigre & Tigrinya: modern languages in Ethiopia that represent the extinct Ethiopic
*Ethiopic is close to Old South Arabian lexically and grammatically
*It is suggested: its speakers came from S Arabia in the 1st millennium B.C.
*The native Cushitic tongues of Ethiopia (which are also Afroasiatic languages) exerted a degree of influence on the newly arrived Semitic language or languages with respect to grammar, vocabulary, and phonology.
*Although the script used for Ethiopic and other Semitic tongues of Ethiopia is syllabic rather than alphabetic, it seems to be derived from the alphabetic South Semitic writing of the Old South Arabian inscriptions, to which it shows many similarities.
*The reason for the syllabic development of the Ethiopic script is not known.
*Since the 4th cent. A.D., when Ethiopia was Christianized, the Ethiopic script has been written from left to right, though previously the direction of writing was from right to left.

For more interesting information go to

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ethiopian Assimilation in America

For my 'Micropolitics of Development' course, I had to read a study about the Chinese assimilation in Thailand. I used their measures of assimilation to understand the assimilation of Ethiopians here in America. Are Ethiopians assimilated or is the culture of the new generation as pure as the native Ethiopians? The factors measured in the research are:
1) many first generation Ethiopians can speak Amharic?
2) many first generation Ethiopians regularly practice their parents religion in its pure form?
3) Cultural many first generation ethiopians practice standing up for an elder (norr) or listening to amharic music?
4) many first generation Ethiopians know the history and studies of Ethiopia?

Based on these measures I would say Ethiopians have assimilated in America
*most first generation Ethiopians can not speak Amharic...probably 1 out of 10
*most first generation Ethiopians do not know the history of their country beyond the facts that it was never colonized and that Emperor Haile Selassie ruled in Ethiopia(im sure many do not even know the time period of his rule
*As far as religion, I would say 1 out of 6 practices their parents’ religion (many do not because they cannot understand the language)
*Cultural practices remain alive in first generation Ethiopians but its strength is dying. People do not stand up for elders-norr in amharic- but they do offer their seats to them and give them priority when serving food.

What could be the reasons for such a fast paced assimilation of Ethiopians in US?
A) Ethiopians are sparsely arranged throughout the United States and therefore do not get in contact with other Ethiopians
B) Ethiopians are living in a foreign country where to be economically successful you have to speak English well and you do not have to have Ethiopian customs

From where did the coke in my coke can come?

As I was drinking my diet cherry coke and reading the BBC photo journal entitled the Ethiopian wood collector, which narrated the life of a little girl Amaretch who collected wood every day for 12 hours only to collect 2 dollars a day, I couldn't help but wonder the beginning form of my delicious diet cherry coke. It didn't just grow out of the grass or trees as a canned carbonated drink. I became very curious and my drink became increasingly bland. Everything that we consume, whether it be food or the shirts on our back, is a product of a number of ingredients, ingredients that are hand picked and/or packaged by poor kids like Amaretch or other people who are forced into this life style by a misfortune of being born in the wrong place. Next time when I pick up my diet coke to soothe my thirst or when I stuff my face with cake to soothe my sweet tooth, I'll be forced to think of Amaretch and be more grateful and less greedy.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Origin of Coffee

My boss did a random google search on the origins of coffee and found this: The origins of coffee are shrouded in myth and great stories. It is commonly believed that coffee plants were first discovered in the Ethiopian province of Kaffa. Legend has it that a sheep herder named Kaldi noticed that the sheep he was taking care of would become hyperactive after eating red cherries from a plant native to the area. Deciding to see what the effects of these cherries would have on a human, Kaldi noticed that he also became hyperactive. The story also describes how a monk passed by and scalded Kaldi for his actions. Ironically, it would be monks of this period that would be among the first coffee enthusiasts. Monks found that the stimulant qualities of coffee allowed them to stay awake for a long period of time, which was useful during long periods of praying and meditation. This story would seem to confirm the belief that coffee received its name from the Ethiopian province of Kaffa, which continues to be a major coffee growing region in the world today.