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Pretoria to Addis

14 March 2008

Marusca Perazzi, MRG’s Programmes Officer reports from a visit to minority organisations in Addis Ababa.

It’s time to say goodbye to colourful and friendly South Africa to take off to Ethiopia. When I land in Addis Ababa; despite all the unexpected delays during the day, I reach my accommodation and am instantly reminded of the purpose of my travels – the building opposite my lodge is called the “Bahá’í Centre”.

In the first hours of the morning, Addis Ababa is rather quiet and offers a spectacular and breath-taking view of an upturned half moon. My initial thought is that this is yet another country in Africa which shows a different face, but I also wonder whether that’s really the case…

In fact, after a few hours the reality of what this city is really about starts surfacing more strongly. Traffic jams, pollution… luckily the gentle breeze that characterizes this city is accompanying me on my way to meeting Alawis Ahmed, Programme Manager of the MRG partner organisation Pastoralist Forum Ethiopia (PFE).

On the way to PFE’s office, it becomes obvious that the government is investing heavily in road construction and planning, but the people on the streets and the obvious levels of poverty and inequality are what really catch my attention. Yet, apparently, this is a rather fine quarter of the city where a number of embassies and international organisations are based.

PFE is currently working on a research project on Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) processes with specific reference to pastoralists communities in Ethiopia. Mr Alawis and his colleagues are particularly welcoming and we discuss how the project is progressing on the ground and the kind of challenges that may be lying ahead. He complains of a lack of knowledge on the part of government officials about both PRSPs and the difficulties faced by pastoralist communities around the country on a daily basis. However, I am impressed by PFE’s strategies to promote the project and raise awareness around PRSPs and minorities.

Mr Alawis, a pastoralist himself, explains that it is very important to engage with the Ethiopian government to ensure its participation and give it the opportunity to address patterns of inequality that affect pastoralist communities.

Afterwards I visit the PFE community centre which offers a number of publications on subjects ranging from land issues, conflict prevention, indigenous peoples, governance, gender and human rights.

Later whilst on the balcony of my lodge, I see a group of women walking on the busy main road gesticulating wildly. To my surprise I realise that they are all waving at me and shouting “Good night sister! I love you.” I just manage to warn them in time to pass on the other side of the road as a big 4 x 4 almost hits them. Still waving at me, they cross the road and slowly disappear from sight; what a joy and genuine welcome to Ethiopia.

This article reflects the sole opinion of its author and does not engage MRG’s responsibility.