It has become so hard to live in this country of ours. Few elite groups, the corrupt officials and the greedy traders may not buy this statement though. For them everything is perfect, but not for us. In a country where it is always claimed that double digit economic growth has been registered for seven or eight consecutive s years, citizens are still having a pretty tough time to survive.
Contrary to this country’s economic growth that always makes news on ETV,the state owned media, everything is deteriorating and it is now reaching beyond what are capable of managing. We cannot see any significant change in the lives of ordinary citizens. In fact, it has now become a common knowledge to see a few people who live luxuriously when millions of Ethiopians are struggling to make a living as they are challenged by high food price rise, continuous interruption of electricity, slow/poor internet and telephone networks and shortage of water supply.
The high food price rise is affecting the lives of everyone to the highest degree. Since the eve of the Ethiopian millennium, the food price has gone high beyond what someone can imagine. Nowadays, most of our expenses are allocated for purchasing food items. We have seen no or little efforts by the government to alleviate the problem and citizens have to suffer as a result. We have seen so many times when government officials tell us about the measures they have taken to stabilize the food price, but it has never been interpreted into the lives of individuals. Three meals a day has always been a luxury in this country for centuries.
In many parts of Ethiopia, sugar and edible oil are seen as luxurious products though they are so basic items for any one. Now we have learnt how to manage life without sugar and edible oil. In the city I live now, for example, somebody has to wait for a month or more to get 2kgs of sugar and that is only possible when you are a member one of the ‘Shemachoch mehaber’ where you can become a member only after you have paid about three hundred birr. If you are not a member of this ‘mehaber’, you cannot get a grain of sugar. You never get sugar in shops or super markets.
In most cases, you cannot get sugar even after becoming a member of the ‘Shemachoch mehaber’. When you don’t get sugar, you have to enjoy your tea and coffee without it. But, you may consider using salt for your coffee if you have the taste for it. That is what I usually do when I don’t have sugar at home. I remember the time when we stopped drinking tea and coffee in my home for a month. This is a true story guys. We are in a country where we are not even entitled to demand for sugar and edible oil let alone demanding for more political rights. It seems that people are happy with their desperate lives. Everybody complains about it, but there is no way out or a platform to express his or her frustrations and dissatisfaction.
Electricity is the other major problem that is giving a headache to many Ethiopians. Power is always on and off. It goes off for thirty minutes and then it comes back. After thirty minutes it goes off and after six hours it comes back and after one hour it goes off and after 24 hours it comes back and after 24 hours it goes off. Electric power interruption is non-stop. May be the power system has been set this way to frustrate the public. Indeed, one can dare say that we have no electricity at all. Now we have a dozen of hydroelectric power stations in this country-Fincha, Gilgibe I, II, III, Tekeze, Tana Beles, and Koka just to mention the major hydro electric generating stations. Then, where is the electric power going? Who is using it?
Is the problem of electricity in this country is caused by shortage or by the failure of system? Nobody explains. The electric power authorities are not at all taking the responsibilities for the power failure. They don’t explain why such continuous interruption of power occurs. They don’t care about their customers at all. One thing that these authorities good at is talking about how much millions of dollars they will be earning by selling the electric power to neighboring countries-Sudan (Juba and Khartoum), Kenya, Djibouti (the first country to purchase power from Ethiopia), Eritrea? (I am not sure whether Eritrea is among those who will benefit from the Ethiopian electric power- the ruling party knows it), Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt and others. They have plenty power to sell it off the neighbors, but very meager electric power to supply to the public. What a paradox? I often hear from some folks that when the construction of The Great Millennium Hydroelectric power is completed, there will be no interruptions of power. But how can we be sure that power interruptions will stop forever even after the completion of the Millennium Dam with authorities who care much about themselves and less about the citizens?
One evening, all Ethiopians watched a famous female artist who appeared on ETV (mouthpiece of the government) and told us shamelessly that we would be never using candles unless when we are celebrating our birth days. However, we are using candles more frequently since then. Even the artist herself is using the candles to give lights to her home. I bet my money if that is not the case. But, who knows she may be supplied with uninterruptable electricity for fooling the public by making empty promises on the behalf of our governors.
Internet and telephone networks are also making our lives so miserable. Someone has to try thousand times to make a call. In other cases, the telephone network fails as you are talking something important with your lover, family, boss or colleague. When the network fails, the woman speaking on the behalf of the Ethio Telecom really loves to tell you “The number you dialed is out of the service area. Please, redial later”. Even when you call someone who is standing near the network transmitter, the woman would tell you that the person you are calling is out of the service area. On holidays, network fails more than any other days. You have to wait for the next day to express your best wishes for your beloved ones.
Moreover, the internet network failure is the most frustrating hitch in this country. Internet has become the most important means of communication in the world today. Ethiopia is also among the lists of countries using the internet, but network exists only in name. It is slow, weak, dead and not responsive. We cannot read daily news on the internet let alone watching movies, listening to music, uploading pictures and downloading books, movies, music and educational materials. Even in higher learning institutions where the importance of internet is very high, connection is quite poor. We don’t exactly know what the Ethiopian Telecom (the only Service provider) is doing. At the time the internet has become a necessity worldwide, for us it is still a luxury.
The Water authorities are the other irresponsible guys like EELPA and Ethio Telecom authorities. For example, there are times when water goes off in the city I live now for reasons we don’t know. Sometimes, we have to wake up in the midnight to collect water because we can get drips of water at this particular time. If you wait until morning, it means you will have no water the whole day. Dwellers of big cities such as Adama, Hawassa, Harar, Dilla and Dirre Dawa are suffering from shortage of clean water. In most cases, they are forced to buy a jerry can of water from those who collect it from very far off places to make it available to them. The authorities never explain why water is interrupted on the regular basis. Water is becoming another luxury item for many Ethiopians.
People are crying out about these problems, but the government officials are paying little or no attention to them. Every time we watch ETV, the government officials waste their time telling us that this country is the number one fastest growing economy in Africa, sorry, in the world.
As far as I can understand, the double digit economic growth has never been interpreted into the lives of ordinary citizens. Actually Ethiopia never grows greater or less than 11% as we have witnessed in the last eight years and it will keep on growing by the same percentage for the coming 20 years. May be Ethiopia is the only country in the world where annual economic growth is always 11%. Even at the time of international economic crisis when the biggest economies managed to grow by -0.02%, our economic growth has been just 11%-no more, no less. But, what is development then if it is not reflected in the lives of the people? It is good to be optimistic though. Who knows, that economic growth may flood us one day when it is discharged by those who are hampering its flow.
Generally, the high food price rise, the continuous interruptions of electricity, water shortage and weak telephone and internet networks are working harmoniously and are making our lives so wretched. The bad thing is we don’t know who will be taking care of them. We are always asking for better living conditions, but those in power are never listening to us.
I am sorry if my opinion offends anybody. I can’t help them. No doubt my opinion may be offensive to very few people who are blind to see how we are living in this country. But this is the life I am living. This is the life you are living. This is the life my fellow countrymen are living.