I never knew the control that the Ethiopian government has on society until I got here.

You can’t get a sim card without a residency permit, and there’s only one government-owned cell phone network. Non-government publications are illegal. Recent laws were passed to oust all NGOs that work in human rights (a rather suspect move on the part of the government…). There’s bureaucracy to the extreme when it comes to building permits – the local government removed the roof of our workshop before it was finished because we didn’t have all of our papers and refused to bribe them. The internet is regulated; Skype and blogspot were banned. In fact, the government somehow prevents all emails with the word “skype” in them from being sent, so I opt for typing “sk?pe” instead. Take that, Ethiopian government! I’ve tricked you.

I’m not big into politics and government, but I’m starting to realize how much influence it can have on daily life. Working in Ethiopia is made difficult every day due to excessive government bureaucracy. You can also see the effect that the government has on the people. Some Habeshas are willing to speak up about what they dislike, but many are afraid. They don’t want the government to know if they’re not reporting all of their market sales. They don’t want to share their true opinion for fear that it will get back to a government official. I have also found that people are quick to say “No, that is not possible” if there’s not an easy answer. They accept the current state of affairs, and have little hope that another order is possible and the situation will change.

But then I see hundreds of Obama T-shirts that say “Yes we can!” floating around the streets. Maybe there is a bit more hope than initially meets the eye.

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