When planning this trip abroad, my original plan was to stay in Ethiopia for four weeks. The first two would be in Addis with Rachel and the following two weeks, I’d meet up with a group of individuals supporting Touching Africa Ministries (TAM). TAM is an organization led by Michael Elliot. Michael has led trips to Ethiopia for more than ten years and I was eager to join the group and see more of Ethiopia outside of the capital… that was until the trip was cancelled.
If you happen to watch BBC or follow the news for Africa, you might have seen that Ethiopia is experiencing protests against the government from two of the largest ethnic groups. Since mid-August, the US Embassy has discouraged Americans from traveling to Ethiopia, specifically to areas outside of Addis. After having discussions with partners in Ethiopia, TAM decided it would not be worth the risk to travel in Ethiopia and the trip was postponed until next year. While I can appreciate that safety is a primary concern, I will admit that I was disappointed that the trip wouldn’t happen at this time. Knowing about the increased hostility, Rachel and I also reached out to our friends in Ethiopia to see if we should also consider a visit at a later time. No one could guarantee safety here in Addis, but thought we’d be okay to still make the trip.
Fast forward to this past Sunday and another protest led to government retaliation and death. This time the protest happened less than 30 miles away from Addis. News coverage on a global level reports 52 dead but when you look at Ethiopian news they are saying hundreds dead. Even though the numbers vary greatly, the loss of life is what is to be mourned.
Tuesday, more protests and news that it was in Addis this time. While I’ve since read reports saying it was again outside of Addis, there was an American killed. Sharon Gray, a fellow at University of California-Davis postdoctoral researcher, was hit in the head when the van she was in came under attack. That night, Rachel and I reached out to our friends to determine how much activity we should have in the next few days, ultimately deciding the areas we’d be in were safe enough but to be aware of our surroundings.
Ethiopians in general are calm, kind-hearted people. There is little crime in the country and while there are problems, I have previously always felt safe and comfortable here.