AU Summit brings mixed fortunes for Addis residents

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- Apart from being among thousands who cursed their hearts out on Monday evening as they walked long distances from their work places to their homes, Addis Ababa hotelier Simon Tesfaye feels he has other issues to pick with the organisers of the just ended African Union (AU) Summit, held here 6-8 July.
Despite having a hovel for a hotel, Tesfaye thinks he could have also benefited by hosting some of the delegates, since, in his reasoning, the attendance of the Summit by one particular delegate -- Libyan leader Col.
Maammar Kadhafi, could have changed his fortunes.
"You see Ato (Amharic for Mister), the big man (Kadhafi) could have taken over one hotel, causing a major shortage of accommodation.
I have enough rooms, which nobody came for," said Tesfaye who said the Libyan leader was his hero.
He blamed the AU for not pushing hard enough to make Kadhafi come to Addis Ababa.
His inn is a simple structure of one-roomed units with toilet and bathrooms located at the rear.
The Libyan leader, since the first Summit of the AU in Darbun, South Africa, has been known to take over an entire hotel for himself, his aides and security at every AU meeting.
For Tewodros Gebremariam, 46, who owns a small retail shop along the road leading to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) building -- the venue of the Summit -- life has been hell since the heads of state and governments started arriving in Ethiopia.
Each time a motorcade of the leaders is passing, he has to close his shop and huddle himself at a corner lest he gets into trouble with the security personnel lining up the road.
During this period, Gebremariam and his ilk are considered a security risk as long as their shops remained open while the motorcades zoom past.
But taxi driver Tedesse Woldegeorgis is smiles all the way to his bank.
"It was good while it lasted," he said, wishing the summit could continue for at least another week or two.
"You know I wanted to buy another car and within this week only I managed to make a quarter of the money I require for that.
These meetings should always be held here (Addis Ababa)," said Woldegeorgis who charges the delegates 20 Birr for a distance, which, under normal situations, would cost half the amount.
"I am not overcharging.
What happens is that there is shortage of taxis, and since the demand is high, the price also goes up," he says without batting an eye-lid.
However, like many motorists, he had to park his car on the roadside on Monday due to the massive traffic jam caused by the motorcades of the leaders as they left airport to their respective hotels.
Tesfanesh Ayelew owns a restaurant, which serves traditional Ethiopian food and many a delegate rush there in the evenings to occupy the low stools inside the traditional huts to sample Anjera (unleavened bread) and Dero wot (minced meat sauce).
She recorded an average 100 guests, double the usual number, each evening, and some even brave the winter weather here to stay a little longer to guzzle Bati, Meta or Dasheen- the three most popular beers in this city of about 3 million people.
However, Selamawit Kifle, 25, one of her waitresses at the restaurant, is a sad lady.
She has to work round the clock, during the day and part of the night serving patrons, and in the morning serving breakfast at a hotel also owned by her boss.
"Even after all these, I am not paid overtime, or anything extra to compensate my sacrifice," Kifle who during this interview claimed of not having slept for two days, told PANA.

08 july 2004 13:23:00

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