AU summit brings mixed fortunes for Addis residents

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- Apart from being among the thousands who cursed their hearts out Monday night 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 three-day African Union (AU) summit which ended Thursday.
Despite having a small tavern 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 Moammar 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.
But due to his absence, I had 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 Durban, 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 had been hell since the heads of state and governments started arriving in and finally departing Ethiopia.
Each time a motorcade of the leaders passed, he had to close his shop and huddle himself at a corner lest he gets into trouble with the security personnel lining the road.
During this period, Gebremariam and his ilk were considered a security risk as long as their shops remained open while the motorcades zoomed past.
But taxi driver Tedesse Woldegeorgis was smiles.
"It was good while it lasted," he said, wishing the summit could have continued 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 charged the delegates 20 birr for a distance, which, under normal situations, would cost half the amount.
"I was not overcharging.
What happened was that there is a shortage of taxis, and since the demand was high, the price also went up," he added without batting an eyelid.
"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 the airport to their respective hotels.
Tesfanesh Ayelew owns a restaurant, serving traditional Ethiopian food and many a delegate rushed there in the evenings to occupy the low stools inside the traditional huts to sample Anjera (unleaven bread) and Dero wot (minced meat sauce).
She recorded an average 100 guests, double the usual number, each evening, and some even braved the winter here to stay a little longer to guzzle Bati, Meta or Dasheen, the three most popular beers in this city of three million people.
However, Selamawit Kifle, 25, one of her waitresses at the restaurant, is a sad lady.
She had to work round the clock during the day and part of the night, serving customers, and in the morning serving breakfast at a hotel also owned by her boss.
"Even after all these hours, I was not paid overtime, or anything extra to compensate my sacrifice," Kifle, who during the interview, claimed to not have slept for two days, told PANA.

08 july 2004 11:20:00

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