Of all the trips I’ve taken, everything (plus or minus some air travel tribulations) has gone according to plan. So I guess the time had come…we were to be leaving for Ethiopia next Monday, but about five days ago, the trip was cancelled due to the violence in Ethiopia, increasing government control, and because one of the lodges we were to be staying at was looted and burned to the ground.
It’s too bad–I was really looking forward to Ethiopia; while still in east Africa, it is so vastly different than either Kenya or Tanzania. It’s landscape, it’s animals, it’s culture, it’s language, it’s history…I was looking forward to all of it (notably, I’m not a huge fan of Ethiopian food, and yes, I do see the irony there thanks).
The operator/company had already changed the itinerary once to avoid some of the regions with the most violence–which were also some of the regions with the best opportunities to spot some of the incredibly rare animals which call Ethiopia home. But we were still excited to see Lucy in Addis Ababa, check out Lalibela, and get to hike in some of national parks that appear to be just beautiful.
I don’t blame the company, and they’ve been very helpful to work with and honest about the situation. Certainly this isn’t the best outcome for anyone–us, or them (and, well, certainly not for Ethiopia and it’s citizens either). I’m unable to commit to new Ethiopia dates, but at this point, it seems as if booking another Ethiopia trip (beyond say, Addis Ababa) is a bit of a gamble anyway.
I don’t know enough about the situation in Ethiopia to comment, and generally avoid commenting on political situations out of good sense. But certainly this situation is not “new”, and the tension between the government and certain groups (Oromo and Amhara) in Ethiopia is pretty long-standing. The escalation of violence started about a year ago and things are definitely getting worse: hundreds have been arrested and hundreds have been killed. Today, the government banned Facebook posting from certain regions. Discussing political issues with foreigners or terrorist groups can lead to significant prison time (the fact that foreigners and terrorist groups are on the same level here is notable, if nothing else). Diplomats can’t travel more than 25 miles outside of Addis without prior approval. I do hope, but am not naive enough to believe, that the conflict can be resolved without significant levels of further violence.
One day I will still travel to Ethiopia. But that day will not be Monday.