Monday, February 19, 2018

Strike begins today; All peaceful around university
(Gondar, Ethiopia)—It’s day three of a six-month long state of emergency in Ethiopia, and day one of a three day general strike here in Gondar. During the three day strike, myself and my Fulbright scholar brethren are hunkered down, safely, in our apartment complex.

The anti-government strike has stopped all forms of public transportation, both buses and bajajes, usually ubiquitous three wheeled taxis. I stood and watched the typically busy street just outside our apartment block for about 15 minutes, and could count on one hand the number of motorized vehicles (mostly big trucks) that passed by. Motorized transport seems to have been at least partially replaced by horse drawn carts, which seem much more prevalent than usual.

I’m pleased to report that the numerous donkeys that traverse our street appear undaunted by the strike.

The strike has also closed down most, if not all, retail businesses in Gondar. In my neighborhood, a friend reports that all of our haunts are shuttered, including the tiny TG grocery store and the Red Fox, a hotel/restaurant that serves the best foul (delicious spicy beans) in the hemisphere. 

I walked up 216 steps (see previous post) without stopping because I was curious as to how the strike is affecting the University of Gondar. I had expected the place to be dead, but instead, hundreds of students were making their way to and from class, or their dorms. I chatted with two grad students as they left class. In perfect English, the young men told me that some classes are being held today, while some are cancelled. As for journalism, my department, our classes this week start Wednesday. Will I meet my class then? I should know more tomorrow.

There are a number of unconfirmed reports about a strong police presence around the central market and downtown area, called the piassa. There are also rumors of unrest in these parts of town, but again, these are unconfirmed. I can definitively report that the area in and around our apartment and the university has been calm. I have no reason to believe that it won’t stay that way.

I can't wait to greet my reporting students on Wednesday, or if not, Friday at the latest. 

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