Ethiopia: State of Emergency Mutes Violence, Business
ANALYSISBy Haiamnot Ashenafi
On the traditional departure time out of their houses, nightlifers were observed for the past few days and most turn to their residence. Since the declaration of the state of emergency, which follows the three days sit-in across the Oromia Regional State, has broken off the violence, however, at the same time sinks down the businesses of bars, caps and musicians reports HAIAMNOT ASHENAFI, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.
On the evening of February 20, 2018, just six days after the declaration of the state of emergency, Regebe Fedlu, a young taxi driver, was sitting in his blue cab looking outside where people were rushing to their homes leaving behind the downing sun and rush to escape the approaching rain.
But what worried Regebe was, if his life was going to be at the same spot where it was a year ago, when the government announced a state of emergency for the first time in 25 years.
It was on the afternoon of October 9, 2016, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn appeared before the state media and announced the declaration of the state of emergency. The declaration made by the Council of Ministers was an immediate response to the violence that has occurred in Bishoftu during the Irreecha celebration and took dozens of lives.
The declaration was no good news for Regebe, who is expected to provide the owners of his taxi with 1,400 Br in a weekly bases. He has suffered a lot for the 10 months until the emergency declaration phased out. He was challenged to earn the stated amount of money as his business has already started to go cold due to the state of emergency.
That is why he was shocked when he learned about the declaration of the state of emergency, again, this time for six months.
Just days ahead of the declaration, the state witnessed a couple of historical incidents such as the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn from the chairmanship at the ruling party and the post at the office of the prime minister, the amnesty of a little over 700 prisoners include political leaders and journalists and the three-days sit-in across the Oromia Regional State.
The three days sit-in, which blocked the in and outflow of supplies to and from Addis Abeba, was the immediate stimulant which triggered the declaration of the recent state of emergency announced by Siraj Firgesa, minister of Defence and secretariat of the National Security Council.
On the next evening after the declaration of the state of emergency, the nightlife of Addis sinks downwards as people started rushing to their home early before the sundowning.
“Business pauses immediately,” said Regebe. “It was just to add insult to injury of the fasting season.”
Having a notable number of followers in the country, the Orthodox Christianity’s doctrine’s primary fasting season that lasts for 55-day began days before of the state of emergency. The season is known for being one of the reasons that freeze the nightlife from a shake.
“Our business is challenged during the fasting season,” claims Regebe, who pays 1,500 Br monthly rent, along with his daily expense of 120 Br and the 1,400 Br weekly amount he gives to the owners.
Apart from cabs, the young men and women who sell gum, cigarette and eggs for the nightlifers were rarely observed on the main roads and the areas that are identified with vibrant night activities.
Rather these roads were inundated by armed police officers that are members of the command post, which was formed to execute the details rules and regulations of the state of emergency.
Though, the government aimed at muting violence, which was overbearing for the past couple of weeks, and become successful somehow, it indirectly hit businesses such as event organisers and musicians apart from taxi cabs and bars.
Janno, a rare rock band in Ethiopia who has released an album just a month ago, is one of those that was affected by the state of emergency. The band with a member of eight musicians and instrumentalists, pays a monthly house rent of 30,000 Br, aside from other expenses.
Last year the band had spent 800,000 Br to launch its new album, dubbed as “Lerasih New” with 60,000 copies, after recording and mixing in Italy and mastering in the United States. The members also set up a recording studio with over half a million Birr lost, close to 1.2 million Br after cancelling five concerts due to the state of emergency.
After two months the Band scheduled to have a concert at the Millennium Hall, Hawassa and Mekelle too. These concert deals are worth 1.7 million Br. The band also planned to perform on seven shows as an album promotion, within six months time after accomplishing the three concerts.
“If conditions are going to be the same as last year,” said Samuel Tefera Manager of Janno Band, “we would be forced to cancel them.”
The effect also boils down to the bars, which are highly dependent on the activities that take place in the evenings. One of these businesses is Bombe Disco Nightclub that resides in the basement of Kenenisa Hotel, which is owned by world record holder athlete Kenenisa Bekele.
On the evening of last Tuesday, the club was almost empty, unlike the previous days which usually serves up to 40 people at once. The management of the bar, which became operational two months ago, claims that their business was ruined after the state of emergency.
“Business has not been up to my expectation,” said Amit Sinha, chairperson of Target Hospitality Mangement, which manages the bar and the entire hotel.
In the biggest picture beyond the business, the country’s tourist flow would also be affected, and the revenue from them would decline. In the previous experience when the country was under a state of emergency, earnings from the tourism sector and tourist flow have shown a 12.5pc and 8.2pc decline, respectively, according to a data from the Ministry of Culture & Tourism.
This affects the economy of the country the least, according to Berihun Adugna, a PhD candidate at the Central European University and a visiting researcher at the University of Oxford.
“Not only tourists but also investors would refrain from investing in the country,” said Berihun.
In the meantime until the state of emergency phases out, businesses are thinking of their ways not to burn out from the effects. Jano Band plans to have an international tour in a bid to back their financial capacity, while the Indian management company has already lost hope in its business.
“Besides the forex crunch and the recent business decline, we are operating with zero profit,” said Sinha with a tone of frustration.
But Berihun recommends harms could be minimised if the parliament alters some of the restrictions, such as specifying areas where the state of emergency has to be an effect and regularly amend the bill reviewing the progress in the country.