November 13, 2005

It looks like I’m not going to Eritrea. Very sad.

It’s a stupid, stupid nightmare, but Ethiopian and Eritrean troops are once again facing off over the tiny village of Badme, on their mutual border. Ethiopia is being cagey about it, but they hate the border that the UN set after the previous war ended in 2000. It’s all about this little village. 70,000 guys died in the last war, and it was all about this little village.
But maybe calling that futile is kind of like saying, “Dude, it’s only Burlington, Vermont, let the Canadians have it, what’s the big deal?”
Remembering what my friend Genanew told me in Bahar Dar. “Eritrea are like Germany, they think they are master race of the horn of Africa. Eritrea think you can make a country with blood and iron,” he said, “But Ethiopia know you can only make a country with loving.”
A crazily biased view, of course. But it was the Eritreans who began the initial tensions by kicking out UN observers in the area.
And speaking of Bahar Dar–a couple of weeks ago dudes attacked a bus full of German tourists. Bahar Dar is where I had this joyful experience. I wonder if these were the same guys I danced to R. Kelly and Aster Aweke with in the John Bar, the Africa Bar? These little holes-in-the-wall that I felt privileged to be taken to.
A kid–eighteen, maybe–came up to me at the Africa Bar and said, “I HATE MOTHERFUCKING WHITES. But–I like you.”
That’s very nice of you to say, I said.
It sounded like he was trying on a role. Imitating some cartoonish version of supposed Black American attitude. It was kind of surreally adorable.
(The French rioters, they too are enacting a conception of American gangsta pose, aren’t they? I do know a little about the angst of North Africans in France; I remember the Zebda album Le Bruit et L’Odeur–the noise and the smell–named after the comment of a French politician on the Parisian suburbs.)
Ethiopia is pretty chaotic. Violence over a contested election. News of slain students every week or so. Very, very sad.