Corona Virus (Covid19)

2020-04-04

Before the beginning of 2020, I don´t remember I heard about Corona Virus or Covid19. When I first heard about it I did not give it much attention. Gradually it became daily news with a lot of details on the television, newspapers and different social medias. 

First the focus was China particularly the city of Wuhan. After a while the virus found its way to South Korea, Italy, Iran and other parts of the world. Today the virus is turned in to pandemic and it is found all over the globe. Some countries are affected more than others. The situation in Iran is getting extremely bad due to the existing economic and political situation as well as the US sanctions. In the US while the infection is expanding to different states, New York is the most affected city in the country. Among European countries Italy and Spain suffered most and lost thousands of their citizens. 

The Nordic countries are no exceptions. While there could be different mechanisms for the speed of spreading of the virus, it is in Sweden believed that it first spread through skiers returning from Northern part of Italy. 

Within the Nordic countries measures taken for limiting speed of the spread of the virus varied quite a lot. While Denmark, Finland and Norway took drastic measures of closing schools, boarders, airports with some major restrictions, Sweden took measures with slow speed. 

The Swedish government and health authorities are giving continuous information, instructions on how to behave to limit the spread of the virus and warnings on what to do and not to do. Persons over 70 years are asked to restrict their movements, high schools and universities started to give their education digitally, administrative and factory workers are giving temporary permission to stay at home. 

There are also warnings not to come closer to other persons while we are out of our homes, so called “social distance”. There was a restriction in the first round that meetings for more than 500 persons were not allowed. A few weeks later the restriction has gone down to meetings allowed to a maximum of 50 persons. This is by far a large number of people compared to some countries such as Germany, where more than 2 persons are not allowed to meet (this must be outside the family because many families can have by far large number of members than 2). This restriction affects many cultural and other activities. 

Considering all this, how is my life as an individual affected and how am I coping with it? My wife and I lived and live in Gothenburg, the second largest city of Sweden with about 680, 000 residents. While living here I was weekly commuting 250 km to my work at Karlstad University. Since mid-March I am working online from home. 

At present most part of the day, we are staying at home. We go out for shopping once every two to three days (while we are doing our own shopping, we also do shop for a friend who is 86 years old). As usual we bake our own bread and prepare our different meals.

Every day we are doing our own small exercises and we even take part in the 20 minutes television gymnastics. We are also out for short walks and biking tours. One recent development in our social life is meeting our best friends online. We are five couples spread in the city and one couple live on an island outside the city. Once a week we see each other and talk to each other. We update each other on how the week was for us and talk about what is going on around us. 

Here, I just attempted to say a little bit on Corona Virus or Covid19 and its effect on our daily routines. This is a very short personal reflection, which did not attempt to go in to the economic, political and social effects and the future consequences of the virus. I hope soon the virus will be stopped so we can return to our “normal” life that will include re-building what we lost and prepare to face similar pandemic in the future.

Getahun Y Abraham   

Peace is a precondition for a prosperous future.

In Ethiopia during the last two years there is a sign of change. The release of political prisoners in the country, and even in negotiation with other countries getting Ethiopians released from prisons of other countries, creating a good contact with the diaspora Ethiopians are good signs for changing course. Equally important is the reuniting of the divided orthodox church and giving equal treatment to Christians and Muslims of the country.

The diplomatic effort by prime minister Abiy Ahmed´s government to convince the political parties and different armed groups outside the country to return home and struggle in a peaceful means is a vital step towards democratic development and sustainable peace. As one aspect of this, the agreement to resolve the long-lasted boarder conflict with Eritrea is also a huge achievement for the new Ethiopian government. This peace effort with Eritrea, and the attempt to create a peaceful coexistence between neighbouring countries and the help to create an agreement between the factions in the Sudan conflict led to prime minister Abiy Ahmed to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize of 2019.

While there are a lot of positive developments that need a long list to count here, there are also some negative developments and disgraceful acts that cannot skip our attention. The attempt to murder the pro-change prime minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed, the murder of the progressive Amhara region leaders and the burning down of churches and mosques are some of them.  

Equally disgraceful are ethnic conflicts that are showing their ugly face by neighbours killing each other, mob actions against those considered “enemies” and recently even university students killing fellow students from another ethnic group than their own. It is truly sad that people in the 21st century are trying to resolve their problems by killing each other. From what I understand Ethiopia´s problems are myriad and a deep analysis is needed to understand the root causes and systematic efforts to resolve them are required. But what all parties involved in a conflict need to understand is that hatred and killing each other will never solve the problems of the country. Listening to each other, respect for each other´s ideas and dealing with differences through dialogue instead of aggressive physical attacks against adversaries. Peace is a precondition to build a democratic and prosperous society in a country. 

Neville Alexander

I attended 8-10 of May, 2019, South African – Sweden University Forum (SASUF) 2ndconference in Stellenbosch. In this conference I met two Ethiopians, one living and working in Sweden and the other one in South Africa. While we were discussing Ethiopia and South Africa, one of them, a civil engineer and professor in South Africa was talking about the bad sewerage system in Ethiopia. He said still we don’t have a central sewerage system in Addis Abeba that connects to the private houses and properties. 

After talking for a while about the sewerage system, when we changed topic to talk about something else, he turned to me and asked me if I knew Professor Neville Alexander. I said yes he was a well known person and I told him I listened to him in 2008 or 2009 at the then Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and I just thanked him after the lecture. I told my new acquaintance I heard the Professor died some years back. He was a bit surprised that I said I meet the Professor some years back and listened to him.

My new acquaintance asked me if I knew Professor Alexander´s Ethiopian connection. I was surprised and said no. He told me there are biographs of the Professor and an interview he gave to BBC on his background. His grandmother was an Ethiopian slave who was freed by the British navy from a boat that was on its way to an Arabian country.

That same evening I went to the BBC homepage and found  the link where he gave an interview about his maternal grandmother, an Oromo woman from Ethiopia (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14357121). I also read about him on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neville_Alexander). The next day when I talked to colleagues from South Africa, I understood many of them knew about him and his work. A professor from Nelson Mandela University gave me a book of tribute with a text from his colleagues and Neville Alexander himself. From this tribute and texts from him I learned that, he is a literary giant, anti- apartheid fighter, activist and an intellectual of his time.

He was on Robin Island for ten years (1964-1974) with Nelson Mandela and the other anti-apartheid fighters. During his stay on Robin Island he was the cause for turning the prison in to a “university”. As an already well educated person before his prison terms, he encouraged both the illiterate prisoners to read and write and his colleagues for further studies. 

When I read more about him, I also understood his struggle both for diversity and unity of South Africa. He dealt with the nationality question and with rights of minorities. He worked for minorities´ right to start their education in their own mother tongue and then in the later stage to start using the languages that are used nationally (Afrikans) and internationally (English).

While attempting to give voice for the minorities, he was also critical to the post-apartheid South Africa´s still using the racial divisions Black, Coloured, Indian and White. He is critical to dividing people on the base of the colour of their skin. He was also critical to the present day South Africa for economic and social injustice that left the poor in the country in the same living standard before the fall of apartheid.

As I mentioned earlier, he is a literary giant of his time and if I am going to go deep in to his work, it needs much time to read most of his work and to try to summarize his main areas of focus. I will keep that for the future. But before I finish this short introduction, I will quote his view on identities in South Africa, that could equally apply for his grandmother´s home land, Ethiopia, “We have to insist that we are all South Africans and that those subnational identities that do not undermine our national unity can and should be accepted as consonants with the democratic project.  Such subnational identities would include those based on gender, language, region, religion among others, …” (In Enough is a feast, A tribute to Dr. Neville Alexander, 22 October 1936-27 August 2012, p.93).