The Way with Money

Feb 22 , 2020
By Kidist Yidnekachew

There is an oxymoronic nature to the saying, “All men are born equal, but some are more equal than others.” But it fits perfectly well with the oxymoronic paradigm under which society operates.

The value assigned to members of a society is almost always based solely on factors such as wealth. The wealthy of our country seemingly get away with just about anything just because of the status attached to them based on their affluence.

Genzeb kale, be semay menged ale,” roughly translates to, “if there is money then there is a way,” an Amharic saying that perfectly fits the status afforded to money in our modern capitalistic society.

How many times have we witnessed a shopkeeper ignore the person next in line because a tinted SUV had pulled up?

Never mind that the driver ends up buying nothing more than a half a litre bottle of water while the person standing next in line is stocking up on the week's groceries. This is an all too familiar sight in modern-day Ethiopia.

The rich even steal our water. In many condominium houses, water has become more of a luxury we cannot afford than a necessity as it is rationed by schedule. Condo houses in Bole Bulbula are no different. We have been told that the water is supposed to come three days every week, on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, from 10pm to 4am. But when it comes, it often does for just long enough that it is possible to fill a few buckets of water before vanishing to leave a whistling sound coming from the faucets.

Around two kilometres from the middle- to lower-income housing, there are villas that make up a relatively rich neighbourhood. They have water 24-hours a day and seven days a week. Technically, both the condominiums and villas are only supposed to get water for a few days a week.

What is worse about water rationing in condominium houses is the toilets that take close to eight litres of water to flush after use. The alternative is to have the whole house stink up as a result. Flushing toilets when there is barely enough water to drink may not sound right, but there is little one can do in the face of such acrid calamity. We bought a 10lt jar of water once just to flush the toilet out of desperation.

Under normal circumstances, we would have purchased water tankers. But these have proven useless considering how there is never enough water supplied our way. There is also the problem of not having enough space for putting the water tankers. Our only alternative is to buy water in a city that technically is considered to have a universal supply of it.

In calling out these challenges, I would assume three things would happen as a result. The first option would be that some city official reads this, is outraged and manages to have the issue rectified and we get the water supply that we had been promised. It might also be the case that no one in our local government offices pays attention to this, and our problem just keeps getting worse. It is not unheard of for neighbourhoods to go without water for months at times.

The last alternative, and most likely, is that nothing changes and readers to whom this happened deeply sympathise with me, grit their teeth and sigh to remain silent once more in the hope that the state would be better equipped to fix these things.

Have we become a morally bankrupt society that we perpetually give far more attention to those who already have much more?

"Don't be fooled into thinking that everyone wearing clothing is a person, even tables have a tablecloth," my husband likes to say.

It is a reminder that while all of us are, in theory, equal, the reality is quite different, especially in the eyes of those that only happen to be wearing clothing.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 22,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1034]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (

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