afrol News, 15 January - Ethiopia is still living in the year 1999, according to its own calendar, meaning that Ethiopians can look forward to yet another millennium party later this year. And authorities are planning a magnificant celebration for citizens and the many expected foreign visitors; launching projects worth birr 290 million (euro 26 million).
The Ethiopian calendar is unique in the world, developed by the indiginous Coptic church leaning on ancient Egyptian astronimic calculations, the Jewish calandar and the Julian calandar - adopted under Julius Caesar and the root of all Christian date calculators. Europe in 1582 shifted to the Gregorian calendar, now putting most of us in January 2007.
According to the Ethiopian calendar, we are in mid-1999. Here, "the year is divided into 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of 5 days and 6 days in leap year," the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture explains. The Ethiopian calendar is 7 and a half year behind the Gregorian calendar, also having 365 days in a normal year and 366 days in each leap year, so the distance remains almost constant.
According to Harvard University Professor Ephraim Isaac, most scholars that have studied Biblical times agree that the Ethiopian calendar is much closer than the Gregorian to start its calculations of time around the birth of Jesus Christ. Some put this event in the year 0 of the Ethiopian calendar, while most historians hold the founder of Christianity was born in year 3 of the same calendar - or year 5 in the Gregorian.
While those wanting to celebrate the 2000th birthday of Jesus will have a lot of confusing dates to pick from, it remains clear that Ethiopia enters its new millennium on 12 September 2007, according to the calendar used by mosth others. And it also remains clear that the Ethiopian millennium party will be an outstanding event.
As every year, Coptic Ethiopians will celebrate the Enkutatash - meaning "gift of jewels" - holiday on their New Years Eve. The event stems from an ancient tale: When the famous Queen of Sheba returned from her visit King Solomon in Jerusalem, her chiefs welcomed her bolts by replenishing her treasury with jewels. The spring festival has been celebrated since this early times and dancing and singing can be heard at every village.
But this year, festivities will be extra. Government one year ago established an Ethiopian Millenium Festival National Council. According to that council, "Ethiopia will welcome the millennium with a year-long celebration with nationwide celebrations, breathtaking entertainments, various cultural shows and tastes from all around the country and by engaging the wider Ethiopian public."
The year-long celebration starts the night between 11 and 12 September this year and in particular aims at attracting visitors and co-spectators from all over the world. For those not able to visit Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Diaspora and diplomatic corps plan to hold celebrations worldwide.
Also tourism authorities and companies are strongly involved in the preparations. Dario Morello of Ethiopia's Green Land Tours says that the country's "advantages as a tourist destination" will be heavily focused during the year. Tourists will also be able to participate in celebrations in Addis Ababa and other parts of the country.
Among the events planned so far is a great Millennium concert on the night of 11 September, which will be broadcast worldwide from Addis Ababa. The concert is said to involve the participation of people from a various backgrounds, "including local and foreign celebrities." Proceeds from the show are earmarked Ethiopian development aid projects.
Sports events will play a great part in the celebrations. Starting on 11 September, an international football tournament that aims at inviting teams from the world's leading soccer nations is planned in Addis. Further, authoriies plan a series of marathons "to showcase Ethiopia's famous athletes in track and field events."
Also Ethiopia's former Tourism Commissioner, Yusuf Abdullahi Sukkar, has been hillarous about the possibilities of the millennium celebrations and their toruism potential, promising "a carnival type fiesta." While his plans were turned down, tourism authorities have made sure the event is well marketed, reminding travellers of the old slogan that they will become seven years younger by visting the country.
The main celebrations thus will be among Ethiopians in the streets of Addis, the countryside and abroad. Further, visitors may join Enkutatash celebrations at some of Ethiopia's many medevial churches, where psalms, sermons and prayers are heard and torches of dry leaves are lit. Later, Ethiopian beer is widely consumed in rural areas, while urban dwellers stick to more modern drinks.
Plans for the official celebrations are still to be deceided on in detail, but the millennium council has already asked for a budget of birr 290 million (euro 26 million) to finance projects proposed to mark the new millennium. Arrangements proposed by individuals and businesses are to consume almost half of this budget.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in December promised the council would get the government dupport it needed to fulfill its programmes, although it is expected to get most of its funds from business sponsors, donors, lottery events and sales. PM Meles also reminded the council that its celebrations needed to promote development, peace and good governance for Ethiopia's new millennium.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.