It is recorded that Addis was established by Empress Taitu in 1887 as the ideal capital of the country. There were many reasons why she and her husband Menelik selected this site as the capital for their empire. But among the reasons were the fact that she was impressed by the landscape, the climatic conditions, its central position and the 'hot springs' of Filwuha which was considered very good for a healthy life.
Since its foundation, Addis has been at the core of Ethiopian politics as it has since served continuously as the capital of the country. But it has also served as its principal commercial, industrial and cultural centre. So much of the recent Ethiopian history has happened here and so many international events have taken place here. And nowadays it is not only the diplomatic capital of Africa, seat of various international bodies, but also a very important conference center thanks to its geographical position, its special geopolitical importance and its attractiveness to every country and every ideology.
The fact that Ethiopia is a country which owns a variety of cultural and religious heritages also makes it a preferred destination for many leaders and diplomats. Politically, it is a neutral venue for any peace talks to carry out, especially if it is a regional issue that must be settled. Ethiopia's image in the international arena is also a plus to this factor, as peace keeper and peace maker at the UN level.
The leaders of Ethiopia have been very instrumental in establishing the reputation of Addis as a venue for international politics and diplomacy thanks to their interest and dedication, their commitment and outlook.
The former monarch Haile Selassie pioneered the establishment of the Organization of African Unity in Addis negotiating with various African leaders some of whom had tremendous ego and would have opted to see their capital be the seat of the OAU. Then the subsequent leaders as well, including Mengistu and Meles, did their part to sustain the tradition of making Addis the centre of African diplomacy.
With more than a hundred international missions and embassies including permanent international delegations stationed here, Addis is considered among the top diplomatic centres in the world, with New York, Brussels and Genève.
Addis has been lately burgeoning with its expansion ventures. It has been very active with huge construction endeavours, with countless huge and high rising buildings making it a sort of huge construction site with mostly Chinese engineering companies in vogue. The population as well has been swelling up through the years as have done the challenges for the City council. With its dynamism and vigour, Addis has now become one of the most flourishing capitals of Africa.
At the same time, however, Addis is also concerned with not only the quality of life of its residents but also with its interaction with the environment.
The once green vegetation that was a feature of the city has now been fast dwindling, replaced by construction. The eucalyptus trees imported by Menelik have been extensively cut without adequate replacements. The emissions of the factories and vehicles constitute a menace to public health. Its water reserves are also getting thinner and thinner with climate aberrations. Gefersa and Legedadi reservoirs may not suffice to the growing population pressure.
Power for its expanding industrial centre is another challenge as residents complain about interruptions. The authorities argue the issue is one of modernizing the infrastructure rather than scarcity, and transmission lines are being renovated with huge projects.
Yet another challenge has been traffic congestion in the city and pollution. But the issue of sanitation and cleanliness of the environment has been troubling most residents.
Many people attribute such problem to the not sustained efforts by the city council in promoting and campaigning for a clean and healthy environment. The stakes are high with public health being a basic issue.
The majority of the population in Ethiopia consists of youths and this is true for Addis as well. Such huge youth force has shown how efficient it could be during the recent Timket festival here. The celebrations were spearheaded by these youths who took care of all the processions and the organization. They were very colourful and attractive with decorations where the processions took place. The youths showed the force of discipline and organization in an impressive manner suggesting that if we resort to the youths, nothing is impossible.
Such huge force, such immense potential could be used to promote the efforts for a clean and healthy city. Every corner of the city could be clean and green if we harness the energy and enthusiasm of the youths. That is what has been taking place the past couple of months when a huge campaign has been launched by the prime minister of the country along with the mayor of the city.
Addis will not be divided any more between the city of the rich and that of the poor. All neighbourhoods will be clean and green and every one will be involved in the campaign. There will be contests and those who win will be awarded as were the residents of Lideta last week when the prime minister awarded them for their tremendous efforts.
This will also be a stimulus to further safeguard the safety and security of the neighbourhoods because the mobilization of the youths can achieve any goal.
The redevelopment of the city fast proceeding, equal focus was not accorded to the beauty and cleanliness of the city quarters, specially the less well-off districts. But that is now changing.
Addis will live up to its name and to the expectations of its residents, to its international status. The sewerage system will be modernized and the canals cleaned and beautified so that they become tourist attractions and not dumping ground for water closets or any sort of rubbish.
Despite the levels of poverty in the city, the general level of criminal record in the city is enviable by any city of its size. It is safe to walk on the streets of Addis at virtually any time. Security is reliable. But the sanitation and beauty of the city should be sustained with the current momentum and there will be relief in many cases. We need a huge mobilization effort and that was what the PM was saying and promoting.
The business community as well should be well involved and committed with such venture. Its ideas are irreplaceable as are its resources.
Addis has the potential to be one of the best and healthiest places on earth as it is currently one of the safest metropolis of the world. The cultural and spiritual background of the population constitutes a restraint on violence and criminality. The poor prefer to ask for alms rather than engage in violence and criminality. They abhor it even if a huge number of them struggle to make ends meet. Unemployed youths and street children could be attracted in these extensive and permanent endeavours and that would amount to killing two birds with one stone.
For a healthier and more attractive city, the efforts of every one are indispensable. Sensitization is key, and if there is enough awareness on the multiple advantages of these efforts, the future could be very rosy for Addis residents.
Our interaction with the environment must be strengthened on a daily basis. This is a huge movement and needs to be enhanced on a permanent basis. If every resident is aware of his or her duties as a citizen of the city to keep the environment clean and green, then it will all add up to the health of the communities of the city. There won't be people who will be part of the problem but instead, part of the solution.
As we admire the recent active initiative taken by the highest authorities of the state, we also hail the readiness of the public to take part in what should be considered their own priority. The prime minister took up brooms and carts to clean up the city streets and others emulate him. That is what leadership means. A clean environment means a healthy life and that in turn is a launching pad for the development ventures of the nation. Soon we will be benefiting from the dividends of such operations.
The importance of living in a clean and healthy environment cannot be overstressed; it has several implications; along with the beauty and healthiness of the environment comes as well the security of it all; and if every one does what is expected of them in terms of sanitation, besides constituting a source of employment, it would contribute to the attraction of tourists lured by the shining image of the city. Residents will complain about the negligence of the city council when it comes to cleanliness and beauty of the city. The exceptional success at the Timket celebrations has shown us the potential force the youths can constitute and this can be stretched to other projects.
There is immense untapped potential that only needs to be guided and administered. The reward would really be highly gratifying. It would consolidate peace and security as well, because even crime rates would further dwindle than the current rates as it would also contribute to the fast transformation trajectory of the nation. In the end, the objective is to transform our society.