Thursday, January 05, 2006

Refused a Visa

For those of us who have dealt with Ethiopian bureaucracy, at times a tormenting odyssey with no guarantee of a conclusive outcome, relating to Michela Wrong's plight (at ET Embassy in London) is by no means a stretch. However, and this is the one problem I've with this article, the writer does not attempt to contrast her experience with the more denigrating process and outrageous financial extortion committed by Western embassies, especially the U.S., upon visa applicants in those same African countries she cries foul about.

It's the way an embassy turns down your visa request that tells you everything you need to know about the country in question, writes Michela Wrong.

...I've written too many articles criticising Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government to expect an easy time getting a visa. Would it be yes, would it be no? Neither, as it happened. I should have remembered the words of the late John Spencer, Haile Selassie's legal adviser, who wrote wonderingly of "the Byzantine arabesques of Ethiopian thought processes, habits and face-saving devices" he witnessed at the royal court. This, after all, is the ancient empire that coined the notion of "wax and gold", where the superficial meaning of a verse serves only to hide its real message. To just say "no" would be not only rude, it would be to descend to the level of the crass "ferenji" (foreigner). Far better to make the applicant jump through hoop after bureaucratic hoop. Eventually, she will tire and go away, uncertain as to whether she was actually refused a visa or fell victim to sheer incompetence.

Article also includes writer's experiences applying for permission to enter the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Eritrea.

Michela Wrong is refused a visa (New Statesman) January 9, 2006