Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Ethiopian Customs Authority at it again

Nothing defines Ethiopian bureaucracy better than the Ethiopian Customs Authority (also known as Gumruk..."Moronic" in Latin?), and they're at it again. This time, they are refusing to release a cargo donation of almost a tonne of clothes, toys and school equipment collected in five Belgian cities and destined to orphanages in Ethiopia. Custom authorities point to Ethiopia's import ban on second hand clothes, but how is it possible donated items can be classified the same as goods imported for-profit? Single-mindedness, that's how! This same authority has in the past disposed of donated school books and pharmaceutical supplies when unable to extort import taxes, and the same fate awaits the Belgian cargo. What does this say to the world? The fiasco is already a news item in Belgium. Even the ever so politically friendly Chinese state news outlet, Xinhua, could not help post a not so friendly article.

... The cargo was blocked by the Ethiopian authorities on its arrival at Addis Abeba airport [since January] and has remained in customs ever since despite negotiations with the Ethiopian minister responsible, the report said.

Dirk Vandervelden, who organized the collection and delivery of material aid, wanted to distribute the cargo between four local projects mainly to help poor, often orphaned, children.

A decision is yet to be made as to whether the material aid may leave Ethiopia. If not, it will be destroyed by the customs officers, Vandervelden said.

Ethiopia rejects Belgian 2nd-hand donations (Xinhua) March 15, 2006