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Ethiopian sole rebels shoes

page summary: Sole Rebels, fairtrade,


This used to be a page selling Sole Rebels footwear - a pure good news story about ethiopia according do dozens of fashionistas & pundits.

In contrast, there's been a great success for conditional grants, sales and buying from ethiopia. The government there has been persuaded to stop buying fighter planes it can't afford after a long embargo. Embargoes on leather might stop farmers over-grazing with goats. EU and US Tariffs linked to human rights might solve more than buying some shoes.

Until a way can be found to sell these shoes without obscuring the bad news that causes poverty in Ethiopia, this is no longer a shoe shop page. You can buy the things direct from solerebelfootear.weebly.com and read some interesting stuff in the same style as this page from the company that makes the shoes. Meanwhile here is some bad news about Ethiopia.

Perceived corruption

in ethiopia is similar to the levels of Bolivia and Kazakhstan - number 121 in the 2009 global corruption chart collated by Transparency.org

Some action is being taken to reduce corruption, such as a register of the property of state officials, but the country has not risen in the charts and this pattern of corruption is bound to effect aid payments meant for the poor from taxpayers of Europe - one of the main sources of hard currency in the country.

Lots of rich people live in Ethiopia, a country funded by European taxpayers much poorer than them.
There is a building boom in the main cities, even though most Ethiopians live off allotments and could have no currency to pay for air conditioned urban buildings or cappuccino cafes, any more than consumer goods which are the main import. Warehouses near Heathrow are used to export Jaguar and Mercedes parts to third world countries by airmail. So much goes on Ethiopian Airways that the government there can allocate surplus space in the hold to exporters like like Sole Rebels, even after the large commercial farmers have exported their cut flowers.

Macho culture is one of the causes of poverty in Ethiopia, without self-criticism or apology & well-ingrained. The middle-aged men who run religious organisations and government seem proud of it and keen to lecture others.

  • Women:
    despite free primary school education (and more for pupils with time to get to a school), the birth rate has caused a young and excessive population. This may be a sign of a country without pensions: parents need children to help in old-age. But it could also be a sign of unequal power for women. The last paragraphs of a Library of Congress document about human rights states that "violence and discrimination against women continue to be problems." and gives an example.

  • Gay people:
    the celibate priesthood have campaigned for a constitutional ban on homosexual acts, blaming gay people for pedophilia. There is a high consensus that human rights for gay people should be reduced or not increased. You can read the comment of a priest here, in the paragraph beginning "editor's note". Formal law courts are overstretched in ethiopia and give no human rights to gays anyway: there is a three year jail sentence for homosexual acts.

  • Children:
    The priesthood have some power over children and blame the problem of child abuse by their guardians in orphanages and such on gay people rather than celibate priests. A high proportion of the sexual assault cases that make it to the Ethiopian court system are about assaults on children.

  • Provincial Clans and minorities:
    ethiopia is number 106 out of 176 on the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index. Elections have coincided with imprisonment of opposition groups. The civil war with Eritrea proved that cessation could not be handled easily.

    The central government uses its army and police to prevent civil war between clans and minorities, and splintering of clan areas into independent states. It also volunteers peace-keeping forces to trouble spots round the world.

    According to Human Rights Watch, these civil wars and peace-keeping exercises are carried out without any regard for human rights, and human rights groups themselves can only function with difficulty in the main cities. A UN embargo on arms exports to Ethiopia may have reduced some of the spending on things like 43 fighter jets which the government has little use for, but the police has recently doubled in size and the army remains large even after an end to the war with Eritrea.

  • Opposition candidates & MPs
    Just as the elite have faced an arms embargo, they have been forced to run a parliamentary democracy to get their aid, but their instincts cannot handle parliamentary democracy. In a quick google to research this page, one of the sites I found was about the opposition radio station being forced to take its web site off the net. The ruling elite in ethiopia are simply too macho and too military in the respect they expect for opposition to be part of their system.

  • Animals:
    ethiopia is quoted as the 10th largest exporter of livestock in the world despite over-use of land, a low water table, and the Livestock's Long Shadow UN report on the effects of animal farming in reducing the quality of land and providing a less efficient food chain than plant farming. It is a long document but the executive summery is clear.

    The Addis government is aware of the problems of over-farming. The 2007 Library of Congress document above states that the government is

    relocating some 2 million highland farmers to land at lower elevations to address problems of population pressure and exhausted farming plots

    If there isn't enough land to feed humans, there is still plenty of land to feed animals, exporters, and the trade in imported consumer goods. The National Bank of ethiopia controls currency exchange so it has accurate figures for livestock exports which were US$74 million in the year 2000. (The bank website is down so recent figures aren't available - more recently the EU may be allowing duty free leather trade rather than livestock to encourage Ethiopian tanners).

    One patriarch who advocates discrimination against gays also advocates discrimination against animals to try and give a rational balance to what he calls discrimination.

    "This is something very strange in Ethiopia, the land of the Bible that condemns this very strongly," said Abune Paolos, the patriarch of Ethiopia's Orthodox Church, the largest religious denomination but speaking in the accent of Pik Botha "For people to act in this manner they have to be dumb, stupid like animals," he said. "We strongly condemn this behaviour. They have to be disciplined and their acts discriminated, they have to be given a lesson", at the European Union's taxpayer's expense because his unsustainable way of life that has lowered the water table in ethiopia and over-populated it. BBC equality & diversity trainers might agree, and say that it is part of these people's culture to be treated badly by their patriarchs and you have to take the nation's culture as a whole and ignore more rational minorities within it, but that again is in the style of Pik Botha.

    These European taxpayers are much like Ethiopian taxpayers and include parents, women, gay people, vegetarians, rational people and people who's political views are different to the patriarch's. One of two of them might have just left ethiopia and be trying to make apparel in somewhere like London's Tower Hamlets or in Leicester, where there is no help from technical colleges or subsidy for innovators' consultancy, nor effort to make sure there is a good trade directory. All these resources are spent on exporting "designers" to authoritarian countries or importing fair trade products.

  • An African Journey with Jonathan Dimbleby
    is a series of three travel programs that celebrate good & unreported things in africa, but do not discuss the compromises that have to be made by those who live in africa, leave it, donate to it through taxes or privately or who buy african goods. This is a pity because just about every living thing in ethiopia is discriminated against except the bigoted grant-artists who run the country with so much pride, and, with luck, visiting journalists with credit cards.

    Those who work in TV crews are not typical Europeans; they are not likely to be exposed to discrimination by african elites nor to mind the paying taxes to prop-up african elites nor to have much competition from fairtrade TV programs produced in Africa that get free publicity from journalists and subsidised marketing (now cancelled) from the Department For International Trade and Development. They are unlikely to compete for Jobs - shoe trade with the best and fittest of ethiopia who have been forced to work in Europe by the macho fecklessness that is ethiopian government. They have more in common with Members of the European Parliament or decision makers at the Department For International Development who want improvements sometime, maybe never, and still keep signing the cheques.

Most of these points are criticisms of a macho culture and aid which sustains their unsustainable way of life.

This last point about animals is a criticism of those Euro MPs who allow duty-free imports of hides to the European Union from the poorest countries in order to help them develop.

When the import is of factory-farmed cut flowers it's hard to see how this wealth can trickle down to ordinary people in ethiopia or whether it helps them at all, or hinders. It's odd that so much aid is and so many favours are given to the elite in Ethiopia with apparently so few conditions.

When the import is livestock it's clearly wrong. There is no need to know anything about ethiopia to guess that ethiopia can't afford livestock. It can't sustain it's human population. So it should not be exporting livestock to the European Union or the US.

Those few of us who are members of the European Parliament or Congress and on the right committees can improve the lives of Ethiopians at a stroke by banning animal imports from Ethiopia.

Those of use who talk and write and are interested in fair trade products can help as well, by putting criticism of corruption next to pictures of people smiling and fair trade products. We can also post our MEPs copies of the executive summery of Livestock's Long Shadow and ask that the report be considered when giving import concessions to developing countries.

That is why this column is here. With luck, others people will write better argued and more informed criticism, but the idea of criticising third world elites at the same time as buying fair trade products is worth trying.

Made in     Ethiopia - Human Rights Watch
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