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Optimism permeates Ethiopia as people await traditional New Year

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Mekonen Sisay has many things to be excited about as he prepares to start week-long celebrations welcoming the Ethiopian New Year.

Sisay, a 45-year-old government employee, has received a pay raise, and is waiting to enroll one of his three children in a prestigious local university.

More importantly, it’s the time of the year, where his family and friends gather to prepare for a feast to count their blessings of the previous year and wish for more blessings in the New Year.

The Ethiopian New Year, or Enkutatash in Amharic language, falls on Sept. 11 (or Sept. 12 during a leap year). The east African nation uses a unique calendar that counts its year seven to eight years behind the Gregorian calendar.

As he unloads a sheep he bought at a market in Addis Ababa’s Bole Medhanalem district, Sisay told Xinhua he looks forward to a brighter new year.

“The Sheep market this year is good. A large sheep fetches around 4,000 birr (148 U.S. dollars) to 5,000 birr (185 dollars); a medium-sized one fetches between 2,500 birr (92 dollars) and 3,000 birr (110 dollars).” said Sisay. “I bought a sheep at a relatively good price of 4,000 birr (148 dollars).”

“The New Year is exciting for me. I will spend the New Year with my family in a state of happiness and fulfillment... I have bought chicken and sheep for this occasion.”

With Ethiopia seeming to come out of almost three years of political turmoil thanks to the leadership of new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who assumed office in April, Sisay said he hopes the New Year will usher in societal harmony and happiness for the whole country.

“I wish for my family and all Ethiopian people happy New Year holiday 2011,” Sisay said, referring to the coming New Year on the Ethiopian calendar, which falls on Tuesday. “May it be a year of love, happiness and work.”

Abdel-Fattah Mohammed, a Muslim who sells sheep at Bole Medhanalem district market, is also enjoying the festive atmosphere and optimism permeating the country.

“We all celebrate the New Year without difference in our religious beliefs,” Mohammed said.

In a traditional society like Ethiopia’s, men are expected to cover household costs and buy meat products, while women are expected to do household chores like preparing special foods for the holidays.

However, as Ethiopia rapidly urbanizes and lifestyles change, more and more women become bread winners and are out purchasing meat products.

Meaza Hailu, a 42-year-old mother of four, was visiting a chicken market at Yeka district of Addis Ababa.

Having bought a live chicken for 280 birr (11 dollars), Hailu said New Year celebrations are special and that she will make Doro Wot, a special chicken stew, for her family.

“I wish my family, husband, my children, my sister’s family and all others an Ethiopian New Year of fulfillment, love, happiness,” Hailu told Xinhua.



Ethiopia releases an unprecedented 8,875
prisoners as a goodwill New Year gesture

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- The Ethiopian government announced on Tuesday it has released an unprecedented 8,875 prisoners as part of a goodwill Ethiopian New Year gesture.

The Ethiopian New Year, or Enkutatash in Amharic language, falls on September 11 (or September 12 during a leap year), as the East African nation uses calendar that counts its year seven to eight years behind the Gregorian calendar. Presently the country is celebrating the arrival of 2011, which commenced on September 11.

The prisoners were released from prisons located in Amhara, Oromia, Benishangul Gumuz and Gambella regional states and are part of the Ethiopian government strategy of fostering peace and reconciliation in the country, reported state media outlet Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation (EBC).

The released prisoners are expected to re-join their families and re-integrate into the wider society, with the hope they become productive and law abiding citizens of Ethiopia.

The mass prisoner releases have included members of various rebel groups who had been jailed on offences ranging from membership in previously banned organizations to committing high treason.

The mass prisoner releases timed to coincide with the Ethiopian New Year 2011 are part of the Ethiopian government’s call for unity and peace among the country’s estimated 100 million population.

In a televised statement at the eve of Ethiopian New Year, Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome, urged Ethiopians to uphold unity and abstain from destructive acts during the 2011 Ethiopian New Year.

Noting the release of thousands of prisoners, return of various high-profile Ethiopian opposition figures, activists and government critics from exile after agreements with the Ethiopian government during the past four months period, Teshome also called for building the nation together.

The Ethiopian 2011 comes as Ethiopia is seeming to come out of almost three years of political turmoil following the coming of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to the east African country’s leadership. Ahmed assumed office in April.

Ahmed, in his New Year eve remarks to the Ethiopian people, also echoed the president’s message, saying that “Ethiopia is a country we share, and we have to work for peaceful co-existence and prosperity.”


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