Here is quick look into the new Taxi-Strike in Addis Ababa; that is escalating today into more towns in Ethiopia. That is interesting as the country has massive history. When it comes to strikes and had a giant demonstration that has toppled governments in the past. This might just be about a law, but this law comes from Federal Transport Authority. Seems like the Taxi Drivers is not interested in a new regulations and that opens the possibility of taking their licenses away.
I will bring some historic Taxi Strikes from Addis Ababa. The ones I will mention is the one in 1998 seemed to be for the same reasons actually. The other I will mention is in 1974 we’re because of the high oil-prices and also directly against the government. From the strikes of the past there are certainly things we can learn from and at the same time; see the similarities between 2016 and 1998. Just take a brief look.
The Taxi Strike of 1974:
“The second conjuncture was the steep rise in oil prices following OPEC embargo of 1973, which hit the Ethiopian economy hard. The inevitable result was galloping inflation that left a large hole in the pockets of urban wage-earners. Taxi drivers came out on strike over pump prices in February 1974 and teachers followed suit” (Nugent, 2012).”The Taxi drivers were going to go on strike as of 18 February, of Teachers’ Association decided to join them and bring the country’s educational system to a standstill on the same day” (…)”The Students, who since the late 1960s, had deliberately abandoned pursuing corporatist interests in favor of advocating a fundamental change through class boycotts, demonstrations and the distribution of anti-government leaflets, found in the taxi drivers and teachers long sought-after allies and, on 18 February, poured out onto the streets of Addis Ababa chanting revolutionary slogans and agitating resistance against the government” (Andargachew, 2009).
Lesser known Taxi Strike in 1998:
“Addis Ababa — Taxi drivers in Addis Ababa went on strike on Wednesday, July 8, 1998 in protest against new traffic regulations put into operation by the Transport and Communications Bureau of the Addis Ababa Administration as of the same date” (…)”The regulations identify several categories of traffic offences, matching them with their respective fines. The offences and their respective penalties are as follows (“Addis Zemen”, Sene 27, 1990 E.C.)”(AllAfrica.com, 1998).
More on the strike in 1998:
“Stiff new traffic safety regulations introduced: Stringent new traffic regulations have been introduced in Addis Ababa to stem a rising trend of traffic accidents in the city. According to officials, Addis Ababa currently suffers the highest rate of traffic accidents in the world with a total of 9,714 incidents recorded in the past 12 months with 300 deaths, 2,340 injuries, and a loss of property worth 11.6 million birr (approx. U.S. $1.7 million). The death toll represented a 17 per cent increase from the previous year. Announcing the move on July 3, the Transport and Communications Bureau announced the regulations put traffic offences into six categories entailing penalties raging from 40 to 140 birr, with the most serious resulting in court proceedings and the disqualification of drivers. Taxi owners, who described the new rules as “punitive rather than preventive”, held a one day strike on July 8 to protest the regulations. (The monitor, July 4-5)” (UNDP, 1998).
This Year’s Strike:
On the 29th February different parts of the City the strike started. Quickly reached all part of the city and the taxis was not to be seen. The Areas with no taxi services was verified early at Saris, Megenegna, Kassanchis, Abnet, Shiro,Meda and Jemmo. The reports early were also that workers and students from the Southern parts of Addis Ababa could not get to town. The Addis Standard told earlier in the day that buses took people from Asko, Plassa, Arat Killo and Mercato R areas. Government tried to get people to take buses as the taxis was already striking. People were stranded at Sandafa, Laga Tafo and Burayu. There was even some taxis trying to avoid being a apart of the strike, instead they ended with violent reactions as they countered the solidarity between the drivers. The strike also led to the ordinary commuters to and owners of cars taking them to gas stations and long ques at the gas stations. After some hours even Bajaj drivers joined the taxi drivers in their strike in Holota. Special Eyewitness statement during the day was one: “Taxi strike Addis and Oromia Special Zone are in a mess situation as there was strikes by public transport providers. All taxes, minibus, higers and lonchins were in strike. In response this serious transportation problem there was conflict between police and public at Burayu (Keta district) around 8.00 am”.
On the 30th February the strike continued in Addis Ababa and there were no signs of them in the streets. The government had by this time deployed 380 public buses to get people moving in the city. There outcome is longer ques and traffic jams than normally.
During the 1st March while still the strike was going on. On the ETV the newscaster had the balls to call the taxi-strikers was calling them “terrorist”. Surely the walking is going to his head as he need to walk it seems.
On the 2nd March the strike continues and at some taxi stations around towns there are more donkey carts than ever and still no taxis. As the Taxi Drivers really means business when it comes to this law and matter!
Government Should Cancel the new traffic regulation – Taxi Drivers:
Another news report after an hour after the start of the strike said this:
“As we have reported an hour ago, #addistaxistrike has continued. They are protesting a new Ethiopian law that has ignored them” (…)”BREAKING: Taxis in Addis Ababa go on strike against a new driving rule” (SiTube, 29.02.2016).
“Following the announcement of a new decree to execute Regulation Number 208/2010 that the Federal Transport Authority is said to implement on drivers, taxi drivers in the city of Addis Ababa have called for and started a strike that will last for two days. As the news of strike started circulating, Transport Authority announced its plan to postpone the implementation of the decree for three months to ‘create awareness’ in advance” (…)”Fana Broadcasting Corporate, on its news feed, has interviewed people from the Associations of Taxi Owners where they claimed the strike was called without their consent and urged the drivers to end their strike and start serving the public immediately” (Zone 9, 29.02.2016).
“Taxis stopped operating on Monday morning, leaving the Addis Ababa city short of taxis. Long queues were observed throughout the city as passengers lined up for taxis this morning” (…)”Meanwhile, the Federal Transport Authority said it is putting on hold of the traffic bill for three months. The Authority will “postpone consideration of the bill until there is wider agreement on a solution,” it said in a written statement to the state owned radio” (Fantahun, 29.02.2016).
The Law that the Taxi Drivers strike about:
“Taxi drivers in Addis Abeba and its surroundings are striking as of this morning against a new traffic regulation which started to be implemented as of Monday 22 February” (…)”In 2009 the Addis Abeba City Council favorably voted to ratify the new traffic regulation, Road Transport and Traffic Control Regulation. Following the 2009 ratification of the amended regulation, the Addis Abeba Transport Bureau (AATB) claims to have had discussions with taxi and city mid-bus owners’ associations as well as the society at large before reaching at the recent decision to implement to regulation, seen by many as too strict and unpractical” (…)”The Regulation stipulates a six month suspension of driving licenses and additional driving lessons for drivers who lost 14 -16 points due to previous offenses. A driver who has 17 -19 points deducted from his/her records will get his/her driving license suspended for a year; and any driver who gets 20 and above points deducted will have his/her driving license permanently revoked and can only re-apply for a fresh driving lessons after a gap of two years” (…)”AATB estimates that Addis Abeba is home to close to more than 4, 000 white minibuses, 8,000 blue minibuses and more than 500 mid-buses (known as Higer buses), all providing the much needed transport within the city and its environs. It is estimated that the blue and white minibuses together provide transport services to about 1.1 million commuters every day, while the 500 mid-buses transport no less than 700, 000 commuters. The Addis Abeba city bus enterprise operates more than 800 city busses that transport an estimated 1.2 – 1.3 million passengers per day” (Mahlet, 2016).
Some reasons why the strike happens:
“The latest strikes by taxi drivers is one among a growing opposition by Ethiopians against an oppressive minority government that’s facing resistance from all corners of the country. Regime’s forces on Monday reportedly detained several students who were showing their solidarity with the taxi drivers. The students were staging a protest in the sub divisions of the city called Ayer Tena and Awtobis Tera. Their whereabouts is not yet know” (ECADF Ethiopian News, 01.03.2016).
More strikes not only Addis:
“Taxis and other vehicles of public transportation in several towns in the Oromia region surrounding the capital Addis Ababa went on a strike on Tuesday. Holeta, Burayu, Ginchi, Ambo, Woliso, Asela, Bale and Robe were some of the towns hit by a massive transportation crisis. Some of the towns began the strike on Monday, on the first day of strike by taxi drivers in the capital Addis Ababa that brought the city to a halt. Even the scooters, the widely used form of transport in the smaller towns, locally known as “bajaj” were not to be seen in the streets” (…)”The government announced that the new regulations has been suspended for three months but the drivers want it scrapped altogether” (ESTA News, 01.03.2016).
“Though many taxi drivers that talked to the Voice of America (VOA) Amharic Service correspondent Eskinder Frew were skeptical that the government would scrap the directive, they said they were obeying the orders passed by their union leaders” (…)”The EPRDF government, which is facing a stiff opposition in Oromia region, is facing numerous challenges, including violent clashes in Gonder, as well as in eastern and southeastern regions such as in Gambella. When news broke that the taxis were boycotting in Addis, many mistook as the last straw that broke the camel’s back” (VOA, 02.03.2016).
This Taxi Strike is about a certain regulation and law that will make it harder for the Taxi driver and also more expensive. Also make a system where many will lose the license quick and take away the livelihood of the Taxi Drivers. This here proves that there is discontent between the professional drivers and the authorities; seems also to be based on old grudges as I am impressed to see the similarities between the 1998 strikes and the ones now. Not the ones in 1974 even if they are more “famous” and had a greater historical impact on Ethiopia. This one here is regulation and monetary matters, as it also was in 1974 when the oil-prices was high because of OPEC blockade; the issue know may also be because of high oil-prices in Ethiopia, but also because of the new law, and that was the same in 1998. There is not harmony between the government/authorities and the Taxi Drivers, as the strike seem to continue, it has been on the third day and I wonder how long they will continue. Especially since it now is also happening in other towns than in Addis Ababa. The interesting thing is to see how little international response it has gotten or in media in general on the outside of Ethiopia. Don’t you think?
Hope that was interesting, because it was for me! Peace.
AllAfrica – ‘Ethiopia: New Traffic Regulations Trigger Taxi Drivers’ Strike’ (10.07.1998) link: http://allafrica.com/stories/199807100058.html
Andargachew, Tiruneh – ‘The Ethiopian Revolution 1974-1987: A Tranformation from an Aristocratic to a Totalitarian Autocracy” – (03.12.2009) Cambridge University Press
ESTA News – ‘Taxi strike in Oromia towns following a two day strike in the capital, cabs in Addis resume work Tuesday afternoon’ (01.03.2016) link: http://ethsat.com/taxi-strike-in-oromia-towns-following-a-two-day-strike-in-the-capital-cabs-in-addis-resume-work-tuesday-afternoon/
Fantahun, Arefayne – ‘Taxi drivers go on strike protesting traffic bill’ (29.02.2016) link: http://www.ethiopiaobserver.com/2016/02/taxi-drivers-go-on-strike-protesting-traffic-bill/
Mahlet, Fasil – ‘NEWS: ADDIS ABEBA AND ITS SURROUNDINGS HIT BY MASSIVE TAXI DRIVERS’ STRIKE’ (29.02.2016) link: http://addisstandard.com/news-addis-abeba-and-its-surroundings-hit-by-massive-taxi-drivers-strike/
Nugent, Paul – ‘Africa Since Independence’ (13.06.2012) – Palgrave Macmillan; 2nd edition edition
UNDP Emergency Unit for Ethiopia – ‘Monthly Situation Report for Ethiopia – July 1998’ (11.08.1998) link: http://reliefweb.int/report/eritrea/monthly-situation-report-ethiopia-july-1998
VOA/EthioMedia – ‘Taxis in Addis end strike after directive’s implementation postponed’ (02.03.2016) link: http://www.ethiomedia.com/1010ideas/5093.html
Zone 9 –‘Taxi Drivers of Addis Ababa on Strike’ (29.02.2016).