Winning the battle; Losing the war!

African sunset

I spoke earlier about tangles with authorities. DEALINGS WITH THE LAW My biggest tangle saw me with a renewal request for my visa denied. I was working in a government hospital after ‘peace’ had been restored after the communist take over.

For some years there had been a great shortage of equipment, drugs and materials. The country was just coming out of years of war, and this was understandable. Fortunately  I was able to keep working reasonably satisfactorily because of aid sent out from Australia. I had been working in 3 hospitals where I had a private practice, and public sessions – two were private and the other a public hospital. They very generously collected good second hand equipment, and from donations we were able to occasionally buy new but usually second hand items. We paid for it to come in ship containers. No duty was charged on its entry into Ethiopia, but then everything was a gift.

new drapes
In this photo, as an example, we had provided the following: the operating table, the portable light, the oxygen concentrator, the suction machine,the drapes and gowns,as well as the diathermy machine, the leads of which you can see covered in plastic. WE had the drapes and gowns made locally.

Suddenly, whilst a container was on the high seas, an import tax was announced amounting to some 35% of the new value of these gifted usually second hand items.

It was too late to not get it, it was already on the way.

After several days at the ‘goomrook’ (customs) I was handed a bill. To get the money I had to sell my second hand Toyota Land-cruiser. The government had paid nothing for all that we had shipped in for about four years. The bill was paid by me.

Then the fun began. The powers that were in place refused to release the container. So after three months of phone calls, pleading letters I sought an appointment with the official whom I knew had both the power to stop release or to grant permission. He wasn’t the head of health (she was a pleasant lady from a smaller tribe) but the highest in line from the ruling tribe.

After over two hours of my persisting to hear the ‘no, no, no’ which he kept uttering, and I think that he realising that there was another way to say ‘no’,  said ‘ok, I will, come back tomorrow’. If I had agreed I knew that the chance of getting another appointment was minuscule. So I indicated my thanks for the ‘yes’, but as the paperwork was in front of him I wasn’t leaving until I left with the signed form. After about another 30 minutes of discussion, he said ‘ I will, but I don’t see what you see in those people!’ Naming the tribe amongst whom I was working. I should have shut up,, I guess, but couldn’t help saying ‘when you get to know them, Sir, they’re almost human.’ I got my paper and a little later the stuff. I’m convinced that he wanted the stuff for his own area.

I had won the battle, but I lost the war. Soon I had to seek a renewal of my work permit and visa. They were denied.

Some six years later, with another person in power, I got a visa again and spent another ten years working in the country.

Dominic Cartier

3 thoughts on “Winning the battle; Losing the war!

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