Mkong Imma’s Ethiopian Experience- Part 2: Security in Addis

I hope you enjoyed my experience with the food and eating habits in Ethiopia. Let me now share with you my experience with the security.

My first few months in Addis Ababa gave me the impression I didn’t have to worry much about security.

There are always so many police officers in the streets of Addis, and I observed at a point that their main job was to send away hawkers who were misusing public space. As young as these police officers appear to me, I imagined their power is probably in the uniform they wear and the weapons they carry.

It seems the hawkers in Addis know the smell of the police; u would find them running away with their goods once they suspect police presence. It is always an interesting scene but trust me, you don’t wanna find yourself in a fleeing vendor’s path during such a moment because he’d really not mind hitting and/or trampling on any or everyone around just to escape his police enemy.

But I guess I understand them because I told myself they are only struggling to survive. I even admired them for a long time and didnt understand why my neighbour-friend, Kuki would always caution me to be watchful each time I go out. I was always also surprised when foreign colleagues shared experiences of losing gadgets and money to Ethiopian pick pockets in the streets.

My uncle recently shared with me how he lost his phone to an unscrupulous Ethiopian guy around the American embassy premises in Addis. He had stopped the car to get mobile credit when this guy rushed to him trying to find out what he needed (just like they always do). My uncle wound down the glass to talk to this guy and the guy immediately seized the phone through the window and ran off. Annoying right?

Yeah! I felt so too.

This reminded me about my experience. Yes it finally happened to me too.

This is the story…

So this day,  I’m walking the streets of Megaranya in Addis, carrying my bag on my back, at one point I notice that this guy is walking directly behind and so close to me, respecting my speed.

I cross the road to the other side assuming that will separate me from him given that I already felt uncomfortably suspicious


The streets are so crowded that I don’t realize he has followed me to the other lane of the road

Few minutes after taking my mind off my suspicious friend and focusing on the long distance I still have to cover before I reach the office, an onlooker-lady screams out …

I can’t understand exactly what she is saying, (she speaks in Amharic), but her actions are clear enough to make me know she is drawing my attention to someone behind me…

Upon turning and realizing it was my uninvited friend from the other side of the road. I impulsively grab him, this time attracting the attention of a few others…

Only then does my good friend remove my phone from his pocket and hands to me, while struggling to seize himself from my angry grip …at this point I am shocked ‘cos I am unable to figure out when and how he transferred my phone from my bag to his pocket…

He tries harder to seize himself from my tight grip, and this time succeeds to escape through the traffic into the crowd on the other lane, leaving behind his torn t-shirt in my hands.

Feeling relieved and super grateful to God and the lady who raised the alarm, that I had my bag with me… I shake my head in disappointment, dump the remnants of the torn t-shirt and continue my way; telling myself that Ethiopians are not as honest after all, there are always the bad ones and I always have to be extra watchful.

When I shared this story on social media and elsewhere, the responses I got was almost always the same… Some said it sounded like a movie while others were simply amazed imagining the seemingly quiet and fragile Imma grapping a thief…

Well, I leave you to imagine for yourself, but as you imagine, know that the fear of losing a phone when you are broke in a strange land is the beginning of courage.


It is on this note that I leave you, untill we meet again for my Ethiopian Experience part 3.

By Mkong Imma

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