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HomeOpinionCuba Versus Ethiopia !! (By Dula Abdu)

Cuba Versus Ethiopia !! (By Dula Abdu)

Cuba _ Ethiopia flag

By Dula Abdu
July 16, 2019

When my wife decided to go to Ethiopia with our three kids to see their grandparents despite my reservation, I decided to go on a vacation somewhere else too. I flew to Cuba with my oldest daughter. While I was in Cuba I felt at peace with no fear or concern for our safety, on the other hand, I was worried about the safety of my family in Ethiopia and the safety of the Ethiopian people as a whole.

I had mixed feelings about Cuba which could be described as a fascination for its revolutionary spirit but disdain for its failure to adopt like the Chinese or Vietnamese to usher a vibrant mixed economy. 

Unlike many places that I visited, I found the Cuban people especially in Havana color-blind and respectful of foreigners and each other regardless of color or sex. You see women walking by themselves the dead of night without fear despite the absence of police like other major cities.  Street after street I saw Cuban kids; black, mulattos and white playing like any kids with no inkling about their color or gender. 

Whether you go to the beaches, parks, clubs or other places the idea that someone is paying attention to you about your pigmentation or gender seems to disappear because you just become a human being. Of course, as a tourist, you have to be careful not to be taken advantage of by taxis or anyone else.  Nonetheless, you have no fear of being robbed or attacked.

One of my biggest disappointments when visiting Ethiopia last August was traffic pollution and potholes. In Cuba, the roads are wide, clean and I did not see one pothole during my range of travel, which included both cities and the countryside like valley of  Viñales. One of the reasons for the smooth traffic could be linked to government control of imports and exorbitant tariffs. This is despite the fact that one of the dreams of many Cubans is to own a car.

Cuba like Ethiopia is a resource poor country, despite that you don’t see homeless Cuban, beggars, and I am told by many Cubans that no one in Cuba goes to bed hungry.

Despite many interesting aspects about Cuba, its telecom system is terrible and the economy is stagnant instead of growing given Cuba’s highly educated workforce. You see elaborate and eye-catching mansions, buildings and homes unkempt but still being occupied. Just a nice paint or selling some of them to private owners will bring them alive. Since they are government owned it takes a long, long time to address such neglect.

Cuba’s free healthcare and free education system have created an equal and intelligent society. What Cuba needs to do is unleash its massive human capital without destroying its almost color-blind society and highly egalitarian system.

For countries in Africa, they should look to Cuba to embody the mantra of live and let live and coexistence while creating a level playing field for their citizens under a benign free market system.

Despite the history of master and slave legacy, the white, blacks and the mulatto communities in Cuba have integrated to form a cohesive society. They regard the Cuban nationality as their citizenry and don’t identify as ethnic groups.

In Ethiopia, the road that Dr. Abiy chose is the correct way. Partial privatization and lessening ethnic animosity or differences, that was magnified and exploited by TPLF will bring peace economic growth, and prosperity at last. Leveling the playing field for all Ethiopians regardless of their religion or ethnicity and respecting individual rights is the only path to peace.  It also shows that with the right leadership it is possible to overcome ethnic, economic and other challenges and create a peaceful and sustainable economy for all citizens.

Despite Cuba’s some shortcomings, it is wonderful that there is a place that you don’t have to look over your shoulder because of your ethnicity or gender. I hope Ethiopia will move towards an ethnic-blind society while firing its economic engines to address years of economic malaise and neglect to transform itself as leading technological and economic power in Africa. Ethiopians should strive to lift the stigma of being known as a country of famine, displacement and ethnic conflicts. Without a doubt, Ethiopia’s failure to build a democratic institution will be catastrophic to all ethnic groups, both small and large. The world is eager to see the cradle of mankind ascend to the mecca of democracy. To get there, Ethiopians should listen to peace makers instead of prophets of hate and ethnic agitators if they want to survive and thrive.

Dula Abdu is a retired banker and economist residing in Texas.
Editor’s note: Views reflected in the article reflect views of the writer, not borkena’s view. To publish article on borkena, please send submissions to

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  1. We appreciate your honest opinion. However, there is key items that were left out in this piece that should have been addressed.

    First, Ethiopia is located in one of the most war devastated region, landlocked by Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. While Cuba has North America, Central and South America.

    Second: population. Ethiopia has 100 million more people than Cuba with varying ethnicity and religion.

    • @Tesfaye

      The point of the article is to show the meaninglessness of life and that people should use it to build a better future. While ethnical power brokers push for power at any consequences almost using as a propeller ethnic strife in our Ethiopia somewhere else people are using their time to build better future focusing on education and health to anyone. That tells you how low has gone moral of politics in our country when you see the millions of displaced just for ethnic power brokers to grab a land or resources. Is indeed absolutely immoral a human being doing this to fellow humans. Up rooting and displacement, is worse than any forced taxation we did see during feudal times or even is worse than slavery as entire familes and generations are risk. If the international community did not raised the issue the Gedeo issue would have been a completed genocide by now. The same goes to thehunderd of thosands of displaced Promos forl Somali region or the large number of Amharas and persecuted in the last decades on everyv region or the large number of persecuted minorities linbthe last decades ike Ogaden people or the South Omo and Gambela people who lost all their livehood due to land grabs. This is not about comparing outcomes but about comparing for what is moral or inmoral as a principle.

  2. Dula Abdu said , .” I hope Ethiopia will move towards an ethnic-blind society”-
    your hope is just a pipe dream , i am afraid
    40 years of ethnic and ‘kegna’ politics needs another 50 years to erase and to build a ‘colourless’ society as you said.

    Abiy Ahmad looked like he was going to do it. but within a year after he came to the scene, we are back into mass arrest, harrassment and intimidation of journalists, activists, . the anti terror law is back in force and is being used as an excuse to arrest those groups and individuals that the government wants to eliminate. eviction and displacement is becoming the fate of ethiopians, opdo has replaced tplf.
    this is the reality. How THE WRITER OF this commentary about ethiopia , fail to see such a reality is incomprehensible.


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