Pubdate: Fri, 02 May 2003
Source: Addis Tribune (Ethiopia)
Copyright: 2003 Tambek International
Author: Dimetros Birku


Many, especialy those who are addicted to 'Chiat', condone the practice as 
a source of enjoyment and they never admit the fact that the practice is 
harmful, to the individual, the family and the nation as well. But I do 
harbour the view that there is no question about it - "chiat" is harmful. 
The fact that the addiction does not kill like HIV/AIDS does not mean that 
it is not harmful.

Putting aside the question whether "chiat" is harmful or not for the time 
being, let us talk of the points which are agreeable to everybody in the 
Ethiopian context.

First, the number of people who are addicted to "chiat" is mounting from 
time to time at the extent comparable to HIV epidemics or the consumption 
of "chiat is increasing".

Second, like HIV, the addiction is affecting the productive section of the 

Third, thousands, to the minimum, would be addicted to "chiat" every year 
if the practice is not contained where it is now.

Unfortunately, many try to justify their attachment to "chiat" with 
unemployment. True there is unemployment in Ethiopia than ever before. But 
is "chiat" an outlet from the problem. There are also situations where this 
pretext does not work.

Take universities and colleges, for instance. It is the busiest place, we 
can say but we have a growing number of students who claim that they could 
not study, even a page, without "chiat". Imagine the lives of these 
students after graduation-they would definetly find themselves unable to 
work without "chiat" due to previous orientation in the campus. This 
creates damage in two ways. For one thing it affects their productivity in 
the various sectors they would be engaged in after graduation. For the 
other thing, it is a bad lesson for others. What kind of lesson do 
youngsters ( those who did not have the chance to join University) draw 
from the graduated ones?

The situation is the same for teenagers who are in high schools. There too, 
there are students who avoid classes in favour of "chiat". Unfortunately, 
there are teachers who dare to chew "chiat" with their students.

The important question we should raise at this point is why it is that the 
number of people who are fond of "chiat" is increasing every year at 
alarming rate.

As I see it, the main reasons are: one, there is high circulation of 
"chiat" in the towns and countryside and in all corners of the country.

Two, characteristically, Many, if not all, who are addicted to "chiat", 
deliberately, convince or tempt others to join them. They never tell how 
they suffer because of the addiction.

Three, no effort is made on the part of government officials to limit the 
practice. Rather it seems apparent that they have not even recognized the 
issue as a problem. Unfortunately, there is rumour that there is high 
consumption of "chiat" among some government officials.

Now, what are the downsides of "chiat"? We can mention the most visible ones.

Socially, for instance, the addicted ones do not feel at ease before they 
have some "chiat". In due course, they may clash with someone for petty 
reasons. If they ensure that they could not have "chiat" at all for 
whatever reason, there will be a big mess-up with their family, friend and 
what have you. If we evaluate them under circumstances where having "chiat" 
is not a problem, we may observe that some may not find themselves in the 
mood they seek to be in after "chiat" due to adaptation. In that case they 
obviously opt to have something more powerful. In this way many have found 
themselves in the world of drugs.

Let us look at it the other way round. When they find themselves in the 
mood they have been seeking ("mirkana" as it is called), it proves 
difficult to withstand the impact of "mirkana". And then they have to 
liberate themselves from that state of mind. Otherwise they will not have 
sleep. This is when they seek alcohol. Everybody can imagine the scenario 
thereafter. This is where the addiction becomes a good partner to HIV. In 
all these process, the addiction has got an impact on family and the 
community as well.

Economically, as I mentioned above, it affects productivity. It also 
ravages the economy of the family. By the way "chiat" is not cheap in the 
Ethiopian context. One has to expend a minimum of two or three birr. 
Imagine what this means in a country where millions are starving-two or 
three bread daily or let us say weekly.

The impact of the addiction is very serious from the point of view of 
politics. As the attachment to "chiat" gets firm among the youth, all the 
questions that should be raised by the youth will come down to be a 
question of "Chiat" inevitable in the future with the existing trend. The 
question of academic freedom, human rights, involvement in the political 
life of the country, employment, the question of productivity and all other 
claims will turn out to be a question of "chiat". Because "chiat" will 
ultimately get mastery over us (the youth). Instead of influencing the 
leaders to move in line with the interest of the people and of the nation, 
we will deal with the government on the issue of 'chiat'. That is when the 
leaders will drive us the way they like, instead of the way we like. And we 
need to know that we have to have a political awareness to evaluate the 
policies of the government and that in turn depends on social awareness and 
economic status which could be affected by the addiction we are talking 
about. After all, who is going to take over power from the out-going 

The main buisness of this question is to indicate that thousands are 
becoming addicted every month or year and we should contain the addiction 
where it is now and that is possible. But first of all, it should be 
recognized as a problem that could affect the incoming generation and 
thereby depriving the country a generation capable of fighting against 
poverty, HIV, undemocratic rule and what have you.

If we are in the same line regarding the fact that thousands of, if not 
millions of, youngsters are becoming or will be addicted to "chiat" every 
ear, we could also agree on the fact that it should be contained before it 
affects the incoming generation.

Everything that this takes is a campaign with a good strategy. To mention 
some, for instance, we may use artists like Gashe Abera Molla, Gigi and 
others who have got large followers, athelets like Haile Gebresellassie, 
Derartu and others, teachers. I think it is also advisable to contact 
people addicted to the practice to share their bitter experience in 
connection with the addiction. By the way, we have got some volunteers (who 
chew "chiat") who could speak against it.

I and my friends are discussing the problem. Let others also share with us 
their views regarding the problem and how to fight it.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom