A clean city is everyone’s responsibility


Sidist Killo area, in front of Addis Ababa University Main Campus… The time was around 8:00 a.m. in the morning. It was at rush hour with heavy traffic. I was waiting for a mini-bus taxi destined for Megenagna. Many people lined up waiting for the taxi with me in the front row. Almost 30 minutes later, a mini-bus taxi that came from downtown turned its nose and pulled up in front of us. Immediately after, the driver jumped out of the cab and walked over to a wheelbarrow-man who was selling sugarcane at the roadside. He picked up a stick of sugarcane from the wheelbarrow, threw a coin to the man and returned to the cab which was by then filled with passengers. I took the first seat behind the driver.
Holding the steering wheel with his right hand, the young cabbie started chopping and peeling the sugarcane with his sturdy teeth. After sucking the juice, he threw the husk out of the window. I clearly saw the well-cleaned paved street being littered by the husk of the sugarcane. I felt as if the driver was disparaging the old women who sweep the streets everyday starting in the wee hours. I could see how the white husks of the cane stained the clean black street. How this young and sane guy could do this! I took no time before I stretched my hands towards the young cabbie and nudged him. He saw me through the rear-view mirror.
“What?” he enquired sternly munching the cane.
“I am sorry… but you are littering the street with …” I could not go through my words before he interjected.
“What? …What are you talking about?” He gave me a scornful look.
“Yeah, I just want to remind that you are littering the road. … we all should do our best to keep clean our city,” I tried to expound him.
“That’s none of your business, little man! Did I hurt you?… Don’t be bossy here. Go and tell this to your office boy! …You hear that?” He banged the steering wheel. Then he crunched the sugarcane indignantly and tossed the husk outside.
“Cool down please. I can give you a plastic bag if you have no any place to put it in,” I implored him.
He stared at me through the rear-view mirror. “Is this guy crazy? …This is my first biajo (first trip), please. Do you hear that, little man! … What a bad omen!”
It seemed he would be happy if he threw the husk on my face. He was so enraged. I had no choice but watching calmly what he was doing. …Did I provoke him to rage? No, I don’t think so. …But should I tell him that he is an obnoxious brat? …Should I thus judge him by his behavior? …No, no need to make an evaluation. Probably he is a good guy underneath. I consulted with myself.
I cleared my throat to speak but a lady who was sitting beside me nudged and beckoned me to stop talking with the cabbie lest he should not pick a quarrel. I was not comfortable with her warning and said to her, “no, he should not litter the street. We should remind him that this city is our common property. He should realize that he is strewing his own city. Besides, look at those women who wake up early in the wee hours to clean the streets. If you see people who engaged themselves in roadside trading, like banana or orange selling, they do not throw banana peels or orange skins in the street. They rather keep the wastes in plastic bags which they usually keep hanging on their wheelbarrow. This is a smart way of keeping our environment clean. I am of the opinion this young cabbie should draw a lesson from them…” Everyone in the taxi was listening to me silently.
The cabbie’s aide cut in. “Ok, brother,” he said looking at me, “you two, please, stop that! Let me do my business in peace.” He glanced up and said to the driver, “hey, please give me the husk. Don’t throw it out in the street. You hear me?” …He took the husk of the sugarcane from the driver and shoved it in his gown pocket. “We need peace! No need to throw words of anger against one another at this very morning.”
A lady who sat behind us patted the assistant boy on his back, seemingly expressing appreciation, and gave him a plastic bag so that he could collect the husk in it…
Meanwhile, I feel it is appropriate to remind all that we should not be too heartless to impart our due appreciation to the city administration for the initiative it has been taking to refine our city. Yes, there are shortcomings with the administration. There are a lot of things that need closer attention. But we should not miss the fact that promising progress has been made regarding the improvement of the look of the city. Let alone the multitudes of beautiful buildings, take for instance the pavements stretched from Shiro Meda down to Arat Killo, side-walks across streets in Meskel Square, Bole, Mexico, Lideta, Torhayloch, Sarbet, Lebu, and other parts of the city. Take a look at the comfortable paved roads throughout the city. They all have been rebuilt beautifully. Should we not appreciate this?
Roads and streets have been marked with signs which make tours very simple. One can not get confused to locate residential addresses. There are also big sign boards that indicate names and distances of places. Look at the stops of city buses. The old shades have been replaced by the new eye-catching ones. Shouldn’t these be maintained well?
Look at the road-side latrines built few years back. Men who urinate in the middle of the road know very well the advantages of having these spots. Moreover, the ladies who are in charge of the newly built latrines are getting benefit from them. They support themselves and their families by selling hot beverages like tea and coffee. I feel this is a good progress. By the way, many (I have no exact figure) public latrines were built in various villages of the city. Residents in those villages were known to have faced with big problems of getting latrines.
At last, let me take you back to my final conversation with the young cabbie. I was the last commuter to get off the cab. The moment I stepped out, the young cabbie called me and said, “gashie… I am sorry for what I have done… I should not have done that! …I mean dropping the husks of the sugarcane. … Please, excuse my behavior!” fondling his hair, he was looking at me with saddened face.
“Ok, don’t worry! No problem! … Have a good day, young man.”

The writer can be reached at gizaw.haile@yahoo.com