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Ring in the New

Tomorrow marks the start of a new year in our archaic calendar. All the same, there is no doubt that the day marks a visible transition from the long-drawn-out rains to a more refreshing season of light and the yellow lilies of the field. What is even more appealing in the more pressing need for food is that Ethiopian farms are at this time holding plenty of promise for the nation with all sort of crops ripening in the fields.


There is thus no denying the fact that September 11 definitely marks the start of Ethiopian spring – which is certainly not the case with January 1. However, in the measurement of time, distance, mass and temperature what is more important is the element of universality. When one considers the fact that we are living today in a global village it is imperative that we speak a universal language of time.


What we now call the Ethiopian calendar – that is the 365.25-day-long year–was devised by an Alexandrian astronomer known as Sosigenes at the behest of Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. It was done so in a genuine effort to correct the Roman calendar that had gone berserk by then. However, it was realized in 730 A.D. by the Venerable Bede, an Anglo-Saxon monk, that the Julian year was 11 min. 14 sec. too long.


By the year 1582 there was a cumulative error of 10 days in the Julian calendar. What Pope Gregory XIII had done was, therefore, to decree that the day following October 4, 1582 should be called October 15. That is precisely how ten days were dropped out of the  Julian year – the  cumulative error made until then in the computation of time since the calendar was adopted by the Romans in
46 B. C.


Because we had never corrected our own Julian calendar, there is to date an error of 13 days incorporated in it since 46 B.C. Because the Gregorian calendar starts from 5493 Anno Mundi – and the Ethiopian calendar from 5501 – there is a further confusion in years. However, Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1873, Egypt in 1875, China in 1912, Russia in 1918 and Greece in 1923.


The choice before Ethiopia is now the decisive adoption of the Gregorian calendar in the interest of internationalism. We must prove the British historian Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) wrong that “Encompassed on all sides by the enemies of their religion, the Aethiopians slept near a thousand years, forgetful of the world, by whom they were forgotten” by doing so.  n


Satan on the Loose


Ethiopians have been last week condoling with Russians over the tragedy that had befallen them at a school in North Ossetia where terrorists were responsible for the gruesome death of over 325 people and the wounding of 727 – most of them small children. Coming as it did on the heels of the terrorist-instigated explosion of two airliners in which over eighty people had perished  the tragedy is all the more lamentable.


We are living today in a macabre age when terrorism is reigning supreme in the world – in the US, the Middle East and Russia in particular. As it may be recalled, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco and Tanzania had been also victims of terrorism. Judging by what has been happening in the world so far, there is every reason to believe that terrorism does not honour international frontiers.


This is to say that if we do not stand together for fighting the universal evil of terrorism we are bound to perish one by one. Through their criminal activities in various parts of the world terrorists have proved beyond any shadow of doubt that they do not discriminate between military and civilian targets in their nefarious acts. Terrorism is a universal evil worth wiping off the face of the earth. n

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