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The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat

Kapuscinski, Ryszard, trans. William R. Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand | Vintahe, 1984


p. 118

In the summer of 1973, a British journalist named Jonathan Dimbleby filmed a dispiriting report of hunger in Ethiopia.  To show some of the setting of this misery, the journalist juxtaposed shots of famished Ethiopians with shots of Emperor Haile Selassie’s feasts.  News people from across the world soon showed up in Addis Ababa to cover the yoked stories of popular starvation and official comfort.  The next wave of foreigners escorted substantial food gifts from various countries.  In the arrival of these gifts, Ethiopia’s finance minister spied an opportunity.  To the great emergency stores of food donated by compassionate peoples of the world, the minister applied a substantial customs duty.   Of course, the donating nations were dumbfounded and said so.  Their protest, in turn, dumbfounded the imperial court: “’You want to help?’ the minister asked.  ‘Please do, but you must pay.’  And [the benefactors] said: ‘What do you mean, pay?  We give help.  And we’re supposed to pay?’  ‘Yes,’ said the minister, ‘those are the regulations.  Do you want to help in a way that our Empire gains nothing by it?’”