In Ethiopia, every driver must have a valid driver’s license. If you drive around here you wouldn’t believe it. Even the donkey carts, of which there are many more than cars, require a pink piece of paper. Or probably a different color, we still don’t know…
In the Netherlands we purchased an international driving license from the ANWB. With this driver’s license you can legally drive a car in many countries (e.g. South Africa). In Ethiopia it is different. Here every foreigner must obtain an Ethiopian driver’s license. However, you may temporarily drive with a driver’s license from your country of origin. According to some people, this is allowed up to 3 months after arrival. Others say it is allowed for 2 weeks and still others say 24 hours. We have been driving our beautiful Toyota family car since we arrived here. However, it seemed suspicious to us to park it on the side of the road and ask the police about the validity of our driving license, as they might become suspicious. Reliable sources spoke of a validity of 2 weeks, so last week it was time to arrange our driver’s license. We couldn’t have done this earlier because we had to first learn how traffic works here. Otherwise it is not right to have a driver’s license. Below are the Ethiopian traffic laws that we learned in a “playful way” (loosely translated):
Article 1. Uncle/aunt cop is the boss. Although in most cases he/she does not own a vehicle or firearm, it is not permitted to net pretend not to have seen a stop sign or to drive away quickly. If your uncle/aunt officer says that you have done something wrong, you are not allowed to give less money without receiving a receipt.
Article 2. At an intersection of 4 four-lane roads where traffic is not regulated (if there are traffic lights there is also an officer, if there are no traffic lights there is no one to be seen) no one has priority. Priority arises as soon as someone else makes a mistake and you see a gap to squeeze your car into.
Article 3. Overtaking is always allowed. If a car comes from the other side again, you can force the car you are overtaking to move aside by sounding its horn loudly. The oncoming car should also make some space if you make this clear with high beam.
Article 4. It is permitted to dump worn-out horses and donkeys on the side of the road so that they can be parked close to the cars and cooled by the wind.
Article 5. Bus drivers under the influence of narcotics have exclusive rights to the center line and surrounding space.
Article 6. You may ignore cars in an advanced state of decomposition but still running. Although these make up a large part of the Ethiopian fleet, they are usually not insured and the owner often does not have a driver’s license. So they don’t belong.
Once we knew this, after 3 visits to the Dutch embassy, a visit to the Ethiopian foreign affairs and 2 offices of the road authority in possession of a driver’s license. A temporary driver’s license, the tickets for the permanent one were gone. Would we like to come back in a month…
During our 2nd ride to the embassy we unfortunately also saw one of the sad sides of the cheerful African traffic. There are always a lot of people on the road here and that often goes wrong. When we were on the way to Addis, there was a group of people crying loudly next to the road. In their midst lay one of the many traffic victims on a rug. On our way back, the people were gone and a colorful cross made of tree branches was the only reminder of the accident.