Newsbrief: Rastas, Watch Out At Ethiopian Marley Fest, State Department Warns 2/4/05

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The life and goals of late reggae superstar, world's most famous Rastafarian, global culture hero, and iconic pot-smoker Bob Marley will be celebrated with two weeks of festivities in Ethiopia to mark the 60th anniversary of his birth, and the US State Department is giving a heads up to travelers who may be thinking about emulating his spliff-puffing ways while they are there.

Although the celebration sponsored by the Bob Marley Foundation centers on Marley's birthday, February 6, events stretching across the first two weeks of the month are expected to draw as many as half a million people -- many of them Rastas -- to the capital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopian officials said. While the air above the city is bound to be clouded with smoke from Jah herb, a sacrament for Rastafarians, the State Department is warning that Ethiopian authorities will be on a high state of alert and that marijuana is against the law there.

In a public announcement issued January 28 to "to alert US citizens to enhanced security measures" during the celebration, the Department warned: "Ethiopian authorities plan to enhance security measures for the celebration. The security enhancements will include increased checks for illegal weapons and drugs at ports of entry and border crossings. Possession of marijuana is punishable by up to six months in prison."

It remains to be seen whether police in the homeland of Rastafari's spiritual fount, the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari) will devote themselves to harassing the multitudes of his dreadlocked followers as they partake. It would hardly seem to be in the spirit of an event called "Africa Unite" and celebrating the life of Marley.

As Bob Marley Foundation managing director Dr. Desta Meghoo-Peddie noted in an announcement last month, "The Marley family is committed to progressing Bob's legacy as a champion for human rights. The AFRICA UNITE event will honor the patriarch and strengthen all those who work so hard to fulfill the same vision. We invite the world to celebrate with us in refueling the spirit that will unify Africa, her sons and daughters in the Diaspora and work towards ending violence, poverty, injustice and discrimination."

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Issue #373 -- 2/4/05

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