‘And who are you?’ is what everyone said Ethiopia’s shari’a judges would suspiciously ask. But the shari’a judges welcomed me like a lost son—the shari’a Supreme Court President even said my vaguely Arabic phenotype puts him at ease.My luck eventually expired. The head of Finance and Administration, a Christian, asked, ‘And who are you?’ If bureaucracy has a face, it belongs to this man. He barred me from the courts. He said to regain access I must obtain stamps and signatures from the British Embassy, the British Ministry of Education, the British Council, the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Document Authentication and Registration Office. I spent a week and a half and about £80 to get the stamps and signatures.
I later learned that a certain “Doctor-Engineer” Samuel Zemichael had inveigled university professors, businesspeople, and one of Ethiopia’s former Presidents into believing that he held a civil engineering doctorate from Harvard University. His plot unmasked, he fled to Kenya, but was soon extradited. Maybe the bureaucrat had a point.