All the World is Bill Clinton’s Stage

The Sydney Morning Herald

August 17, 2008

US voters may be tiring of the name Clinton, but the rest of the world has embraced the former president’s efforts to save the planet, writes Sarah Boseley.

He took off and left, an hour or so later, the same way he’d arrived – helicopter rotor blades driving a gritty dust storm from the dirt playing field into the faces of hundreds of Ethiopian hill villagers. They had waved and clapped and shaken the hand of a white-haired man who used to hold the most powerful office on the planet and who has just failed to help his wife secure it in her turn. Yet the people of Rema had no idea who William Jefferson Clinton was or what he was doing in their village.

One man knew the name, though his wife looked blank. “Clinton,” said Awke Tiruneh, whose hut the president had been due to visit but didn’t, because of the tight schedule powerful men run to. “He is from Germany.” It is the only foreign country Tiruneh has heard of. The outside world is the village on top of the next hill, a long, rocky walk down one mountain and up another.

Yet Clinton came to put Rema on the map, hailing it as a model for the developing world and a place that could teach the US a thing or two. Rema, in the northern highlands, is now the first solar-powered village in Ethiopia – a cluster of 1100 homes that shine in the dark evenings like white beads on a string. Every home has electric light from an energy-efficient LED bulb hanging from the straw ceiling.

Children can do schoolwork after 6pm while women weave the gabi – a white cotton head-to-toe wrap that is worn in church and in the evenings to keep out the cold (now Clinton has one, too). Read More.

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