US warns American Rastas about Ethiopian laws

Published Jan 29, 2005


Addis Ababa - The United States is warning American Rastafarians planning to attend celebrations here for late reggae superstar Bob Marley's 60th birthday that marijuana possession in Ethiopia is illegal.

As many as 500 000 people, many of them foreigners, are expected to converge on Addis Ababa and the state department said Ethiopian authorities planned to boost security measures for the festivities that begin next week.

"The security enhancements will include increased checks for illegal weapons and drugs at ports of entry and border crossings," the department said in a public announcement for Ethiopia released late Friday in Washington.

"Possession of marijuana is punishable by up to six months in prison," it added.

The announcement did not elaborate but marijuana use is considered a sacrament by many Rastafarians, whose movement Bob Marley championed and whose spiritual leader is the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari).

The month-long "Africa Unite" celebration in Addia Ababa is set to begin on Tuesday. The highlight of the festivities, a gala concert featuring international music stars, is to be held on February 6, Bob Marley's birthday. - Sapa-AFP

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