African workers on file

19 December 2018 - 16:50

Stefano Bellucci and Andreas Admasie, our Collection Development staff members for Africa, have been setting up three digitization projects in Ethiopia and Zambia.

The projects aim to safeguard and make accessible archives containing rich source material on the history of work, workers and labour relations. 

In November 2018 we visited projects in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Dire Dawa (Ethiopia) and Kitwe (Zambia). In each case we are closely cooperating with local universities and societal partners. Jointly, we try to improve the inventorization and the storage conditions before digitizing. The digitized archives will be kept by all project partners involved, for future use. The IISH will make the archives available for researchers and has committed itself to guarantee long term safe storage of the digital files.

Photo on the right: Addis Ababa, 15-11-2018.
Mr Kasahun Follo, President of CETU and Marien van der Heijden signing the MoU under the watchful eyes of mr Meashu Berihu, CETU's Head of Foreign & Public Relations. 

Mr Kasahun Follo (CETU) and Marien van der Heijden (IISH) signing the MoU

Memorandum of Understanding

In Addis Ababa the IISH and mr Kassahun Follo, President of the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to mark the official start of our joint project to digitize the complete CETU archive. The archive includes papers from CETU's precursors, and reaches back into the 1960s. CETU has played an important role both in Ethiopia and in the region. Its position in Ethiopia's dramatically changing political context changed over and over again, recently returning to more independence from government. The physical condition of the archive is mixed - parts are in good shape, other parts have been damaged or are very brittle. This makes digitization even more urgent. CETU's documentalists, most of whom have been working at CETU for many years and who know the archive extremely well, have received a digitization training and will be working on the project for around a year.

Photo above: Addis Ababa, 19-11-2018.
CETU staff members involved in the project: mrs Masho Legesse, Zenebech Eguale and Tewabech Kifle, mr Assefa Belay


The Ethio-Djibouti Railway Organization in Dire Dawa

At the office of the Ethio-Djibouti Railway Organization in Dire Dawa, digitization has been going on for almost a year already. A sizeable sample of the workers' personnel files were scanned, providing extremely rich information for future research. In cooperation with Dire Dawa University, and thanks to support from the Centre Français de Études Éthiopiennes, a second year has been added to the project, during which the remaining personnel files will be scanned. The railway, once a very important transport route for people and goods, was closed in 2010. Dire Dawa's city centre is still dominated by the old train station and a huge area with old trains, locomotives and workshops, some still operational. The railway company hopes to redevelop this area into a museum site. Two years ago a new railway station was opened some 8 kilometres from Dire Dawa, on a new railway line to Djibouti, built by Chinese...

Photo above: Dire Dawa 17-11-2018
IISH Representative Andreas Admasie and project staff member Melese Kebede 

Mineworkers' Union of Zambia (MUZ) in Kitwe

A third project started recently at the headquarters of the Mineworkers' Union of Zambia (MUZ) in Kitwe. The MUZ is a key player in this key sector of African industry and economy. A team of three students from the Copperbelt University is digitizing the entire archive of the union, which will be available for research in Zambia and with the IISH. The project was initiated by Stefano Bellucci and Duncan Money (University of the Free State, Bloemfontein), and is expected to last a year. When finished, the archive will hugely contribute to our understanding of  labour and the labour movement in the Copperbelt, and we are grateful that the MUZ agreed to making its historical documents accessible.

Photo Right: Mr Shalom Zulu and mrs Enala Kufakula at work in the office of the Mineworkers Union of Zambia (21-11-2018)