||| Candid Ethiopia

Travelling silently through the southern Ethiopian lowlands our Landcruiser grinds to a momentous halt, tires raking through loose earth as the metal frame narrowly avoids dusty children and curb-side market stalls. Chickens squark and flap as my Nikons crash into a dark footwell, the black tangle clattering in a heap amid a plume of orange dust. Twenty-four heavily armed soldiers strut past the front of our steaming beast, each outfitted in desert fatigues laden with grenade belts and heavy, well-oiled rifles of Russian origin. Jet black made-in-china boots trample the sun-beaten rock whilst an off-key melody carried on the wind punctuates the now-quiet ticking-over of our choked engine. Passing in front of us the juvenile soldiers press battle-scarred magazines into worn rifles, ratcheting their Soviet steel in preparation for the battle ahead.