Emperor Tewodros and Ato Meles. By Yilma Bekele
I watched a video of an interview Ato Meles gave to a woman journalist. The edited version on You Tube and our Independent Diaspora sites starts without introduction and ends abruptly. We have no idea who the questioner is and why she is granted a one to one interview. The role she took in the video is that of a question reader not an inquisitive reporter.
Her questions were very profound and far-reaching and she settles for the explanation her host offers without a follow up question or probe further to get insight into the startling conclusions by The Leader. I figured the questions asked and the explanations given are meant to inform the faithful regarding the line of thought currently being favored by headquarters. That is the normal workings of a totalitarian system. The Leader telegraphs his wishes in various ways. The Soviets were good at using pictures to show who is ascending based on proximity to the boss. In the old East Europe when the Party paper bloat your picture from old files the game is over.
In this interview Ato Meles was deflecting responsibility from the approaching famine and he was giving the opposition some things to chew on since he believes they ‘hate’ him intensely no matter what. I was saddened to see that he was discussing such profound issues as the origin of our old Country the wisdom and heroism our forefathers and the recurring famine as if he was discussing some mundane issue say like climate change. There is no life in his monologue.
This was a very important and far reaching discussion. It is true they say action speak louder than words. When it comes to Ato Meles his action and his words go together. In this “interview” he manages to tell us in his own words where the justification for those actions originate from. We cannot ask for a better interview how ever distasteful it might be.
It took him all thirty seconds into the interview to get into the ring and toss our early leaders around like a beach ball. Here is the profound question that led into this incredible answer.
Question: When we think of the past generation they have left bad fingerprints specially during the final moments of the Millennium we had dangers of disintegration so what do you think the causes are?
Ato Meles: Generally for the last thousand years or so our economic and political system has been backpedaling. Several attempts were made. For example if we start with Atse Tewodros during his perioed the Japanese were embarking on centralization. Japan’s atttempt succedded and while Atse Tewodros did not. Tewodros choose conquest to unite the country and he died running one end to the other bare footed. He did not succed. Without fully understanding the source and foundation of our unity and waiting too long without a solution we were faced with disintegration. While the Japanese learnt from the westerners and concentrated on development. Wheras on our part our develompmetal efforts were full of ups and downs, not successful and wrong. When we take Atse Tewodros his plan to create Ethiopia was by conquest. Thus he even thought it civilized to manufacture weapons and succed in makeing an artillery gun. This direction did not work. After that if we take Atse Minilk he did instead of making foreign technology into ours he took the direction of relying on foreign professionals. Without the fedual nature of the society he just gave it some modern face thus the poverty acclerated and that is the other cause of the danger of our disintegration.
I am not a historian by profession. I hate to disagree but I find Ato Meles’s interpretation of my history regarding my leaders and their place in our past to be a little puzzling. I did not feel insulted. I was not upset. How could I? Thinking of Atse Tewodros like that is beyond my capacity. My humble love, great respect and gratitude forever knows no bounds when it comes to Emperor Tewodros II. He is our collective pride.
Putting that aside there is one issue that has been bugging me since I watched the video. I was trying to come up with an incident where leaders have dismissed their past so casually. I am still looking. Nations are very fragile things. Their egos have to be massaged constantly. Successful leaders know how to do that. They make their people move mountains. Even the most powerful, richest of nations wave their flags and play their national anthems constantly.
You would never hear President Obama discussing the slave ownership of Washington or Jefferson. That would be considered disrespectful. The Indian Prime Minster will never disparage Mahatma Gandhi and live to tell about it. President Zuma does not look down in condensation at the great Kingdoms of the Zulus or the father of his country Nelson Mandela. Historians can theorize all what they fancy but leaders create myth and accentuate the positive legacy. How could you doubt the strength of your foundation while you are trying to build a whole house on top of it? That is my problem.
Ato Meles as usual is standing things head down. Comparing Ethiopia to Japan is wrong and Japanese history is not like that. Japan is a homogenous Nation. It is an Island. Ethiopia is made up of several Nationalities and ethnic groups. Ethiopia is not an Island but surrounded by both friends and enemies. When Tewodros ruled Ethiopia Japan have a weak Emperor and the Shogun ruled in his name. I believe there was one Japan.
When it comes to Emperor Tewodros, I his humble subject is not learned enough to defend him. I am not worthy of that honor. But I cannot sit by when my Emperor’s vision is questioned. I am happy to take the blows however soft. To start with Emperor Tewodros succeeded in his vision of great Ethiopia. Ato Meles is my first exhibit. He is sitting in Arat Kilo because my Emperor laid the foundation one hundred fifty years ago. Now about the business of the Cannon gun, in my opinion it was a brilliant move. The British were approaching from the North, the West and the South. The Italians were sniffing at the Red Sea Coast and the French were probing from the East. The contention between Christianity and Islam was still not settled around us.
Emperor Tewodros understood having a big gun is a good deterrence. He also needed more weapons to extend the reach of his Empire. Surely you don’t expect him to Fed Ex his intentions to King Tona or poke King Aba Jifar to be friends on Facebook. Those days you sent an army and subdue. That is how Nations are forged. It is not unique to us. In fact isn’t that why we are famous? They say with envy you guys have never been colonized and we nod with swollen chest. That is a special gift from our forefathers.
One thing about Emperor Tewodros, he loved his country so much. When he lost to the British he did not shoot the hostages and he was not going to be taken prisoner to give the British a trophy. They have their people he was dead and there was no reason to stay. They burned our churches and ransacked the palace. They stole valuable items like Kibre Negest that they display in their museums and some are sold to collectors. When Ethiopia rises we will bring it all back to Magdella.
Again I am not worthy of defending Emperor Menelik. The whole world knows the true Lion of Adwa. If it was not for Menelik and his multi National army today, we will be speaking Italian and dining on spaghetti. I don’t see any reason why I should say more do you?
What was the reason of all this negative venting by The Leader? I have a theory. I am glad you knew that. My theory is based on the psychological concept developed by Sigmund Freud that stated ‘people use psychological projection to reduce their own stress or feelings of guilt.’ Simply stated Psychological projection is a form of defense mechanism in which someone attributes thoughts, feelings, and ideas which are perceived as undesirable to someone else.’ Ato Meles is projecting his own failure onto our old Emperors. I will attempt to show how.
When Emperor Tewodros appeared on the scene that was a period known as Zemene Mesafint or the Age of the Princes. The Agaws, Amharas, Tigreans, and the Oromo were in the process of creating mini kingdoms. That is what Tewodros conquered. Now what did Ato Meles do? He created the Zemene Warlords. Kilil is reversing the vision of Emperor Tewodros. Projection number 1.
Emperor Menelik was fascinated with technology. Menelik started a banking system, a postal system and signed the agreement with the French to build the one and only railway system. He defended our honor at Adwa and made black people all over the planet very proud. On the other hand during the reign of The Leader he fought with Eritrea and lost, fought with Somali Warlords and lost and is witnessing the starvation of millions of our people. We lost five thousand people at Adwa and over eighty thousand at Badme.
When asked about famine being synonymous for Ethiopia The Leader said, “I feel ashamed, it is disgraceful but these things can are not the mistakes of certain individuals” A very curious statement. That is what he wanted to convey all along. That is why the questioner brought it out of the blue. It is interesting. President Obama inherited a country on the verge of a meltdown. That was two years ago. Today folks are mad at him because he has not fixed the problem yet. His re election depends on him making the economy right.
Ato Meles came to power twenty years ago. That is ten times Mr. Obama’s reign. Ato Meles has been blaming the Derg since day one. That was not enough, now he is going back in time. By the next interview he might include Negest Saba. All this to avoid taking responsibility for failed policies. Instead of remorse and shame he comes with excuses. He was given a task and he failed to perform. No one is responsible except him. Not Tewodros, not Menelik, not Mengistu but the person in who is charge now is the owner of the debacle. No need to shift responsibility.
It is wrong for Ato Meles to use the power of his office and the total control of the media to subject our country to such distorted interpretation of our glorious history. It is not all right to discuss imaginary disintegration of our country so lightly. For a lot of us in the Diaspora our country is the one thing that keeps us going when things get tough. Mother Ethiopia is the source of our pride. It is a shame to stand on the shoulders of such giants and deny their achievements.