Way Too Early for a Possible Historikerstreit Fisseha Tadesse Feleke
[The sequel of my previous article is still underway. What prompted me to write this brief note is Abebe Gelaw’s latest report on one of “the new breed of historians in town” ወእጐሥዕ እምዘነ-ልብየ]
The more Meles and his acolytes have been getting on in years, the more they become ridiculous! Faced as they are with the utter unattainability of their plans and thus worried about the legacy they would leave, they seem nowadays to have come out with great vigor to try once again to kindle a sort of Historikerstreit (Historians’ Dispute) that they hope would not only cover over the ugliness of their thoughts and deeds but also would occupy the minds of ardent Ethiopians and keep them from focusing on what should be done at this very moment, that is, from doing whatever it takes to oust Meles and Melesites. And the bone of contention they shamelessly have brought up is Menilik II—“Emeyye” Menilik. I wonder very less though, as to how they dare try to question the unquestionable greatness of a Menilik—that node that peculiarly encapsulated several noble characteristics of being Ethiopian and thus practically proved his ability to protect his country, our country, from being infected by such pathogens as the Italians so that Ethiopianity would hold sway so long as the sun endures—than as to how we let these infective agents still remain in his Palace while openly disseminating their jealousy over and over again. Has our Ethiopia become too old now, and are we all nothing but porcupines?! If that was so, why not then let them, nay, proactively help them realize the unrealizable…? Ah… እግዚኦ! የሰው ያለኽ የሚያሰኝ ጊዜ!
The term “Historikerstreit” was coined to describe a serious intellectual and political controversy over the historical interpretation of Nazi Germany. The German term “Historikerstreit” means the “Historians’ Dispute/Quarrel.” It was the philosopher and historian Ernst Nolte who opened the debate with a speech printed in the “Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung.” To which speech responded the philosopher Jurgen Habermas in “Die Zeit.” A number of others joined in supporting each side, and the dispute lasted from 1986 to 1989. It was in fact to flare up again in the year 2000, though only briefly… But why do I recall this now?
Within a span of the last three months or so, we read Sebhat Nega accusing Menilik to be the cause for Eritrea’s secession, we heard Meles Zenawi taking Menilik to be the father of our poverty, and now we are told that Bisrat takes Menilik as (Gosh!) a coward and a deceiver. Is this not “ጠብ ያለኽ በዳቦ”? While wondering as to how professional historians would respond to all this, I recalled that back in 2006 I heard one professor of history (not a fake one like Bisrat though, but a real one, perhaps even the then chair of AAU’s History Department), in his address to participants of the Second Littmann Conference held at Akusm (I was one of the participants), saying “mouthfully” (አፉን ሞልቶ) something like this: we have no idea as to what unites us [as Ethiopians, that is]! We should better encourage the production and publication of books on the exclusive history of each ethnicity; like the one that is called “The History of Gurage” etc., he added. That is why I say it is too early now to open up any serious debate over Ethiopian history—we should rather take heed: even our universities are not yet free. So, freedom first!
In fact, should a Historikerstreit similar to that of the Germans be ever opened up in Ethiopia, I believe that it has to be done so only after at least half a century from the time this generation will have passed; I mean, some good fifty years after having successfully concluded the struggle against the current regime, which struggle I hope would soon kick out the Second King of Anger from Menilik’s Palace and replace him by a legitimate SHEPHERD of the people of ETHIOPIA and NOT by a Third King of Anger. Only four or five decades after having thus reversed the ethnocratic and Godless rule reigning over our beloved country, may we get plenty of time and intellectual distance far enough from emotional ties to look back at the achievements (whatever those are) of (1) the revolutionary and (2) the ethno-nationalist generations fairly objectively and hence will we be able to discuss over their place in Ethiopian history. Besides, I would like to underscore that it is not Menilik, not even Haile Selassie, but the generation of the 60s and 70s—to which belong the ቆራጥ/ጭ(ከእግዜር የለየን)፣ አስቆራጭ (የገዛ ወንድሞቻችን እንዲለዩን ያደረገ)፣ and ቊራጭ (በችግር አሳቦ በጥጋብ የተለየን) leaders of destruction (የኹሉም ውጤት ጥፋት የኾነ): Mengistu, Meles and Isayeyas—that should be the topic for a possible quarrel which may bear close resemblance to the one the Germans have called Historikerstreit.
I am not a prophet to tell beforehand as to what the outcome of such a dispute would be, but my general take on the place of these “weak branches” (I mean Mengistu, Meles and Isayeyas) in our history is that they should at any rate be included in the book of our leaders. They should indeed be included in the list of our kings but only as kings of anger we deserved to have had them because we made the Lord of the Universe (እግዚአብሔር), the Holy of Ethiopia (አምላከ-ኢትዮጵያ), angry! Also, their chronicles have to be written very well in order that the coming generations should always be reminded of and cautioned about the cost of disappointing Him: for when God gets angry with his people, He may suddenly bring such (excuse my wordings) “shits of history” in the midst of “the storm of crisis” that each epoch (especially the modern one) has of its own; as the saying goes: “እግዜር ሲቆጣ…!”