On questions raised regarding the “2012- year of reckoning” article By Msmaku Asrat

January 13th, 2012 Print Print Email Email

Some have accused me of supporting the Monarchy system of government because I wrote certain facts about Emperor Hailes Selassie. But this is far from the truth. Let me bring myself into the proper perspective. I was at the crucible of the Ethiopian Student Movement at its gestation period in the early 60’s and at the vanguard of its eventual establishment at the late 70’s, I parted company early on because many of the leaders (who were my friends and in College) were all following “scientific socialism” or Marxism–Leninism while I was infinitely more impressed by Social Democracy of the Scandinavian type as well as the socialism of post war Europe. After many heated discussions over the years, one prominent member in all earnestness vowed that he will surely kill me if and when they hold power. They came to power as civilian advisors and ideological teachers of the Derg in 1974, but I was out of the country at that time. I returned to Ethiopia after they lost power. I considered myself a technocrat. However after a few years the Derg Foreign Minister Col. F.G.G. wrote a letter to Zemecha Memria saying I was “a fence–sitter who has refused to join the Abyot (Revolution)” and could no longer work in Foreign Ministry. Needless to say I was imprisoned a few months later. I was released after two years and never rejoined government service again.

Coming back to the issue Ethiopia, its foreign policy until 1974 was directed by its Emperors and no one else. In the 16th Century, Atse Libne Dingel asked for the assistance of Portugal (the foremost power in the world at that time) to help repel the forces of Ahmed Gran (or Ahmed Ibn Ibrahim al Gazi) who, assisted by Turkey had declared a Jihad war on Christianity in Ethiopia, burning churches, pillaging the country and putting Christians to the sword. The Portuguese responded with 400 musketeers led by Christopher De Gama (son of the famous explorer Vasco de Gama) The havoc and destruction of Gran Mohammed, before he was killed, was so immense that the trauma among Ethiopian Christians has reverberated through the ages until the present day. Ethiopia’s dealings with Western powers and countries for good and bad. Some effort was made to create an alliance with Japan in the 1930’s but it did not go far.

Later Japan also joined the Axis Powers

The watershed for Ethiopia occurred during the Bandung Conference in April 1955 when 29 countries from Asia and Africa met in Bandung, Indonesia and agreed to the five principles of Peaceful Co- existence. This later evolved into the Non-Aligned Movement which was established at the Belgrade Conference in 1961, six years later. The Emperor did not attend the Bandung Conference. Even the most competent foreign policy expert of the country , the Foreign Minister, Tsehafi Tezaz Aklilu Habtewold did not attend. Nor did he send a head of the political department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Instead a lowly chief of protocol was sent to represent Ethiopia (many years later this sole delegate, Lij Endalkachew Mekonnen, was to achieve prominence as Prime Minister). At Bandung new world leaders emerged- Sukarno, Nehru, Chou en Lai, Marshall Tito, Nasser and even Nkrumah whose country was not independent then (it became independent three years later in 1957). A year before Bandung, in 1954, the Emperor has made a highly successful visit of four and half months to Europe and the United states.

It is said that Marshall Tito was highly disappointed that his ally against Italian Fascism, Emperor Haile Selassie has missed this most important gathering of Afro-Asian leaders and he immediately requested, and was accepted, to make a State Visit to Ethiopia the very following year. He came in 1955 arriving in Asmara and making a grueling 3-day journey by car to Addis. I was one of the school children around the Victory Monument at Arat Kilo and shouting TiTo, Tito,Tito – when he and the Emperor passed by in an open Rolls-Royce. It appears that the Emperor was immediately persuaded by Tito and Ethiopian foreign policy changed course and the Emperor embraced it masterfully with eminent grace, dignity and speed. And he never looked back.

In the Accra summit of 1958. The Emperor was represented by his son Prince Sahle Selassie. The Emperor made the brilliant but fateful offer of 200 scholarships in Ethiopian universities for students from all African countries, (50 each year spread over 4 years) The same year another significant decision was made. That was to open the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa whose establishment made it possible for the selection of Addis Ababa as the Headquarters of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) five years later, in 1963. When he attended the Summit Conference of Afro Asian Leaders in Belgrade in 1961 the Emperor was seamlessly integrated with the great leaders of the Third World. His political motto also changed from “collective security” to the new “peaceful coexistence”

I entered in College the year when the third batch of 50 scholarship students were coming in. Ethiopian students were slowly becoming radicalized from this encounter. It was hard for us to realize that we were at the bottom of the primary and secondary education in Africa. We have no clue about academic freedom in college, let alone democratic freedoms in the society at large. No freedom of speech and expression, no political parties … the list was endless. When the Conference of the East, Central and Southern African University students was held at the University College of Addis Ababa, we were transfixed by the boldness of vision, the dynamism and the total grasp of democratic principles by the participants from these African countries – most of whom were still under colonialism. Some of them later became leaders of their respective countries. I could honestly say that we were transfixed by their dynamism, broad knowledge of world affair and their optimism for the future. We were also totally crushed and humiliated. We never saw Ethiopia in that light before. We were living in a nirvana. After that encounter, the response of the Ethiopian University students was radical to the extreme. Instead of espousing democratic principles the Ethiopian student movement became totally radicalized and turned to the principles of “Marxism–Leninism (or communism) as the fastest panacea to all the ills and drawbacks Ethiopia had accumulated and suffered throughout the centuries. As we saw later this radical movement carried the seeds of its own destruction.

Returning to foreign policy the Emperor was very active in African affairs . He mediated the Algeria –Morocco dispute. He negotiated for the peaceful end of the war between North and South Sudan who had fought for 17 years. He should have won the Nobel Peace prize for these two, others have won it for much less. With the help of Seku Toure he brought the Monrovia and Casablanca groups to Addis Ababa. Guinea’s President Seku Toure has for a long time expressed his dedicated love and support of the Emperor. He visited the Emperor in Asmara and asked him to convene the two groups in Addis Ababa. The Emperor agreed and the two groups met in Addis Ababa in May 1963. The two groups merged to establish the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Addis Ababa was chosen as the Headquarters of the OAU (and no wonder that Dialo Telli of Guinea became its first Secretary General).

As an example of Emperor Haile Selassie’s leadership in foreign policy I will cite the case of Haiti. The Emperor had recognized that Haiti was the first black Republic in the world defeating the mighty army of Napoleon Bonaparte and he decided to open an embassy there (our ambassador to the US at the time Ato Yilma Deresa was ordered to negotiate this). Many years later the Foreign Minister, K.Y., wanted to close the Ethiopian Embassy in Haiti by giving financial reasons. He was even supported in this by G.E our ambassador to Haiti at the time (he proudly mentions this in his book.). However, the Emperor refused to close this embassy because of its symbolic importance to Ethiopia which has waged similar battles with colonialism. Sadly a few years later the embassy was quietly closed feigning the old reason of ‘budgetary constraint’! The same thing has also happened during the time of the Derg when it closed our Vatican Embassy, also giving similar reasons without regard to the historical reasons why it was opened in the first place. Ethiopia is the only country in the world which has its own church inside the Vatican. But the Derg was collectively the most ignorant group of leaders Ethiopia has the burden to bear and such considerations are of little consequence.

One last thing. Having travelled to many African countries on account of my work in the MFA, I have observed that every African Head of State has a much more splendid residence than the palaces of Emperor Haile Selassie. Their official residences are huge mansions originally built for the colonial governor, viceroy or pro-consul and taken over by the leaders of the respective countries. The palaces of kings like that of the king of Morocco are dozens in number and they are huge and splendid marble edifices set acres of compounds with huge gardens and fountains and exotic animals and birds. I was within an earshot when I heard the modest Nyrere complaining to one Head of State (during a garden reception at his palace) that he does not need the huge Governor’s residence, ”me and my family only use a few rooms” he said, “even though” he said pointing to the sole peacock that graced the lush mansion grounds “ I enjoy watching it.” (a magnificent peacock which we were admiring as well ,when it periodically spread its multicolored feathers.) When the Emperor donated the Genet Luel Palace for the University we were amazed how modest his palace was and how small were the rooms. I have occasion to see the Jubilee Palace on account of my work and it is also very modest indeed.

The charm of the Emperor is in his charismatic character and the extremely dignified way he carried himself. Watching him perform his royal duties makes not only Ethiopians but black people all over the world proud and admires his grace and dignity. Those who know him closely say that he lived an ascetic life and ate sparingly and very moderately. Can we compare his life style to the debauchery of the Derg about whom it was said አበላል እንደ ደርግ አባል (if one was to eat; eat like a Derg Member) The Weyane TPLF are also known for conspicuous consumption. Meles has his clothes hand tailored at the re-known Savile Raw of London, the most exclusive and the most famous tailoring establishment in the world where its clients are monarchs and selected Billionaires. Meles belongs to the latter. On the other hand the clothes of the Emperor were tailored locally. They say hindsight is 20/20 and we have to be able to learn and compare the past with the present and draw our conclusions based on discernable facts.

The British had their Magna Carta by which they clip the power of their king. The French had their Revolution and they guillotined their king. The Derg followed the French model in killing the Emperor but also added the Stalinist model of “nations and nationalities” that brought havoc. The ignorant Derg could not understand any of the principles it espoused, instead it unleashed its killing machine on the people. During that time it was said that Ethiopia became a country where “people forgot to smile” – laughing was out of the question. Now Ethiopia is one of the three saddest nations in the world. Its capital Addis Ababa has the distinction as being the dirtiest capital in the world. The downward drift goes on.
It appears now that the western supporters of the Woyane are having second thoughts and may be showing an inclination to force the Woyane to open its political space. We would follow these developments closely.

  1. addis
    | #1

    what is wrong with monarchy system? Sweden ,Denmark England japan all
    this highly developed nation thy love and live with monarchy.thy don’t
    have problem whit it.forget ethiopian left and ethiopian monarchy critiquers. his majesty emperor Haylesilase is the proud of Ethiopia.
    and you ethiopian student movement hordes?????????

  2. mod
    | #2

    the only problem with the Emperor was that the system he created gave rise to fascists like zenawi and afeworki

  3. true
    | #3

    Anti Ethiopian elements would love to destroy history if they don’t like it. I hate Mengistu does this mean the fact history should not be written about him?
    Our history “best” has not yet reach the world. Other developing countries countrymen write so many histories on their past and present and yet not single Ethiopian is interested to do that. There should be more books on history of Ethiopia including every issue, the emperrors etc. I am sure anti ethiopians would like to write misinformation on the kings. Didn’t Bereken Simon wrote recently a book, which I am sure is more anti ethiopian and promoting only Tigray and Eritrea. So Mr. Mismaku, please continue to write about our past history including Haileselassie. History will not be erased.

    For how long are we Ethiopians of all are we going to lower our standards in the world since the down fall of Haile Selassie? We can’t write books, we can say things because of the fake “past oppression” under past kings? Really? Are we living in freedom now? Ethiopia under past kings has been world leader in participating in world issues and even trying to negotiate right type of governing when the radicals and extremists who rose up based on emotions: EPRP, Derg,TPLF, Shaebia OLF, etc. With that since the rise of the Derg, the good history of Ethiopia died with the kings. Now we have become the land of hunger, banana republic, laughing stock. Although what Haileselassie should have done although the greedy land owners refused, was address the plight of the people which was a big mistake not to tackle this problem.

    Today there is no one history books on the emperors, heroes(balch aba nefso, abdisa aga, etc) We can’t write because this and this group will feel “offended” are you kidding me? I am sure there are so many great stories that are untold that many Ethiopians know but they don’t want to write because they are afraid of being scruitinized. How shameful, such enemies, the enemies within do not want to show the bravery of an African country that attempted to accomplish.

    When you mentioned Ethiopian students were radicalized, it is true look what the EPRP who still wants to be significant in Ethiopia’s politics got us, they empowered Shaebia and TPLF. Wasn’t true that one person was telling the emperror to not educate the students that later on they will turn against him? How true. If he then decided not to educate them, they would still be complaining that HaileSelassie didn’t educate Ethiopians. It is hard to please nations of people. That is why we need evolution 101, humanity, negotiation, tolerance, etc.. before applying any type of system. The hate to Haile Selassie is pure low self confidence, inferiority complex from the groups mentioned. The reason why I say this is because they could have addressed their plight in a proper manner and address it. But the issue is that the resentment of having Haileselassie as a an emperor but not them. Of course there was the hand of outsiders also to radicalize these groups. The West has learned very well that even in the case of Spain for example, how to becareful not to destroy the country at the cost of addressing their own problems. They are way ahead of us unlike African nations. The results of other African nations you can maybe can be blamed on colonization. But us, instead of being proud and improving what was lacking, the groups above are bent on destroying it showing to the world once again and making them think, oh, we thought maybe there is one country that was hopeful and independent from colonization even that one [ethiopia] is another African country that is becoming a laughing stock never mounted on anywhere look, they are tearing eachother in pieces. They will continue to say, Africans are primitive people and will never be like West so let us go neocolonize them again. I am sure the EPRPs, OLFs, TPLFs, Shaebias, etc. are happy to make Ethiopia once again as part of the colonized world and which Shaebia will be so proud. That is why AFRICOM is in Eritrea.

    in terms of luxury. I read on leaderships of the past especially kingdoms that discipline, manner, morality, loyalty foremost to your naiton before your leader, art of defending, etc are taught in kingdoms before you even become part of it or be appointed. That is why kings are staunch icon of a nation because they symbolize not just in name but being active to defend their own nation. In the globallized world today, cultures and traditions are not wanted, nationalism is not wanted, money over morality is the most importnat thing. TPLF is just following that neoliberalism, making Etheiopia banana republic.

  4. true
    | #4

    Addis,

    the problem why Ethiopia’s monarchy is not accepted by Ethiopians is because it is an African nation like any other Africans who never mount to anything. The continent is cursed I guess and this disease has already spread to Ethiopia’s radicals: EPRP, all Liberation Fronts, Shaebia, etc.

  5. Gobena
    | #5

    Mismaku.
    You are self serving monarchist. If you can, please get us back some of the 11 billion US dollar (now may be 200 billion us dollar) that the king stole from this country and deposited in the swiss bank beginning from the time he was head of customs authority as Lij teferi. Right from the time he was a king prospect, this man has had a serious integrity problem ( you can refer to the historical now declassified documents by the USA diplomatic telegraphic transfer about him before becoming a king). The foreign diplomats were aware of his lack of integrity and money embezzling. This is a king who presided over ethiopia’s poverty, through his archaic feudal system alienated the majority of the people of ethiopia, unwisely imposed his feudal rule over eritrea leading to the crambling of his empire ethiopia concluded by the derg. U mentioned about Broz Tito. Do not forget that Haileseliassie, a coward and kealous man who escaped the battle field, banished the great hero second world war, Abdisa Aga as a dissident to the east of ethiopia . when Tito visited ethiopia the first person he asked for was Abdisa because they fought the second world war together as patriots. You know how he crucified Belay zeleke. Oh you forgot to mention the million dollar cakes the king brought from france to celebrate his birthday while wollo and tigray were starving. of course he does not eat a lot of cakes but he uses ethiopian money to just play on it in the palace. when asked about wollo hunger the king was of the opinion that wollo merab limadu new.

  6. Anonymous
    | #6

    Interesting read, thank you. My father used to say leterabe tiche, letegebe aznalehu. I don’t know about Mengestu, what kind of childhood he had or if he attended college or not. All I know is that he was a mad man and a bloodthirsty dictator. But in the other hand, Esayas and Meles went to the best schools and had a good childhood all paid by Ethiopian Tax Payers that they hate the most. What a way to pay your country that fed you and educated you? It is unfortunate that, in the last 40 years, the three evil men, Esayas, Mengestu and Meles, changed the lives of Ethiopians from average to the lowest of low and painted Ethiopia with the blood of countless number of innocent Ethiopians and made our motherland the land of killing spree, misery, fear, destitute and hopelessness. I had to laugh when I read that Meles gets his suits made where royal families get their clothes made, as they say, you can put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. It is laughable and also sad.

  7. Anonymous
    | #7

    Thanks Dr Mismaku for frilient analyssis

  8. Anonymous
    | #8

    Dera Dr Mismaku
    Sorry to hear that you have lost your brothers during the DERGU’s ed terror. I assure you the ideals of your brothers will always make us proud and be celebrated forever. Just like their father an drand father and ofcourse like their mother they too were ARBEGNOCH who stood for Justice. My hat is off for them
    Ke akberot gar

  9. Anonymous
    | #9

    @true
    The disease is not any political party it is the ruling system. See what happens in USA, Europe and Canada, they have all kinds of partys and no problem when we start to marginalize organizations or when we start to suppress ideas, the ground is laid for on going destabilization.

  10. true
    | #10

    Gobena,

    Care to post documentation here about the bad deeds that Haileselassie did? While you are at it, do post what TPLF’s and Derg’s as well. If you are Shaebia, then we obviously know why you hate him. Care to tell us why Haileselassie gave more economic opportunity to Eritreans than any other region in Ethiopia? It is true there are no perfect leaders past or present anywhere you look and no one is saying Haileselassie perfect but to what extent is the issue. And please we are also in the 21st century then don’t you think we should expect to advance and evolve better than the past. Also do compare other nations who had feudalism also, that will help. If you are Ethiopian, do you care to mention why Britain and Russia decided to support Ethiopia against Italy? Have you heard of league of nations? The reason why Haileselassie left and WAS ASKED to leave as soon as possible from Ethiopia is because if he is spared from Italy, his image and good relationship with the Western world would help his case against Italy. It was because the power he has in the world (which you would resent)that he was able to be in front of the league nation to appeal to the world to save his country against Italy. Apparently his image in the world which you would hate to admit that saved Ethiopia from colonization. If it wasn’t in history book, I am sure you will misinform this FACT story. Haileselassie was not Mengistu coward (who left Ethiopia in danger now living in zimbabwe) or Meles coward (who caters for foreigners and Shaebia) or Issayas coward (who is proud of being colonized). He [haileselassie] could have chosen not to say anything live in comfort in England in exile and let Italy colonize Ethiopia but he didn’t. He knew, if he died under Italy also, it would still not be useful for Ethiopia either. So without Haileselassie appealing for the world, Ethiopia would have been colonized, read African history or WWII history, you will find this story. Of course if you are Shaebia, I would probably not expect you to accept this FACT history you would distort it because Eritrea was Italy’s colony and you have resentment against Ethiopia. So there is no point addressing this to you.

    Anonymous,

    Well said.

  11. Takele Tsega
    | #11

    Thank you Dr. msmaku for letting us know the passed history of Ethiopia what you had witnessed.

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