When we were the peacemakers. By Yilma Bekele

February 8th, 2012 Print Print Email Email

There is a term some use to describe the US as being special. They call it ‘American exceptionalism.’ What the theory tries to define is the special and unique place the US holds due to the revolutionary nature of its founding and the emergence of an American Ideology that is based on individualism, equality, and unfettered free enterprise. Conservatives use the term to claim the higher ground while the left dismiss it as nothing more than myth. Both sides agree the US is a ‘shining city on a hill’, ‘cradle of liberty’ ‘indispensable nation’ etc. For a country that is the wealthiest, the most powerful and Continent size big it still requires its ego massaged. You will not find an American that does not think his country is exceptional. One cannot be elected even a dogcatcher without recognizing the uniqueness of good old USA.

I brought this up because there seems to be all sorts of attempts to knock down or demean our past. It is very shameful and destructive. The whole idea is so strange that it is difficult to find a rational explanation why our ‘leaders’ will resort to such ugly method to stay in power. It is understandable if our so-called enemies use such tactic. But our own government doing that is a little bizarre.

There is no denying our Country has existed for a very long time compared to other Nations. That is verifiable fact. It is also true that Ethiopia is prominently mentioned in the Holy Bible and spoken of favorably by the prophet Mohamed (may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him) in the Holy Koran. I am not even going to mention Dinknesh. I just want to point out that we are the source of Abay that nourished and sustained the Great Pharos. The Pyramids of Giza were built from the waters and dirt from our Highlands. Ethiopia was there before written history.

Now the Victory at Adwa was our crowning moment. Emperor Minilk accompanied by Queen Taitu Betul and the combined might of our ancestors dealt a heavy blow to European Colonialism. That victory of an African nation against the big and ugly European that has been tormenting Black people for over three hundred years was heard across the Galaxy. Hey, you never know where you will find black folks. You think I am exaggerating? Ask Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Dubois, Kwamen Nkrumah and Nelson Mandela. I will leave the Rastafarian’s out of this brouhaha. Our esteemed Black leaders all wrote the significance of Ethiopia in helping them keep hope alive in their struggle for freedom and dignity. The Establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) is the continuation of that central role our country has played as a bright light that defines the hope and aspirations of all Black people. Just because we are at the bottom now it don’t mean we were always there.

This attempt to belittle, gloss over or cover up the pivotal role Ethiopia played in the formation of the OAU is futile and should definitely be considered to be a criminal act. We should never allow the spirit of our ancestors to be trampled upon. That is my opinion and I am unanimous in that. His Imperial majesty Haile Selassie I, his Cabinet led by Prime Minister Aklilu Habteweld and his brilliant protégé His Excellency Ato Ketema Yifru, Foreign Minster deserve the lion’s share of the credit for this Herculean effort. This is not to belittle the efforts of hundreds and thousands of others that worked hard. Not at all, but somebody always gives life to ideas and our leaders were smart enough to know the moment and act on it. That is how history is made.

OAU came at a time of “African Spring” of the 1960’s. The Europeans and Asians have managed to kill each other in a spectacular manner and were tired of war. Africans were waking up from their slumber. To say Black people were created to suffer does not describe the reality. Slavery and colonialism ‘s after effects will take centuries to erase. We are resilient people, thus we took the lull at the end of the war to assert our coming out. Young dynamic leaders graduates of the struggle for independence were emerging. They maneuvered and gained independence from the colonial powers. Their name still evokes pride and hope.

The 60’s Africa was a child of two worlds. On one side were the ‘Casa Blanca Group’ molded by the young Turks that have emerged from the yoke of colonialism as the new leaders. They included Gamal Abdel Nasser, Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Ben Bella, Jomo Kenyata to mention a few. They were fired up and thinking big. Pan-Afrcanism that meant one big Continent Country like the USA was their goal. One Continent one Nation was their motto. They all were big people with big dreams.

On the other side were the ‘Monrovia Group’ led by the old and cautious. They wanted to go one step at a time. They were not willing to experiment. Sengor, Tubman, Boigney, Tafewa Balewa were formidable leaders in their own right. The two camps were vying for leadership. It is at this particular juncture in time that Ethiopia showed up to assert its leadership. Our credibility was unshakeable. Both sides respected and trusted our country and leader. We were not a product of this or that colonial master. We were an island of freedom and dignity in a sea of black suffering and abuse. The African leaders were conscious of this fact.

The much-heralded black people unity was realized in Addis Abeba Ethiopia in 1963. It came about by the hard work, far sighted and decisive leadership of our Emperor and his savvy Foreign Minister. The impossible was achieved in Addis Abeba and Black people all over the world celebrated. This is our contribution to African unity and no one can take that away from us.

Why we are discussing this past history is due to the current inauguration of a new building to house the Organization. It is a modern building. As buildings go it could be considered beautiful, more European than African if I might add. It was financed and built by the Peoples Republic of China as a gift to Africans. Why they would want to do that is a whole other discussion. I am not going there today. My interest centers around the issue of statue and the credit for the existence of the Organization in general.

The statue of His Excellency Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah former President of Ghana was prominently unveiled during the inauguration. No question he deserves the heart felt thanks of Africans and all Black people. It is a proud moment for all of us. His Excellency played a major and pivotal role in advancing the concept of Pan-Afrcanism and cemented the relationship of Africans and the African Diaspora in the West. It was an important linkage in showing the commonality of our struggle for freedom and dignity.

Some of us Ethiopians feel there is something missing here. Without taking away from others we believe may be it would have looked a little better if Dr. Nkrumah’s statue was accompanied with others that have labored as much to form this august body. Of course we have His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie in mind. Is that far fetched with a hint of selfishness on our part? I plead guilty. Since I am an Ethiopian I will let my African brethren answer that question. I am sure they will agree with us.

Why do you think HIM’s statue is not part of the new building? Here we are going to open Pandora’s box. All the evil is going to be spilled and you have no one to blame except yourself. Let us start with Osagyefo Nkrumah first. As you know he was the first President of Ghana. He led his nation on its transition from British playground to a free African nation. That was 1957. He has a tumultuous relationship with his people until he was overthrown in 1966. Truth be told that the builder of hydroelectric dams, champion of Pan Afrcanism and founder of the OAU was given to be an opponent of civil liberties and wrecker of political parties. So much so that he made his party (CPP) the only legal one and was declared President for life. All great leaders come with a baggage. What do you think the present leaders and people of Ghana think of their leader?

Here is where we part company with our Ghanaian friends. In Ghana the Osagyefo is seen as the most respected leader of Africa. Father of their country. Universities are named after him. Large boulevards carry his name and commemorative stamps bearing his face are the rage. In fact it is the current President of Ghana that have the statue made and delivered in Addis. They admire and love him very much warts and all.

See what I mean my friend? What is the hobby of our leaders? Kicking Ethiopia around comes to mind. Haven’t you noticed the inordinate amount of time spent by the TPLF mafia in discrediting all our early achievements and history? It should not be news to no one. The chances of our Emperor’s statue in Addis is no more than the chances of Meles Zenawi winning a free and fair election in Ethiopia. In other words hell will freeze over before that happens. These assorted simpletons even felt threatened by a dignified funeral service for the Emperor let alone allow erection of a statue. A Statue will definitely be the cause of mind melt. After all isn’t Ato Meles that called the emperor a ‘reactionary’ in front of all Africans? What makes you think they will honor the leader we ourselves condemn?

Please watch the speech given by dictator Meles supposedly defending Ethiopia in an AU meeting. TPLF cadres are so proud of his defense of our nation that it is heralded out on every occasion when they think it necessary to build his credentials as a lover of our country. It is a shame that the leader needs such crutch to make us a believer. I saw the video and I wanted to hide. It is a shameful performance worthy of a cadre. Where in the world did he get that larger than life Holly Wood reading glass? Was there something placed in the chair to make him jump around like a grasshopper? From what I can see he was as usual demeaning other representatives trying to make enemies rather than friends. By the way ‘reactionary’ Haile Selassie did not train revolutionary Nelson Mandela. No sir we trained fighters of African National Congress. It is not about individuals here but a cause. Our country was a welcome haven to all Black militants and freedom fighters.

We are not happy with the sidelining of our Emperor and thru him the contribution of our government and people. Recognition of the hard work and wise leadership of our Emperor is a reflection of the single minded and fiercely independent trait of our ancestors. The issue is not Haile Selassie but all of Ethiopia. Credit given to his Majesty for a job well done is something to be proud of by all of us. We love and respect him very much wart and all.

Today this fact of HIM’s statue missing is a no-brainer. Our country is misruled and on the verge of collapse is what should worry us. The sale of our land to foreigners is what should keep us awake at night. The fourteen million or more in need of food should be our focus. The lack of unity and determination to do good for our people and ourselves is my agony.

When the time comes we will build the biggest and baddest monument to our Emperor and other heroes. I have no doubt that will happen. If not us our children will rise up to this challenge and do what is right.

Materials used in this article:





  1. wow
    | #1

    Talking about Land Grab, I am hoping Abugida will post this link


    The land grab in our country is nothing but neoliberalism and TPLF/Meles is taking orders from USAID and World Bank to transfer water and food to the most rich. I give credit to the West who works day and night how to continue their economic dominance and well being, unlike our TPLF/Meles. Yes indeed also, we can no longer blame TPLF also as we ourselves are consumed in neoliberalism mindset we the diaspora and how this is so fast transfered in today’s Ethiopia. We must decide, either live like the West with individual and capitalist attitute or say Ethiopia good bye. In near futrue, the world will not be nationalistic, society, no boundary, anyone can come in and out in the country especially the powerful to us resource that is what “globalization” means.

  2. aha!
    | #2

    Thank you for your literature review that puts Ethiopian History into perspective in the pretext of OAU inauguration, particularly for the younger generation that have been ethnicised, politicisized and radicalised into ethnic and secessionist politics and/or policies by the TPLF/eprdf regime for the last 20 years.

    The curriculum for schools have been dumbed down into indoctrination to focus on ones ethnicity before Ethiopiawinet, let alone to teach Ethiopian History in historical perspective, entagled into learning so many local languages, as if one national language is not enough for commerce and academics, less emphasis competency in English to persue higher education at home and abroad and yet the only medium of communication available in college is English, but not Amharic, an indiginous language to Ethiopia and therefore to Africa, a language older than French and English in its origin; which is also Ethiopian liguistic culture and identity as a sovereign, free and independent nation, is unable to hold on to that ideal. That, I believe is the status competency of our graduate students in either Amharic for communications and English for academics to study other subject matters.

  3. Tukatic
    | #3

    Well-done Ato Yilma. Woyane was born and raised in the woods. Obviously, they lacked the intellectual capacity, didn’t know history and severely suffered from kill-deficit – essential for good governance. So far, the damage is enormous; concrete jungle is no food, no development and no future for Ethiopia.

  4. astra
    | #4

    “build the biggest and baddest monument” What does that mean? He lists a lot of African leaders at random. Kenyatta was not in the Casablanca group because Kenya was not yet independent. He plays footloose about the OAU negotiations, especially about who was involved on Ethiopia’s side. Where does he get this information? It appears like a wild guess and unfortunately false according to other reliable accounts.

  5. aha!
    | #5

    As regards to your second half of your article, two sayings in Amharic come to mind: the first is “balbetu yenakewin amole baleda aykebelewim” and second is “awikeh ketegezah biregituh aykifah” and the third is the ideology of ethnic federalism, secessionism and totalirianism is a zero sum game, or a dichtomy that has no room for modification and/or criticism, which leaves those parties with national agenda to engage in non-violent uprising to individual freedom, liberty and equality taking precedence over ethnic and secessionist rights by all so called opposition parties to restore Ethiopian Nationalism and the sovereignity of Ethiopia, anything less is half-baked potato or anything.

  6. Idris
    | #6

    Yilma, please make your antagonistic propaganda shorter! Please be truthful first to yourself before preaching us! The originator of the idea of African Union were the Casablanka and the Monrovia groups, not Haile Selassie. And yet, without the fatherly role played and a compromising spirit ushered by him, the charter that lead to the formation of OAU would not have been signed. Therefore, as far as the coming into being of OAU is concerned, there were 3 equally important forces. And these forces were the Casablanca force represented by Kuame, the Monrovia force represented by (?), and the somewhat neutral force represented by the King. During the meeting, if any of these forces did not play its role the way it did, there would have been no OAU. So we need a joint statue of three persons. And these 3 persons are 1) Kuame, 2)the leading and compromising figure from the Monrovia side (name ?), and 3)Haile Selasse. Yilima, your length cry is unfortunately the flip side of Melese Zenawi and, because of its antagonistic spirit, is equally disrespectful for Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Ethiopia is suffering from two extreme views represented by people like you and Melese Zenawi!

  7. Dawi
    | #7

    Yelma says:

    [[...Where in the world did he get that larger than life Holly Wood reading glass? Was there something placed in the chair to make him jump around like a grasshopper?..]]

    Very funny! Those retro eyeglasses? What were those? I don’t think they make those any more. They are certainly museum quality!! AA University Museum – look out for them!

    You’re right he was also animated; jumping up and down as his young revolutionary days; It was very funny but effective. Did you notice those African leaders? They didn’t know what hit them – stunned beyond belief! I am sure they signed the stay paper AU in ADDIS right afterwords because they don’t want to see Zenawi in that state of mind ever again! :-).

    [[..A Statue will definitely be the cause of mind melt. After all isn’t Ato Meles that called the emperor a ‘reactionary’ in front of all Africans? What makes you think they will honor the leader we ourselves condemn?..]]

    What are you talking about Yelma? “reactionary” is Ethiopian Student Movement’s “trade name” for HIM. He was considered as a “puppet of US Imperialism and a reactionary” and was called that night and day by you and others.

    Yelma, why now pretend as if you don’t know that? Meles is a pragmatic man, a capitalist roader like Deng Xiao Ping but by what else you expect him to call HIM not man!.

    Regardless he made his point with a drama and won the battle!!

    Let us give credit where credit is due.

  8. yilma
    | #8

    Dear Dawi,aren’t you glad you can write your opinion on our free Web site unfortunately the person you are calling clever does not allow different opinion on his Web site. Very sad what is he afraid of? may be the truth? African leaders were stunned? didn’t want to see Zenawi in that state? I have no idea why because most of the leaders sitting there are as ruthless as he is, you know birds of a feather any way this idea to move was brought by none other than that other crazy misfit Gaddafi after he built that convention center in Sirte his home town,it was a non idea from the begening. It was dead on arrival. Meles was posturing as usual but the speech was shameful you have to admit. A head of state does not get that animated, this is not some starbuck you know. My dear Dawi you don’t call your past leader reactionary. Mr. Obama does not call George Washington a slave owner, it will be rude. Historians can write about that but the leader of the country does not demean the father of the land. Ghanians got rid of Nekrumah but they celebrate him today because they want to lift up their history and give their children pride with their past. I will not argue your comparision of Meles and Deng Xia Ping, I will add Kim Jung if you like. Your Meles is a despot you can ask Eskinder, Andualem, Reeyot, Wubshet and thousands others.Quit insulting us by calling a blood thirsty goon pretending to be a leader and killing his own people everyday. Do you how the people of Ethiopia your own cousins live in fear. Do you know that kind of fear is not healthy and causes so much stress? Just because our people are kept ignorant and forced to submit does not mean they are stupid or docile. Fear is what Hitler used, fear is what Stalin used fear is what the Korean midget uses. You Dawi are lucky because you live in a free land and you are not afraid. Do not make fun of those that suffer and this is not some game. Eskinder is in Jail because he refused to submit. Peace to our people that sleep hungry and terrified because of your friend.

  9. Abel
    | #9

    We cannot live with the past, the past is history which is a foundation for the future. If you know where you come you sure know where you are going. Having said that wining wars did not make Ethiopia better. Next time please write about our problem and how to solve it amicably. What you wrote in the first place is too long and second it shows that you are out of touch. Our country at this time and age is in deep shit.

  10. Dawi
    | #10

    Dear Yelma:

    [[... Mr. Obama does not call George Washington a slave owner, it will be rude. Historians can write about that but the leader of the country does not demean the father of the land...]]

    May be Meles is old fashioned, a die hard with some Marxism still in him as I, and don’t say things properly, the correct way thus I accept your criticism on the name calling. I apologize for using that “bad word” on this sight myself in the past and was pointed out to me by Sam if I remember correctly.

    You realize you and others have taken “reactionary” to mean different than the Dictionary which calls it the opposite of “radical” or “progressive”. It actually means “conservative”, “right wing” etc. Sorry if it brings bad memory to you and others.

    Come to think of it when I think of “reactionary”, Prof. Al comes in mind. Sorry again I don’t mean in a bad way. On the other hand Dr. Berhanu or Endargachew’s or G7 faces bring “progressive” in my mind. :-)

    Meles is an old radical who is playing the historical role of a Dictatorship of a Developmental State. He uses radical terms such as “reactionary” and jumps up and down once in a while when he forgets his present real ROLE and his young days flashes back in his mind. That is what happened in that meeting. He defended country as a base of Black National Liberation Movement without hesitation and as I said before his (Zeraf – Zeraf!) won the battle. It was not a cake walk as you make it sound like. For me, it was one of the proud moments of our historically dictatorial leaders great stands for country on international level that I would always remember, no matter what any of you say about the present Dictator.

    Developmental State is a Dictatorship and it is the fastest way to Democracy IMO. I don’t see the alternative available at hand can get us there fast enough.

    I see G7 with the new OLF as the most challenging to the Meles Dictatorship today and I envision them bringing the Dictatorship to the negotiation table down the line. If the Meles Dictatorship does negotiate before it gets weakened less life would be wasted and we will be all better off.

    Yes I appreciate the freedom ABUGIDA gives to all of us. It is the right thing to do and has become a kind of platform to build the future Democratic Ethiopia on.

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