When we were the peacemakers. By Yilma Bekele
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.
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