Africa’s Hall of Shame in Addis Ababa By Fekade Shewakena

February 23rd, 2012 Print Print Email Email

The debate on whether Emperor Hailesilassie’s statue deserves to stand along with that of Kwame Nkrumah in front of the newly inaugurated AU headquarters in Addis Ababa built by the government of China as a “gift” to the AU misses a lot of big points. In my view, and I am sure in the views of many observers of Africa, the entire building itself is one giant statue of shame for Africa. Nkrumah is perhaps rolling in his grave, and for all I read and heard about him and about what he wanted Africa to become, I believe he would feel ashamed and may even cry if he were to see his statue housed in there. It is also good that Hailesilassie’s statue doesn’t stand anywhere near this building. Here is why.

First of all, the building is a metaphor for the way most African countries are run. The Chinese handout in Addis Ababa that is going to house the AU is more than a symbol that perpetuates the beggar image that has defined most African countries for a better part of their modern history. Most African countries have decided to achieve development and modernization by substituting working hands and innovative minds with hands stretched toward foreign aid and largess. This Chinese handout symbolizes Africa’s failure and speaks about a leadership that has completely failed to understand that you can’t have your pride and dignity, and a respectable place in the community of nations while living on the handouts of others. Indeed, it is a testament and stark reminder to an increasingly frustrating reality that the leaders of African have given up on any attempt at self reliance.

Just ask why it should be so difficult for 54 African countries to contribute no more than four million dollars each and build this building on their own? Is it the addiction to handouts? You may even ask why any African in position of power and with minimal self respect and knowledge of history could not have wanted the building designed by African architects. You may even wonder why there was no one among these leaders to think such a structure should have an architectural design that is made of a touch of African architecture and culture, say for example, something like a combination of the pyramids of Egypt, the obelisks of Axum, Lalibella, the magnificent libraries of ancient Mali and the numerous beautiful tukuls that dot the African landscape to mention just the few we know well.

Imagine how such a product owned and built by Africans could be one huge source of pride and something to show for African ingenuity. For a continent that looses tens of billions of dollars in elicit capital flight and outright theft every year, isn’t two hundred million dollars just peanuts? And don’t this honorable guys ruling Africa read history? Haven’t they read that Africa has been there before and done that? How can you forget that the first things that European colonialists brought to Africa before they began looting the land and enslaving Africans were glittering gifts to local tribal chiefs?

This building is not only a case of what we in Ethiopia call “የሰው ወርቅ አያደምቅ” – which roughly translates as, “you cannot look beautiful by wearing gold jewelry that belongs to other people”. As the history of Africa itself attests, these so called gifts are often down payments for the merciless exploitation of the continent’s natural and human resources. How do we Africans overcome the stereotype that we are incapable of changing our reality while we keep doing this crazy thing of repeating the same thing over and over again even after we have confirmed that it is not working to our advantage?

I hope there is no any idiot out there who thinks the Chinese gave this building to Africa out of compassion for Africans or out of plain generosity or reasons charity. We all know that there are more destitute people inside China than all the destitute people in sub Sahara Africa combined. It is clear that the Chinese leaders are making an investment with sacrifice to help their long term plan, their future. It is now an open secret that the Chinese think of Africa as a solution to their overpopulation and pollution problem and have already gone a long way on that line. In the last decade alone nearly eight hundred thousand Chinese have settled in Africa and China towns are proliferating in many cities in Africa. There are reports that Chinese experts are planning and working to settle some 300 million Chinese in Africa as a solution to their overpopulation related problems.

It appears that the Chinese are applying the advice of a certain racist British named sir Francis Galton who a little more than a hundred years ago, sometime in 1873, wrote that the continent of Africa which he defined as “occupied by lazy, palavering savage people” be taken over and tenanted by what he said were “industrious and order-loving Chinese”. Trends of the last decade or two shows that the Chinese seem to have taken this once despised racist advice to heart. They are working hard to make this a reality and to some extent succeeding. They are working hard and sacrificing to solve their demographic and pollution problems on the backs of Africa.

Unless Africans are aware of this fast creeping Chinese takeover now, it would be too late when we wake-up tomorrow. The leaders of Africa who are blinded by their desire to preserve their power and material benefits never seem to care. The new AU building is only one in a series of bribery to Africa’s ruling elite. The Chinese know they will get back their two hundred million dollars in one or two transactions of their cheap toys to Africa and the minerals and lumber they plunder cheaply. At the end of the day it is poor Africans who will stand there holding the bag.

There is also another ugly side to look at when seeing this shameful hall of shame in Addis Ababa. If you uncover the veils and secrecy inside Chinese capitalism, you will see that it is an extremely criminal enterprise. The “gift” standing in Addis Ababa is tainted with blood, tears and sweat of other unfortunate human beings being mercilessly ruled and exploited. It is an open secret that Chinese workers are subjected to slave type labor where in many cases, protest by workers in a factory and demands of workers to be heard takes the form of committing group suicide. To see what kind of blood money the AU building may be tainted by, read this recent New York Times exclusive investigative report about the horrible life of the workers who supply products to the manufacturers of our iPads. After reading the report I could not believe that the ipad I am using is tainted with that horror. Shouldn’t Africans that have suffered merciless exploitation themselves of the kind Chinese workers suffer today be the first to reject any Chinese offer out rightly on grounds that it is a reminder of their own painful history?

I am also disappointed by the muted response of the African elite regarding this shameful “gift” and creepy Chinese takeover of Africa. It appears that we all have given up on Africa, I mean, ourselves. How many cases do we have to be ashamed of about being African? The brutal and savage killings of one another, being ruled by cruel tyrants for decades on end, our poverty in the midst of plenty and perennial beggary for food handout, are killing us already. Should accepting a down payment wrapped as a “gift” while being set up in plain sight for a new round of slavery and plunder be another one?

The leaders of Ethiopia, particularly Ato Meles Zenawi, did us a favor inadvertently by not lobbying to have Hailesilassie statue erected there along with that of Nkrumah. Ethiopians should be happy that Hailesilassie’s statue and through that Ethiopia’s contribution was not erected anywhere near this hall of shame. If the Ethiopian leaders just whispered Hailesilassie’s name, I am sure there will be a unanimous vote by African leaders to honor Hailsilassie and through him Ethiopia by building his statue there. Yes, we can debate the good and bad he did to his own country. But no one, except men with little minds and little sense of history question that he, Hailesilassie, and through him Ethiopia, stood the tallest among the tall when it comes to fighting for the independence of Africa and bringing Africans together. It is one of Ethiopia’s epic images that history will not forget and one that never needs a statue as a reminder. I am happy this image is not tainted with Hailesilassie’s statue in that hall of shame. Now the debate should not be whether Hailesilassie’s statue and though him Ethiopia’s should have been built along with Nkrumah in front of this hall of shame, it should be weather even that of Nkrumah’s should be standing there to adore a symbol of Africa’s shame.

  1. Girum
    | #1

    What would have happened the response if the building were built by the help of the West?
    The entire problem globally, and indeed the solution too, is related to few elites. Yes global,regional as well as national elites. As long as 3rd world elites can not stop their opportunistic and selfish attitude then the entire 3rd world problem persists like this. The entire problem in 3rd world countries is not as such a matter of mere bogus democracy and that of mere dictatorship but rather more of a matter of global capitalism and its related greedy and selfish attitude towards human race. And the entire governance of the world by elites is based on this well organized insidious and inhuman class structure of global capitalism. I am amazed when so many writers talk about foreign aid and loan to 3rd world countries and its eventual systematic siphoning through illicit flow back to foreign banks. This is how the entire global capitalist system inherently works Yes looting I the inherent nature of global capitalism. And hence foreign aid and loan that is being claimed as being flowing back by illicit means is inevitable event from the very beginning. So many of us are not as such aware the true inherent nature and inner workings of global capitalism. Aid and loan to 3rd word countries from the very beginning it has the essence of bribing the elites of 3rd world countries who have the potential to lead the nation. Therefore forces like TPLF in 3rd world nations are such a perfect stooges to serve as client-regime to advance the interest of global capitalist system and its master elites. Therefore, the entire situation in 3rd world countries is by far more intricate beyond the issues of bogus democracy and dictatorship as is the way we naïve and gullible intellectuals want to hype and present it. Therefore all foreign forces be it the EAST (CHINA) or the WEST all are scrambling Africa mainly for their own sake not for Africans sake. The WEST is advancing its interest in Africa and globally aggressively through military means as is the case in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and may be tomorrow in Iran. Yes in Libya the WEST used such an amazing euphemism of “No-Fly-Zone” and eventually managed to make such a tragic end to Ghadafi regime. The same template or modus operandi has been on stage against Syria.
    And hence China is using such means of economic cooperation with 3rd world countries building infrastructures while to the contrary the WEST is using the methodology of making aggressive wars that are causing destruction against such infrastructures under the disguise of Democracy and humanitarian mission. So African intellectuals and elites better become so honest and loving to their mass they belong to and side with their local populace rather than siding with either the WEST or EAST. When some writers want to attack China they do not have as such a reasonable rational grounds except to be an insidious servants and agents of the WEST.I was once amazed when some knowledgeable Ethiopian scholar who wrote about AU recent Building and China ties. He made such an amazing invocation of Hilary Clinton’s speech regarding Africa and China that is the West does not allow another neo-colonialism against Africa. Who is having AFRICOM and NATO the WEST or the EAST?
    One of the very reasons that Ghadafi was toppled by such tragic means is because he had been opposing AFRICOM. So please all Ethiopian writers let’s not oppose CHINA only if it is for the sake of siding with the WEST. However I do not mean directly that the writer is pro-west but I am just expressing my fear and suspicion regarding such articles. What would have happened the response if the building were built by the help of the West? We understand that such a great new cold war has been started between the WEST and that of China regarding global domination. And according to this global rivalry then there inevitably exists such a hierarchical power structures following this global power rivalry.
    So we have to align ourselves not based on selfish elite interest but mainly based on the populace interest and wellbeing if we really love and respect our populace. I happen to meet no writer who denounces the tragic fall of Ghadafi by the main hand of the WEST like the way we happened to witness it. I do not mean I support dictatorship but the entire issue is not about democracy and humanitarian mission but rather something very sinister beyond that. So if our fellow writers who are so considerate of Africa and its poor peoples, then if they happen to see the are reaching future threat behind such AU buildings, then how comes they fail to see that of the tragic events and scenarios like Libya?
    How has been really causing neo-colonialism? CHINA or the WEST? Who has around 700 military bases globally? Who invaded Iraq under the disguised of WMD and caused this all destruction and impoverishment? Can any body tell me which sovereign 3rd world nation China invaded or made coup d’état? I happen to meet no one writer who is exposing the evils of the WEST?
    I do not understand why so many Ethiopian intellectuals and writers are becoming so oblivious to the evils of the West? May be because so many of them live there and make their livelihood and are some how feeling guilty doing this? If we are really honest and want to be so please let’s also confront the truths regarding that of the WEST. And finally I want to assert that the problem is not as such with that of CHINA or that of the WEST and the problem is rather mainly due to us. Due to mainly the elites of 3rd world society. Both elites among the intellectual and the rulers. Because they are the immediate interfaces who come between the 3rd world nations and that of foreign elites of global capitalist system.
    And from history we happen to witness that unless such elites have such strong and honest sense of integrity then such elites usually fall under the trap of bribery by the global capitalist system. The entire aid and loan to 3rd world countries is systematically siphoned and exploited to bribe those corresponding elites in 3rd world countries. And that is why I usually say that the entire situation is intricate beyond bogus democracy and dictatorship issues as is hyped by us naively and gullibly.
    So lets’ focus mainly locally on our own elites who are usually becoming very potential stooges for foreign powers rather than the usual stereotypical allegation against CHINA or the WEST. As long as our local elites are stooges of foreign powers who mainly advance their symbiotic interest rather than their people’s interest, then it does not as such make sense whether we side with the WEST of EAST.
    To the global capitalist system and its master elites or to their local populace? That is what matters most now a days more that the stereotypical hyping of the issues of bogus democracy and its contrary dictatorship. Global capitalism has been creating its own class structures. To which part of the pyramid of class structure we want to belong to? Our local rulers usually prefer to side with the global capitalist syetm and working accordingly. The elites of the 3rd world countries usually become selfish and prefer to belong to the upper parts of the pyramid of the global capitalist system. And in doing so they have to betray their local populace they belong to and they claim they stand for. And hence we Africans have to prefer nationalist and dictator leaders who love and respect their nation and accordingly mainly advance their nations interest to that of slick and stooge client-regimes who advance the interest of foreign powers under the disguised of bogus democracy. No one is our true friend except we ourselves as Africans. And hence finally the solution/problem mainly lies in us not in becoming pro/anti CHINA or WEST. To whom do the 3rd world elites (rulers intellectuals and think tanks) side with?
    Therefore the entire situation is also a matter of soul searching rather than bogus democracy or dictatorship or even as is happening in the case of the recent statue we usually hype it naively and gullibly. Finally I want to assert that the grace and honor of HIM Haileselasie is beyond the expected statue can honor him or beyond the disregard of the racist and mafia TPLF regime. And hence time will solve every thing. And the entire stalemate regarding the AU building and its associated statue issue tells a lot not about HIM but rather tells a lot about TPLF and current African leaders.

  2. tewbel
    | #2

    Thank you Ato Fekade to put the matter in its right perspective.
    With different names African leaders are selling Africa to new colonizers.

  3. Tku
    | #3

    Dear Fekade
    Thank you very much for your wonderful article
    Ever since i hared about the Chinese are donating money to build this symbolic building. i was boiling with anger and shame. This is not about brick and mortar or money. It is about the sole of Africa, our ancestors sole, the sole of millions African who sacrifices their life for the independence of Africa.
    Across the continent many gave their life for liberation of Africa from colonisation & neo-colonialism, mental slavery. Where is our African self reliance and dignity promoted by our forefathers and foremothers? What we going to tell our children?
    I hope one day the children of African will rise up and demolish this symbol of humiliation, mental slavery,begging & neo colonialism will erect our own African institution. A building reflects our independence, history, culture, liberation & decolonisation straggle, remembering slavery, the straggle for antislavery & freedom and human dignity so on.

    It is genocide! it is a crime against the African history and the future generation mental wellbeing.

    I know there are lots of proud Africans who are vey ashamed of by this building. What happened to the TPLF leaders/Tigrians? Are they not the proud Ethiopians?


  4. Dawi
    | #4

    [[..Imagine how such a product owned and built by Africans could be one huge source of pride and something to show for African ingenuity...]]

    Who ever built it and as a modern building, there is going to be very little made in Africa in it; So even if some Western trained “Africans” built the building it won’t make such a difference. But then again, I know of one US trained Ethiopian architect who moved to Addis to work with the Chinese group. The input of things “African” is thought of in the entire design & incorporated.

    Fekade made it look like a discussion of accepting of GMO’s genetically modified foods from the WEST or organic from ASIA kind of issue. Sadly he seems to oppose organic.

    Fekade’s racist undertone of China bashing is shameful. He seems to prefer taking handouts from the West who are “rich” but detests the support of people with similar standard of living as we Africans.

    That reminded me of a comment by a British individual who opposed food aid to Ethiopians because they “multiply like rabits”. Just mayby, someone who faces the same challenge in life may not spit out such trash talk is something to ponder about for Fekade.

    Such attitude exposes the fallacy of western “democratic” thinking of some opposition intellectuals. It just shows how far we have to travel; Gerum’s piece as a response has addressed the underlying problem we are facing.

  5. Zerayakob Yared
    | #5

    ገና አሁን እየገባኝ መጣ!!!!

    ኢትዮጵያ፣ በአንድ በኩል በአባሻውሎቹ የስብሓት ነጋ ጥርቃሞዎች የመንፈሰ ባርነት ጥንውን፣ በሌላ በኩል ደግሞ በኢትዮጵያን ወደ ጭሰኝነት ስርአዓት ካልመለስኩኝ ሞቸ እገኛለሁኝ በዮቹ ሃይሎች መቡዋጨቅ መሃከል እየተረገጠች እንደምትገኝ ከተገነዘብኩኝ ሰንበት ብልዋል።

    ከእነዚህ ሁለቱ ኢትዮጵያን ረግጦ የመቡዋጨቅ ሃይሎች መሃከል ውስጥ ግን ለምን የአባሻውሎቹ መንፈሰ ባርነት ድሆች አሸናፊዎች ሆነው እንደወጡና ኢትዮጵያን ብቻቸውን ሆነው ለመቦጥቦጥ እንደተሳካላቸው ገና አሁን ገባኝ!! ግብዝ አሉተኛነት፣ ( intellectual unsincerity ) !

    ለእኛም ቀናችንን የሚያመጣልን ቀናነቱን ብቻ ያሰንብትልን!!

    ሃቅ ትመነምናለች እንጂ አትሞትም!


  6. Aubong
    | #6

    #4 above,

    Where did you read Fekade liking western handout or comparing handouts from China or the west? Your accusation of racism is a stretch too. The Chinese have already started plundering Africa. You seem to be thinking being plundered by China is better than by Westerners? Sir you are a bit confused or re read the article again

  7. Anonymous
    | #7

    well said Fekade Shewakena. we Ethiopians should be very happy that our King was not associated with the current AU and it’s hall of beggers.

  8. Abenezer
    | #8

    When I see this written I am thinking about my self, because I do have a completly differnt oppinion to say. The writers wrote, I think, because have seen a good with logic and nasty articles with out logic. So, because he could not identify, he wrote articles somthing like this. Mr. the writer let me ask you one question. Is somebody, gave you a gift on the day of the hollyday? So, what would or did you feel if someone gave you a sute as a gift on your birth date? Did you really feel bad? I do not think you would feel like that. If you felt that you are disrespected, you were not well, may be you were sick. Because, The day was your birth date. The day was that you saw and meet the new world when you were a new baby. The day was the new day for you to breath new air that was absolutlly you didn’t directlly and that was the day your family and their neghbors saw you the first time as a human. So, what do you say, that this time may be the reheneicense for Ethiopia and the whole Africa. You, Even mentioned the bulding is by the government of China as a “gift” to the AU. So, by what measurment of scale the gift can be put as symbolizes for failure. We people can make any comment but we have to measure by the scale of logic, conciousness, to approve our argument, comment, suggestion, annalysis can be acceptable by others.

    I think this is not from the healthy mind, the writer. You are so confused. I can give you many evidence about many matters you mentioned on on the articles, but I should let them a chance to give about it. Thank you have a good day.

  9. Dawi
    | #9


    “…Unless Africans are aware of this fast creeping Chinese takeover..” who apply “..advice of a certain racist British..” and “..The “gift” standing in Addis Ababa is tainted with blood..”

    Such description in my book is out of line and racist.

    [[.. tears and sweat of other unfortunate human beings being mercilessly ruled and exploited..]]

    This coming from an African is laughable.

    The same Industrial Revolution that transformed the West is transforming China in warp speed. Is Shewakena telling us such a revolution that happened in the WEST didn’t have horror stories?

    The most important story is China, India and sub-Saharan Africa are getting out of poverty and by in large producing stuff for Western companies is what is going on.

    Shewakena’s ipod issue is not worst than the child labor, teenage pregnancy, underage marriage with its associated fistula, street kids and all sorts of other inhuman horror stories that comes of Ethiopian/African country side.

    The most important story today is reducing poverty in China/Ethiopia and Africa; Where Shewakena’s ipod came from is not a major issue for Chinese or African at large who are suffering from underdevelopment.

  10. astra
    | #10

    why did you say nobody wrote about this topic? At least two dozen people have written about it before you. Where have you been?

  11. Abiy
    | #11

    Grum’s idea that the problem of Africa is the international elite on the one hand and the lack of viable strategy by the domestic elite is subustantially true.The global elite uses both the right and left paradime inorder to advance its own intended goal.Due to the multi dimentional aproach of the globalists to tackle the plan they have at hand ,many of us will be perplexed when we see the inconsistencey and often contradictory policies they craft.However,these contradictions will disappear when we realize they will use all political specrtem as long as they are willing to be used,and will take them as far as they can go.
    Neverthless, we must not equate that the Chinese with the west.The west has well developed tried instituation,Beside the general public will not let go very long before demanding transparencey and openness.China may have a super power status with out democratic institutions.It is like this the brute at the helm of international power,that is why I am more aginst every thing that China stands for. First,their mannatr and culture is very different from Africans.They eate donkey,snakes and every thin, they are seen just doing this in our country.What is more they follow not a universal business ethics.They have one set of standard for Africans and and different for westerners.For instance,China must provide the west goods that met acceptable standard.On the other hand, China has made Africa a dumping ground for their cheap commodities.To begin with,every item that makes it to our country from the orient is from black market.Second,it has a life time of few hours.Still,for any Construcion and other state contract that China signs it has to be done by her huge prison population not experts.
    There fore,Shewakena has made a very good argument conserning the Chines scavenger through out Africa.In all this though it must dawn on all Ethiopians how long and how often are we willing to continue to hear about the woes of our country.Would it not be much better for all opsostion leaders to spent great deal of time discussing and debating to reach a consensus and deliver a verdict aginst the Melese China west axis.

    You stated,
    The same Industrial Revolution that transformed the West is transforming China in warp speed.
    “Is Shewakena telling us such a revolution that happened in the WEST didn’t have horror stories.”
    Capitalism in its formative days in the 17-18 century might have its own problems,but by no means it is comparable to that of China.How dare you compare the problem faced in the west with that of the dumping of Chinese peasants in to the streets by Communist tugs.How can you compare the environmental disaster,water contamination, and polution that is taking place at an alrming scale in China with that of the west?

    There will come a time ,what goes up will surly come down.China’s economy can not be an exception it has to play by the same economic rule of boom and bust,then and only then will the Chinese communist party will be forced to make room for mlti party participation.Shame on you Wadi that you are telling us the Chinese model is working in Africa.When infact Chines model is making millions food dependant and destitue. Offcourse,you must mean ,so long Melese and his cronies are prospering, all is well; after all that is what it matters.

  12. Abu
    | #12

    African leaders like Melese are beggars.Beggars usually are not choosers.So Melese is more than happy if the Chinese stuff their coke in his ass hole.

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