When we were the peacemakers.
By Yilma Bekele
There is a term some useto 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 holdsdue to the revolutionary nature of its founding and the emergence of anAmerican Ideology that is based on individualism, equality, and unfettered freeenterprise. Conservatives use the term to claim the higher ground while theleft 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 acountry that is the wealthiest, the most powerful and Continent size big itstill requires its ego massaged. You will not find an American that does notthink his country is exceptional. One cannot be elected even a dogcatcherwithout recognizing the uniqueness of good old USA.
I brought this up becausethere seems to be all sorts of attempts to knock down or demean our past. It isvery shameful and destructive. The whole idea is so strange that it isdifficult to find a rational explanation why our ‘leaders’ will resort to suchugly method to stay in power. It is understandable if our so-called enemies usesuch tactic. But our own government doing that is a little bizarre.
There is no denying ourCountry has existed for a very long time compared to other Nations. That isverifiable fact. It is also true that Ethiopia is prominently mentioned in theHoly 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 tomention Dinknesh. I just want to point out that we are the source of Abay thatnourished and sustained the Great Pharos. The Pyramids of Giza were built fromthe waters and dirt from our Highlands. Ethiopia was there before writtenhistory.
Now the Victory at Adwa was our crowning moment.Emperor Minilk accompanied by Queen Taitu Betul and the combined might of ourancestors dealt a heavy blow to European Colonialism. That victory of anAfrican nation against the big and ugly European that has been tormenting Blackpeople for over three hundred years was heard across the Galaxy. Hey, you neverknow 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 theRastafarian’s out of this brouhaha. Our esteemed Black leaders all wrote thesignificance of Ethiopia in helping them keep hope alive in their struggle forfreedom and dignity. The Establishment of the Organization of African Unity(OAU) is the continuation of that central role our country has played as abright light that defines the hope and aspirations of all Black people. Justbecause 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 theOAU is futile and should definitely be considered to be a criminal act. Weshould never allow the spirit of our ancestors to be trampled upon. That is myopinion and I am unanimous in that. His Imperial majesty Haile Selassie I, hisCabinet led by Prime Minister Aklilu Habteweld and his brilliant protégé HisExcellency Ato Ketema Yifru, Foreign Minster deserve the lion’s share of the creditfor this Herculean effort. This is not to belittle the efforts of hundreds andthousands of others that worked hard. Not at all, but somebody always giveslife to ideas and our leaders were smart enough to know the moment and act onit. 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 killeach other in a spectacular manner and were tired of war. Africans were wakingup from their slumber. To say Black people were created to suffer does notdescribe the reality. Slavery andcolonialism ‘s after effects will take centuries to erase. We are resilientpeople, 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 namestill evokes pride and hope.
The 60’s Africa was a child of two worlds. On oneside were the ‘Casa Blanca Group’ molded by the young Turks that have emergedfrom the yoke of colonialism as the new leaders. They included Gamal Abdel Nasser, Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, BenBella, Jomo Kenyata to mention a few. They were fired up andthinking big. Pan-Afrcanism that meant one big Continent Country like the USAwas their goal. One Continent one Nation was their motto. They all were bigpeople with big dreams.
On the other side were the ‘Monrovia Group’ ledby the old and cautious. They wanted to go one step at a time. They were notwilling to experiment. Sengor, Tubman, Boigney, Tafewa Balewa were formidableleaders in their own right. The two camps were vying for leadership. It is atthis particular juncture in time that Ethiopia showed up to assert itsleadership. Our credibility was unshakeable. Both sides respected and trustedour 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 andabuse. The African leaders were consciousof this fact.
The much-heralded black people unity was realizedin Addis Abeba Ethiopia in 1963. It came about by the hard work, far sightedand decisive leadership of our Emperor and his savvy Foreign Minister. Theimpossible was achieved in Addis Abeba and Black people all over the worldcelebrated. This is our contribution to African unity and no one can take thataway from us.
Why we are discussing this past history is due tothe current inauguration of a new building to house the Organization. It is amodern building. As buildings go it could be considered beautiful, moreEuropean than African if I might add. It was financed and built by the PeoplesRepublic of China as a gift to Africans. Why they would want to do that is awhole other discussion. I am not going there today. My interest centers aroundthe issue of statue and the credit for the existence of the Organization ingeneral.
The statue of His Excellency Osagyefo Dr. KwameNkrumah former President of Ghana was prominently unveiled during theinauguration. No question he deserves the heart felt thanks of Africans and allBlack people. It is a proud moment for all of us. His Excellency played a majorand pivotal role in advancing the concept of Pan-Afrcanism and cemented therelationship of Africans and the African Diaspora in the West. It was animportant linkage in showing the commonality of our struggle for freedom anddignity.
Some of us Ethiopians feel there is somethingmissing here. Without taking away from others we believe may be it would havelooked a little better if Dr. Nkrumah’s statue was accompanied with others thathave labored as much to form this august body. Of course we have His ImperialMajesty Haile Selassie in mind. Is that far fetched with a hint of selfishnesson our part? I plead guilty. Since I am an Ethiopian I will let my Africanbrethren answer that question. I am sure they will agree with us.
Why do you think HIM’s statue is not part of thenew building? Here we are going to open Pandora’s box. All the evil is going tobe spilled and you have no one to blame except yourself. Let us start withOsagyefo Nkrumah first. As you know he was the first President of Ghana. He ledhis 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 wasoverthrown 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 ofcivil liberties and wrecker of political parties. So much so that he made hisparty (CPP) the only legal one and was declared President for life. All greatleaders come with a baggage. What do you think the present leaders and peopleof Ghana think of their leader?
Here is where we part company with our Ghanaianfriends. In Ghana the Osagyefo is seen as the most respected leader of Africa.Father of their country. Universities are named after him. Large boulevardscarry his name and commemorative stamps bearing his face are the rage. In factit is the current President of Ghana that have the statue made and delivered inAddis. They admire and love him very much warts and all.
See what I mean my friend? What is the hobby ofour leaders? Kicking Ethiopia around comes to mind. Haven’t you noticed theinordinate amount of time spent by the TPLF mafia in discrediting all our earlyachievements and history? It should not be news to no one. The chances of ourEmperor’s statue in Addis is no more than the chances of Meles Zenawi winning afree and fair election in Ethiopia. In other words hell will freeze over beforethat happens. These assorted simpletons even felt threatened by a dignifiedfuneral service for the Emperor let alone allow erection of a statue. A Statuewill definitely be the cause of mind melt. After all isn’t Ato Meles thatcalled the emperor a ‘reactionary’ in front of all Africans? What makes youthink they will honor the leader we ourselves condemn?
Please watch the speech given by dictator Melessupposedly defending Ethiopia in an AU meeting. TPLF cadres are so proud of hisdefense of our nation that it is heralded out on every occasion when they thinkit necessary to build his credentials as a lover of our country. It is a shamethat the leader needs such crutch to make us a believer. I saw the video and Iwanted to hide. It is a shameful performance worthy of a cadre. Where in theworld did he get that larger than life Holly Wood reading glass? Was theresomething placed in the chair to make him jump around like a grasshopper? Fromwhat I can see he was as usual demeaning other representatives trying to makeenemies rather than friends. By the way ‘reactionary’ Haile Selassie did nottrain revolutionary Nelson Mandela. No sir we trained fighters of AfricanNational Congress. It is not about individuals here but a cause. Our country was a welcome haven to all Blackmilitants and freedom fighters.
We are not happy with the sidelining of ourEmperor and thru him the contribution of our government and people. Recognitionof the hard work and wise leadership of our Emperor is a reflection of thesingle minded and fiercely independent trait of our ancestors. The issue is notHaile Selassie but all of Ethiopia. Credit given to his Majesty for a job welldone is something to be proud of by all of us. We love and respect him verymuch wart and all.
Today this fact of HIM’s statue missing is ano-brainer. Our country is misruled and on the verge of collapse is what shouldworry us. The sale of our land to foreigners is what should keep us awake atnight. The fourteen million or more in need of food should be our focus. Thelack of unity and determination to do good for our people and ourselves is myagony.
When the time comes we will build the biggest andbaddest monument to our Emperor and other heroes. I have no doubt that willhappen. If not us our children will rise up to this challenge and do what isright.
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