Author Topic: I read the piece on Hagos G. Yesus.  (Read 2920 times)


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I read the piece on Hagos G. Yesus.
« on: May 11, 2007, 09:39:20 AM »
By Paulos Milkias (Ph.D.) | May 10, 2007

Dear Editor,

I read the piece on Hagos G. Yesus.

Though I live in Canada, I also have not seen Hagos for more than two decades. Like those who asked for the whereabouts of Hagos, many of us who knew him in the good old days have wondered why he went into total silence specially after the TPLF took over Addis Ababa and the EPLF, in collaboration with the former, declared the independence of Eritrea.

I remember a big conference held at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario in 1987 where only Hagos and I were the staunch defenders of Ethiopian unity among representatives of the EPLF, TPLF and OLF who took to task the very existence of the country by claiming that it is a prison-house of nationalities created by Emperor Menelik in the 19th century, that ought to implode. Both of us with a good historical background on Ethiopia, demolished their myth until even the Eritreans who were saying that they were never part of Ethiopia until 1952 were forced to admit [when I confronted them with tracts from Alvares' book which I had with me] that Emperor Libna Dingil leased Massawa to the Portuguese in 1520, that yes, it indeed was part of Ethiopia but that Italian and British colonialism had also created conditions which influenced the Eritreans to go the "colonial" way.

The TPLF contingent, as usual, chameleon-like and deceptive, tried to present themselves as Ethiopians who were simply interested to overthrow the Derg and bring people-oriented civilian rule to Ethiopia. Hagos, who was sitting next to me, I remember, murmured in my ear: "Paulos, we should expose their hypocrisy because despite their pretences to gain support among Ethiopians, they have already signed over the independence of Eritrea." So we hammered them on their stand but as usual, they evaded the issue, but were clearly cowed.

When the OLF representative claimed that their question was also like Eritrea’s - a "colonial question" - the EPLF delegate retorted, “No, yours is different; you are Ethiopians like the Tigrayans.” When the OLF delegate reminded him admitting to my argument that hundreds of years ago, you were part of Ethiopia and now you claim to be colonized, how can that fly because Oromia was incorporated by conquest only in the 19th century, he replied, "yes, you were colonized in the 19th century" but since then you have become Ethiopians. Ours is different because we were on our own when the UN federated us with Ethiopia in 1952." The OLF rep. who expected support from the EPLF was clearly baffled and even angry.

Then my turn came. I pointed out - and Hagos added to my points - that Oromia was not newly colonized by Menelik though some in the south were incorporated into the empire by Menelik who had purchased plenty of firearms the Oromos did not have. We reminded them that the Oromos were ruling Ethiopia from Gondar from the 1770s to 1855. We reminded them that sometimes they had even Oromo speakers [e.g. Emperor Iyoas] among them crowned. They could not challenge these historical facts. In closing, I informed them in no uncertain terms that I am an Oromo through and through but that I am proud of being an Ethiopian who believes that the economic, cultural and linguistic problems of the Oromos and the Eritreans can be solved simply through the adoption of democracy for the whole country rather than the secession of its disparate parts.

That was the last time I saw Hagos who retired from his teaching position at John Abbot College in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec and went to live in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I remember asking a colleague, Alem Habtu when I met him in Addis during the Eritrea-Ethiopia War in 1998 if he had any contacts with Hagos and he told me that he personally went to Halifax and visited him the previous year. He showed me a photograph he took of him which showed that he had lost part of his sight. So, if you are curious, you can email Prof. Alem at

When you contact him, please ask why his polemical and pungent pen went silent at exactly the time it was needed the most (since 1991...), when Ethiopia’s unity was challenged, its dismemberment became real, and its future survival left in limbo!

Paulos Milkias Ph.D.

Dr. Paulos Milkias teaches Humanities and Political Science at Marianopolis College/Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.