By: Dr. Msmaku Asrat

The wretched of the Earth is a title of a book by Franz Fanon (1925-1961) a MenelikIIblack man born in the Caribbean nation of Martinique who studied in France and specialized in Psychiatry. He practiced in Algeria in the 1950’s and sympathized with the Algerian National Movement fighting for independence from France. The book lays out a clear blueprint for Revolution and against colonial rule. The French settlers in Algeria called pied noir had declared Algeria to be part of France (Algerie-Francais) and vowed never ever to give Algeria its independence.

They were defeated by the heroes of Algeria and they left ignominiously. Fanon advocated for the establishment of a social movement for the decolonization of a person and a people and justified violence against France. The famous French Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre supported Fanon’s advocacy of justified violence. Edward Gibbon in his book Decline and fall of the Roman Empire has a famous passage regarding Ethiopia: The Ethiopians slept for a thousand years forgetful of the world by which they were forgotten.  Finally, the historian Lord Acton is best known for his definition of power.  He said: power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Modern Ethiopia woke up from a millennium of slumber essentially during the time of Menelik.  Some of his modernizing efforts is the building of roads, railways, schools, hospitals, the introduction of automobiles, telegraphs and telephones, piped water, eucalyptus trees, modern armaments, generators, the creation of a modern administration based on merit rather than ethnicity, forging a sense of nationalism able to withstand and decisively defeat  a  colonial army during the era of colonialism,  a recognition by the powers to be  of Ethiopia as a state whose borders were delimited and demarcated, etc.   

Above all Menelik the Great put his mark on world and African history by decisively defeating the colonial army of Italy at the famous battle of Adwa. The largest black owned newspaper in majority black Brazil promptly changed its name to MENELK after the battle of Adwa. Italians in Rome came out to the streets of Via Venito carrying a placard saying “VIVA MEMELIK. All black people of the world celebrate this victory. Africans in particular believe that the Ethiopian tri-colored flag is the symbol of freedom. 17 African countries took the Ethiopian flag (though arranged in different manners) when they gained independence in 1960.  Menelik has also set a fashion model for some African leaders. His wide brimmed hat has been imitated by some African leaders as their sign of authority.  The list can go on. Maybe, it is time that his statue is erected in the United States as well as other African countries. Adwa victory is a place in history which Meneilk the lion hearted earned and no weakling will ever erase. This week as we celebrate the Centennial of his death and we see with sadness how low we have fallen from grace since then - from Noble Ethiopians of antiquity to the wretched of the earth now. No doubt in Medieval times Ethiopia has forged an alliance with Portugal to defeat the Jihad of Ahmed Gragn, and that in modern times Emperor Tewordros has challenged Britain and was defeated, and his “abortive industrial revolution” as Pankhurst calls it with tongue in cheek, was abandoned after he killed himself.   But the enduring legacy of modern Ethiopia is that of Menelik. One other significant contribution of Menelik is that amongst the modern leaders of Ethiopia he was the only one who involved his wife, Etegue Taitu to be a full participant in the defense of her nation leading her own army at the battle of Adwa. We should also not forget that his young daughter Weizero Zewditu (the future Empress) has also led her small army to the battle of Adwa. After victory she was at all times beside her step-mother Itegue Taitu in looking after the wounded in Adwa and doing other humanitarian services.

The next significant ruler was Haile Selassie who was an autocrat. He did his best to dampen the contribution of Menelik and wanted to appear that modernization was begun by him. At one time he has even wanted to change the capital city from Addis Ababa to Bahr Dar, but this scheme was later abandoned. After the Italian occupation was over he reestablished the education system which was dismantled during the 5 years of Fascist Occupation. And in the ten years (1941-1951) education was expanded from elementary to college level. All education was free and of the highest possible quality. The government also paid for students to further their education abroad. He even offered 200 college scholarships for African students some of whom later became prominent leaders in their respective countries.  He established a Constitution in 1930 which was revised and modified later. The government was centralized and Ethiopian Airlines gave a link to the outside world. By far the greatest achievement of the Emperor was in external relations. Beginning with his prophetic address at the League of Nations, to his consistent stand against Apartheid, taking South Africa to the World Court, establishing the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa, as well as the Organization of African Unity, (OAU) forging close relations with the East and West from which countries he had received 87 Honorary Degrees and over a hundred Medals - in both instances the highest award ever given to an individual. He was the only leader to address both the League of Nations and the United Nations. In support of Collective Security he was able to send troops to Korea where our soldiers distinguished themselves. He was also able to unite Ethiopia and Eritrea. It must be remembered that the Eritreans themselves were the main driving force for this unity. Haile Selassie was criticized for unequal development of the country favoring the Province of Harar (where he was born) and Eritrea. Outside of Addis Ababa the only other colleges were in Asmara and Harrar. Even before Federation, hundreds of thousands of Eritreans were settled in Addis Ababa in a belt from Teklehaimant Church in Merkato passing through Mexico Square down to Kerchele (the former Alem Bekagn Prison) Just to digress here Mexico Square used to be called Maichew Square the place where the Ethiopian people had fought doggedly and persistently for six months until the final engagement at Maichew, Tigray.  My father who was a member of the Imperial Bodyguard had fought for six months until Maichew and had suffered from mustard gas sprayed by the Italian Fascists. The Imperial Army retreated with the Emperor to Addis Ababa. When my father died a few years after Liberation he was only 37 and I was four years old.  Ras Mulugetta, 82 the veteran War minister, taking another route was surrounded by Banda Tigreans in the pay of Fascist Mussolini and was killed around Lake Ashenge by maundering Rayas (also as they were called then Raya Azebos or Azebo Gallas) The Italians had also poisoned Lake Ashenge and hundreds of pack animals and fighters died after drinking the contaminated water.  The name Maichew Square should have never been replaced by Mexico Square even if Mexico has named a square in the name of Haile Selassie in Mexico City.  Undoubtly Mexico needs to have a square named after it, so do Haiti, New Zealand, USSR and US – the only FIVE countries which did not recognize the occupation of Ethiopia by Fascist Italy.

The failure of Haile Selassie is that the pace of modernization was agonizingly slow. The new educated elite turned out to be little hodams who tend to kick the ladder from under them once they reach the top by virtue of the education and the Emperor’s patronage. The most dominant were those from Harar who occupied most of the higher ranks of the military, the secret service some Ministries and government Agencies where they recruited and promoted their “Harar boys.’ The others were Eritreans who were given a free hand to dominate the commanding heights of the economy of the times. The Emperor sent a ‘circular letter’ from the Ministry of Pen ordering that priority be given to the hiring of Eritreans in the Civil Service and every effort was to be made to continue their employment. The Tigreans as a whole had somehow managed to achieve priority in schools at least in all the large cities of Ethiopia.  During the mid seventies an unofficial survey conducted in Haile Selassie University, it was found out that students from the two provinces of Eritrea and Tigray were the majority, more than Amaras and Oromos, the two largest ethnic groups.  Those who lost out big time were those Amaras from Northern Shewa. Menelik was from there and Haile Selassie was determined to dampen his image. The big hodams around Haile Selassie who hail from that area have no interest in the place because their big land holdings (absentee landlordism) were in other parts of the country, not in poor northern Shewa. Consequently, this area which was only 50 – 80 kms. away from Addis Ababa was the most neglected and the most backward part of Ethiopia during the time of Haile Selassie  and remains so until the present moment. There were a couple of elementary schools, no clinics, no roads, and no amenities of any kind and extremely backward even by Ethiopian standards. In the 1960’s Donald Levine wrote Wax and Gold about Menz and examined their dignity in spite of their reduced circumstances. In the 1980”s  Helen Pankhurst returned to the same place and described in harrowing detail the abject poverty they were living in. So did Desalegn Rahmato and many others. These are the people that the Derg and the TPLF Woyanes have been vilifying for the last 40 odd years. The Derg called them chauvinists and targeted them for elimination. Current indication shows that TPLF has planned a Final Solution for them and marked them for extermination. For some unknown reason women in this area had stopped having babies.  In Molale, capital of Menz Wereda, elementary schools up to grade 3 were closed because there are no school age children going to grade one, grade two and grade three! And to crown it all there are reports that famine has started in that area. The Ethiopian people have to wake up and find ways and means to avoid this calamity before it is too late. There must also be an investigation to find out that if this catastrophic condition came from God or if there is some insidious conspiracy by Man.

In the famous phrase once said about Abraham Lincoln and later repeated by Jawhilal Nehru about Gandhi during their funerals, I may repeat it here for Menelik and Haile Selassie, they now belong to the Ages.  And I move forward

A dark curtain fell on Ethiopia in 1974. A group of junior officers and NCOs inadvertently came to power when the Aklilu Government resigned and exposed the Emperor. Soon the Emperor surrendered his power peacefully at the request of the Derg, a motley assortment of junior officers and NCOs and was imprisoned as well as his ministers and High Military officers. One night the DERG decided to massacre 60 officials after a night of drinking and announced that there will be no funeral as their bodies have been dumped in Alem Bekagn prison and mixed with chemicals so that no trace of them could be found in the future. The next year Mengistu and his deputy entered the prison of the Emperor and smothered him to death by a pillow. Then the Patriarch was murdered in his prison cell. A year later during a May Day demonstration the Derg killed 3,000 students in Addis Ababa alone, some as young as six years old.  Each Derg member (their approximate number was 107) had his own killing squad and his own secret prison. Each one kills at will without any restraint-the most savage undertaking in modern times. The “killing fields’ went on and on. Any sensible person who had attempted to work with them soon finds himself ostracized or killed. The lucky had to flee, if they can or end in prison or are summarily executed. It was the most primitive, the most backward government Ethiopia or the world ever had at that period in time. The Derg was espousing a philosophy it does not understand, even in its simplest or elementary form. The Derg, and particularly Mengistu were known for their cowardice and that was why they behaved as a mob and kept on killing to fortify their inner fear and cowardice. If you show the slightest disagreement, their decision is-shoot him/her!  If any complaint is told to them by any of their cronies- a sure order the particular Derg member gives is shoot the offender and some more!  The only order they and particularly Mengistu knew was, shoot; shoot, shoot – a manifestation of absolute power and absolute corruption and employing absolute terror. Their tastes were primitive and simple- drinking Whiskey, womanizing- demanding sex from any women they fancy and any time of the day or night - and eating raw meat in their pursuit of insatiable gluttony. Moreover, to appear that they were also working they did what was known as “the phenomenon of reading glasses.” One day they decided that all of them should wear reading glasses in public – to show that they were “learnt”  to the huge amusement of the cowed public- who dare not laugh in their faces.

Mengistu and his cronies then devised a plan to sell Ethiopians for money. They were the Bete Israel (Falashas) who wanted to immigrate to Israel and the Israeli Government was ready to pay blood money. The amount was calculated by putting a price each person emigrating as if Mengistu is selling heads of cattle. The Israelis said that they had paid Mengistu and his cronies the full amount they demanded. Mengistu says that Meles has taken the money. Meles said that he has returned back all the money to Israel saying that he will never sell human beings and pocket “blood money.’.  People in the know say that the Israelis have indeed paid millions of Dollars true to their word but the two Mafioso Mengistu and Meles and their cronies have divided the blood money among themselves. Meles giving his share to the Tigrean EFFORT and Mengistu and family using part of this money now to finance his grandiose effort in the Diaspora, with the hope of ultimately returning to Ethiopia and sharing power with TPLF.  The Derg came to power in 1974 claiming that about 200,000 people have perished during the Wello famine. Ten years later in 1984 the famine has become ten times bigger and the world was to witness the harrowing film footage by Michael Buerk which showed the world hunger and famine of Biblical proportions and the image of Ethiopia was changed for ever. Jonathan Dimbilby, Mohammed Hassen and others reinforced this image. Then millions fled the brutality of the Derg. Ethiopians for the first time began seeking asylum wherever they could get it. The Ethiopian military (which should never be confused with the Derg) tried mightily to maintain the territorial integrity of the country. Their feeble attempt to take over power was foiled and Mengistu executed 20 Generals as ring leaders. Soon after Mengistu and family fled with their loot and the TPLF took over. During the time of the Derg about one million people died by Derg killings and famine and about two millions fled the country. During this period, and maybe until now the name Ethiopia means hunger and famine

The TPLF or Weyane took the name of EPRDF to say that it was sharing power with non-Tigreans but it was not so as it was made clear immediately afterwards. What they established was an Apartheid system, with the “Afrikaners”, the Tigreans, on top and the “Bantustans” or Kililsbelow them. They took Amara lands from Wello and Gonder and made it part of Tigray. They took some part of Amara land and brazenly called it “Oromia Kilil” Their primary target was to diminish the area and the population of Amaras by all possible means. And above all their goal is to develop Tigray at the expense of the rest of Ethiopia. Subsequently almost all the commanding heights of the economy is controlled by the ubiquitous Tigray organization called EFFORT, which according the Supreme Deity of TPLF, Sebhat Nega “EFFORT is the sole property of the Tigrean people and would be used exclusively for their benefit.” So you have it. All significant development activities are in Tigray, only things they don’t need is divided between the other “kilils”.  If you could only look once at their newspaper or their television brings this home in no uncertain terms. Tigrai Uber Ales (Tigrai above all else). In the last 20 years about 1,700 millionaires (in US Dollars) have been created in Ethiopia, almost all of them Tigreans (the non Tigrean Hodams in this group are said to number less than one hundred.)  So the pillage of the hapless poor country continues. The West fully backs the TPLF kleptocratic government, because in the West corruption is not a crime. They euphemistically call it “the art of doing business.” Meanwhile the rest of the non-Tigrean population is getting poorer and poorer. This is especially acute among the youth (under 35) who account for 70% of the population. Their choice is to starve and die at home or immigrate to other lands even if they die while trying. Migration might not be new to the world, during the Potato Famine the Irish went to the US, during the Turkish genocide the Armenians went all over the world including to Ethiopia, the Lebanese, the Egyptian Copts (Orthodox Christians), the Chinese and Indians migrated as well.   All have found a place of refuge. There is also the proverbial saga of the Wondering Jew, forever trying to find a country where they can settle, till they established the State of Israel. What distinguishes Ethiopians from their immigrant predecessors is that Ethiopians having the stigma of poverty, of death and perpetual famine first branded on them by the Derg and still continuing 40 years later, they were not welcomed in many parts of the world, especially in the surrounding countries.

Their saga of death and destruction while trying to earn a living outside Ethiopia is the supreme tragedy of our times. Every where Ethiopians go they are hounded and shot like stray dogs, the women gang raped, the men sodomized,  many ending their lives to escape such humiliations for good. This happens all the way from Kenya to South Africa which Ethiopia has particularly contributed to their independence. The Apartheid system has deliberately created zombies in the black population. They had now become xenophobic and maundering savages hacking down black immigrants with machetes, Somalis and Ethiopians in particular. A sad state of affairs.  This also happens in the Arab lands of the Middle East from Libya to Yemen to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. The enforcers for the Saudis are the tradition enemies of Ethiopia, the Pakistanis. The baby-faced Ethiopian Foreign Minster was blabbering unintelligibly on trying to explain Ethiopia’s response to Saudi brutality, making a shameful spectacle of himself (and this is the guy who is the designated as a future Prime Minister)

During the time of Mengistu Ethiopians were considered as suffering from hunger and famine.  An acquaintance of mine, a short and stout man, was once in Rome during the height of the Wello famine. At breakfast the elderly waitress asked him from where he was. He answered “Ethiopia”.  Then she immediately piled him with breakfast items, omelets, bread, marmalade, butter, etc and continually muttering  poverito mange, mange poverito, over and over again until he was disgusted and left the table. Sure enough he realized what the woman did was from the goodness of her heart, because what Ethiopia signified during the Derg time was famine and hunger and she could not see that the person before her was well fed. I have come across people from the beautiful province of Wello living outside Ethiopia who were ashamed to be identified as coming from that province because of the stigma associated with ‘Wello famine’.

Cruel and evil leaders have emerged from time to time. Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a German priest who challenged the corrupt practice by the Catholic Church. In 1517 he posted his 95 thesis on the door of a church. Later published as a book, his ideas eventually led to establishment of the Protestant religion ushering the era of Reformation and the Industrial Revolution. It has been well documented that protestant ethics has been the main instrument for the rise of work ethics and capitalism. It was Germany of the WeimarRepublic and England, both Protestant countries, who spearheaded the Industrial Revolution. It was soon followed by Protestant United States.  It was from this highly civilized Germany that Hitler rose and was responsible for the annihilation of six million Jews, gypsies and other ‘undesirables.’ (such as homosexuals, the infirm and the feeble-minded)  It was in the desert of Saudi Arabia where the Prophet Mohammed preached the Koran and where the savage nomads who occupied the land who are now the most backward, the most primitive and extremely cruel people in the face of the earth. The royal families multiply inordinately (wives and concubines) and over 4,000 princes fully and tightly control the huge land and are firmly backed and armed by democratic USA without an iota of criticism. The civilized Cambodia of Angkor Wat fame was taken over by the twin devils Pol Pot and Iang Sary whose rag-tag Keimer Rouge peasant army killed four million Cambodians - half the population of the country.  And believe it or not Pol Pot was supported by USA and he died of old age avoiding justice.  Now mountains of skulls of the dead have been assembled for display to teach and warn future generations.  It is Ethiopia the country of the illustrious Emperors the likes of Menelik, Amde Tsion and Caleb which also produced the supreme embodiment of evil, a devil incarnate and a supremely ignorant and stupid person called Mengistu.  And also a small-minded Tigrean tribalist, called Meles, whose long term aim was the elimination of the Amara people, and those of Shewa in particular and this crime continues by his tribal cabal called TPLF even though mercifully for the Amaras he is now six foot under. Meles was even promoted by his Western backers as a smart guy, which is not surprising since the US in particular was promoting Mobutu Sese Seko, of the Congo (Zaire) for over 30 years telling us that he was the most intelligent leader Africa has ever produced. (Mobutu has been a Guest of the White House more times than any other African leader.)  So much for their tainted judgment.

What is happening in Ethiopia now? On one side there are over 1,700 millionaires (in US Dollars) almost all of them Tigreans (if there are some non-Tigrean Hodams among them they may number less than a hundred.) This millionaire group is the fastest growing in the world. The gap between the rich and the poor in the country is the widest comparable to that of South Africa.  The youth, 70% of the population, are poor and unemployed and leave their country in the hundreds of thousand each year. This is when they became the wretched of the earth. Some die along the way because they preferred to risk death than face sure hunger and slow death in their country. The culmination is their treatment in Saudi Arabia which has galvanized Diaspora Ethiopian and drew the attention of Western media even if it was not to the level of the 1984 Famine. Ethiopians in the Middle East and in Africa are treated as disposable trash and are hounded, murdered, raped and slaughtered like cattle in order to harvest their organs for sale. They have reached the depth of the abyss beyond which they could go no deeper. For the vast majority of the youth Ethiopia is hell on earth.  The TPLF propaganda machine constantly berates false achievements. . Over 30 universities, which are really glorified high schools. The only one of consequence is MIT (Mekele Institute if Technology) meant for Tigreans. Even Addis Ababa University was drummed down under the leadership of one non-Tigrean Hodam   and is now a shell of its former self. When university graduates complained that they could not find a job the new Trojan horse of TPLF, the so-called Prime Minister, HaileMariam Desalegn told them that they should be chipping cobble stones. Corruption is endemic, and all encompassing, making Ethiopia probably the most corrupt country in the world. Hundreds of Tigreans go to the Diaspora with the millions they looted in order to establish businesses.

There is a French saying plus ca change; plus la meme chose (the more things change the more they remain the same).  We are now witnessing the strange spectacle where the murderer Mengistu is trying to rehabilitate himself taking the occasion of the death of Mandela.  The most surprising thing is to observe with utter astonishment Derg moles in the Diaspora clamoring to interview him on TV, radio, and in various websites completely unashamed in exposing themselves as die-hard supporters of the Derg. Their thin veneer of ‘journalistic freedom” fools no one specially those who have suffered gravely during the Reign of Terror of the Derg. The Ethiopian people will notice, after all they are 90 million of them who will determine the fate of their country, not the dissipated Diaspora ‘dinosaurs’ who will surely vanish soon. Meantime a ray of hope is emerging in Ethiopia among the Ethiopian youth who have come forward by establishing a party called Semayawi Party, just two years ago and they have attracted the attention even of foreign observers like EU but above all the backing of the youth in Ethiopia who are determined to bring the much needed Renaissance to Ethiopia through peaceful struggle. They have clear vision and unbelievable courage which reassures us that the sacrifice of their ancestors who defended their county is not lost and buried. What they did in two years is more promising than others have done in the last 22 years.  We say to the youth of Ethiopia ‘onward to victory.’ We the older generation will give you our moral support. Malcolm Gladwell (of the Tipping Point fame) has written a recent book called David and Goliath where he persuasively argues that “the underdog can win” We hope that this young underdog party would ultimately triumph over the TPLF Goliath.

 May be now after 40 years the time has arrived for the deliverance of Ethiopia from Evil, and maybe, and just maybe, the enduring prophesy will be fulfilled. “Ethiopia shall soon stretches her hands unto God (Psalm: 68)   and the Ethiopian youth will rise and vanquish tyranny.

A luttta continua!                           Venceremos!
The Struggle Continues                   We Shall Overcome!

 

 

Comments   

0 #1 Alemneh Yifru 2014-01-22 07:02
Excellent article that tells the truth. Thank you Dr. Msmaku.
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