Menelik II & Mandela vs Mengistu & Meles
By Robele Ababya
I would like to start writing this piece with this quote attributed to Sir Isaac Newton in his own right as one of the giants in mathematics and classical physics: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
This article is not meant to compare historical events that took place a century apart. The piece is merely a tribute to colossus fighters for freedom from oppression in their own times. This approach provided the opportunity to illustrate what attributes Menilik II and Mandela had in common, such as their reliance on outstanding feats of their heroic ancestors.
The duo are now at their final resting home in heaven leaving behind a laudable legacy that would take the present and future generations forward through the complex world where, as Sir Isaac Newton said: “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.”
In the 19th century (1896) Emmye Menilik II won the victory of the Battle of Adwa that put Ethiopia on the world map as an independent country. The victory shocked European powers, which had no choice but recognize Ethiopia as a free and independent country and establish or bolster their diplomatic missions in Addis Ababa. This was an epic achievement by Menilik II that subsequently paved the way for stalwart liberation fighters like Jomo Kenyatta, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela et al in the 20th century. Ethiopia under Empeeror Selassieassie, Founder Father of Africa, played a leading role in the fight for the liberation of the African continent. This would have not been impossible without Menilik’s victory in the Battle of Adwa.
Menilik II earned the epic accolade of “Emmye” (Mother) for His magnanimity and exceptional ability to work with His former rivals and foes promoting them to top key positions in His kingdom, irrespective of their ethnic background. As several prolific Ethiopian writers and prominent scholars have recorded the exceptional qualities of the Monarch, I will only add that He will be remembered as the first to lay down the inspiring foundation in the struggle for the liberation of black people of African origin.
Nelson Mandela fought for liberation in his time in the 20th century setting sterling example to African leaders of the 21st century to fight neo-colonialism. Mandela stood for the principle of no group should oppress any other groups as expressed in his famous vow written in these enduring words: “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I’ve cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and [with] equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Mandela was crowned with the accolade of one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century in our own time by standing on the shoulders of giants political leaders like Menilik II of Ethiopia – the root of his genesis as framed in his immortal words: “Ethiopia has always held a special place in my own imagination and the prospect of visiting attracted me more strongly than a trip to France, England and America combined. I felt I would be visiting my own genesis, unearthing the roots of what made me an African. Meeting the Emperor himself would be like shaking hands with history.”
Mandela was buried at his birth place of his ancestors having been a victim of man’s inhumanity to man and leaving a colossus legacy of truth-peace-reconciliation as a Founder and first black President of the inclusive Rainbow Nation that is exemplary to the world.
By the way, the above quote is a very significant reminder that “The Kingdom of Kush or Kush (1500 BC – 8 BC) was an ancient African kingdom situated on the confluences of the Blue Nile, White Nile and River Atbara in what is now the Republic of Sudan and that a part of modern Nubia in Egypt and Sudan, as well as all of Sub-Saharan Africa in general.” My emphasis
Kush originated from the descendants of Noah’s three sons: Japheth, Shem, & Ham who survived the great flood. Kush is the eldest son of Ham or grandson of Noah. Source: Genesis 7: 13 of the Holy Bible (KJV)
Based on my belief in the Holy Bible, I often ask why in South Africa, and for that matter in our entire world, the descendants of Noah (Japheth, Shem and Ham) live in acrimony that sometimes border on mutual destruction.
Mengistu hijacked and turned the peaceful change of 1974 Ethiopian Revolution into a bloody civil war. He got his deputy Atnafu Abate executed in cold blood for genuinely advocating a policy of mixed economy, free media and democracy; this criminal act shocked even the ex-USSR which was supportive of broad-based and inclusive struggle for change as well as normalization of relations with the Western powers; he and most of his accomplices in the Derg dubbed the ex-USSR as revisionist.
Mengistu enticed the nobilities and dignitaries of the Imperial regime by extending an olive branch of “Ethiopia Tikdem Yale Menim Dem” (Ethiopia First without Bloodshed) and then put them in prison subsequently massacring them in cold blood without trial.
He failed stop the state-sponsored Red Terror inspite of the objection of the Kremlin to that effect.
He got General Aman Andom, which reckless action worked to the advantage of the Shaebia. He got B/General Teferi Benti for advocating in public peace and reconciliation with opposition entities, with EPRP in particular. Both Generals aforementioned were Chairman of the Derg under which Mengistu served as their deputy, but in fact as a real mafia leader in power.
Ziade Bare of Somalia took advantage of the massacre of highly experienced officials of the Imperial regime including the irreplaceable Prime Minister Aklilu Haptewold, Lt. General Assefa Ayene and others to invade our country,
Mengistu overturned his own land proclamation of private land of 10 hectares to each peasant and introduced the State and cooperative farming systems, which were on the verge of dying in the ex- USSR.
It was under Mengistu that an Institute of Nations and Nationalities was established and that the structure of government reflected divisiveness along ethnic lines – a bad omen of things to come which many of his own officials feared.
Mengistu failed miserably to read the writings on the wall demanding reform; for example: he ordered the killing of capable senior officers and generals in the 1989 coup; he reneged on his publicly declared decision to adopt a mixed-economic policy.
Finally, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Mengistu fled the country leaving behind in disarray a huge army equipped with advanced weapons – thus allowing the brutal TPLF regime, which inflicted untold crimes and colossal damages to our national resources in the past 23 years. His sudden flee gave the golden chance to Shaebia and TPLF to loot the military equipment and for the latter to explode large munitions depot one in Addis Ababa causing civilian casualties; the latter (Shaebia) used the stolen weapons and munitions in the Ethiopia-Eritrea war of 1998 – 2000.
Stalinist Meles Zenawi
It is noteworthy to recall that the Axumite Kingdom is recorded as controlling Yemen in the 6th century. “Around 523 AD, the Jewish king Dhu Nuwas came to power in Yemen and, announcing that he would kill all the Christians, attacked an Aksumite garrison at Zafar, burning the city’s churches. He then attacked the Christian stronghold of Najran, slaughtering the Christians who would not convert. Emperor Justin I of the Eastern Roman empire requested that his fellow Christian, Emperor Kaleb, help fight the Yemenite king, and around 525, Kaleb invaded and defeated Dhu Nuwas, appointing his Christian follower Sumuafa’ Ashawa’ as his viceroy. “Source: Google & my official visit to SANAA (Yemen) on government business
However, Meles downsized the history of Ethiopia to the time of Menilik II deliberately ignoring the glorious history of the Axumite Kingdom.
Meles desecrated the Green-Yellow-Red Ethiopian flag and encouraged the removal of the statute of the Great Victor of Adwa, Menilik II; he deliberately belittled or shunned the achievements of glorious past leaders including Emperors Kaleb, Theodros II, Yohannes IV, and war heroes such as Alula Aba Nega all but the second in the list hailing from the Tigray region of the present day.
The tyrant finally died leaving us with the legacy of: sellout of Ethiopia’s vital national interests such as active support for the separation of Eritrea; grisly heinous crimes including genocide, victims of torture, incarceration of peaceful protesters en masse; extra judiciary execution of peaceful protesters, the wailing of mothers, the agony of bereaved families, filthy jails in which hundreds of political prisoners are cruelly kept, toiling peasants in serfdom, interethnic hatred, daylight robbery of votes, pervasive corrupt practices, culture of pathological lies, muzzled media, government monopoly of all pillars of democracy, blocked freedom of expression, poor educational standard, forbidden academic freedom in tertiary institutions, a land-locked country, fertile farmland ceded to the Sudan; leasing large chunks of fertile farmlands to unscrupulous foreign investors at tiny prices; massive unemployment largely affecting the youth; demoralized youth addicted to psycho-thermal drugs; abject poverty; embezzlement of national treasure and diverting donor fund; rampant breach of the constitution; regional instability et al.
Excerpt from President Obama’s speech
I would very much like to draw the attention of readers to a part of President Barrack Obama’s speech at the Funeral of Madiba: “And so we, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.”
I say yes, we too Ethiopians must act in earnest in unison especially at this most critical time in our history to save Ethiopia from fragmentation; and to bequeath to our children a united, democratic, strong, prosperous, all-inclusive, tolerant, and caring Ethiopian society governed by a constitution of the people, by the people, and for the people.
The African continent is in quagmire; it is beset by multiple problems including incompetent leadership, dire corruption, rampant youth unemployment, abject poverty, social injustice, moral turpitude, et al. Therefore great leaders of the caliber of Menilik II and Mandela are critically needed to avert donor dependency and/or neo-colonialism
I believe that the virtues of truth, peace, and reconciliation were conspicuous by their absence in the lexicon of the brutal Stalinists Mengistu and Meles. Let us not make any attempt to ennoble these criminals
I praise the leaders of the G7 “Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy” for their responsible publicly expressed stance to advance the cause of truth, peace and reconciliation subject to genuine measures to be taken by the TPLF/EPRDF regime to establish trust such as by releasing all political prisoners and allowing unfettered freedom of expression. The onus is on the regime to reciprocate positively!!!
I call on the ruling regime to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience including Andualem Aragie, Eskinder Nega, Bekele Gerba, Reeyot Alemu, Leaders of the Ethiopian Muslims et al!
LONG LIVE ETHIOPIA!!!