Emperor Yohannis IV, my hero, was killed at the Battle of Mettema, on March 11, 1889 fighting the Mahdists who had invaded Gojam and Begmdir (Gonder). Emperor Yohannis never gave up a piece of land. He fought the Italians and Egyptians, even died for it. After his death, on May 2, 1889, the so-called the Treaty of Wichale was signed by Menilek II. The negotiator of this Treaty was an Italian by the name of Count Pietro Antonelli who had imperialistic ambitions for Italy.
Article 17 of the Treaty of Wuchale bound the Emperor of Ethiopia to use the Italian government as his contact for Ethiopia’s foreign relations in the Italian version. In Amharic version, however, contained no obligation but permitted the possibility of requesting assistance. Unaware of this old trick used in other African countries before by the colonial powers, Menilek signed it. And based on his signing of Article 17, Italy claimed a protectorate over Ethiopia. Depending on the Italian version of Article 17, Queen Victoria of England sent a letter to Menilek advising him to send all subsequent messages to England through the king of Italy because he had consented to use the government of Italy for his contact with the powers of Europe. Because of this revelation, a great furor resulted in Menilek’s Palace. Count Augusto Salimbeni, who had replaced Count Antonelli, was called in and shown the Amharic version of the treaty and the obvious mistranslation of Article 17 in the Italian version. With now reveled Italian assumption of a Protectorate over Ethiopia, relations with Italy soured further. On March 1, 1889, Ethiopia and Italy got into a battle that ended in Italy’s defeat in Adwa.
Our forefathers were brave and warriors. They exhibited heroism in the face of much superior army of colonizers and in doing so; Ethiopia became the only African country that was never colonized. They protected and kept Ethiopia’s sovereignty and passed it down to us. However, their success had become a curse for us. We, Ethiopian today, are cowards and weak. We walk around with empty pride. A pride that is not substantiated by anything. Day and night we say to ourselves “Ethiopia is the land of free, the never colonized pride of Black Africans, the land of the braves and warriors, the mother of history for 3000 years, and so on--“. Land of the free? Free from what? We are being ruled and subjugated by rulers we did not elect. We are not braves either. Our forefathers were. Moreover, what is this empty pride in being the land of 3000 years-old history? What did we do in 3000 years? In 3000 years, the Chinese did something and their pride is well deserved. In 250 year, the North Americans did something and they deserve to be proud. We, on the other hand, did not do anything and we do not even deserve to walk around with our heads up, let alone walking around with pride. If our forefathers were alive today, they would be very disappointed at the way we are being subjugated and exploited by these undeserving rulers. Moreover, they would be angry with us for not being brave enough to liberate ourselves. Our leaders today, are nothing but, black colonialists.
Our forefathers successfully saved us from being ruled and exploited for imperialism by White expatriate colonialists. What they did not know was that the next generation of Ethiopians would be ruled and exploited by Ethiopian black colonialists. In more than 80 years, these Black colonialists (Haile Sellassie, Mengistu, and Meles) not only failed to liberate us from backwardness, they also manage to effectively reduce us to nothing but recipient of foreign donations for decades. For the past 80 plus years, they did not only block us from realizing our dreams of freedom, equal rights and self-determination for all, they also subject us to decades of subjugation and backwardness.
What surprise me is that some Ethiopians with low expectations keep saying that Ethiopians are doing better economically under Meles’ rule. Doing better? Compared to whom? Compared to Ethiopians who lived under Haile Sellassie’s rule? I do not want my life standard to be compared with people who lived under the rule of Haile Sellassie. When Dergue formally and finally deposed Haile Sellassie from power on September 12, 1974, I was barely 2 year-old. Therefore, I will not allow any Ethiopian with low expectations to compare my life standard with people from the past rulers. I am a 21st century child and I would appreciate it if you compare my life standard with that of the 21st century citizens of Europe or North Americans.
One has to only look at Addis Ababa, our rulers’ self-proclaimed “capital of the Black Africans, home of the African Union and diplomats” to see the failure of the government. Garbage all over its pot-holed streets; so much smell; so much visible unemployment; so much work crying to be done to make it clean and livable. Nevertheless, Meles’ government cannot gather the teeming idle hands roaming the streets and organize them to do the work that is crying to be done to keep clean their “capital of Black Africans”.
Unfortunately, our brave forefathers are not here to fight for our liberation from being ruled and exploited by Ethiopian black colonialists. We, today’s Ethiopians, are incompetent of analysis, principles, discipline, foresight, and vigilance. We are not mentally tough. We are not brave and warriors like our forefathers. After more than 80 years of colonialism by black colonialists, we have totally degenerated in character and competence from our forefathers. Similarly, whatever fighting spirit our forefathers had has been squeezed out of us. Our forefathers had codes of death rather than dishonor. These codes led them to dispel the would be White Colonialists from Ethiopia. We, on the other hand, are possessed by the “never-say-die” sprit. We are cowards and weak and too busy being fearful of our black colonialists to spare a moment to organize ourselves to fight our Black colonialists effectively like our forefathers did to White colonialists.
Our forefather new the humiliation that comes with being colonized and they stood out to prevent it. They knew that a free man innovates, and innovation leads to a breakaway from backwardness.
What we need to do now to fulfill our forefathers’ wishes, is to get rid of these undeserving black rulers and reinvent and restructure Ethiopia completely. When given an interview in 2007 in Lagos, Nigeria, on how to reinvent a country completely, Dr. Chinweizu gave an example of a country that had reinvented itself to become fully independent from imperialism and from their own colonists. The following is what he said:
In the 19th century, the European powers tried to conquer and partition China into colonies just like they did to Africa. But look at China and Africa today! What made the big difference? Faced with the same White Peril as the Africans, the Chinese, from 1840 onwards, went into a political and social convulsion and into an intellectual ferment. The Chinese people staged reform and revolutionary movements, which aimed to extricate China from the colonizers. Peasant uprisings and other rebellions flared up repeatedly against the Chinese government for being ineffective in defending China from foreign invaders. Then, in 1911, the Qing dynasty was overthrown, and a republic was proclaimed by Dr Sun Yet-sen. The republic of Dr Sun Yet-sen was incompetent to lead Chinese out of centuries backwardness. Then, in 1949, the Maoists finally threw out Chinese incompetent leaders. The Maoists founded a completely new state—the People’s Republic of China—and then made sure that no foreign power could control any aspect of production or culture in China. They reconstructed China completely, changed its internal and external economic relations, industrialized it and built up its power. With relentless and clear-minded leaders, China, in only 30 years, achieved its complete independence. The proof was that when China eventually joined the UN in 1971 and WTO in 2001, it was not on terms dictated by the imperialists (Dr. Chinweizu speaking to Paul Odili in Lagos, 2007).
Can we, Ethiopians, not be like Chinese? Are we not capable of founding a completely different state? Can we not build our own power to achieve our complete independence? After all, we claim to have 3000 years-old history just like Chinese. Our forefathers had successfully fought and kicked out the would be colonizers, just like the Chinese did in 1911. In 1974, we threw out emperor Haile Sellassie, just like the Chinese did in 1949. Going around and talking about Ethiopia being the land of 3000 years history and being the land of the free is not enough by itself. We need to do something to show for. I know that no other African country has reinvented itself before. However, other African countries are not our problem. Our problem is our country, Ethiopia. Moreover, our own forefathers were the only African blacks who fought and kicked out the colonizers. Therefore, we need to set an example to the rest of Africans by completely reinventing Ethiopia and build its own power. We need to change Ethiopia’s internal and external economic relations.
The Chinese achieved their complete independence in just 30 years. And by doing so, they are now able to provide opportunities for productive employment for all, produce most of the food they need; manufacture the things they need daily, provide enough electricity, water and adequate health care etc. They made sure that no foreign power would control any aspect of their production or their culture. They run their economy, politics, and society and culture entirely in their national interest; accordingly, they regard foreign help as proof of national weakness. I am challenging all Ethiopians to tell me a good reason why we cannot have a massive uprising to get rid of our incompetent leaders who had been unable to liberate us from centuries of backwardness. Tell me a good reason why we cannot do what the Maoists of China did in 1949.
Magn Nyang can be reached at email@example.com