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Bitter and indelible lessons from the past to learn.

Bitter and indelible lessons from the past to learn.

By Yared Huluf  10-04-19

One can forgive but not forget, and forgive Tigray shall the wicked acts inflicted upon when the people had done nothing untoward to deserve the payloads.

Menelik and his successors were no ordinarily villains; they were rogues and Svengalis in a skid row one happens to find. It is one thing to suffer from misgovernance; it is also understandable when rulers and their entourage are inept and corrupt; Kleptocrats that they be wanting to benefit from the people they are supposedly look after. But it is entirely a different ball game all together when the people at the helm  to have evil intents to destroy and decimate people they happen to dominate. Had history not been written by the victors, but independent observers it would have been a good subject to learn and helm cement differences - but that  say this is a wishful thinking  in a world run by humble-braggers and bovarists. An English journalist for the daily mail in 1936 Evelyn Waugh wrote a book 'Waugh in Abyssinia' stating that of all the occupiers the world has come to know, the Amhara rulers came list of all to be desired. He called them black imperialists. All except the Amhara conquerors brought with them some sort of institutional structures, health care services and educational institutes the conquered marginally  benefited from. The Amharas foot soldiers and their leaders were all good for nothing. They brought nothing, except misery to the conquered subjects. They sat on top  and suck to the last drop of blood of the occupied subjects. All they did was prance up and down, deliriously kyoodling, brandishing and  demonstrating  their allegiance to their lord masters as a way of showing off their power to flex and threaten their captives dressed in attires, jodhpurs and broad shawl - and armed with Mauser and/or Lee-Enfield long/short rifles, strapped with cartridges belt attached  to a sling over the shoulder.

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Such were the people we were taught to be grateful who did not have any qualms to trade off a land with its people to European colonizers for a personal gain. Pyrrhic-victories the people achieved were bestowed or conveniently attributed to  leaders who deserved less for they deceptively avoided the battlefields that was in rage by hiding  behind churches or fleeing abroad to save their skin. 

A case in point, Menelik actively collaborated with the fascist Italians to break the backbone of Tigray so as to vitiate its potency to assert its sovereignty as well as for financial and military hardware gains to help him retain the power he had cunningly usurped. By consenting to sell off a segment of land he effectively deprived Tigray costal outlets to reach the rest of the world. Likewise, he created two identities from what were one people living in harmony with each other. Further, he nurtured fertile ground for mercenaries, the likes of Isayas Afewerki, collaborating with Egypt and its supporters to drive a wedge between the two people to exploit and undermine their resilience to defend their sovereign rights.

The damaged and treachery that was inflicted well over a century is still reverberating and sending shockwaves of misery and destitution Tigray is still unable to recover from; as if the primordial sin against own subject Menelik had committed has atavistic trait that passes on from one generation to the next in an ever more intensity and depth. It is difficult to tell, but one wonders if Menelik was an evil genius with Rasputin’s mind to come up with such a plot or a mad despotic  ruler who  had crossed the red  line and sold his own subject to yet another imperial power all the same. No leader in the world had ever bargained a sovereign territory for a personal gain except Menelik..Such a sale out  deal, as obvious as it was, kept hidden even the soi-disant  historians were/are unwilling or unable to write about  to make it publicly known.

Come to think Menelik may not have had possessed Rasputin’s complex mind, evil his plot  as it was. He may have been rather cupidinous, wanting to have it all without realizing the full ramification it has now come to hunt his followers hanged on the petard  their lord master devised when they decry the loss of Asseb. as if Menelik  had sold not sold it  out of his own volition

The other story to tell would have been this: If he had his druthers he would have had compromised the entire of Bahere Negash and Tigray up to and including Ale Weha Melash, as he was so desperate to hold on to the power, to the Italians for the same amount of money and armamentaria  they  had already pledged had it not been for his spouse, Etege Teytu’s yet another flimflam for a different end. But make no mistake, as some gullible historians would have us believe, she was not a God sent angel either. She had her own sinister plan in the making to care for and execute when the time ripened. The worst effect Tigray had to be weary of which Menelik had hoped he had caused to come to last, did in fact come to last to this day but not because entirely of Menelik’s own plot/plan but because of Itege Taytu’s counter plot unbeknown to him and the Showan aristocrats. Taytu preposterously protested that her husband’s seat on the throne could not be blessed and consummated without Axum being a part of his domain. She castigated that Menelik’s move to shove off Axum and its environs to the Italians was beyond the pale, St Mary would not be pleased from. And it appears she was positively listened to. She did this not she minded the loss of a religious significant place nor did she care a toss about Axum as the seat of the throne. Nevertheless, she did manage to thwart the plan as Menelik intended to carry out. The irony of it all: had Menelik succeeded in implementing what he had in mind, things would have been quite different for Tigray after and even before  the defeat of the Italian in the Second World War. Menelik was no more no better than the Italians, in fact  Tigray would have been better off, if we are to take the views of  Evelyn Waugh, the English author mentioned above. Some trickle down benefits of health, education and administrative institutions Tigray may have benefited from. You may laugh at the thought; but laugh until you doubled down. True!  The Italians only  allowed Eritreans to learn up to 4th grade and that is no good. But Menelik nor Haileselassie left Tigray youth in the villages with no form of education, let alone to 4th grade. No Tigrian was to be recruited in to the army under Menelik. Vast number of Tigrian youth turned to be goat herders and wasted their youth tending and taking to animals. before they immigrated any were to exist thereafter..

And the other thing, for  a start there would not have been places called  Tigray and Eritrea per se today but something different and better for both the  two nations. But fate had it; coincidence and conjuncture of opposing views and desires of two powerful couple sharing the same space in the Showan Palace but representing antagonistic cabals that of the Showa and Begemeder dynasties’ led to the current outcome, especially Tigray still finds it difficult to overcome.

Yes, as mentioned above, Taytu did not want all Tigray to be handed over to the Italians for sure; but why wouldn't she one would like to  ask? Well, it appears she was preparing herself and the Siemen nobility to ascend to power if and when Menelk gave way as he was suffering from incurable ailment he had little or no chance to recover - The Germans and Italians Doctors tried their best to rescue but to no avail. She knew this and she was working tirelessly to bank on it. She could not care a toss about the holy place. Wasn't she loyal in  pursuing the will of her uncle, Dejazmach Wube Hailemariam, who desecrated the region after the fall of Dejazmach  Sebagadis of Tigray, who was  his own father-in-law (for further details see footnote below)

To carry  out the plot she had in mind, she felt she had the potential force amassed in Begemeder, first under her own brother, then  under her nephew - Gugesa Wale. She had also assumed Tigray was under her oxter, as the husband of her nice, Emebet Hoy Kefey Wale, Ras Mengesha ‘Yohannes' was in command and he or his son Ras Seyum Mengesha would come to her aid to wrench the throne from the Showan cabals in the end.. Finally, she and her nephew, Gugsa Wale (half brother of Kefey Wale) had  the plan to move the capital to Gonder, and they nearly succeeded  in achieving their goal, had it not for  the Showan cabals to take the unpalatable step to put Eyasu IV (considered as philanderer and unorthodox) on the throne under Tessema Nadew as Regent Plenipotentiary to prevent this from happening. That failed Taytu had also another plan up in her sleeves - that Zewditu, in her fourth leg, married her nephew Gugsa Wale to ensure power transfer took place come high or low water. To spice up  her marriage Empress Zewditu in turn propined Gugesa  Wale  the fertile land of Tigray, Wekait Tsegede as a dowry to incorporate it with his larger domain of Begemeder. In the end the Showan cabals wake up from their slumber and dealt with the imminent danger they faced from Taytu, Wale, daughter-in- law, Zewditu and Gugsa Wale.. Finally they eliminated Gugsa Wale at the battle of Anchem March 31 1830 and two days later April 2 1830 she too was found dead in mysterious circumstances.

But for Tigray and the land stolen the Showan cabals were as  happy they could be to endorse and exploit it as intended. That was not all, tempus fugit or shall I say tempus dosses!! Another great nephew of Itege Taytu, Ras Seyoum Mengesha (officially married to  three wives none of which a Tigrian)  bestowed yet another fertile swathes  land of Tigray- Raya- as a dowry to his daughter’s (also  granddaughter of Ras Ali of Wollo), Leilit Welete Israel- bridegroom, Crown Prince AsfaWossen Haileselassie, who was also the great grandson of the same Ras Ali of Wollo.

Under the Showan rulers,Tigray almost lost its self identity: its alphabet and vocabularies were stolen. 90% of Amharic language has its roots taken from Tigrigna and Geez and yet Tigrians were compelled to learn the Amharic language in school right from the get go, religious ceremonies including Qudasie (Mass) began being conducted in Amharic as if Geez and Yared’s hymns were not relevant. Young students were enticed to treasure and cherish a notebook with the portraits of the Emperor and selected few members of his family. The Emperor was depicted as a jannock  appointed by God, students had to lament his self imposed years of exile. Incidentally, the public has never been told to these days  nor seen  some members of the royal  family. For example the four sons and daughters of Itege Menen Asfaw from her previous husbands ( Belaynesh Ali, Asfaw Ali, Desta Amede and Gebreegziaber Amede).Their rights and comfort to live with their mother appeared to be denied and it seems they were rusticated to a place they would not be seen or heard. This says a lot about the Amhara historian and politicians who were complicit and could not defend the rights of such dignitaries let alone some ordinary people. They are telling us now we all ought to subscribe to a unitary identity where only Amhara, Amharic language and culture prevail. You have worldwide airlines called Ethiopian where the mode of communication and entertainment and staff members are Amhara, Amharic language and Amharic music and films, as if the rest of all others nations and nationalities in the country do not mean anything or matter..Still more: Ethiopia before the revolution; was the prison of nations and nationalities shackled to the last breath under the Amhara rule. In a country of 80+ nations and nationalities living and working in the capital, Addis Ababa there is no a single broadsheet publication  or a book in any other language to read and be entertained, except in  Amharic and English even  to this day let alone in the past. You want to take us back to the dungeons and have the lives of rats!!  This thought of me alone ought to stop now if people are to live together. You can’t have your cake and eat it!!

 

 Footnote://

Sebagadis Woldu's  daughter, Wezero Lakiyaye was married to Wube Hailemariam. She then gave birth to Tiruwork Wube, the second wife of Emperor Tewodros II and begotten his son Alemayehu Tewodros before she dead and buried at the Holy Trinity of Chelocot in Tigray following General Napier’s expedition.

Dejazmach Maruye of Yejju had finally obtained the allegiances not only of Dejazmach Wube Hailemariam,in revege of his earlier defeat by Sebagadis (his father-in-law) and removal from office to be replace by his brother Merso Hailemariam as favored by Sebagadis, but Sebagadis was also betrayed by other three sons-in-law from Tigray ( Dejazmach Sahlu of Haramat, Dejazmach Gebremicheal of Dera,  Dejazmach Wedaj of Shire). Together with   Dejazmach Goshu Zewede of Gojjam, on 15 February 1831 Sebagadis was executed by Dori Gugesa, the brother of Dejazmach Maruye of Yejjue,who himself was Sebagadis and his son Dejazmach Hagos were killled by Diro Gugesa, brother of Dejazmach Maruye Gugesa. But  only after Dejazmach Sebagadis killed  Dejazmach Maruye  on 14 February 1831 at the Battle of Debre Abby. Dejazmach Sebagadis replaced Weldeslassie Kefla Iyasus, the crown jewel of his  that was stolen is now announced to be brought back soon.

 

 


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