Mathza March 2nd, 2020
Nowadays we hear and read about the good old days. Some individuals and groups down play and deny the denigration, sufferance, discrimination, land dispossession, etc, that the nations and nationalities had experienced during the ZemeneMesafint and imperial regimes. Were not these among the reasons for ending the rule of the imperial regime in 1974? This article attempts to show what happened in Ethiopia, in general, and in Tigray, in particular, during Emperors Yohannes IV, Menelik II and Haile Selassie reigns. I believe that rewriting Ethiopian history and reconciliation would eventually help cement the bond among Ethiopians.
SOME HAPPENINGS IN THE LAST TWO YEARS
We all remember that during his premiership inaugural statement Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed swore that he will respect the constitution. He brought about many positive changes in the beginning. Overtime, however, he started to display inconsistency and lack of leadership. The following are among his negative, contradictory, divisive utterances, actions and inactions:
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's leadership achieved world acclaimed socio-economic development (15 years double-digit growth, one of the fastest growing economies in the world). His role in world affairs is much acclaimed by the international community. These include the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Economic Forum and countless think tanks, membership of Tony Blair's Commission for Africa, African representative at United Nations climate change negotiations since 2009, Chairperson and creator of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and regularly a star at G-20 meetings. What is amazing was Ethiopia under his leadership continued to obtain aid/support from the West despite the fact that Ethiopia was practicing developmental state thanks to his ability to debate, negotiate and convince Western governments.
Some articles and statements supporting my positive views on PM Meles Zenawi include:
There are two groups who were and are the main source of instability in the country: the chauvinists/some of the Derg remnants who advocate unitary governance and the separatists/secessionists who are for autonomy/independent states. The former want to regain the leadership they lost. They are the major actors behind the mayhem the country has gone and is going through. The later, the separatists/secessionists who are among those instigating instability in the country are corrupt government officials and civil servants (including those at grass root level), political activists, business people and their middle men who feel threatened being exposed for their ill-gotten wealth and individuals/groups who spread false information via the social media to instigate hatred and fighting among neighboring nationalities.
It seems that the present multinational federation, minus lack of good governance and corruption during the EPRDF rule, is the only solution to the complex and myriad difficulties of maintaining the country under one flag, especially now that most of the over 80 nations and nationalities have, thanks to TPLF, experienced the sweetness of the multinational federation. The country would not have achieved the yearly average GDP of 9.5% during 2010-2019 under any alternative system of governance (Read). Individuals, nations, nationalities, organizations, political parties, etc, have been expressing and continue to do so, in no uncertain terms, their support for the current multinational federal system. It was recently reported that thirty-four Ethiopian federalist forces have formed a united front.
Here are some individuals who support the federal system. According to Professor Ezekiel Gebissa, 70-75% of the population is for continuing the current form of multinational federation (Watch). Dr Merarasays “there would be a civil war if federalism was to be tampered with”.
For more listen to (Watch) of የካቲት 28/2011ዓ/ም. Ato Bekele Gerba was invited by many universities for interview on Ethiopian politics.
In his Mekelle University interview (Listen) he stated “except federalism no other kind of government was possible”. In his Regionalization of Ethiopia Assefa, A. Lemu
cites Nigeria and India among countries with similar successful federal system as Ethiopia. He says “regionalization based on language is viable solution”. The above declarations and statements were confirmed at the Oromo demonstration in Washington DC (Watch), January 25, 2020 in which demand for multinational federalism was repeatedly made.
There are, however, hurdles that need to be overcome: racist rhetoric and hate mongering among others. The government should continue to do whatever it takes to ensure that the country will not experience what has happened and is happening in the Arab world. These may include devising means that, with public support, progressively stop spewing demeaning, inflammatory, disparaging, degrading, racist, divisive, etc. statementsre. Let us hope the recent controversial HPR Hate Speech and Disinformation Prevention and Suppression Proclamation NO…./2019 will, appreciably reduce political rhetoric. I will humbly try to point out some of the factors that may have contributed to the root causes for continuing instability: distortion of history, past subjugation and oppression, ignoring/denying EPRDF/TPLF’s achievements and endless blaming TPLF and saying nothing about the other three members of EPRDF. In regard to blaming TPLF, please refer to Wondewossen Kebede/ወንድወሰን ከበደ’s series of interviews starting with part 1
THE ERA OF EMPERORS YOHANNES IV, MENELIK II, HAILESELLSSIE
There have been many articles and commentaries related to Menenlik II by two groups of writers and commentators. The first group, mainly from the remnants of the autocratic imperial and Derg regimes and the vocal and desperate chauvinists called him Emmye Menelik and glorified and showered him with accolades. None of them mentioned any of his many shortcomings, including scheming with the very same foreign invaders that Yohannes IV was defending the country. The second group, separatists/secessionists, denounced the humiliation, denigration, ethnic marginalization, oppression, exploitation and forceful assimilation their nations and nationalities suffered during his and successor regimes. (It should be noted here from the outset that the Amhara nation, excluding those in the hierarchy of the imperial regimes and the feudal elements, was subject to humiliation and exploitation like the other nations and nationalities.)
Let us now focus on some of the issues that were not referred to in the above articles and commentaries as well as in history books written by Ethiopians which generally lack authenticity; some traits that reveal Emperor Menelik II's true character and some examples of the chauvinists' latest lies and fabrications. He was conspiring and collaborating with foreign aggressors while he was one of the Kings under Emperor Yohannes IV's government [4, p 8],  (Part 6-7), :
ኣጼ የሓንስ ሞኝ ናቸው
እኛም ሁላችን ናቅናቸው፣
ንጉሥ ቢልዋቸው በመኻሉ
ወሰን ጠባቂልሁን ኣሉ፣
ኣጼ የሓንስ በጣምይዋሻሉ
መጠጥ ኣልጠጣም እያሉ
ሲጠጡ ኣይተናል በርግጥ
ራስ የምያዞር መጠጥ
በደንብያ መታረድ ኣዝኖ የሓንስ
ደሙን ኣፈሰሰ እንደ ክርስቶስ፣
እንዳያምረው ብሎድሃ ወዳጁን
መተማ ኣፈሰሰው የሓንስ ጠጁን፣
የጐንደር ኃይማኖት ቆማ ስታለቅስ
ኣንገቱን ሰጠላት ዳግማይ የሓንስ
How patriotic were the rulers after Menelik II? In 1935 when Italy invaded Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie with his entire family fled to the United Kingom abandoning his people. This, according to Deacon Daniel Kibret, resulted in many Ethiopians, including from the church, to side with the Italians. Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam, followed his example and fled to Zimbabwe. As we all know he was, in his own words, supposed to have fought until one man and one bullet remained (አንድ ሰውና አንድ ጥይት እስኪቀር).
In short, Yohannes IV left a legacy which facilitated the work of those who succeeded him. This being the case, one may ask why all the blunders by Menelik II? Not only did Menelik II give Eritrea to Italy but surprisingly he also encouraged and urged Italy to take immediate action of the takeover. He apparently wanted to make sure that he would have nothing to do with present day Eritrea in the future, thereby weakening Tigrayans and depriving Ethiopia's free access to the Red Sea (not P.M. Meles Zenawi/TPLF/EPRDF as the pathological liars/die-hards claim). He wrote a letter to the King of Italy begging him "I would like the soldiers of your Majesty to occupy Asmara and make sure that this route is well guarded and defended" [4, p 353]. Emperor Haile Selassie sealed the fate of Eritrea by, among others, degrading its federal status to a mere province (14th province) which instigated the Eritrean rebellion eventually resulting in independent Eritrea and, thereby, land locked Ethiopia. In other words, three successive regimes (Emperors Menelik and Haile Selassie and the Derg) were responsible for making Ethiopia landlocked. Readers and listeners who are perpetually bombarded with blames heaped on the former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi being responsible for the loss of Asseb should listen to an interview he gave in this regard and the baseless claim of Asseb (watch). The chauvinists know that with Issyas Afewerki at the helm in Eritrea the only option of repossessing Asseb was via the use of force which is against international law.
The Tigrayans incessantly fought the Italian invaders for a whole year before the battle of Adwa. In order to further weaken the Tigrayans, however, Shewan feudal officials went to the extent of suggesting that the Tigrayans should continue fighting the Italians [13, p 355]. In1896 Italian forces crossed the Mereb River south of the territory Menelik II gave to Italy and fortified at Alage. The Italians offered to stop their push southward beyond Alage provided Menelik II would cede the land between Massawa and Alage (Ayloha River) to Italy. He declared "the territories that the King of Italy demands can be agreed without difficulty…" [4, P 351]. According to him, there was no reason to shed blood of Christians in order to keep Tigray as part of Ethiopia. He even told them no problem in acquiring more land if that was what they had wanted [13, p 360]. However, his wife, Empress TaytuBetul, vehemently objected to the offer and angrily asked him "How is it that Emperor Yohannes never gave up a handful of our soil, fought the Italians and the Egyptians for it, even died for it, and you, with him for an example, want to sell your country! What will history say of you?" . This, among others, forced Menelik II to abrogate the 2 May 1889 Treaty of Wuchale signed soon after the death of Yohannes IV.
The battle of Adwa took place on 1 March 1896. During the battle Menelik II kept himself inside a church and it appears that he had wanted to retreat with his Shewan forces intact. His wife persuaded him not to do so. The Addis Ababa Treaty signed between Ethiopia and Italy in 1896 following the Adwa victory, in effect, confirmed the colonial status of Eritrea.
It should be noted here that Menelik II denied Ras Alula's repeated requests for permission to pursue and drive the Italians out of Eritrea [13, p 385]. This denial and failure to pursue the retreating Italians even for a token few kilometers beyond the Mereb River in effect reconfirmed the Italian colonial status of Eritrea. Anyway, it is obvious that there would have been no Adwa victory had Empress TaytuBetul not intervened and without the crucial role played by Ras Alula and BashaiAwalomHaregot. As a double agent BashaiAwalom misled the Italians into a position and situation that lead to their defeat. Ras Alula is known for his phenomenal military skills and innovations and as the greatest African military leader and general after Hannibal and as "the Garibaldi of Abyssinia". The video (watch/listen) among othersconfirms this claim. It is regrettable that Menelik II did not allow him to pursue the defeated Italians.
One thing is clear from Menelik II's oral message to the King of Italy through Antonelli and other measures he took referred to earlier. That one thing is avoiding threat to his rule. He used a strategy to weaken Tigrayan competitors to the throne and the Tigrayan people as a whole or, if need be, to get rid of Tigray as he did with present day Eritrea.
During the era of Yohannes IV, Tigrayans successfully defended the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country from at least seven foreign aggressions referred to earlier. The deteriorating standard of living of Tigrayans was among the adverse consequences of such defense and related sacrifices.
By the way, readers would be surprised to learn that Menelik II, unlike many of his officials, returned to Addis Ababa without paying homage to the Church of Our Lady Mary of Tsion (ርዕሰ አድባራት ቅድስተ ቅዱሳን ድንግል ማሪያም ፅዮን) in Axum. The Cathedral is considered the highest ranking and holiest site in Ethiopia (Axum is to Ethiopian Christians as Mecca is to world Muslims) which is barely 20 km from the battle field. Tradition has it that his coronation to “Atse” would have been ratified by a special service at St. Mary of Tsion as was the case with Emperor Haile Selassie during his first visit to Axum. I was told that he did this to avoid a prophecy that something bad would happen to him if he visited Axum.
According to a friend, another deliberate blunder Emperor Menelk II made in regard to Axum was related to the title Nebure-Id. Up to his reign Nebure-Id was, I was told, a specific hereditary title for the governor of Axum. He interrupted this tradition, transferred the power to himself to appoint non-Axumites. As if this was not enough, following the idea of moving his capital to AdisAlem (abandoned later) he built St. Mary church there and elevated the title of its chief priest to Nebure-Id. Was this an attempt at rewriting history?
DETERIORATING LIVING STANDARD IN TIGRAY
Now let us continue with what was happening to Tigray and Tigrayans after the battle of Adwa. Following the assassination of Yohannes IV at Metema, power struggle in Tigray to succeed him worked in favor of King Menelik who was crowned Emperor Menelik II. His rule resulted in the continuing worsening sufferance of the Tigrayan people.
During Menelik II's rule, the battles fought in different parts of Tigray culminated in the Adwa victory against the Italian invasion. These battles worsened the livelihood and well-being of the Tigrayan people. The poor farmers of Tigray had to empty whatever little grain there was in their grain storage and were forced to give part of their livestock to feed Menelik II's army of over 100,000 and a huge number of support staff. In addition, a huge pack of horses, mules and donkeys had to be accommodated (grass for grazing and grass and trees for cooking), which adversely affected the flora of good part of Tigray. I remember having read that Menelik II saying “ዱሮ በምስጢር ብዙ ስንቅ ከዚያ (Adwa) ሸሽገን አስቀምጠናል”. Where did the ‘ስንቅ’ come from? How come the local people were not aware of this?
The suffering of the Tigrayans was exacerbated by famine, pestilence and rinderpest (inadvertently brought by the Italians) that decimated 90% of the livestock, locust invasions, recurrent droughts and worsening environmental degradation. In the decades that followed things got worse and worse because of the policy of subjugating Tigrayans by impoverishing them. Weyanne I revolt in 1943 was subdued by British aerial bombardment at the request of the Ethiopian government (Read). The revolt was a precursor for the present multinational federation in that the Weyannes fought for an "autonomous self-administration under Ethiopian flag and unity". Immediately after the end of the revolt, farmers were forced to feed the invading army for some years, land in some areas was appropriated, higher than normal tax imposed and 35 schools converted to church schools. In order to further weaken Tigray, huge areas of Tigrayan land were annexed to Wollo and North Gonder. Herein lies the root cause of the Wolqayit-Tsegede problem.
During the 1984 severe drought and its consequent famine, the Derg regime used famine as a weapon to fight TPLF. In other words, the suffering and impoverishment of the people of Tigray continued until the end of the Derg regime. The result was continuing death and disablement of hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of Tigrayans, for over a century. These include casualties caused by the British aerial bombardment of Tigray referred to above, the massacre of thousands of innocent civilians all over Tigray by Ethiopian fighter jets and helicopters (including the 1988 market day bombardment of Hawzen which killed 2,500 people), repeated military campaigns, blockage of relief to areas controlled by TPLF and suffering of the grand children of those martyred and wounded defending the country from foreign aggressions during Yohannes IV's reign. Until the Ethio-Eritrea border was opened and unfortunately closed again those living in the “no peace, no war” area bordering Eritrea who were shunned by investors, continue to suffer to this day.
Addis Ababans would remember that the beggars on the streets of Addis Ababa up to mid-1990's were mostly Tigrayans. It does not seem that, with the mantra that “every thing goes to Tigray”, the situation in Tigray has changed as the chauvinists would have us believe. In fact, Tigray with 27 % (29% according to Dr. Debretsion Geberemichael, Deputy President of Tigray) is the poorest region in Ethiopia (Read).
In general, the so-called Ethiopian historians recorded history in a way that pleased the royalities, the mesafint and the fedualists of their time (Watch). They glorified the leaders of the Amhara Regionl State, especially those of Shewa, and deliberately minimized or completely ignored the non Amharas, such as Tigray, Oromia, Harari, Keffa, Wolayta, Kaficho, Limmu, Gera, Gomaa, Guma, Jimma, etc. They concealed the weaknesses of and atrocities committed by the imperial and feudal regimes and the policies and strategies they followed to expand and elongate their rules. Here, I would like to draw the attention of readers to “የታሪክ ቅሚያ ይሉታል ይህን ነው!” which gives an idea of how history has been/is being manipulated .
An article, “Ethiopia: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?” by Yeshitila Zewdie, is worth reading (Read). A video by ቪሮኒካ መላኩ “Who Gave Away Eritrea to Italy”, apparently, denies all the references cited above in this (my) writing as to how Eritrea was lost to colonialism (Watch). I leave it to readers to judge the merit of the chauvinist author. An article by መክብብ (Read) “ሁልግዜም የሚስተዋል አንድ ችግር ይታየኛል፡፡እሱምአንድን ታሪክ በተፈፀመበት አግባብ አለመዘገብ፣አለመመዝገብ እና በአግባቡ የተመዘገበውን ታሪክ ማንሻፈፍ፣ማጠልሸት እና እድሉም ከተገኘ ከነጭራሹኑ በልብ ወለድ ታሪኮች መቀየር የተለመደ ክስተት ነው፡፡” says it all. Another article worth reading is መን’ዩ ትግራዋይ? (Read). “Frozen in the past, losing the present as the future approaches” by Dr. YohannesAberraAyele (Read) together with መክብብ above show how exaggeration, glorification, minimizing, hiding and ignoring true Ethiopian history continues to misinform the Ethiopians and the world.
A miniscule of the present generation, nostalgic of the past, is following the footsteps of its ancestors. They, for example, have denied and continue to deny the crucial role played by the EPRDF/TPLF in saving the country from disintegration, keeping the country intact and bringing it to the unprecedented economic and social development level it was four years ago. To the delight of the people, they introduced multinational federation which answered the people’s age old dream for emancipation. Imagine where Ethiopia would have been by now had PM Meles Zenawi been alive and continued implementing his vision on Ethiopia.
 Emperor Menelik II: Part (6-7)
 DISTORTING ETHIOPIAN HISTORY
 Yohannes IV of Ethiopia: A Political Biography (Second Revised Edition 2014), by ZewdeGabre-Sellassie, PhD, Red Sea Press.
 BLUE NILE SUB-BASIN LEGAL REGIME IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT: COLONIAL TREATIES, Part 1, by Yosef Yacob (aigaforum.com, 02/18/14).
 Desperate Chauvinists' Crusade Against Historical Ethiopian Personalities http://aigaforum.com/articles/mathza_desprate_chauvinist.php.
 Emperor Yohannes IV (1872-1889)- EthiopiaTreasures http://www.ethiopiantreasures.co.uk/pages/yohannes.htm.
 Survival of Ethiopian Independence (p366) by Sven Rubenson.
 The Martyred King of Kings: Emperor Yohannes IV of Ethiopia, by GhelawdewosAraia, www.africanidea.org/atse_yohannes.pdf.
 History of Ethiopian Church Presence in Jerusalem, http://www.tadias.com/04/25/2009/history-of-ethiopian-church-presence-in-jerusalem-2/.
 Emperor Yohannes IV (1872-1889) - Ethiopian Treasures
 እምቢታ አንፃር ወረርቲ (EmbitaAntsarWererti) www.mereb.com.et/?mpid=1687304093
 Treaty of Wichale / Uccialli http://makinapacalatxilbalba.blogspot.com/2009/03/treaty-of-wichale-uccialli-on-second-of.html.
 Re: Horrible and Hidden Poverty in Tigrai - Example (Tigrai Market Documentary Video). Ethiopian Review, 9/27/14.
 Menelik II, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menelik_II#Submission_to_Yohannes.
 Ethiopia Anew: A Call to Amhara Ethnic People REALLY? – A reply to Zelalem Eshete’s article, http://www.zehabesha.com/ethiopia-anew-a-call-to-amhara-ethnic-people-really-a-reply-to-zelalem-eshetes-article-phd/.
 Amhara the victim of Tigrayan politics, http://www.zehabesha.com/amhara-the-victim-of-tigrayan-politics/.
 የታሪክ ቅሚያ ይሉታል ይህን ነው!, ከሕድሪ መቐለ
 URGENT NEED FOR RECONCILIATION BASED ON CONFESSION AND ATONEMENT http://www.aigaforum.com/articles/reconcilation_1.htm
 YES TO RECONCILIATION BETWEEN CHAUVINISTS AND ETHNIC GROUPS http://aigaforum.com/articles/yes_to_reconciliation_between.htm.
 Ethiopia Anew: A Call to Amhara Ethnic People, http://www.ethiomedia.com/14news/5813.html.