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Manipulation and distortion of Ethiopian history


By Mathza Mathza
Tigrai Online March 3, 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 Zemene Mesafint 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. 

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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:

Not transparent - secretive nature of the government, lack of response to questions raised by the public;  
Defiant - repeated breaches of the constitution when breaches by EPRDF itself have been admitted and pardoned;
Inaction – contributing to rampant political violence and instability, regression of socio-economic development, dwindling foreign direct investment; etc;
Polarizing - unfair, unjust, dishonest, toxic and belittling/disparaging statements made against TPLF, such as “ደርግን የጣለው እራሱ ደርግ ነው”, “የቀን ጅቦች”, “27 ዓመት የጨለማ እና የቆሻሻ ዓመታት”, ሃያ ሰባት ዓመት የበላችንን ወያኔ በልተን አባረናታል (why this180 degree turn?); and
Misinforming - deliberately ignoring, denying and belittling the TPLF’s/the visionary Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s leading role in saving Ethiopia from disintegration by adopting the constitution and multinational federation which pacified most of the over 17 active liberation fronts.

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:

1(Read), 2(Read), 3(Read), 4(Read), 5(Read), 6(Read), 7(Read), 8(Read) and 9(Read).  additions:
PM Abiy’s speech at the World Economic Forum gathering in 2019 at Davos, Switzerland, highlighting the miraculous socio-economic development during the so called 27 years of darkness (Listen), obviously contradicting himself.
Professor Getachew Haile confirmed that “ደርግን የጣሉ ትግሬዎች የዲሞክራሲን መስፈን ተቃውመው ነበር” (Read).
Sekou Toure Getachew interview reviews the success of EPRDF/TPLF (Watch).
An Oromo man made nonsense of the denial/silence of TPLF’/Tigrayans’s contributions to what Ethiopia was three to four years ago (Watch/Listen).
“The Federalist and Unitary Systems in Comparative Perspective and in the Ethiopian Context” is worth reading (Read).

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 Merara says “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 (http://aigaforum.com/article2019/Regionalization-of-Ethiopia.htm) 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 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twxNRv-7-Eo).

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], [1] (Part 6-7), [2]:    

To Napier leading the British expedition against Emperor Tewodros II: “I was first willing to send (supplies) to you in a suitable manner, but my enemies are between us… Now I am far off, but I have no hesitation (to help).” Menelik sent a letter to Queen Victoria informing her "I marched towards Meqdela myself to free your imprisoned people. When I found the situation difficult for me I returned back…I mobilized a second time. When they could not get no news of your [men] they returned…my messenger brought me the good news which said that the English had been victorious and that Tewodros had died. When I heard this became very happy." 

To King Umberto of Italy after the Dogali defeat of the Italians by Ras Alula: “I can revenge the Italians who have died… I have confided to Antonelli many things that I cannot write which he should tell you.”

After he was crowned King of Kings (Emperor) he wrote to King Umberto “I would like the soldiers of your majesty to forcefully occupy Asmara and make sure that the route is well guarded and defended.” To Caliph-Khedive of the Mahdists: “When you were at war with Yohannes, I was also at war with him. Between us there has been no war.” Cooperation agreement related to Egyptian invasion: “The scheme was while the Egyptians [W]ere attacking King Yohannes IV in the north, Muzinger Pasha and Menelik were to attack from the south.” and A similar cooperation arrangement was made between King Menelik and the Italians, the former to attack Yohannes IV from the south and the latter from the north. 

Emperor Menelik II made a blunder at the beginning of the 20th century. In the 1902 agreement he committed himself “not to construct or allow to be constructed, any works across the Blue Nile, Lake Tsana or the Sobat…except in agreement with his Britannic Majesty’s Government and the Government of the Sudan”. 

It is possible that some of the following statements and quotations could be among the oral secret messages that Menelik sent through Antonelli to the Italian government (see [2] above). [3]:  

Menelik was pro-Italian colony, not anti-colonial as usually told! Menelik told Antonelli that "he loved Italy so much that he felt half Italian, and had no greater wish than to go there and see it."

Menelik himself viewed the Italians as close allies and at times, his protectors. He signed the treaty which recognized Eritrea as a sovereign state of Italy and negotiated that the Merab River is the common border between Eritrea and Ethiopia.  

"The territories north of the Merab Melash do not belong to nor are under my rule". "Abysinnia will defend her territories but it will not fight for foreign lands of which Eritrea is to my knowledge." "Leave the Italians to rule Eritrea beyond Merab River". "I beg Your Majesty to defend me against everyone ... as I don't know what European kings will say about this ... let others know that this region is ours."  

Menelik begged the King of Italy to protect him from his enemies; namely Yohannes IV, and he reassured the Italian King that his region was theirs to share. Through Antonelli's courier, Menelik informed the King of Italy that he would like the Italian soldiers to occupy Asmara, in order to discourage the imperial pretensions of Mengesha Yohannes.

Through Antonelli, “Menelik formally asked the King of Italy and his government to seize the town of Asmara and all of Hamasein to weaken Mengesha Yohannis and any other northern claimants”. and Menelk II is reported to have said “I am not a negro at all: I am a Caucasian.” 

Upon learning about the willingness of contenders (Menelik and Gobeze of Gojamme) to the throne to help the British expedition against Emperor Tewodros II, Kahsai Mercha (later Yohannes IV) agreed to let the expedition pass through his territory with the conditions that included the British's departure from Ethiopia at the end of their mission. The British agreed to comply [4, p 13]. They, indeed, left immediately after their mission was accomplished. 

Ethiopian history writers have been unfair in regard to Emperor Yohannes IV. The wider coverage of Yohannes IV in this writing is to bring to the attention of readers some of the hidden truth about Yohnnes IV.

Following the suicide of Emperor Tewodros II, Gobeze was crowned Emperor Teklegiorgis and after he lost the battle against Kahsai Mercha the latter was crowned Emperor Yohannes IV.  In a history class I remember the teacher alluding to an allegation that Yohannes IV had Teclegiorgis's eyes pulled out. It is doubtful that Yohannes IV, a devoted religious person who is said to have been “considering a monastic life”, would have given order for executing such an inhumane act.

Yohannes IV had to defend his country from invaders and colonialists. The aggressors who were all defeated were Sudanese Mahdists at Senhit (1880), Kufit (1885) and Metema/Gallabat (now Metema Yohannes) (1889) following the damage  caused in the Gonder area. Despite the backing of Turkish soldiers and the  use of high ranking American military officers (including General Loring, former deputy commander of the Confederates in America) and European mercenaries, the Ottoman Egyptian troops were defeated by Ras Alula in the battles of Gundet (1875), Gurae (1876) and Aylet (1887) ending Egypt’s dream to control the head waters of Abbay (Blue Nile) river. The Italians were defeated at Sehati in 1885 (the reverse by another source) and at Dogali in 1887. All these victories were achieved by Tigrigna speakers in Tigray and Eritrea. And yet the Dogali victory over Italy has not been given the recognition it deserves nor even mentioned during any of the annual commemorations of the Adwa victory (except on the 123rd anniversary) or in related discussions and interviews.

It should be noted that the battle of Adwa took place nine years after the decisive defeat of Italy at Dogali and therefore Adwa is not the first victory of Ethiopia over European colonialists/powers as claimed by the chauvinists. Besides, the Adwa victory was the victory of all Ethiopians whereas the seven victories over three different invaders were the victories of the Tigrigna speaking nation in Tigray and present Eritrea. It is appalling that the chauvinists and pseudo-historians have been hiding and continue to hide achievements by non-Amhara leaders, particularly Tigrayans. In other words, according to them, Ethiopian history is exclusively Amhara history.

Yohannes IV who would have continued to face the Italians after his victory at Dogali came to learn that the Sudanese Mahdists had crossed the border and caused devastation to Gonder. He ordered Kings Menelik and Telehaimanot to protect Gonder from further damage. King Telehaimanot won victory over the Mahdists at Galabat/Metema. The Mahdists attacked his army at Dembia and won. This did not bother King Menelik who was in good relationship with the Mahdists. He kept himself away from the mayhem. At that juncture, while negotiating for the supply of arms from the Italians, he said that "he was ready to help Italy instead of Yohannes and that he would refer everything to the Italian Government." [4, p 347].

Under the circumstances, confronting the Mahdists became urgent priority of Yohannes IV. On his way to Metema he headed towards Shewa to subdue King Menelik. The latter devised a means to avoid the impending attack by Yohannes IV. He dispatched a person disguised as a monk who, based on revelation in his dream, advised the religious Yohannes IV not to attack King Menelik but to go straight to fight the Mahdists [7]. Yohannes IV headed to Metema and defeated the Mahdists on March 10 1889. He was killed at the battle field by assassins sent by King Menelik (Listen). The Mahdists decapitated and carried his the head. 

The people of Gonder renamed Metema, መተማ ዮሃንስ (Metema Yohannes). Had Yohannes IV not been saddened and troubled by the sufferance of Gonder he would have continued to push the Italians out of Eritrea. From this and other sources already referred to, it is clear that King Menelik is to blame for the major part of the loss of Eritrea.

Tradition has it that the fighting force disbands when its leader is killed in a battle. This is, unfortunately, what, probably, happened when Yohannes IV died. As pointed out above, Yohannes IV was totally preoccupied with defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity and strengthening the unity of the country, his first priority. Sven Rubensen recognized this and concluded “Yohannes --- the ablest and most [renewed] African warrior of modern times; and the Abyssinians --- a desperately brave people”. [8]

In order for Yohannes IV to get protection of European powers the British Queen Victoria demanded that he grant land possession to the Italians. His reply was “I have neither the wish nor the authority to hand over a fragment of my country’s land to colonialists.” He expressed his notion of Ethiopia in "what we call our country is from Massawa to Atbara; from Berbera to Gedarif; from Gambella to Kassala" [9]. Contrast this with Menelik II's gift of Eritrea to Italy.   

Yohannes IV, of course, had other priorities. The most notable was saving the church from imminent division into sects. The church was marred by schisms developing in the national church over the Nature of Christ. In 1878 at Boru Meda in Wollo, he convened a general council of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EOTC). This was done in the presence of the King of Shewa, the Archbishops Petros, Lukas and Matiwos, and the Echege of Debre Libanos. This brought together the parties concerned who eventually agreed to maintain the original doctrine of the EOTC. It should be noted that Ethiopia could have faced similar fate that Islam has been and is currently going through since the death of Prophet Muhammad.

Another related to religion was the threat of imposition of Islam on Ethiopians by foreign Muslims in the north-western, northern and eastern Ethiopia. The threat from the north-western side was made clear by Khalifa’s letter addressed to Yohannes IV boldly stating “…as the Mahdi had written to you and told you that if you do not act according to our command [i.e. adopt Islam] there will be no alternative to the entrance of the armies of the Islam into your territories, their fighting you and their killing of your men” (Read). The process of islamization in other parts of Ethiopia was led by Egypt in the north, including present day Eritrea, and the pressure of Ottoman Turks and Egypt (Harar already under Egyptian rule) in the east. It should be recalled here that Ahmed Ibn Ibrahim al Ghazi (Gragn)'s jihad on Ethiopia in the 16th century was the most devastating invasion that Ethiopia ever experienced. It was carried out with the Ottoman Turks military support (weapons and ammunition) and the participation of Arabs (Read).

With all the jihad pressure and the integrity of the country at risk, Yohannes IV had no option but to take measures to counter the imposition of Islam by outsiders. First, he ordered Ethiopian Muslims in Wollo – where Islam was being intensely promoted by outsiders during his reign -- to convert back to Christianity within five years. Second, he and King Menelik became godfathers of prominent Muslim rulers of Wollo who accepted conversion. According to Voice of Amhara Radio (Dec 27, 2017) noses and tongues of Muslims were cut by order of Yohannes IV (listen). This is another example of baseless claim of pulling out the eyes of Emperor Teklegiorgis I referred to earlier.   

Here are two indications that prove the above accusations are untrue (read). The first, according to ዘፅአት- ከመቐለ who interviewed elderly Muslims in Mekellethe interviewees gave evidence that Yohannes IV helped the minority Muslims in Tigray with living quarters and land near his palace in Mekelle, his capital. The second, Yohannes IV’s wife was a Muslim woman from Afar who, on her own free will, converted to Christianity.

Yohannes IV was the first Ethiopian Emperor to build a church and a sanctuary to serve Ethiopians going to Jerusalem on pilgrimage after Ethiopia slowly lost its many places of worship and other properties (except Deir Sultan at the rooftop of the church of the Holy Sepulchre) between the 17th and 18th centuries. The story that the construction was completed by Emperor Menelik II [11] after the death of Yohannes IV is not true (listen). He was also the first Ethiopian Emperor to use a national flag in its present form. Following the publication of the Mysterious Origin of the Flag of Ethiopia the first responder seems to make sense. He cited two examples: Yohannes IV “gave the current Ethiopian flag to church of Hiruye Georgis in Debretabor” and the flag he used during the battle of Metema “is still in the Axum Church of Saint Tsion-Mariam” (Read). According to another source, Emperor Menelik II “ባንዲራን ከኢትዮጵያ ሕዝብ ጋር ለመጀመርያ ጊዜ ያስተዋወቁት አጼ ምኒልክ መሆናቸው በሰፊው ይነገራል።” (Read). An investigation on the first respondent’s claim will more likely lead to Yohannes IV was the originator of the flag in its present form. He was the first Ethiopian ruler to open a consulate abroad, London UK.

Yohannes IV was against slavery. When he came to learn the practice of slavery he warned Menelik "that he would send troops to protect the Guraghes if Menelik could not protect them from seasonal raids…". Ignoring or unaware of this, in an interview by ESAT Radio Dr. Semahagn Gashu noted that Emperors Tewodros II and Menelik II ሰዉ “መሰረታዊ መብት እንዳለዉ በተለያዩ መልክ ያሳዉቁ ነበር”. This was in reference to conditions of the slaves, tenants and the poor. None of them, however, took action to improve their conditions (listen). On the contrary, subjugated people, slaves, were sold in tens of thousands (read).


Other achievements and innovations included his "attempt to introduce modern technology, medicine and crafts into Ethiopia." Yohannes IV hired foreign physicians, craftsmen and army trainers. Nicholas Parisis, a Greek, was his doctor. He was vaccinated in public to "demonstrate and encourage his people accept modern medicine." He built clinics in Adwa and Gonder. He introduced flourmills and supply depots in order to relieve the peasants from supplying provisions to his fighting forces. [4, p 33-34[M1] ]. It seems that there was no result of his search for a botanist "with all different seeds from abroad".

According to A.B. Wylde observation (1880-1890) there was visible improvement in the treatment of peasants and the standard of living of the people:

“The country that King Johannes ruled over at his death had greatly improved during the time he was on the throne. The leading men were more enlightened than their predecessors, and took more interest in the welfare of their subjects. There were more rich merchants than formerly, and owing to the brigandage being nearly put down, internal trade in the county had greatly increased and more foreign goods were imported. The peasant and cultivator were also better off and less molested by the soldiery.” (8 facts you may not know about Yohannes IV, March 11, 2015 by Fetsum Berhane (read) based on Richard Pankhurst’s Innovation and Misoneism during the Reign of Emperor Yohannes IV (1872-1889)).

Notwithstanding the above victories over invaders, against all odds, and his achievements and legacies, most Ethiopian historians and authors of articles and commentaries deliberately omit or minimize Yohannes IV’s dedication and successes. Some even denigrated him. No historical presentation on the person of Yohanese IV has been staged and no square or monument has been dedicated to him in Addis Ababa as were done for other Emperors of the time. This is in stark contrast to the glaring treatment accorded to Emmye Menelik II regardless of his many weaknesses, conspiracies, treasons, giving Eritrea and other areas to Italian invading forces, etc. referred to above in this writing.

I have witnessed many instances when writers omitted Yohannes IV in their writings and speeches or gave credits due to him to others. The following is a stark example of omission in a list of successive regimes in Ethiopia during the period 1855-1991: Read Ethiopian Treasure – "Tewodros II, Menelik II, Iyasu, Zewditu, Haile Selassie, The Derg and Meles Zenawi" [12]. Apparently, there was no ruler during the period 1872-1889! Yohannes IV’s conspicuous absence in the singer Teddy Afro’s (Tewodros Kassahun) list of dedicated songs to each emperors Tewodros II, Menelik II and Haile Selassie is another. "የኢትዮጰያ የፀረ ቅኝ ግዛት ትግል ከአፄ ሚኒሊክ እንደጀመረ የሚደሰኩሩ ኣሉ" is an example of denying him credit due (ሳይቃጠል በቅጠል‼) (Read). Note here that this statement hid the fact that Yohanne IV was the first Ethiopian leader to fight colonialism, not Menelik II. Thanks to PM Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s inaugural speech, some Ethiopians now know about Yohannes IV martyrdom at Metema. Within days two similar mentions were made.

During the Zemene Mesafint (1769-1855) there was practically no effective central authority [6] until Kassa Hailegiorgis defeated his rivals and was crowned Emperor Tewodros II. Yohannes IV, "in his liberal and federal approach to his Empire, allowed his vassal kings to receive diplomatic missions, and to carry on correspondence with foreign governments and crowned heads on their own" [1]. His federal system included kings of Gojjam and Shewa, Ras Michael of Wollo and Abba Jiffar of Jimma. One would have thought that Yohanes IV would have been hailed for incorporating such a liberal arrangement during his imperial rule in those days. This was not the case. Please read (read).

Patriotism, integrity, dedication and sense of justice are among the attributes describing Yohannes IV. According to Dr. Richard Pankhurst "Yohannes proved a more conciliatory and accommodating monarch than Tewodros, and thus proved a more successful, if less spectacular, unifier than his more impetuous predecessor." He was an "uncompromising patriot" [10]. "የበጌምድርን በሬ፣ የጎጃምን በሬ፣ የሽዋንም በሬ አንድ አድርጎ ጠመደው የትግሬው ገበሬ፣" supports Dr. Pankhurst's assertion. The following says a lot about his patriotism: 

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

በጎንደር መተኰስ

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 Taytu Betul, 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?" [14]. 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 Taytu Betul not intervened and without the crucial role played by Ras Alula and Bashai Awalom Haregot. As a double agent Bashai Awalom 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 Adis Alem (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 [19].     

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. Yohannes Aberra Ayele (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.

REFERENCES:

 

[1] Emperor Menelik II: Part (6-7)

 http://www.angelfire.com/ny/ethiocrown/menelik.html.  

[2] DISTORTING ETHIOPIAN HISTORY   

http://www.ethioobserver.net/distorting_facts.htm.  

[3] Menelik was pro-Italian colony, not anti-colonial as usually told!  http://mereja.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=65101.  

[4] Yohannes IV of Ethiopia: A Political Biography (Second Revised Edition 2014), by Zewde Gabre-Sellassie, PhD, Red Sea Press.

[5] BLUE NILE SUB-BASIN LEGAL REGIME IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT: COLONIAL TREATIES, Part 1, by Yosef Yacob (aigaforum.com, 02/18/14). 

[6] Desperate Chauvinists' Crusade Against Historical Ethiopian Personalities http://aigaforum.com/articles/mathza_desprate_chauvinist.php.

[7] Emperor Yohannes IV (1872-1889)- EthiopiaTreasures   http://www.ethiopiantreasures.co.uk/pages/yohannes.htm.

[8] Survival of Ethiopian Independence (p366) by Sven Rubenson.

 [9] The Martyred King of Kings: Emperor Yohannes IV of Ethiopia, by Ghelawdewos Araia, www.africanidea.org/atse_yohannes.pdf.

 [10] The Reign of Emperor Yohannes IV: Part One | Link Ethiopia

www.linkethiopia.org/.../the-reign-of-emperor-yohannes-iv-part-one/.

[11] History of Ethiopian Church Presence in Jerusalem, http://www.tadias.com/04/25/2009/history-of-ethiopian-church-presence-in-jerusalem-2/.  

[12] Emperor Yohannes IV (1872-1889) - Ethiopian Treasures  

http://www.ethiopiantreasures.co.uk/pages/yohannes.htm).

 [13] እምቢታ አንፃር ወረርቲ (Embita Antsar Wererti) www.mereb.com.et/?mpid=1687304093 

 [14] Treaty of Wichale / Uccialli http://makinapacalatxilbalba.blogspot.com/2009/03/treaty-of-wichale-uccialli-on-second-of.html.    

 [15]  Re: Horrible and Hidden Poverty in Tigrai - Example (Tigrai Market Documentary Video). Ethiopian Review, 9/27/14. 

[16] Menelik II, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menelik_II#Submission_to_Yohannes.

 [17] 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/.

 [18] Amhara the victim of Tigrayan politics, http://www.zehabesha.com/amhara-the-victim-of-tigrayan-politics/.

 [19] የታሪክ ቅሚያ ይሉታል ይህን ነው!, ከሕድሪ መቐለ   

 http://aigaforum.com/articles/distorting-history.pdf, 02/27/14.

[20] URGENT NEED FOR RECONCILIATION BASED ON CONFESSION AND ATONEMENT http://www.aigaforum.com/articles/reconcilation_1.htm

[21] YES TO RECONCILIATION BETWEEN CHAUVINISTS AND ETHNIC GROUPS http://aigaforum.com/articles/yes_to_reconciliation_between.htm.

[22] Ethiopia Anew: A Call to Amhara Ethnic People, http://www.ethiomedia.com/14news/5813.html.