Time in Ethiopia:

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Africans who fought in WWII

Ethiopian Argument | Friday, February 07, 2014
By Martin Plaut
BBC Africa analyst:-
The 70th anniversary of World War II is being commemorated around the world, but the contribution of one group of soldiers is almost universally ignored. How many now recall the role of more than one million African troops?
Yet they fought in the deserts of North Africa, the jungles of Burma and over the skies of Germany. A shrinking band of veterans, many now living in poverty, bitterly resent being written out of history.
For Africa, World War II began not in 1939, but in 1935. 
Italian Fascist troops, backed by thousands of Eritrean colonial forces, invaded Ethiopia.
Emperor Haile Selassie was forced to flee to the UK, but others, known as Patriots,
fought on. Among them was Jagama Kello. Fifteen years old at the time, he left home and raised a guerrilla force that struck at the Italian invaders.

I greeted Gandhi with a military salute and asked him: 'What are you going to do for Africa now that India is going to be free?'
Marshal Kebby
Nigerian soldier
Mein Kampf
Other Africans learnt what Fascism could mean for them. Among them was John Henry Smythe of Sierra Leone. His teacher gave him Adolf Hitler's book, Mein Kampf.
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World’s first illustrated Christian bible discovered at Ethiopian monastery

Ethiopian Argument | Friday, February 07, 2014
The world's earliest illustrated Christian book has been saved by a British charity which located it at a remote Ethiopian monastery.
The incredible Garima Gospels are named after a monk who arrived in the African country in the fifth century and is said to have copied them out in just one day.
Beautifully illustrated, the colours are still vivid and thanks to the Ethiopian Heritage Fund have been conserved.
A page from the Garima Gospels - the world's oldest Christian book found in a remote monastery in Ethiopia
Abba Garima arrived from Constantinople in 494 AD and legend has it that he was able to copy the gospels in a day because God delayed the sun from setting.
The incredible relic has been kept ever since in the Garima Monastery near Adwa in the north of the country, which is in the Tigray region at 7,000 feet.
Experts believe it is also the earliest example of book binding still attached to the original pages.
The survival of the Gospels is incredible considering the country has been under Muslim invasion, Italian invasion and a fire in the 1930s destroyed the monastery's church.
They were written on goat skin in the early Ethiopian language of Ge'ez.
There are two volumes which date from the same time, but the second is written in a different hand from the first. Both contain illustrations and the four Gospels.
Though the texts had been mentioned by the occasional traveller since the 1950s, it had been thought they dated from the 11th century at the earliest.
Carbon dating, however, gives a date between 330 and 650 - which tantalisingly overlaps the date Abba Garima arrived in the country.
So the first volume could be in his hand - even if he didn't complete the task in a day as the oral tradition states.
The charity Ethiopian Heritage Fund that was set up to help preserve the treasures in the country has made the stunning discovery.
It was also allowed incredibly rare access to the texts so experts could conserve them on site. It is now hoped the Gospels will be put in a museum at the monastery where visitors will be able to view them.
Blair Priday from the Ethiopian Heritage Fund said: 'Ethiopia has been overlooked as a source of these fantastic things.
'Many of these old Christian relics can only be reached by hiking and climbing to remote monasteries as roads are limited in these mountainous regions.

The incredible relic has been kept ever since in the Garima Monastery near Adwa in the north of Ethiopia

'All the work on the texts was done in situ and everything is reversible, so if in future they can be taken away for further conservation we won't have hindered that.
'The pages had been crudely stitched together in a restoration in the 1960s and some of the pages wouldn't even turn. And they were falling to pieces.
'The Garima Gospels have been kept high and dry which has helped preserve them all these years and they are kept in the dark so the colours look fresh.
'This was the most astounding of all our projects and the Patriarch, the head of the Ethiopian Church, had to give his permission. 'Most of the experts did the work for nothing.
'We are currently undertaking other restoration programmes on wall paintings and religious texts.
'We believe that preserving Ethiopia's cultural heritage will help to increase visitor revenue and understanding of the extraordinary history of this country

Source: Daily Mail
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Ethiopian Christ icon found 500 years on

Ethiopian Argument | Friday, February 07, 2014
The central panel of the triptych had over the centuries become blackened with the sprinkling of perfume that the monks use as they worship.
The hugely important and stunning painted wood panel is now visible in its original coloured glory, showing a pale-faced Jesus with black curly hair and rosy cheeks.
His hand has three digits raised and two down as if blessing the person looking at him.
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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Haile Selassie in America: Q & A with Professor Ted Vestal

Ethiopian Argument | Thursday, February 06, 2014
[By Tadias Staff]:-
New York (TADIAS) – In the end, Emperor Haile Selassie died in prison, officially of natural causes but widely rumored to have been killed without trial by a military junta, apparently suffocated to death and buried under a toilet for more than seventeen years. Prior to that, however, the late emperor whose remains has since been moved to its current resting place at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, was a long-reigning ruler of Ethiopia for more than four decades. He had been fiercely criticized as oppressive and brutal for his reluctance to share power, and praised as visionary for his single-minded policy of modernization. According to a new book by Theodore M. Vestal, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at
Oklahoma State University — who has done an extensive research about the emperor’s foreign visits, particularly to the United states — Haile Selassie was a world-class globe trotter as well,
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An Ethiopian hero of the Korean War [BBC]

Ethiopian Argument | Thursday, February 06, 2014
Sixty years ago, Ethiopia was at war. Not in Africa, but thousands of miles away in Korea. This is the story of one Ethiopian officer who won a US gallantry award.
In 1951, the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie, decided to send thousands of troops to fight as part of the American-led UN force supporting South Korea against the communist North and its ally, China.
They were called the Kagnew battalions and were drawn from Haile Selassie's Imperial Bodyguard - Ethiopia's elite troops.
Capt Mamo Habtewold, now 81 years old, was then a young lieutenant in the 3rd Kagnew Battalion. He clearly remembers a send-off from the Emperor himself, as he was about to leave for the other side of the world.
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Women’s History Month: Empress Taitu Bitul

Ethiopian Argument | Thursday, February 06, 2014
[By Ayele Bekerie, PhD]:-
Mekelle, Ethiopia (TADIAS) – Empress Taitu Bitul was actively involved in Menelik’s government. She exemplified the possibility of reform and transformation from within. She was a persistent critic of the nobilities and ministers of Menelik. Born in Wollo from a Christian and Muslim family, Taitu had a comprehensive early training in traditional education. She was fluent in Ge’ez, the classical Ethiopian
language. Mastering Ge’ez was a rare achievement for a woman at that time. Education is often the privy of male children, who continue their traditional schooling in the churches and monasteries for an extended period of time. Those who passed the arduous levels of scholarship would be allowed to serve as deacons and later priests in
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The Significance of the 1896 Battle of Adwa

Ethiopian Argument | Thursday, February 06, 2014

[By Ayele Bekerie, PhD]:-
Mekelle, Ethiopia (TADIAS) – In 1896, eleven years after the Berlin Conference, the Ethiopian army decisively defeated the Italian military at the Battle of Adwa. It was a resounding victory because it aborted Italia’s ambition to establish a colonial foothold in Ethiopia. On March 2, 1896, The New York Times reported with a headline: “Abyssinians Defeat Italians; Both Wings of [General] Baratieri’s Army Enveloped
in an Energetic Attack.” On March 4, 1896, The New York Times featured another story about “Italy’s Terrible Defeat.” NYT also stated “three thousand men killed, sixty guns and all provisions lost.” It further indicated how high the defeat’s impact has reached by referring to the Pope who “is greatly disturbed by the news.”
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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Memoir of First US Diplomat’s Meetings With Emperor Menelik

Ethiopian Argument | Tuesday, February 04, 2014
[By Tadias Staff ]:-
New York (TADIAS) – When Robert P. Skinner, the first American Ambassador to Ethiopia, arrived in Addis Ababa on December 18th, 1903, the Ethiopian capital was a brand new city with a permanent population of no more than 50,000. The Djibouti-Ethiopia railway was still under construction and partially finished up to Dire Dawa. The post office had just opened, and the telephone was the latest technology
creating a buzz in town. “After Adwa Menelik’s political independence was a recognized fact,” Skinner noted in his memoir initially published by Longmans,
Green and Company in 1906. “The new railroad, the highways, the bridges, the telephones – all these things he probably cares very little for in themselves, but he realizes that nations must advance or they must fall.”
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Assumptions and Interpretations of Ethiopian History (Part II)

Ethiopian Argument | Tuesday, February 04, 2014
[By Ayele Bekerie]:-

Who are the authors of the external paradigm?
New York (Tadias)- Sergew (1972) represents the Ethiopian scholars who look at the Ethiopian history from outside in, one of the most ardent proponents of the external origin of Ethiopian history and civilization is Edward Ullendorff. In the preface to his book The Ethiopians: An Introduction to Country and People, Ullendorff (1960) wrote:

This book is principally concerned with historic Abyssinia and the cultural manifestations of its Semitized inhabitants – not with all the peoples and regions now within the political boundaries of the Ethiopian Empire.
The constituent elements of the external paradigm are thus “historic Abyssinia” and “Semitized inhabitants.” Regarding the name Abyssinia, Martin Bernal (1987), in his book Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, Vol 1, wrote: “It should be made clear that the name ‘Abyssynia’ was used precisely to avoid ‘Ethiopia,’ with its indelible association with Blackness. The first American edition of Samuel Johnson’s translation of the 17th-century travels of Father Lobo in Ethiopia and his novel Rasselas, published in Philadelphia in 1768, was entitled The History of Rasselas, prince of Abissinia: An Asiatic Tale! Baron Cuvier equated Ethiopian with Negro, but categorized the Abyssinians – as Arabian colonies – as Caucasians.”
On the question of “Semitized inhabitants, Bernal (1987) appears to agree with Ullendorff. Bernal stated, “The dominant Ethiopian languages are Semitic.” I must add, however, Bernal now claims the origin of what is generally accepted as Afro-Asiatic or “Semitic” languages is Ethiopia. The possible diffusion of the Afro-Asiatic languages from Ethiopia to the Near East since Late Paleolithic times have also been emphasized by Grover Hudson (1977; 1978). This claim by itself is a major challenge to the South Arabian or external paradigm. Ullendorff’s claim that “the Semitized inhabitants of historic Ethiopia” had South Arabian origin has become difficult to sustain. It is, however, exemplary to look into the writings of Ullendorff in order to bring to light the process of linking the Ethiopian history to an external paradigm.
According to Ullendorff, “no student of Ethiopia can afford to neglect the connection between that country and South Arabia. Among those who have recognized this vital link are Eugen Mitwoch, while leo Reinsch is the undisputed master of the Semitic connection with the Hamitic (Kushitic) languages of Ethiopia.” Hamitic/Semitic divide, of course, was nothing but a means to keep the Ethiopian people divided.
His divisiveness even became clearer in the following statement: “The Abyssinians proper, the carriers of the historical civilization of Semitized Ethiopia, live in the central and northern highlands. From the mountain of Eritrea in the north to the Awash valley in the south we find this clearly distinguishable Abyssinian type who for many centuries has maintained his identity against the influx of Negroid peoples of the Nile Valley, the equatorial lakes, or the Indian Ocean littoral.” What is surprising is this outdated argument of physical anthropology that remained unchallenged until very recently. It is also unfortunate that a significant portion of the Ethiopian elite would buy such erroneous assertion.
The outline of Ethiopian history constructed by Ullendorff begins with “South Arabia and Aksum.” And the outline has been duplicated and replicated by a significant number of Ethiopian historians. For instance, Sergew used similar “external” approach in his otherwise very important book entitled Ancient and medieval Ethiopian History to 1270. Sergew (1972) wrote, “Ethiopia is separated from Southern Arabia by the Red Sea. As is well known, the inhabitants of South Arabia are of Semitic stock, which most probably came from Mesopotamia long before our era and settled in this region. … For demographic and economic reasons, the people of South Arabia started to migrate to Ethiopia. It is hard to fix the date of these migrations, but it can be said that the first immigration took place before 1000 B.C.11 Sergew essentially echoed the proposition advanced by Ethiopianits, such as E. Littmann (1913), D. Nielson (1927), J Doresse (1957), H.V. Wissman (1953), C. Conti Rossini (1928), M. Hoffner (1960), A. Caquot and J. Leclant (1955), A. Jamme (1962), and Ullendorff (1960).12 The Ethiopianists almost categorically laid down the external or South Arabian paradigmatical foundation for Ethiopian history.
Challenges of the External Paradigm from Without
In Aksum: An African Civilisation of Late Antiquity, Stuart Munro-Hay (1991) writes: “The precise nature of the contacts between the two areas [South Arabia and Ethiopia], their range in commercial, linguistic or cultural terms, and their chronology, is still a major question, and discussion of this fascinating problem continues.”13 What is notable in Munro-Hay’s interpretation is the very labeling of the Aksumite civilization as an African civilization. Its impact may be equivalent to Placid Temples’ Bantu Philosophy. At a time when Africans are labeled people without history and philosophy, the Belgian missionary in the Congo inadvertently overturned the Hegelian reduction of the so-called Bantu. Temples elevated the Bantu (African) by wanting to observe him in the context of reason and logic, that is, philosophy.
By the same token, Aksum: An African Civilisation dares to place or locate Aksum in Africa. That by itself is a clear shift of paradigm, from external to internal. It is an attempt to see Ethiopians as agents of their history. It is an attempt to question the validity of the south Arabian origin of the Ethiopian history and civilization.
Jacqueline Pirenne’s proposal has also convincingly challenged the validity of the external paradigm as the source of Ethiopian history. Pirenne suggests that the influence is in reverse, i.e., the Ethiopians influenced the civilization of the South Arabians. She reached her ‘ingenious’ conclusion after “weighing up the evidence from all sides, particularly aspects of material culture and linguistic/paleographic information.” Pirenne is essentially confirming the proposal made by scholars such as DuBois and Drusilla Dungee Houston, two African American vindicationist historians, who, in the early 1900s, wrote arguing that South Arabia was a part of ancient Ethiopia.
Another landmark in the refutation of the South Arabian paradigm comes from the Italian archaeologist, Rodolofo Fattovitch, who linked the pre-Aksumite culture to Nubia, “especially to Kerma influences, and later on to Meroe.” After more than three decades of extensive research and publications, Fattovitch in 1996 made the following conclusion: “The present evidence does not support the hypothesis of migration from Arabia to Africa in late prehistoric times. On the contrary, it suggests that Afro-Arabian cultures developed in both regions as a consequence of a strong and continuous interaction among the local populations.” Recent archaeological evidence from Asmara region also appeared to support the conclusion reached by Fattovitch. “Archaeologists from Asmara University and University of Florida, based on preliminary excavations in the vicinity of the Asmara, seemed to have found an agricultural settlement dated to be 3,000 years old.”
Challenges of the External Paradigm from Within
Among the Ethiopian scholars, Hailu Habtu (1987) presents a very strong case against the external paradigm. As far as Hailu is concerned, “the formulation of Ethiopian and other African historiography by European scholars at times suffers from Afro-phobia and Eurocentrism.” Hailu utilizes linguistic and historical linguistics evidence to challenge the external paradigm. Most importantly, Hailu suggested a new approach in the reading of the Ethiopian past by declaring the absence of “Semito/Hamitic dichotomy in Ethiopian tradition.” Hailu cites the works of Murtonen (1967) to question any significant linguistic connection between Ge’ez and the languages of South Arabia. According to Murtonen, “Ancient South Arabic is more closely related to northern Arabic and north-west Semitic rather than Ethiopic.” He also cites Ethiopian sources, such as Kibra Nagast or the Glory of Kings and Anqatsa Haimanot or the Gate of Faith.
Another Ethiopian historian who challenged the external paradigm is Teshale Tibebu. Teshale (1992) poignantly summarizes the argument as follows: “That Ethiopians are Semitic, and not Negroid; civilized, and not barbaric; are all images of orientalist semiticism in Western Social Science. Ethiopia is considered as the southwestern end of the Semitic world in Africa. The Ethiopian is explained in superlative terms because the ‘Negro’ is considered sub-human. That the heavy cloud of racism had been deeply embedded in the triplicate4 intellectual division among Social Sciences, orientalism, and anthropology – corresponding to Whites, ‘orientals’ (who included, Semitic people, who in turn included Ethiopians), and Negro and native American ‘savages,’ respectively – is common knowledge nowadays. … Ethiopians have always been treated as superior to the Negro but inferior to the White in Ethiopianist Studies because of the racist nature of the classification of the intellectual disciplines. It is quite revealing to see that more is written on Ethiopia in the Journal of Semitic Studies than in the Journal of African History.”
Perhaps the most persistent critique of the external paradigm was the great Ethiopian Ge’ez scholar, Aleqa Asras Yenesaw. Aleqa Asras categorically rejected the external paradigm as follows:
The notion that a Semitic fringe from South Arabia brought the writing system to Ethiopia is a myth.
1. South Arabia as a source of Ethiopian civilization is a political invention;
2. South Arabia was Ethiopian emperors inscribed a part of Ethiopia and the inscriptions in South Arabia.
3. There is no such thing as Sabaen script; it was a political invention designed to undermine Ethiopia’s place in world history.
Paleontological Evidence Places the Origin in Africa
Of course, Ethiopia in terms of place and time emerged much earlier than the name itself. The formation of a geographical feature called the Rift Valley predates in millions of years the word Ethiopia. It was in the Rift Valley of northeast Africa, thanks to the openings and cracks, that paleontologists have been able to unearth the earliest human-like species. At least 5 million years of human evolution has taken place before the naming of Ethiopia. Dinqnesh, Italdu, Garhi, ramidus or afarensis are names assigned within the last thirty years, even if they predate Ethiopia by a much longer time periods.
Ethiopia’s beginning, in paleontological terms, was in what we now know as southern Ethiopia. The Afar region is primal, for it is the cradle of human beings. The people of this region may have experimented
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Monday, February 3, 2014

Assumptions and Interpretations of Ethiopian History (Part I)

Ethiopian Argument | Monday, February 03, 2014

[By Ayele Bekerie]:-
New York (Tadias) – The purpose of this essay is to interrogate assumptions in the reading of our past and to suggest new approaches in the construction of Ethiopian history.
I contend that the long history and its resultant diversity have not been taken into consideration to document and interpret a history of Ethiopia. In fact, what we regard as a history of Ethiopia is mostly a history of
Stelae Park at Tiya, central Ethiopia. Statues of Inset Culture. (Photo by Ayele Bekerie)

northern Ethiopia and their links to the Arabian Peninsula. This is because historical narratives have been shaped by external paradigms. The assumptions and interpretive schemes used to construct Ethiopian history are extracted from experiences and traditions other than our own. Almost all history texts begin from the premises that
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