Why are you advocating for a monarchy? Isn’t it too late to return to a system that is outdated and archaic? Why are you wasting your time preaching about the virtues of the Solomonic Dynasty instead of embracing the “vibrant democracy” we have in Ethiopia? These are the questions I have heard frequently over the past couple of weeks. These questions ultimately end with this simple statement: aychalim (it can’t be done).
I want to take this moment to answer these questions and provide much needed context for the reasons why I believe the restoration of the crown within a constitutional framework is the only way forward for our beloved Ethiopia. I—along with the rest of the executive team at Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy—did not arrive at this conclusion out of impulse; after observing the political and social upheavals that have and continue to take place back home, I’m convinced that the way to restore a sense of unity and nationalism above tribalism in Ethiopia is through the one institution that kept my birth land unbowed and uncolonized for more than 3,000 years.
We Ethiopians are a proud people for a reason; our history and heritage deserve mention among the greatest nations throughout the annals of human existence. Starting from the Axum Empire and onward, the significance of Ethiopia biblically, culturally, scientifically and geopolitically is boundless. Contrary to western indoctrination, the fulcrum of civilization is not Europe but the continent that is now referred to as Africa. It is precisely because Ethiopia’s impact was so profound that our neighbors to the north dedicated an exorbitant amount of time and energy trying to erase our nation’s very existence.
After colonizing Africa with bullets and appropriated bibles, imperialists set their sights on the one territory that resisted their virus. Hell bent on annihilating our forefathers and absorbing our motherland into their nascent empire, Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1896. They came with hubris, they were sent back in pieces as Ethiopian jegnoch (heroes) refused to give their hands to tyrants. Led by Emperor Menelik II and Etege Taitu, Ethiopians routed the Italians and gave hope to billions of people around the world by showing that oppressors could be defeated through unity.
If not for my forefather Atse Tewodros II who forged Ethiopia during zemene mesafint (age of princes), Atse Yohannes after him who died defending Ethiopia from Ottoman aggression and Menelik and Taitu who rallied Ethiopia behind our sendek alema (flag) during the Battle of Adwa, Ethiopia would have succumbed to the Italians and a biblical land would have fallen under the pentagram of diabolical colonizers. Though Ethiopian kings and queens made their share of mistakes in the past, we should never forget that our nation would not have remained intact for more than 30 centuries if not for the savvy and agility of the monarchs.
The defeat at Adwa did not stop imperialists from trying to conquer Ethiopia. Forty years after Italians were evicted by force from our land, Mussolini mounted another campaign to incorporate Ethiopia into his column. Our grandparents’ generation were not as fortunate as our forefathers at Adwa, the weapons gap was simply too wide. Consequently, fascists overwhelmed fierce arbegnoch and occupied Ethiopia for five years. Using chemical weapons that burned through flesh and deploying poisons against civilians, Duce and his fascist generals, with the full blessings of the Vatican, committed a genocide against Ethiopia in order to avenge Italy’s loss two generations earlier.
Yet, as much as fascists decimated our homeland, they could not break us into submission. As the Italian military took control of Addis Abeba, arbegnoch and courageous guerilla fighters tenaciously took on the Italians throughout the countryside. Imperialists were able to occupy us, but they could not colonize us. The resistance would have collapsed if Haile Selassie did not take the case of Ethiopians before an international audience and encouraged Ethiopians to soldier on in his absence. The same way our forefathers rallied to the side of Menelik and Taitu at Adwa, Ethiopians found a wherewithal to brave the occupation as a direct result of the Ethiopian crown. After the Italians were once again pushed out, Haile Selassie was instrumental in stitching together a broken country and restoring hope in a country that was nearly annihilated by a mustard gas holocaust.
“The object was to scatter fear and death over a great part of the Ethiopian territory. These fearful tactics succeeded. Men and animals succumbed. The deadly rain that fell from the aircraft made all those whom it touched fly shrieking with pain. All those who drank the poisoned water or ate the infected food also succumbed in dreadful suffering. In tens of thousands, the victims of the Italian mustard gas fell.” ~ Haile Selassie
Upon realizing that Ethiopia could not be subdued by the gun and seeing the Solomonic Dynasty could not be erased through brute force, would-be colonizers turned to guile to achieve what Italians could not accomplish at Adwa and WWII. Long before the Derg overthrew Haile Selassie, insidious forces with global ambitions targeted Ethiopia for a final dissolution. Missionaries, philanthropists and supposed non-government organizations rushed into Ethiopia to offer charity with the left hand and inject tribalism and destabilization with the right hand. The seeds of factionalism planted, Ethiopia started to buckle under the weight of internal negligence and external malfeasance.
The mounting strife gave a golden opportunity for Mengistu Hailemariam and his Marxist henchmen to overthrow Haile Selassie and shatter the Solomonic bloodlines. Their aim was not limited to displacing the last king of Ethiopia, they waged a campaign to annihilate the monarchy wholesale. The nobility were targeted without mercy as countless family members were killed in order to abrogate the very existence of the institution that served Ethiopia well since our inception as a nation. In the Derg’s homicidal crusade, Haile Selassie and his family were not their only victims. Descendants of past kings and queens, including my own family, were viciously attacked and those who survived were sent into exile.
Without the monarchy to rally the nation, Ethiopians were left vulnerable to the malevolence of the Derg and the chicanery of foreign agents. More than 500,000 Ethiopians perished during Mengistu’s reign only for relief to come by way of more fire. The TPLF were chosen at the British Conference to take over in Ethiopia after Mengistu was overthrown. In hindsight, it makes perfect sense why a group dedicated to liberating only one tribe was elected by imperialists to assume power in 1991. The plan was to splinter a nation that Atse Tewodros united into ghettos of tribes. Apartheid was rebranded as Ethnic Federalism and implemented throughout Ethiopia.
Today, Ethiopia stands at the brink as poor planning, ethnic strife, internal displacement and a breathtaking gulf between the rich and the rest threatens to shatter a nation that once was one of the greatest empires that ever existed. In the rush to be modern, we are losing our heritage. In the quest to develop the economy, our people are being impoverished. In a hurry to be accepted by the world, we are losing our heritage. In a foolish attempt to adopt foreign isms, we are wiping away the very essence of Ethiopianism. Ethiopia has the resources and means to become the Japan of Africa, instead we have turned into a donor nation and slowly becoming a sweatshop labor supplier of the world.
We cannot continue banging our heads into the wall and expecting a different outcome. Democracy rooted in tribalism, decisions dictated by foreign interests, policies driven by photo ops and beautifying Addis Abeba instead of taking care of homeless children living in the streets is not governance, it’s negligence and the abdication of leadership. Much like the rest of Africa and the world by extension, Ethiopia is a nation without sovereignty. Imperialists gave way to globalists and colonization morphed into ethnic based elections, what we have now is a nation that serves the interests of outsiders while ignoring the wellness of citizens. Though I give credit to Abiy Ahmed for taking concrete measures to liberalize society and restoring a semblance of patriotism, one man cannot undo the pernicious campaigns of tribalism and destabilization that were waged against our homeland for centuries.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear, I am not advocating radical change—the last thing Ethiopia needs is another revolution. A return of the monarchy in Ethiopia can work hand in hand with the status quo. The same way the queen of England provides a calming presence throughout the United Kingdom, the Ethiopian monarchy can rise above the day to day horse race that is politics and provide a long term direction to the nation without worrying about short-sighted gains that is endemic of democracies. What we are advocating has precedents; besides the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Japan, to name a few countries, have constitutional monarchies in place. All these countries have governance that are leagues ahead of what we have in Ethiopia and are the golden standard of democratic effectiveness.
Sometimes the only way ahead is to look back and revisit the past. As one of my respected friends noted, violently abolishing the monarchy in 1974 was akin to ripping away our oxygen mask and encouraging us to breath while we are trying to scale the Himalayas. In America, when a president fails, you don’t shoot him and his family and demolish the entire institution that Americans have known for more than 240 years. That is precisely what happened in Ethiopia, instead of adjusting the monarchy to make it reflective of modern times, a blowtorch was taken to it and shortly thereafter the country was set on fire.
Our effort within Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy is not simply to restore the crown for the sake of symbolism. I believe in my heart that we need to have open and honest conversations about what happened in the past, what is taking place in the present and how we can mend what is broken going forward. We are a nation that has been deeply traumatized by successive horrors. From the time chemical weapons eviscerated Ethiopia during World War II, every generation has felt the touch of malfeasance. Not one household has escaped the clutches of terror that gripped Ethiopia since 1974, these painful memories cannot be forgotten through feigned smiles and repeated insistence of saying “dehna negn”.
These untended wounds are some of the core reasons why Ethiopians suffer back home and why the “diaspora” feel a gaping void in our hearts no matter how many material possessions we attain. We cry for the homes we lost, we grieve when we see children sleeping on sidewalks, our hearts ache when we hear of teenage girls who are forced into a life of prostitution, we can’t sleep at nights when we see our people crying out for help. These traumas in our minds and the injustices borne by Ethiopians back home and abroad cannot be ameliorated by ballot boxes and rhetoric alone, we need a national movement that is grounded in unity, love and spirituality to bring Ethiopia back from the brink.
What we are facing is a challenge much like our forefathers faced at the Battle of Adwa. This time around, the obstacle is not cannons but ourselves. If we are going to witness the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy that promises to restore Ethiopia as a nation among nations, it will not be through prayer alone. We need a social awakening that is grounded in the very foundations that made the Axum Empire blessed. Community ahead of self, nation above tribe, collective wellness valued more than individual gains; the only way we will keep Ethiopia united and eventually prosperous is if we quickly turn our hands back to love.
We believe that the only way we can accomplish these objectives is by restoring the Ethiopian monarchy within a constitutional framework. We’ve tried cookie cutter techniques for more than 44 years only to witness our nation crumbling like dirkosh and eaten up by hyenas who don’t care about Ethiopia. We cannot use a corporate approach to revitalize our nation, GDP growth, an influx of foreign investments and infusions of loans and donations cannot be the way we measure success. The only way we can truly restore Ethiopia is by empowering the people and giving men and women the ability to feed themselves.
Rebuilding Ethiopia requires us to gauge the health of society by the wellness of the least among us. In the process, we must restore a sense of spirituality within Ethiopia if we are to mend what is broken. We are not like America, separation of church and state will not work for a country that is grounded in faith. Though we must not push one faith over another, we are not going to deny that we are a biblical nation. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all point to Ethiopia as a holy nation. A national identity that is forged in unity, spirituality and prosperity for all, this is the pathway that will lead us out of the chaos that is taking place in Ethiopia at the moment. Restoring the Ethiopian Monarchy within a constitutional framework, and returning to what kept us for more than 3,000 years, is our best hope to achieve these goals.
If we are to accomplish our aims, it will not be by fiat nor will we shift the paradigm away from tribal politics to inclusive governance by decree. We are not blind to the challenge before us. After 44 years, there are many who are hesitant to go back to a monarchy even if it makes perfect sense. As an organization comprised of volunteers who love our country dearly and who pray for our nation to do better, it is up to us to work assiduously in order to form a national consensus around the idea of restoring the Ethiopian crown. The road before us is long and arduous but rest assured that we are up to the task and we will remain faithfully committed to this cause. I hope you hear us out and then make a decision that you think is best for all Ethiopians and future generations.
Lij Teodrose Fikremariam is the Chair of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy. He is the direct descendant of Atse Tewodros II, the once Emperor of Ethiopia who united a fractured nation during Zemene Mesafint (age of princes) and imbued Ethiopia with a sense of togetherness that enabled them to eventually defeat Italy at the battle of Adwa. Lij Teodrose was born in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia but grew up in America. He has a Bachelor of Arts from George Mason University and an Masters of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. Lij Teodrose believes in one Ethiopia and that a nation can only be judged by the wellness of the least among us.