Why do I care for and love Ethiopia as much as I do? Is it the people, is it the country, is it both? I often think about the Ethiopians that I have known. I remember “Sam”—I wish I could remember his full Ethiopian name—who worked for us in Asmara. Same spoke eight languages! Other than having superb work ethics, his only desire was to get to a country where he could continue his education. I hope he made it, if he ever reads this, I will buy him a Hamburger in remembrance of old times.
I also remember the Ethiopian Air Force Technical Sergeant who traveled with me on my first trip to Ethiopia in May of 1970. I hope he survived and would love to see him again. These are some of my old memories of Ethiopia and my time of service there. Every Ethiopian I met was ethical, industrious and worked to better themselves. Forty-six years later, I see these same characteristics in my Ethiopian friends that I have here in the states.
With the development of the “Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy” and the idea of restoring the Solomonic Crown, I am fascinated by the conversations taking place among fellow Ethiopians. Most of the comments and conversations are positive, but some criticize the monarchy and speak ill about H.I.M. Haile Selassie I and previous Kings and Queens of Ethiopia. Most of the push back comes up with respect to the “Feudal System” and the perceived inequality that occurred during the days of the monarchy.
It is easy to get caught up in generalized conversations and dismiss without research. However, I ask each of you to dig deeper than just rumors and innuendos and seek out the true history of the monarchy and learn what really occurred before 1974. His Imperial Majesty was 83 years old at the time of his death. Even before he became Emperor, he worked hard improving society and educating his people. Had he chosen too, Haile Selassie could have fought tooth and nail to stay in power in an attempt to stave off the mutineers, instead he said “not one Ethiopian child should be harmed on my behalf” and stepped down with the thought of sparing Ethiopia from strife.
Haile Selassie did not kill 500,000 as his predecessors did, he did not senselessly slaughter, torture, rape and imprison innocent women and children like the Derg. Though no leader on earth is perfect, Haile Selassie governed with a sense of morality and tried his best to better the lives of the people. What came after him was pure hell, property rights nullified, a few became filthy rich while the vast majority were turned into exiles in their own country. What is happening to Venezuela at this moment took place on a broader scale in Ethiopia after Haile Selassie was deposed.
If life has been so good in Ethiopia for the last 44 years, why did the Ethiopian Jewish people have to secretly leave and be taken to Israel? If Ethiopia is better now than during the times of the monarchy, why did so many risk their lives to seek refuge elsewhere and continue to do so to this day? Ethiopians are the second largest immigrant group from Africa here in the United States. This type of large exodus out of Ethiopia never occurred until the monarchy was toppled and replaced with Marxism followed up by tribalism.
Imagine what Ethiopia would be like if the vast wealth of intellectual capital that resides here in America and elsewhere was put to work in Ethiopia. Imagine if hard working and dedicated Ethiopians like Sam stayed home instead of being forced out for fear of their lives or for lack of opportunities. I’m talking about the engineers, doctors, businessmen and women, all who have become successful in very short order and on their own accord. Through their own initiative, intelligence self-motivation and ethics, Ethiopians have become a force here in America. This large community of Ethiopians here in America would not be possible if not for Haile Selassie’s commitment to education in Ethiopia and his outreach efforts with the American government.
There are many Ethiopians who come to mind when I think of how Ethiopia could undergo a transformational change if those in the diaspora were to return home. Tilahun Sahlu, PH.D., Research Professor/Director IV at Langston University in Oklahoma comes to mind. He directs the Research Department that sends teams to Ethiopia to help them breed goats, a mixture of boar goats and the native species that have resistance to local diseases. His teams deploy to Ethiopia to transfer their knowledge locally but when they leave, the research stops and the goats disappear. These are some of the barriers that prevent more Ethiopians from returning back home.
In Nashville, TN, Zewditu Gugsa, a very special lady works seven days a week running Awash Ethiopian Restaurant. When my wife and I entered, we instantly thought we were in Ethiopia. The smell of the spices, the coffee, and the memories all flooded back. The pictures and other decorations made us feel at home and as though we never left Ethiopia. The food was superb, and the coffee ceremony was authentic right down to the grass on the floor. Loving, welcoming and friendly, the traits that Zewditu exhibits is one that is harbored in the hearts of almost every Ethiopian that I meet.
I’m also reminded of a young man named Krubiel “KB” Workie, whose father walked from Ethiopia through Eritrea and into Sudan to seeking safety and freedom. This gentleman arrived in the United States with nothing but a desire to improve his life and to achieve his dreams. He made it to Denver, Colorado where he met his wife and had a son. KB worked hard but also picked up a love for the sport of basketball. Not only did KB graduate from college, he went on to achieve his dreams and became a professional basketball player. Imagine if Ethiopia retained young men and women like KB instead of experiencing a brain drain on a year to year basis.
I would be remiss if I did not discuss my good friend Mel Tewahade who left Ethiopia as a young man. Mel made his way to Europe on a Greek ship, went to school in Germany then migrated to Canada before settling in Colorado. Mel pursued his passion with dogged tenacity and became very successful for his efforts. Upon finding success, instead of seeking fortunes for himself, he dedicated his life to helping other Ethiopians. On a regular basis, Mel selflessly gives back to his home country and tries to make a difference for Ethiopian people. Imagine if Mel was never forced out of Ethiopia and instead was an entrepreneur living back home.
There is HIH Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie and his family. HIH Prince Ermias is the grandson of HIM Haile Selassie I; though he has degrees and could achieve anything he wants, he has worked all his adult life keeping the rich history of Ethiopia alive. The honor and dignity of the descendants of Solomon has rested on his shoulders all these years. He represents Ethiopia to so many countries around the world, he has charities that help Ethiopian people back home.
Finally, the gentleman who has agreed to be the Chairman of the “Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy” Lij Teodrose Fikremariam, a descendant of Emperor Tewodros II who has an MBA from Johns Hopkins and has been a very successful business consultant. Yet, instead of chasing money and self-enrichment, he is dedicated to making a difference for Ethiopians at home and abroad. His love of Ethiopia is evident, he has sacrificed countless times to help his people and has now answered the call as he works tirelessly to restore the Ethiopian crown. Imagine if Ethiopia had leaders who served people like Lij Teodrose instead of rulers who serve their own self-interests
If Ethiopia has been so great under the stewardship of various leaders for the past 44 years, why are the people there not as successful as those outside of Ethiopia? I have been back, I witness the same acumen and drive in the spirit of Ethiopians today as I did before 1974. What is it that is holding them back? What keeps them from being as successful as their brothers and sisters in other countries? Some of these countries, by the way, are under Monarchies too. Might it be laws that almost makes it impossible for individuals to own property and banking/investment holdings? Could it be that tax structure that limits capital investments is holding back Ethiopia from realizing her full potential?
The proud and true History of Ethiopia needs to be re-introduced and taught to all the young people. They need to know where they come from. We in America are guilty of not teaching our history as well. When I was in school, in my home state of Texas, we were required to study Texas history. Before I could graduate from eighth grade, I had to pass a test on the Constitution of the United States. This was done so we knew about our country, our collective history and our system of government. A knowledgeable populace is vital for a functioning society. The problem is a knowledgeable populace would demand good governance. If you keep the people ignorant or teach them only what you wish them to know, they are easier to control.
I recently attending a symposium that reminded me of the situation taking place in Ethiopia. The instructor made a statement that truly moved me. He said there are three types of people in the world. Wolves, sheep and shepherds. The wolves are those who have and/or want the power, they prey on the weak. Then there are the sheep who blindly follow each other around, they do not seek self-improvement or think beyond their survival needs. They criticize those who are different or want change because change makes them uncomfortable. These are the “status quo” people, they are content to be run by the wolves. Then there are the shepherds who try to intervene and protect the sheep from the wolves. They spend their lives and energy in service greater than themselves. The wolves do not like them because they threaten their existence.
The shepherds are good people who are trying to improve the lives of others and trying hard to change the “status quo” of Ethiopia. The leadership of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy and followers of the group who are actively engaged within the group are shepherds who could effect a transformational change in Ethiopia. I know there are others out there with the knowledge to help improve the conditions in Ethiopia; if you have thoughts on the subject, join in the conversation, contribute to the discussions on the Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy site. Please be constructive, provide positive assessment and guidance. There are enough negatives; as Lij Teodrose says “let us be about the people and always seek solutions from a position of love”.
If you love Ethiopia and support our endeavor to restore the Ethiopian monarchy, we would love to share your story on our website. Submit your article/write up (between 450-800 words to firstname.lastname@example.org
Johnny Corbin served as a US service in the Ethiopia from 1970- 1973. He recently returned to Ethiopia where he participated in medical and Eye mission for the provinces of Gojjam, Gondar, Tigrai, Wollo. Shewa, Sidamo and Gemu Gofa. Johnny Corbin worked at Eye examiner and determined the value of children Eye during his 21 day visit to Ethiopia.