“I wanted the world to know that my country Ethiopia has always won with determination and heroism.” (Abebe Bikila, Ethiopia’s 1960 Rome and 1964 Tokyo Olympic marathon winner)
By Mammo Muchie (1 September 2008) — It is not enough to apologise for slavery and colonial occupation by the enslavers and colonizers. The former colonial powers must pay compensation for the wreckage, debris and havoc they left behind which still influences the ability of the colonized to emerge with freedom to pursue structural transformation. (Picture: Prof. Mammo Muchie at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in Accra, Ghana )
Like Libya, Ethiopia has been under the Italian pernicious colonial direct and indirect occupation since the 19th century European Scramble for Africa. It has fought back this colonial encounter with heavy sacrifice including the loss of current day Eritrea to Italian colonial control for 60 years. The colonial curse has continued to fester on today continuing very sadly to cost Ethiopia hugely now with continued loss of peoples lives, constant threat of war, closing Ethiopia’s outlets to the Sea and internally ethnic-based division and instability in the country. It is Italy that used first the ethno-linguistic scheme to divide and rearrange the then existing Ethiopian geography based internal political boundaries using such names as ‘governo’ Oromo, ‘governo’ Amhara, and so on. Sadly this same scheme has been used by those reared from our own Ethiopian soil and they tell us or blackmail all by saying the only way Ethiopia can survive is by such crude imitation from the Italian division that Italy at the time used to fit the purpose of its colonial design of divide and rule on Ethiopia!
We believe that the violation of Ethiopia’s dignity is not commensurable with monetary compensation indeed. But a monetary offer might make the apology a bit more real than just an empty rhetorical one.
So we urge all colonial powers to make serious apologies to Ethiopia- all those that have fought Ethiopia since the 15th century from Portugal, the Turks, Anglo-Egyptians, Italy, The British, the French must make at least together over 100 billion dollars worth of apology to Ethiopia. Even that amount will not suffice as Ethiopia still suffers from current external disruptors using the current ethnic division to undermine Ethiopia as a united national entity.
We hope the precedent of others paying for their crime may deter future crimes. Compensating for colonial crime can serve as the power of example for others to refrain from intruding and violating the peace, stability and integrity of an ancient nation that is badly in need of rapid transformation to feed itself, and indeed, for its citizens, to live in dignity irrespective of race, gender, language, ethnic origin and any other differences.
Ethiopia today is the most generous nation on this planet. Due to the Anglo-Egyptian unequal treaty on the control and use of the Nile River, it has been contributing nearly 86 % of the waters of the Blue Nile to Egypt. We believe Ethiopia should continue to let Egypt share the waters of the Nile. If Egypt is fair- minded, it should also be the first to refuse to take the water alone without venturing to offer some compensation to Ethiopia. That means Egypt should be humble enough to compensate, at least in some form, for the free water it has been allowed to enjoy with the unequal treaty on the Nile executed under the British power and oversight. This took place at the time when right was might and might was right. In the 21st century we should move from might and power to justice and fairness in the equitable distribution of scarce resources gained through unequal treaties.
Any person who has been to Egypt would realise how important the Nile River Water is to Egypt, and would thus not want Egypt not to use the water. But what would be fair is for Egypt to acknowledge the generosity of Ethiopia and others and create a scheme where some form of compensation is given to them. The fair and just settlement of the use of the Nile Waters will also restrain all the regimes to play destructive games against each other. It will make politics more open and transparent and as much as possible as intrigue-free as it should be amongst them. The longer there is no fair settlement, the more the regimes are tempted to play games to weaken their opponents by supporting armed agitation and other forms of disturbances amongst each other. That is a wrong direction when there is a better alternative. It would be a shame to go with business as usual when there can be an honest way of settling differences with fairness, justice and genuine fraternity. We would say Ethiopia as the generous should remain generous and those who take without compensation like Egypt today to stop being mean, refrain from undermining the generous, and start learning to give and offer what they can and negotiate and establish fair-dealing!.
Most of us have lost loved ones, grandfathers, uncles and sisters in the Second World War. I grew up hearing stories of how heroically my grandfather died fighting Italian fascist aggression. I hope the current generation of Ethiopians will unite on getting Ethiopia compensated and not turn it into a political issue to divide across the existing internal rifts and fault lines of our current not so productive politics. And should Ethiopia be compensated through our combined efforts, let the resources be used to modernise agriculture, revamp education and health so that all Ethiopians starting from the bottom benefit through the resources that our forefathers sacrificed for with courage and selflessness.
As our national Olympic hero Abebe Bikila put it so well, Ethiopia made it through determination and heroic courage, united not divided, to defeat colonialism. It snatched its agency of colonial freedom through its united efforts from Adwa to the Second World War. It needs to confront the historic challenge of winning its agency back from receiving charity from donors to fighting to get the compensation it deserves to accelerate its development and transformation now! United we should all stand up for Ethiopia!
Mammo Muchie, Dphil
Professor,Coordinator of DIIPER
Research Centre on Development Innovation and IPER and
NRF/DST SARCHI chair holder, TUT, South Africa
Tel.no. 00-45 9940 9813
fax.no. 00-45 9815 3298