Adwa – Not Just a Victory

This year's celebration of the 120th anniversary of the Battle of Adwa was colourful. The case was even special with Addis Abeba and Meqelle. From the speeches made at the event, one could see the way the ruling party governs. Relating the event to what is happening in Oromia, revealed political substance in the celebration.

This year’s celebration of the victory of the Battle of Adwa was unusually historic and unique. This was not without reason.

Putting the general political turmoil currently taking place, here and there, in the country, as a background, I find it difficult to justify why the event was celebrated so robustly, at the Menelik Square, Addis Abeba, and Meqelle.

The speculations could be just far fetched, but the facts on the ground have shown that Adwa was not just an incident that we left behind us, more than a century ago. At any rate, whatever the real reasons, there is no denying the fact that the celebrations were indeed special. Here are some observations that can be taken as safely guessed attributions.

Instead of the Lord Mayor of the City of Addis Abeba or his representative laying the wreath and going back without delivering a speech to pay tribute to the fallen men and women, this time it was different. Of all people in the establishment, it was the Speaker of Parliament, Abadulla Gemeda who was assigned to deliver an interesting speech in which he acknowledged the price paid by our forebears to keep Ethiopia free not only from the yoke of colonialism and ensure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation, but also had opened the way for all the black people in the world.

Meqelle too had its share in the festivity of the victory. This is not because of its proximity to the bigger battle ground Adwa, but because it had to be celebrated in its own right. The Battle of  Meqelle was gallantly fought after that of Ambalagie. In fact, the Meqelle battle was known for the enemy falling prey to the trap designed by Empress Taitu, whose strategy was to cut off the enemy’s water supply. Many of the Italian soldiers surrendered easily, in relative terms, because there was little they could do without water, not mention fight the Ethiopian forces who had only their numbers to depend on.

This year, perhaps for the sake of proximity and logistics, Meqelle was found to be convenient to host the administrative establishment and the other invited guests. It was Addisalem Balema (PhD) who made the speech that also focused on the contributions made by all the Ethiopian forces who had bled and died for their country.

Art in the form of war songs, depicting the Victory of Adwa was heard every other five minutes on the electronics media. Tewdros Kassahun a.k.a. Teddy Afro, and his “Tikur Sew”, alternatively with Egigayehu Shebabaw’s, a.k.a. Gigi, “Adwa” were the appropriate cover for the programme.

Politics was no exception. The ruling party, through Aster Mammo, Minister of Public Service & Human Development, with a Deputy Prime Ministerial Portfolio, sent a message saying that the cause of the recent protest was nothing but disappointment with rent-seeking and corruption. Her line seemed to be a pretext perhaps designed to let off steam. Seeing the latest decision by OPDO’s Central Committee to bring down two senior personnel, the intent of the speech seemed to be to send a strong message.

In light of the cause Adwa was fought for, the current crisis in Ethiopia seems to be about living the benefits. Letting the people live the benefits of the victory, in the form of freedom, is vital.

For what is happening in Oromia, painkillers would not solve the problem.  The ruling parties, be it OPDO or EPRDF, should do better to respond to the needs of the public. They have to let people exercise their freedom to the fullest.

In medical terms, for instance, a doctor does not prescribe antibiotic tablets for all pains. Apart from the side-effects, this will impact the immunity of the patient. By the same token, Aster’s association of whatever happens in Oromia with corruption and lack of good governance is faulty. That, after all, is just one aspect.

In relation to Adwa, what I liked from Sheger FM’s coverage of the day was reportage from Minilik square with special diction and idiomatic language of an excerpt from Laureate Tsegay Gebremedhin’s imaginary interview, given by Emperor Menelik II to foreign journalists. There is a lesson to be learnt from this magnanimous celebration.


Published on Mar 14,2016 [ Vol 16 ,No 828]



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