First posted: October 29, 2020
Acknowledgment: Mesfin Tadesse is the main author of this post.
First posted October 29, 2020
Vale Gashe Alemayehu
We released the 1st edition of Lucy’s People while stranded in Addis Ababa in 2020. An elder responded with this reflection upon Emperor Tewodros II, the Ethiopian Navy and discarding of genius. It was handwritten in Fidal, the Ethiopian script. Mesfin said that the style had almost vanished like his generation of grace and genius. If you pour water onto a hotplate, it becomes steam and evaporates, gone forever. Thank you to the late Gashe Alemayehu for the stories that we have published here.
Gashe Alemayehu was a former serviceman in the Ethiopian navy with the rank of petty officer. His experiences complemented Mesfin’s as an Airborne lieutenant. Alemayehu had also built Ethiopian fast patrol boats.
Within 3 months, in October 2020, we lost Gashe to old shrapnel left in his body during war. He left a wife, children, grandchildren and bereft colleagues. Vale Gashe Alemayehu.
Ethiopian Navy by Alemayehu
Ethiopian Fast Patrol Boats
I served my country all my youth and middle age in the navy. The West did not want an Ethiopian navy, but that’s where I served. I trained as a naval shipman in Assab, now in Eritrea, also qualifying as a fast-boat builder. In peace time, Ethiopia used fast boats for fishing and sea patrols.
Whether there was peace or war, the West did not want African nations to control their own sea territories. The only exception was South Africa. Nevertheless, Ethiopia supplied African nations with its small, fast patrol boats. She did so under the Derg from 1974 until 1991. Virtually all of free Africa used them to patrol ocean territories. For a while, trade in our boats thrived.
When the West found out about this, it imposed a tax on free African nations’ waterways. The pushiest were France, United Kingdom and Italy. Belgium, Holland and Portugal backed them. The United States went further, threatening African leaders. ‘We will ban you from carrying out patrols through the imposition of economic sanctions.’
The West wanted to stop sales of our fast sea-patrol boats. It implied that Ethiopia used poor-quality manufacture. ‘They are bad for the ocean waters.’
Ethiopia said, ‘Your own ocean activities are far worse for the marine environment. Bring your cruel fascist scientists. Let them face our naval architecture experts. Do not tell us these boats are dangerous for the sea and people; you have far worse.’
We continued to sell our patrol boats to Nigeria, Somalia, Madagascar, the Seychelles and Senegal. This last country had long been used by foreigners as the gateway to human stealing, slavery. Centuries later, Senegal was not supposed to protect its sovereign waters.
Europeans had found they could not win by confronting Ethiopia with bogus science. Now, they tried the post-colonialist ploy of division and corruption. The UK, then France and others, bestowed favours and money upon the Nigerian president General Ibrahim Babangida. He had come to power via a military coup; neither peacefully installed nor an elected president.
Babangida did the West’s work for them and dismantled Nigeria’s sea patrols. Other African nations followed suit. When you remove a nation’s rights by such means, its people cannot choose whether to live or die. This Europe did to other recently independent African countries.
Read about the Ethiopian Navy here.
Emperor Tewodros II by Alemayehu
In the mid-19th century, the English showered shiny stuff onto Sudanese, Turkish and Arabic people. They recruited Ethiopia’s neighbours and enemies to invade and destroy the ruler of Gondar, Emperor Tewodros II. To Ethiopians, he is Negus Tewodros. He told them that not all shiny objects were gold and warned that, for a long time, they would suffer through the English or come under their rule.
When the English visited the Semien Mountains, they obsessed over its abundant waterfalls. They thirsted for Ethiopia’s lovely water. Our people invited them to drink and enjoy, but they preferred to kill. Again, we said jump in and swim. Laugh, catch fish and enjoy the meal.
The English left, then returned. Lying about being Christian, they dressed in long robes that hid knives and guns. They abused children and slaughtered the sleeping. Were they human beings? When Ethiopians gave them brumbies, the English sent mules that would not bear foals. When they gave them cows, they repaid us with buffalos that remained undomesticated. Were they genuine? When a mule died, they’d think nothing of riding off with the rest of our horses after chopping off our heads. Such gifts. How just.
Negus Tewodros likened Tigrayan and Eritrean people to zinnar ‘ammunition belts’ that made wearers proud. Despite their beauty, zinnar were deadly: they held bullets filled with gunpowder. Traitors could be like that. The northern people of Welo were like mothers, humble and loving music, buna ‘coffee’ and conversation.
Southerners in Sidamo and Konso were hospitable, leaving drink, food and fruit for travellers on the roadsides. They would accompany a visitor and open their houses to him. After washing his feet, they served honey and healthy food. Next, they dressed him in a buluko ‘warm wrap’. Elders would then take the guest outside to sit with them, chatting at a level suited to the visitor’s educational level. Never would they confuse any person by pitching their conservation too high or low.
Elders would know within 5 minutes where the visitor’s heart lay. If the unsuspecting man leaned towards talk of beautiful women, his hosts would chat disarmingly about women. Next thing, in the middle of conversation, he would realise that he had an uncontrollable erection. That was the reason for the bulky wrap that covered the whole body except the head, to stop him from feeling too embarrassed.
Hosts would continue with the topic for which the man had a weakness. Things then changed. One elder would interrupt the conversation. ‘You’ve just ejaculated underneath that buluko. If you think we’re lying, check it. Do not be shy. All three of us here can stand naked.’
‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’
‘Sit down.’ The host would then bring coffee, the elders removing his feelings of shame with small talk.
A third joined them, challenging the visitor. ‘Can I count you among my livestock? Or, are you the fourth human being in our group here? If, through hearing mere words, you cannot control your penis, how weak you are, what a dangerous animal you are.’
Another said, ‘Look at that horse in the field. His organ is exposed. The donkey and ox are the same. They don’t distinguish their wife from their daughter. As for bulls, they sometimes chase everything, male and female. Now, you’re acting exactly like those beasts.
‘You sit with the elderly yet cannot control yourself. Nobody can trust you with our children, women, men and even our beautiful animals. Your brain is small and your body is big. If you want to heal, there is a place for that: our village salon. If you refuse to go there, you must leave our village. You are not welcome.’
Konso and other geniuses once healed the mentally unsound. This included genetically ill sexual abusers. They also cured sociopaths, dictators and abusive leaders. These could be heads of households or community leaders. Elders helped all kinds without imprisoning or humiliating them; nor did they drug them with anti-psychotics.
160 Years On
Negus Tewodros said that abusers would predominate. Ethiopian geniuses in communities and monasteries would suffer. Evil would attack and destroy them. 160 years on, much of Sidamo and Konso civilisation has been destroyed. This is thanks to investors from the West and Middle East. England, the United States and Germany imported the disease of tribalism, dividing farmers: Our governments took their fertile land. Arab businessmen received it for little more than the cost of a bribe.
Our extracts from Lucy’s People include more insights by Emperor Tewodros II.
World’s Last People by Alemayehu
Unjust Imprisonment by TPLF
In my own lifetime, what have I seen? Where have I been? The downfall of the Derg was in 1991 and the TPLF governed until 2018. During that 27-year interval, what has been done to those like me? Once, I was among the finest of our motherland’s naval boat builders. I was an officer in Ethiopia’s land and sea naval force.
In the early 1990s, the West dismantled Ethiopia’s navy through its messengers: the new government that called itself Woyane (TPLF). They put me in prison and physically and mentally abused me. These lackeys of the West and Arabic nations did this to me and countless others. Though none of us had committed crimes, they locked us up indefinitely without charge let alone fair hearing.
Foreigners ignored this injustice. The new government incarcerated the entire Ethiopian naval force. It did not matter whether a person was army or seaman. They put us in secret prisons around the country. The West funded some of them. Former naval officers spent between one and 21 years in prison. Our gaolers made sure we suffered for the duration.
Realising that we were useless to them, our tormentors threw some of us onto the streets; this happened to me after many years in prison. We were all left to die of starvation. I survived, scraping a living as an ordinary, simple guard leading a less than human existence. With the new government of 2018, we found out that many of our fellow servicemen had died. Today, we are still learning about the fates of former colleagues and do not know where many are located.
Now, I have handed over my story, this story of many. It is in safe keeping. Let the good people of the world know about it. Tens of thousands of geniuses have died and many simply disappeared. I am among 100,000 leftovers discarded and scattered, dying slowly.
I leave a message. It is not only for this generation, but for those to come if the world survives. If you read the Orit Zifitrat or The Beginning of Humankind, you will learn how Abyssinia was the first builder of boats and ships. These are the words of the Orthodox bible.
Those who try to destroy the planet have destroyed Orthodox and other Ethiopians in a manifestation of total racism. If you are Jewish, a creator or a genius, gugmangug—disaster bringers—will destroy you. Oh, how they will destroy you out of hatred for humanity, civilisation and enjoyment of the world.
I am sorry to be among the world’s last people. However, I believe that I am. If any do survive, there will one day be a new Orthodox bible. This will tell of our destruction. Thank you for reading me.
Translated by Mesfin Tadesse © Yerada Lij Australia 2020
View a photo of 1976 naval recruits here.
Emperor Menelik I House of Books
The following excerpt is from Lucy’s People. Mesfin visited this traditional Ethiopian library as a child.
Under Emperor Haile Selassie I, the library had 15,000 books: 7800 with basaltic stone or soapstone covers, 5100 with wood from warka and ancient girare trees, and the rest of leather. Mostly handmade, they were 500—1500 years old. Many were illuminated. The library loaned them at no charge.—Lucy’s People: An Ethiopian Memoir by Mesfin Tadesse
Gashe Alemayehu told us that the books vanished under the government of the TPLF (Woyane or junta). According to other locals, the same happened to university libraries. In 2020–22, junta rebels looted and destroyed monasteries, mosques, schools, kindergartens, universities and their libraries. Wealthy foreign recipients of stolen booty need to return it to Ethiopia.
- Wikipedia, 2022. Ethiopian Navy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_Navy
- “Ethiopian Navy 76 Intake”. Facebook post. November 29, 2021. https://www.facebook.com/Ethiopian-Navy76-Intake-2129989403725308/
- Featured image photo: Lake Tana Water © Mesfin Tadesse 2020
- Photos: Bahir Dar Marine Training Centre & Limestone Bust of Emperor Tewodros II at Bahir Dar © Mesfin Tadesse 2020