Published: Thursday, April 17th, 2014
New York (TADIAS) — In a new book by Dr. Belete Belacehw Yihun, entitled Black Ethiopia published by Tsehai Publishers, the diplomatic history of Ethiopia and the legacy of Haile Selassie is revisited with the scales of history rebalanced to show more sides of the embattled leader. According to Dr. Christopher Clapham at the Centre of African Studies at Cambridge University, “This book tells the remarkable story of how Ethiopia seized the diplomatic leadership of Africa.” While many historical materials on Haile Selassie’s diplomatic efforts remain inaccessible to the general public, Belete’s book is among the few compiled resources on Ethiopian diplomacy in modern Ethiopia, which studies the time period between 1956 and 1991 as Ethiopia took the reigns of African diplomacy that continued in subsequent governments.
“If we are to truly understand the events of the present, we must look to the past for answers,” adds Elias Wondimu, founder of Tsehai Publishers. “We must look with a critical eye toward the past and examine why events happened and why people are perceived and ultimately preserved a particular way.” The scarcity of compiled documentation of Ethiopian diplomacy, especially in a time of great change and modernization, makes this book a particularly valuable piece of history.
Just over two years ago, on the the eve of the fifty year anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) / African Union (AU) was celebrated as the new AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia opened its doors for its inaugural summit to large fanfare. The celebration included the unveiling of a bronze statue of one of the most famous leaders of the organization, Kwame Nkrumah. A quote from Nkrumah was inscribed in front of the statue in golden letters, “Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God. Africa must unite.” The quote epitomizes the significant role that Ethiopia played towards the founding of the OAU.
Nkrumah, the leader of the Casablanca Group, fought for a completely united Africa under the motto “One continent, one nation”. Nkrumah’s contributions to African unity are invaluable, and yet the statue has stirred debate not just in Ethiopia, but worldwide as Nkrumah’s legacy is only one part of OAU’s origins. Emperor Haile Selassie, who was a uniting figure among the different factions, is another person who played a major role in convincing African leaders to bypass their ideological divisions to work together. As a well-regarded international statesman of his time, Emperor Haile Selassie led the way to the establishment of the OAU in Addis Ababa in 1963.
Dr. Theodore M. Vestal, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Oklahoma State University, sums up Ethiopia’s impact on African politics in the following way, “Ethiopia has a long history of leadership in the Pan-African Movement, the complicated mosaic of continental and regional political and economic association liberation movements and mediation efforts.” Undoubtedly Haile Selassie was a major part of this tradition as he set a standard of statesmanship that has helped to advance Ethiopia and all of Africa towards a united global force.