By Tokkicha Abbaa Milkii
“We are still surprised by the prevalence of draught-induced food shortages in Africa, 3,500 years after the Pharaohs worked out how to store grain.”
(The dictator’s Handbook, by Bruce Buend De Mesquita and Alastair Smith, p x-xi)
A recorded history shows that there was famine during the reign of Minilik. This famine was attributed to a plague called “ye Hidar Beshita” as their chroniclers put it. The story goes like this, “this plague killed people and their domestic animals like cows and oxen that caused a wide spread catastrophe and famine throughout the newly incorporated regions of the empire. The true story which the chroniclers did not want to mention was the plague broke out due to genocide committed in Oromia and the southern regions by Minilik army.
Somehow the plague killed millions of people and farm animals. Since the farm animals were extinct there were no means left to plow the land to grow crops. The chroniclers of the king’s history told us that the king ordered the skilled people to produce pickaxes to be distributed to the people to dig the land by hand in which the king himself participated in digging to prepare the land for growing crops. That was a “big technological innovation” discovered by Minilk to mitigate famine according to them.
This was narrated by his admirers to present Minilik as the innovative king who had concern for his people. For a shallow minded people it looks true. But Minilik who was an expert in amassing war technology like gun and ammunition from European countries to kill several millions of Oromos and the Southern Peoples had no sympathy to ask for medicine, food and farm technology aid from his war patrons.
If anybody think that this bloodthirsty monster had no knowledge how to get that aid is a fool. He had enough access and knowledge but did not want to save the subjects lives and introduce any sort of civilization into the newly incorporated regions.
To simply understand Minilik’s diplomatic ability and access to European countries it is enough to look at the next example. He amassed the next bulk of guns and ammunitions between 1968 and 1990 from four European countries with which he massacred millions of unarmed Oromos and the Southern Peoples.
Country guns ammunitions
1-England 15,000 5,000,000
2-France 500,000 20,000,000
3-Italy 50,000 10,000,000
4-Rusia 150,000 15,000,000 (Source Amharic book Written by Tabor Wamii titled “ye wugena Drsetochina yetarik Ewunetoch” p 499, translated from Amharic)
During Minilik’s reign a productive forces- all men capable of producing- from the north ( Habasha country) were forced to wage colonization war on the South (oromi’a, Sidama, wolayita,Somali, etc,) productive forces who resisted colonization. This process of war took more than two decades and during which all sort of production and progress was impeded. Therefore it is not a matter of wonder if famine and plague hit the people, because it was a man made famine and plague.
Take the case of Tewodros, he didn’t force the European missionary to produce improved farming tools. Instead he forced them to produce not even simple guns, but cannons. This shows that his appetite for mass destruction was overwhelming and clarified that Habasha rulers were and still are obsessed not with development and growth but with killing neighboring people to colonize and loot their wealth. This famine is inherent in this part of the world because the regimes were busy at war and looting the resource of the people rather than development and progress.
Out of thousands of Tewodros’s barbaric acts, to mention one of his anti-production deeds “Tewodros went to Karoda village. Karoda is known with its grain production and specially, in grape production. It was said that in Gonder one barrel of wine was sold with one bar of salt. Europeans said Karod wine was superior to European wine. He (Tewodros) ordered that grapes to be uprooted. Everybody who heard the King’s order uprooted his grapes. After that there was no wine in Ethiopia. Haleka Weldemariam wrote that, “Tewodros upon his arrival at Karoda ordered the people to be gathered at one place, 1700 people including children were gathered together. He packed all people in the houses at a maximum capacity and burnt them alive.” (Yewugena dirsetochina ye tarik Ewunetoch, by Tabor Wami, p416-417). Tewodros’s advocates try to convince us that he had a big vision for Ethiopia. I don’t understand how, the king who instead of rewarding those productive people at Karoda, burn them alive can be presented as visionary.
Tewodros never owned and resides in a palace and never settled in one place. He was called a king who lived in tent. He came to power through war, he waged war on different rival chiefs, brutally punished the people in the localities he found resistance. He committed genocide and brutal acts like mutilation of hands and legs, burning alive in mass, slain etc. wherever he set foot on. What makes Tewodros special is, even though he did the same crime on neighboring Wallo Oromos, his victims include Abisinyans. This does not mean that he had no hatred for other nations like Oromos, he had extreme rancor for Oromos and had a long intention to invade and evict them from their land. This evil intention was expressed in his letter written to Queen Victoria of England to ask for armaments to wipe out these Oromos whom he mentioned “pagans who occupied his father’s land”.
When we come to the modern era we find the Haile Selassie aristocratic and keliptocratic monarchy rule which the remnants of Naftenyas consider as nirvana. In actual fact it was as hell as the present time for the people who were expropriated their land and reduced to gabar, chisagna, slave, etc. This regime divided all the colonized peoples’ land among his invading army leaders who were changed to feudal land lords. This system of land ownership discouraged the farmers to produce in full capacity and famine was the day to day life style of the people. We can mention what famine meant to these rulers.
“Heart-wrenching images of starving children are a surefire way to stimulate aid donations. Since the technology to store grain has been known since the time of the pharaohs, we cannot help but wonder why the children of North Africa remain vulnerable to famine. A possible explanation lies in the observations of Ryszard Kapuscinski. Writing about the court of the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, Kapuscinski describes its response to efforts by aid agencies to assist millions of Ethiopians affected by drought and famine in 1972.
Suddenly report came in that those overseas benefactors who had taken upon themselves the trouble of feeding our ever-insatiable people had rebelled and were suspending shipments because our Finance Minister, Mr.Yelma Deresa, wanting to enrich the Imperial treasury, had ordered the benefactors to pay high customs fees on the aid. “You want to help?” the Minister asked. “Please do, but you must pay.” And they said “What do you mean, pay? We give help! And we are supposed to pay?” “Yes, says the minister, “those are the regulations. Do you want to help in such a way that our Empire gains nothing by it?”
The antics of Ethiopian government should perhaps come as little surprise. Autocrats need money to pay their coalition. Haile Selassie, although temporarily displaced by Italy’s invasion in the 1930s, held the throne from 1930 until overcome by decrepitude in 1974. As a long term successful autocrat, Selassie knew not to put the needs of the people above the wants of his essential supporters. To continue with Kapuscinski’s description:
‘First of all, death from hunger had existed in our Empire for hundreds of years, an everyday, natural thing, and it never occurred to anyone to make any noise about it. Drought would come and the earth would dry up, the cattle would drop dead, the peasants would starve. Ordinary, in accordance with the laws of nature and the eternal order of things. Since this was eternal and normal, none of the dignitaries would dare to bother His Most Exalted Highness with the news that in such and such a province a given person had died of hunger……..So how were we to know that there was unusual hunger up north?’
Silassie fed his supporters first and himself second; the starving masses had to wait their turn, which might never come. His callous disregard for the suffering of the people is chilling, at least until you compare it to his successor. Mengistu Hail Mariam led the Derg military regime that followed Silassie’s reign. He carried out policies that exacerbated drought in the Northern Provinces of Tigry and Wollo in the mid1980s. With civil war raging in these provinces and a two year drought, he engaged in forced collectivization. Millions were forced into collective farms and hundreds of thousands forced out of the province entirely. Mass starvation resulted. Estimates of the death toll are between 300,000 and 1 million people. From the Derg’s perspective the famine seriously weakened the rebels, a good thing as Mengistu saw it. Many of us remember Live Aid, a series of records and concerts organized by Bob Geldof to raise disaster relief. Unfortunately, as well intentioned as these efforts were, much of the aid fell under the influence of the government. For instance, trucks meant for delivering aid were requisitioned to forcibly move people into collective farms all around the country. Perhaps 100,000 people died in these relocation.” (The Dictators Hand Book, by Bruce Bueno De Mesquita and Alastair Smith, P162-163)
What I mentioned above is to refresh your memory a little bit. Even though corruption and kleptocracy were not started by Habasha rulers they were the first to introduce it to Africa. H/ Silassie started hording billions of Dollars in Swiss banks long before any African country got its independence. Therefore he is considered to be the first kleptocrat, the father and teacher of corruption in Africa.
We are still in the same vicious circle of corruption and kleptocratic rule. Instead of avoiding the barbaric acts of their fathers and forefathers todays Fascist rulers modernized and continued the same barbaric acts. Instead of burning alive, mutilation of hands and legs in public like Tewdros and Minilik, and instead of killing and throwing the dead body of their victims on the streets of cities like the military junta, today’s rulers do it behind doors, in known and un known detention camps, and prison centers like H/ Silassie deed. A hidden war is waged on the people in all colonized regions too.
Therefore it is not a matter of wander if peoples of this part of the world are starved in millions year after year. All Monarchs, Communist Military Junta leaders and The Fascist TPLF Dictators are on the same set of war against the colonized people, corruption and looting. In all of the mentioned criminal regimes government revenue was and is spent on bribing supporters and left open for corruption and on buying the loyalty of a few key cronies at the expense of general welfare. Yet these corrupt dictators make sure that the people cannot coordinate, rebel, and take control of the state and endeavor to keep those outside of their coalition poor, ignorant, and unorganized.
That is what TPLF fascists are doing today. Instead of mitigating poverty and hunger they loot all tax payers money, borrowed and aid money to reward their supportrs and buy weapons with the extra money to wage war on the colonized peoples like Oromo, sidama ,Ogadeenia, afar etc. who ask for their freedom. What is heart breaking most is on the very day they preached the self- sufficiency of the country in food supply and the idea was praised by US President, the International Agencies and medias started disclosing at least 4.5 million people are starved in a “Praised Ethiopia for its double digit economic growth”.
These Fascists behave like shy to tell the truth to the people of the country they rule about the famine looming on the people. On another hand they are courageous enough to exaggerate the damage to the donor countries to attract more relief funds. Once the aid fund is secured, it is simple for them to divert it into their private accounts, rather than being steered towards famine mitigation. Letting people die is good governance for them. This is the behavior of corrupt rulers.
I want to quote “We started this chapter with an account of Hail Silassie’s shakedown of donors. By now it should be clear that this practice is all too common, and reflects the logic of privately given aid. When private donors provide aid, governments must either strike deals with them so that the government gets its cut-that, after all, is the value of aid to a small coalition regime-or, in the absence of such deals, they must shakedown well-intentioned private donors. Either way, the government must get its piece of the action or it will make it impossible for donors to deliver assistance.”(The Dictator’s Handbook, p.186) This prevalence of master thieves among world leaders is shocking.
As the writer of this book clearly stated this practice is all too common to day and the corrupt TPLF leaders are an expert in channeling aid money to their foreign bank accounts. Their so called Civil Society’s Law was declared only to shakedown donors like their grandfather did half a century ago. So this process is a vicious circle which does not go away by itself. Nothing can stop this peril except liberating ourselves from the grip of these keliptocratic fascist dictators with our own struggle and sacrifice and build democratic and accountable governance.
By Tokkicha Abbaa Milkii