[ St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN  ]

Selam All

As was originally planned, the Centennial of Adowa was celebrated on Saturday, March 16 in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was held on the premise of MaCalster College in St. Paul. The turn out was unprecedented in the Twin-Ciities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. These two cities have long remained important centers for anti- Ethiopian unity forces particularly OLF and TPLF/EPLF.

Ethiopians of all ages and walks of life flocked in droves to the auditorium of this private college starting at noon. Most of the ladies were attired in the ever beautiful shema dresses. What was unusual, at least for me, was how the Ethiopian flag has now become the main "tibeb" to decorate the shema dresses. There were a group of women and young girls who were in almost identical flag-edged shema filling nearly the full length of one of middle rows of the big auditorium. They not only added beauty to the occasion by their elegant presence but they also seemed to have made a deliberate political statement regarding their Ethiopian identity. I read pride and self-assurance in the way they conducted themselves. And I wispered to myself, bravo, ladies!

The festivities was opened by a welcoming statement by the chairman of the Organizing Committeee, Ato Merha Tibebu. A veteran of the Maichew battle and a patriot during the second phase invasion of the Italian fascists, Ato Ersa Adada, made a moving speech about both Adowa and Maichew battles. The elderly gentelman, particularly lamented the fact that no national monument bearing the names of those who fell in Adowa and Maichew was erected in Addis Ababa. He urged the gathering to take the issue very seriously and make financial contributions to erect a monument (such as the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.) in a square in Addis bearing the names of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country in Adowa. He suggested the urgent collection of the names of the fallen heros from old people such as himself, before such a group of Ethiopians disappear from the scene. Ato Ersa made a donation of $20 toward the monument project.

The keynote address was delivered by Prof. Getachew Haile. In his statement, Prof. Getachew expressed how Ethiopians in Minnesota are contributing to the struggle for national liberation. In this regard, he noted with satisfaction how the two leading pro-unity Ethiopian publications MORESH as well as ETHIOPIAN REGISTER are being published in Minnesota.

I will do injustice if I attempt to summarize the rather elaborate explanation Prof. Getachew gave not only on the history of the Adowa battle but much importantly on the implications of the victory of Adowa to the current crisis we face in Ethiopia. The multi-ethnic and multi-religous composition of the participants of the Adowa campaign was profusely underscored by him. One point he raised and which I found to be quite interesting was the need for pro-unity Oromos to organize themselves under an ethnic organization so as to successfully counter the OLF.

Prof Getachew observed that many pro-unity Oromos are quite active in multi-ethnic political parties. However, such Oromos have not been able to successfully challenge OLF's claims and misguided programs since they do not have a distictly pro-unity Oromo organization. Although organizing oneself in non-ethnic parties is very important, prof. Getachew, observed that the political cost of not challengnig OLF in its own game is becoming too much. He, therefore, suggested that it may be necessary for Oromos who support Ethiopian unity, to consider organizing themselves on ethnic lines so that there will be another organization that may speak on behalf of the large majority of Ethiopian Oromos who support Ethiopian unity. Currently only OLF claims to represent Oromos.

After the keynote speech a panel discussion followed. The panelists included distiguished Ethiopian, African and African- American scholars and historians. This part of the activity was chaired by Pro. Amde-Michael Habte. Prof. Amde is a professor of Mass Communication at St. Cloud State Univrsity. Dr. Solomon Gashaw of the University of Minnesota, spoke on the "Implications of Adowa to Contemporary Politics in Ethiopia." Dr. Solomon highlighted the multi-ethnic nature of the Adowa struggle and alluded how the salvation to Ethiopia from current problems may lie in the same approach. Dr. Peter F. Nayenga, a Ugandan, made a speech on "the significance of Adowa to the Anti-Colonial Movement" while Dr. Mahmoud El-Kati, an African-American, spoke on "Adowa and Black Nationalists."

A local band, Daniel Asfaw and Wossen Tsegaws', as well as a cultural musical troupe of the Ethiopian Students Association in the University of Minnesota provided entertainment. The traditional ethnic dances performed by the students' musical group was particularly both entertaining as well as more fitting to the multi-ethinc recurring theme of the occassion. Earlier there was a slide show on Ethiopian civilization by Ms Firedengel.

Adowa continues to inspire and unify Ethiopians even 100 years later. One hopes that that spirit is captured and put to good use for overcoming current difficulties. I don't see a more fitting mechanism other than forming a UF to immortalize teh Adowa spirit.

Ke Akbrot Selameta Gar
Selam


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