Posted on Wednesday, 08 February 2012 19:40
Ethiopia's conundrum: A statue for Nkrumah or Selassie?
By Janet Shoko
Kwame Nkrumah's statue, which was recently unveiled at the African
Union (AU) headquarters, has sparked anger amongst Ethiopian scholars,
historians and politicians, who feel the country's former leader Haile
Selassie deserved the honour.
Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (L) Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana (R)
Members of Parliament have also been drawn into the debate and on
Wednesday raised the issue with Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi as he
delivered a half yearly report to the House.
However, Meles defended the decision to honour Nkrumah, the former
Ghanaian leader, whom he described as a pan African.
What has further incensed the Ethiopians is that, with the AU
headquarters being in their country, they expected a statue of their
former leader to be erected.
Nkrumah is credited with being the brains behind the creation of the
Organisation of African Union (OAU), a precursor to the AU. He led the
so-called "progressive states", a six-member organisation called the
Casablanca Group, founded in 1961. The group later morphed into the
OAU in 1963.
Ethiopian scholars and politicians questioned why the government had
not suggested the construction of Haile Selassie's statue at the
recent AU summit. Selassie's supporters claim he is the father of
Africa and he deserved to have his statue at the AU compound, instead
"It is Haile Selassie who is described by African leaders as the
father of Africa not Nkrumah," Dr Yacob Hailemariam, a popular
politician and an opposition party member, said.
written articles in local media, calling upon historians to proclaim
who deserved to have a statue erected at the AU.
It is only Nkurmah who is remembered whenever we talk about pan Africanism
Hailemariam accused the Ethiopian government of not lobbying for a
statue in Selassie's honour, a view shared by many of the country's
scholars, who blame the government for not giving any credit to its
former leader. "We as Africans should be proud of Nkrumah for his pan
"It is a shame not to accept his role. It is only Nkurmah who is
remembered whenever we talk about pan Africanism," Meles insisted, as
he addressed the debate.
Meles's government has often criticised Selassie's track record.
However, there are still many people who appreciated Selassie, a
former Ethiopian emperor, for his role in Africa's independence and
Selassie was known for lending support to South Africa's fight
against apartheid and invited former president Nelson Mandela to
Ethiopia to get military training.
The former South African president
acknowledged in a recent book that he was able to attend an OAU summit
during the apartheid era, at the behest of Selassie who facilitated
that he received an Ethiopian passport and attended the meeting as a
Ethiopian historians said they also remembered Selassie for his
leading role in the creation of the OAU. "Our government, because of
its hatred for Selassie, failed to campaign for him, while Ghana
proposed to the AU to have Nkrumah's statue. This is a historical
mistake by our government," Hailemariam charged.
Under Nkrumah's leadership, Ghana, in 1957, became the first African
country to attain independence.
Selassie, who is believed to have been killed by a military junta
about 40 years ago, is buried inside the country's national palace.
His remains were reburied after his family and supporters asked for an
official burial ceremony.
But, the current government didn't give
recognition for his official burial ceremony and denied him a state
The perceived animosity has given rise to speculation that Meles's
government had been the stumbling block to a statue being erected for
the former emperor. "It was because of Selassie that the AU is in
Addis Ababa. It is not because of the current regime," another
Historian, Mesfin Tariku said. "We have no idea on the criteria used
to choose Nkrumah."
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Received on Wed Feb 08 2012 - 22:48:21 EST