“Let, us, here and now, agree upon the basic instrument which will constitute the foundation for the future growth in peace and harmony and oneness of this continent.” HIM Emperor Haile Selassie I, 25 May 1963
Today, 10 February 2019, the African Union (AU) unveiled the approximately 2.5 meter high bronze statue of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie, a Founding Father of the African Union and world renowned statesman; amongst the myriad accolades bestowed on the Emperor, affectionately called Ababa Janhoi. The commission for the iconic art work was granted to Addis Ababa University, Alle School of Fine Art and Design by the Government of Ethiopia, with artist and academician extraordinaire Professor Bekele Mekonnen at the helm. According to Art School Director, Agegnehu Adane, the statue was entrusted to the Art School to design and create, all done within seven months. It is fitting if not a wonderful irony that the Art School, inaugurated by the Majesty sixty years ago will fulfill the mandate agreed to by Member States of the AU.
The unveiling ceremony has a list of invitees including the Imperial Family, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I Memorial Association and the Ethiopian World Federation, active proponents for this recognition. Other invitees are diplomats and dignitaries from the Continent and the world, all wishing to pay homage to The Majesty for His significant role as an advocate for African unity. However, it is the fact that the unveiling has been positioned on the first day of the AU General Assembly, during the mid-morning opening session, where 55 Heads of State are represented, that is most significant and indeed fitting.
The decision taken to build and erect the statue, was initiated by the President of Ghana H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo based on the historic relationship between President Nkrumah and the Emperor, who shared the vision of African unity. H.E. Nkrumah, during a State visit in 1960 for HIM to Accra said, “I cannot express in words adequate to the occasion, the emotions and feelings aroused in the breast of every Ghanaian which your visit has invoked. Ethiopia in our minds stood or freedom, African independence, African dignity and African self-respect.” This sentiment spoke volumes then and is relevant for the occasion today. So as H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo is joined by Prime Minister, H.E. Dr. Abiy Ahmed; AU Chairperson, President Paul Kagame and AU Commission Moussa FAki Mahamat to unveil the statue we are reminded by The Majesty’s words, “Today, we look to the future calmly, confidentially and courageously. We look to the vision of an African not merely free but united… . History teaches us that unity is strength. This conciliatory and cautionary excerpt is engraved on the grey cultured marble foundation surrounding the stone pedestal, on which the statue sits, accented with malachite stones. This new and overdue focal point on the AU Compound will see an inauguration, enshalla, when the AU Summit and all the traffic and security details attached to said have subsided, allowing for the People of Ethiopia who longed for this day and all others to join in an august occasion fit for the King of Kings. This in mind, I close with the words of the AUC Deputy Chairperson, H.E. Kwesi Quartey who states, “This is Africa’s diplomatic capital and a symbol of Pan-Africanism. We extend our appreciation to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia as well as the good people of Ethiopia for their commitment to the AU.”
Note: There was “…so much thing to say right now..” in the words of Bob Marley that I had to write this short column.
Dr. Desta Meghoo is a Jamaican born
Creative Consultant, Curator and cultural promoter based in Ethiopia since 2005. She also serves as Liaison to the AU for the Ghana based, Diaspora African Forum.