August born singer, pianist and self-crowned “Queen of Blues” Dinah Washington, popularized the song with timeless lyrics, “What a diff’rence a day made, Twenty-four little hours…”. August 15th, is one of those days with great historic and personal meaning to me. It is the day India, my father’s homeland, gained independence after 200 years of British rule. Despite the sometimes-dubious relationship with Indians in Africa, seen by some as beneficiaries of colonial legacies in countries like Kenya and Uganda, the narrative of Ethio-India relations dates back over 2,000 years based on trade which flourished during the 1st century of the ancient Axumite Empire. In the 20th century a large number of Indian teachers were also invited to educate children in remote areas of Ethiopia by Emperor Haile Selassie I. To date bi-lateral relations have grown exponentially, however, it’s the compelling writings of historians J.A. Rogers and Runoko Rashidi that reveal the deep roots between Ethiopia and India which formed the ties that bind.
August 15th also marks the independence of the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) after 80 years of French control. The fight to end colonial rule in Congo peaked in July 1960 with 3,500 ONUC troops arriving in the Congo. Over 10% of the assembled army were Ethiopian forces known as the “Tekil Brigade”. ETHIOPIA AND CONGO A Tale of Two Medieval Kingdoms by Fikru Gebrekidan provides deeper insight into the similar 16th century parallel kingdoms of Solomon and Bantu, which had diverging paths due to colonialism. Congo Seffer, located in Addis Abeba, diplomatic capital of Africa, is a remnant of that time; best known to have housed families of former fighters who aided in Congo’s independence.
August 15th 1974, is also the birth date of Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed. Most Ethiopians know his attempts, accomplishments and accolades, including the Nobel Peace Prize which turned the “world’s most powerful leader” green with envy, but that’s another story. Dr. Abiy, a bright-eyed boy from Beshasha, one of 13 siblings, was known as Abiyot, (revolution). He hailed from a dynamic and diverse spiritual legacy with a Muslim Dad and Orthodox Mom surrounded by indigenous practices in the rural region of Oromia. He found his faith as a Protestant and is said to have preached a bit on his journey to the highest office in the land, notwithstanding his military and political positions. It’s no surprise that he would marry Zinash Tayechew, gospel singer and mother of his 4 children based on his well -known love for the both the arts and his faith. Dr. Abiy’s focus on the future has caused a great gap between those who love and support and those who abhor and undermine. What else is new? This is the load that leaders bare, especially in Ethiopia; not for the faint of heart as history recalls. That doesn’t stop us armchair analysts from prescribing a range of calculated to café style advice, if followed to the tee, would provide a “walk in the park” for the Prime. Not!
One of my wise Rastafari Elders, Ras Sam Brown, who bucked the system in Jamaica garnering 100 votes for PM under the Suffering People’s Party in 1961, often reminded us that the exact thing one loves you for is the exact thing another will hate you for. But Leos, (cue rolling of eyes at the astrological reference), center stage, shining under the sun sign with fire and the lion as symbols; believe all things are possible. For woke Leo leaders – July 23rd to August 22 – love, peace, power, control, generosity, kindness, regimentation, freedom and happiness is ALL the order of the day. They will spend every hour of the 24-hour day planning and working to make it so. Dr. Abiy has these traits and will never accept anything less than peace and prosperity for all, building towards what skeptics say is a utopic legacy.
Full disclosure: I too am born on August 15th in 1961 and reserve the right, much like Dinah Washingston’s self-proclamation, to develop my rare insight and connection to the PM, unbeknownst to him. (LOL) My presumptuously amusing testament is based on our joint birthday and other inflated factors. For instance, I gave birth to 10 children with triple that number in my clan. We were one family with common bonds yet individual identities, personalities and aspirations. Much like my family, aka DestaNation, the PM’s betaseb, Ethiopia, require 24 hour a day attention to address the well-being of over 80 ethnic groups. Imagine, I spent 156 months pregnant and nursing 10 babies, followed by decades of care, and I am still unable to get them to agree on one dish for dinner, even the identical twins. Yet we demand that in our PM’s short 28 months of service he should have gone further in advancing and reconciling the best interest of 110 million+ people. Seriously? At least Dr. Abiy can probably get 100 million Ethiopians to agree on mealtime injera while I still hold out hope for my 10. This is all a stretch and in good humor but with a purpose. Suffice it to say my birthday wish for Dr. Abiy is continued patience and fortitude, sensitivity and strength; seeded in faith and humanity, recalling the old adage for every day, ‘…when man on earth has done his best God will do the rest.’ Make every count.
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.