Walk the Talk on Tenants of the Adwa Victory

Mar 9 , 2019
By Michael G. Behailu

The first Saturday of March saw the celebration of the Victory of Adwa, a commemoration of Ethiopia’s victory in the late 20th century against Italian forces. It made the nation the only country in Africa to have been able to successfully fend off a European invasion, leading to independence that was maintained until a five-year interruption between 1935 and 1941.

The celebration was as warm and colourful as it was highly anticipated. There was though a shallowness to the commemoration that was too glaring and yet barely discussed.

The incessant mention of triumph over a foreign force remains, in the end, meaningless without the continued effort of generations to carry the torch of bravery and defiance shown by the very same people we praise. The history of this nation triumphing as a collective people rings hollow, considering the monumental victory that was achieved over a century ago. We have regressed ever since, and we are divided now more than ever.

The Victory of Adwa has, more than anything else, been about the unity of the nation. Against all odds, a nation came together to defeat a common enemy. Differences among the people faded at the time, considering the larger target that was aimed at, the sovereignty of our nation.

Fast forward into the 21st century, we have a hard time reaching a consensus over even matters such as a national flag. But in reality, we are faced with a far more formidable common enemy that has haunted the nation since its founding - poverty.

Ethnic tensions and conflicts are increasing, with innocent lives being lost and property being damaged. Political leaders seem to have no other purpose than shifting blame or promoting and using political power for their own agenda and personal use without feeling perturbed for failing to provide alternate policies.

We seem to be in a never-ending cycle of self-destruction. I dread to think what those warriors would have said had they known that the blood and sweat they sacrificed for - a strong and united nation – is far from reality.

It is frustrating when the Victory of Adwa is constantly championed without ever acting on the central tenants of its significance. We can talk about this day in the media or visit the Menelik roundabout en mass. Both though will remain pointless if we fail to pass on to the next generation a state with history, culture and institutions that are inclusive enough to fight for.

The celebration should be in our effort to work hard to build a country where no one starves, lives on the streets, is not left out of access to education and does not pay a price for being from any lingo-cultural group.

We should celebrate by educating our young, taking care of the old and implementing policies that better people’s lives. It must be displayed in our effort to create an environment where businesses and individuals can excel and raise the flag of the world on the international stage.

It should be in making sure that the country’s name is mentioned by international media for all the right reasons, for excellence in the arts, sciences and sports. We should celebrate the victory by contributing to the country, so our universities produce Nobel prize winners and our society fosters the next great leader, humanitarian or moralist.

This is how we can continue the legacy of our ancestors during that ballet, not by repeating mottos and slogans that on their own mean little. That is just simple bravado, contrary to actual bravery displayed by our ancestors when they defeated Italy. After a century of celebrating the battle, it is about time we walk the talk on what makes it significant.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 09,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 984]

Michael G. Behailu is an economist, gender activist and blogger. He can be reached at michaelbehailu@gmail.com.

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