A true proponent of Ethiopianism both in blood and ink

February 22, 2019 Africa , Interviews , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , OTHER


Ambo Mekasa interviews Dawit W/Giorgis



Ethiopianism is not a sentiment one simply utters with words. It is the oxygen that gallops through the veins of every citizen. Till they breathe their last, it will remain embedded in their heart of hearts. As such, wherever they live scattered across the globe, Ethiopianism remains sedentary in their hearts. Ethiopianism is not an outfit one can pull off. For it, many Ethiopians had sacrificed a lot to build and bequeath a great nation to the coming generation. These people were not blinded by narrow ethnic politics as well as “me or mine” mindset, they were imbued by love of the flag and a nationalistic feeling.


Today’s guest is Major Dawit W/Giorgis who belongs to the aforementioned set.


Dawit was born in 1941 in Addis Ababa. He is the son of the famous journalist often mentioned the father of modern journalism in Ethiopia, Bilata Wolde Giorgis. Dawit is the 4th son of the well-known journalist Bilata.


Dawit inherited a nationalist feeling from his parents, especially from his father. He is a true son of Ethiopia who did a great favor to his country. When it comes to his country, he never compromises hid firm stance. He started his education at Addis Ababa, graduating from Addis Ababa University in law and earned a doctor of jurisprudence from the University of Columbia.


In addition, he had graduated from different American Military Colleges in different fields. He graduated from American Higher Military College in the special forces and learned about biological and chemical weapons. He served his country with pride in different capacities. Though he was not a member of Derg, he served the regime in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was chief Governor of Eritrea and Commissioner of Relief and Rehabilitation. He wrote history in golden inks saving millions during a famine that hit the country in 1985. In addition he served in many international institutions. He was a counselor for many African countries and is also the founder of relief and rehabilitation programs for all African countries.


Currently, he is the Executive General for Institute of African Security Strategic Studies under United Nation. In addition, Dawit is a published author. Red Tears and Kihidet Bedem Meret are among his books that saw the day’s light.


This journalist had the privilege of interviewing Dawit W/Giorgis.



How do you express the feeling of returning home after 33 years in exile?


Dawit: First my feeling was not that different. But, when I drew close to the Bole Airport, a curtain of mist rose before my eyes. Before I knew it, balls of tears broke away to trickle down my cheeks. All soldiers, under my jurisdiction, who sacrificed their lives on the altar of overriding love for motherland, came in and out of my mind. All of them paid sacrifices for one country under the umbrella of one flag. I had written a lot on this.


Though, I was a Major in the army and as such a man who passed through ups and downs and also a military leader who was in a tight corner, I cannot stop crying thinking of my soldiers who ceased to be in different places for the cause of their country. The memory of those who fought for the sovereignty of the country also those who breathed their last waving the flag high overwhelmed me. Reminiscing about these martyrs and heroes stirred a strong feeling in me. That was why I could not control my tears. Wherever I may live, it is my number one wish to see my country.



How do you assess the change under the leadership of PM Abiy and the geopolitics in the Horn?


Dawit: I have written a lot regarding this. Supporting the PM, I was the first Ethiopian Diaspora to write the article called “Let us rally around the Prime Minister.” I really support the change. The PM salvaged the country from great catastrophe. I have published many articles on CNN about the change. We have to render him due support as he has come to allow the country a surge on the avenue of peace, unity, democracy and development. He is wise and valiant in his actions. Like a rain out of a blue sky, the PM has come to save and transform the country.


Though the change is good, there has to be a fundamental change. We can save Ethiopia through fundamental changes not through reform. But this takes time. I believe, slowly but surely, Dr. Abiy will lead us to such fundamental change. I hope he is ambitious, that is why we encourage the change. So, let us contemplate for fundamental changes.


I have been working with others on ways of strengthening the relation among Ethiopians. We found cementing the bond between Oromo and Amhara as a major solution to unifying the country. These two ethnic groups are the major stems of the Ethiopian Tree. If we manage to ensure peace and unity between these peoples, strengthening the fabric among the rest will not be that difficult. I have worked a lot to revitalize the unity of Oromo and Amhara people, for the unity of the two can warrant the unity of the country.


I have been working with Oromo Democratic Front chairman Lencho Letta and Dr. Dima Noggo and others on how to bring peoples of the two ethnic groups together. I do not know my being an Amhara. But we have established a committee to start discussions on how to forge unity and build the nation. We have worked a lot to bring the two together and build a common agenda for one country. We have been doing so anxious that the country would be subject to disintegration.


The coming to power of Abiy has warranted optimism and change to the country. We have to support and pray for him to do better and go forward. Though we have come a long way, the rests are more complicated. As we know, we have troubles internally and externally. We are surrounded by enemies, who always work to eliminate us.


As we know, eight strategic areas are found in Djibouti. Eastern Africa is a very strategic and complex place of security. Many strange things are taking place there. Having the most complex geopolitics or military area, it is a peculiar place in the world. America, France, China, Japan, Italy, England, United Arab Emirates, Saud Arabia are among the countries that have set their army base there. Eretria’s military base is being built; Somalia has invited Turkey and Qatar to build their military power there. There are other forces in Sudan. If we ask what is going around, Ethiopia is the center for all this.


Ethiopia is a big country for a strategic usage. It is a place where everyone could optimize benefits. Such encircling forces aim at economic and marine-related advantages, among others. Beyond that, all are seriously looking at Ethiopia. We cannot say there is no external intervention. It needs serious attention. Ethiopian youngsters may not know this. It is God who has kept Ethiopia and who is still keeping it.


Let us know how to strengthen our unity and stay strong.



What do you think are the formidable challenges to the ongoing reforms?


Dawit: The main challenge is seeing to the sustenance of the unity of Ethiopia. We have a golden history of togetherness, cultural and traditional values that unite us. But we are not using that for unification but destruction. The new concept of ethnic nationalism, inflated to the extreme, in different states is eroding our past histories of togetherness. True to Dr. Abiy’s move, if we could succeed in uniting citizens, the rest can be achieved. This is the biggest challenge to the incumbent. If we could bring people together under one flag for one agenda of the country, we can build a prosperous, developed and democratic Ethiopia.



How did you see the flowering of the Ethio-Eritrean relation, some are seeing it as a threat?


Dawit: I strongly support the peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The current generation simply utters only what they heard from politicians and only what are dished out to twist their mindsets. In one of my book entitled Kihidet Bedem Meret, I have written that it is Eritreans that rekindled the spark of nationalistic feeling (Ethiopianism) among Ethiopians. During my stay in Eritrea as a commander of the army and governor, I had witnessed the presence of Eritreans who sacrificed their lives for the Ethiopian flag, which they cherished most. It could appear strange but that was what I had observed during those days. In Eritrea, I did witness people who considered sacrificing to the motherland as a pride.


It is the cumulative mistakes of our leaders that led Eritrean youngsters to contemplate secession. Had the former were prudential enough to abstain from killing and arresting people, Eritreans would not have embraced separation. We could have maintained one nation under one flag. Many Eritreans were killed and detained simply for reading articles of Shabia. People were suffering a lot as a result of the harsh measures of the government.


I stayed three years in Eritrea during the Shabia movement. As I observed, secession was the farthest thing from their mind. But the action of government forced them to secede.


President Mengistu had a bent to use the stick than the carrot. He opted not to use discussion to iron out differences. This is the worst thing that could happen on citizens. It provokes a secessionist feeling in most people. Ethiopianism could not be bread; everyone should be served across the board and must enjoy democratic and human rights. It should uphold what could benefit all. So, doing one’s level best is essential to sustain the ongoing relation and benefit both people of Ethiopia and Eretria.



Could you tell us some information about the ex-President Mengistu Hailemariam and his failure?


Dawit: We were conclusion-jumpers. We made haste to appreciate Mengistu. But judging leaders is something that takes time. People were interested in him at the beginning. He was respectful to scholars. Even if he hand clues and information before and, he never refused to hear people again and again. But few years later, he began to turn a deaf ear and opposing everyone. He became cruel. He took himself as the man better-placed to shape the fate of the country. He took the country as his sole property. Thus, he crossed the red line. That was dangerous.


He used to speak what he gathered from different scholars. He was play acting the know all. He started to crush things through military power and showed a cold shoulder to scholars. Reverting back, whenever I relive those times, I realize we praised him more than expected and gave him the respect he did not deserve. This is what led to his failure.


The people, who were used to respect and support him, began to denounce him. Conflicts began to surface in different parts of the country. Due to this, he lost loyalty from his people. At last, he was forced to leave the country after much destruction rocked the country.



You have played quite a role in saving the lives of millions during the 1984-1985 famine that hit the country. Could you explain that?


Dawit: That was the worst famine of all times. I joined the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission. The life of millions was at risk. It was a historical epoch. It was an operation that galvanized the attention of the whole world after the end of the Second World War. Though socialism was our political orientation, at the time, the famine brought the socialist and capitalist countries to one humanitarian basket.


Together with my fellow partners, we exposed the reality in the country and managed to garner sought-after aid and spared the lives of millions. Ironic as it may sound, the government was touting that socialism has changed the lives of people for the better and ushered in equality, while dozens were dying. The report we had at hand and what the government was preaching were totally different. Due to this, we were forced to make a call to the international community for help.


They responded to our call aiming at addressing two things. The first one was saving the lives of innocent people.


The second one was overthrowing the Marxist government and bringing a political change in the country.


In addition, I called to Hollywood and met with well-Known artists like Michael Jackson and Lionel Riche. They told me their intention to raise fund organizing a concert and making a clip entitled “We are the world!” It taught humanity first. As a result, we were able to secure millions of USD to save lives.



How do you see the 1960’s generation? Is there something you blame them for?


Dawit: The generation was very ambitious, liberal, educated and socialist minded though some opt to call them narrow minded and the like. The birth of TPLF, OLF, and other fronts was the result of the movement that attended the 60’s. They could have changed the country for the better. Most of them realized they made a disastrous mistake for distorting history. The mistake done by most African leaders is not learning from history. History is the best teacher.


I think the 60’s taught us a lot of things to avoid. But members of that generation were good readers and writers. They used to read different books. Unlike this generation they never fell dupes or never tuned to fake news posted on the social media. They often did things based on accurate and right information.



What do you think about the fake news being disseminated on social media? What should be done?


Dawit: Things are getting knotty. If you believe in the freedom of expression and then prohibit people not to access the web and different social media, things are going to be wrong. But, in the developed countries things are clear. People are well educated. They do not heed fake news disseminated in the social media. I think this is because, they are democratic as well as educated enough. In addition, the system does not allow them to write whatever they want.


In a country devoid of a strong democratic culture, a fake news can easily push people into ethnic conflict and war. This is what had been witnessed in several countries.


Youngsters do not have a deep knowledge of their country and people. Even they are seen forgetting their useful cultural values and running after that of others. They are concentrating more on things that could divide the country.


In America a hate speech is a crime. If you are caught indulging in such felony you will go to jail for not less than fifteen years. In the most democratic states’ rights have limits. But here, bloggers and others are writing fake news that could trigger war and foment war. When you have such kind of rights on the wrong hands and the uneducated, it could be dangerous. We have to make individuals who are participating in such immoral action accountable. Everyone should work on it. The media and every citizen should work on creating awareness.


Let us unite and stay strong!





Ambo Mekasa

EPA reporter, earning his BA in English Language and Literature from Arsi University.

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