|In 1962, the burly, black-haired Mandela came to Ethiopia seeking military and political
training to fight apartheid. At a young age and without much experience as a freedom fighter,
Mandela was thrilled to see and meet the black independent sovereign who already gained
prominence in the international scene. The following excerpt from Nelson Mandela’s new
book, Conversations With Myself, renders a portrait of Haile Selassie based on a meeting with
the Ethiopian Emperor in military parade in Addis Ababa. From a recorded conversation with
Time magazine editor, Stengel, we could see that Mandela was clearly impressed by the
Emperor’s statesmanship. He spoke few words given their distant acquaintance but they will
carry immense weight simply because of who he is. Describing the Emperor as “an impressive
fellow man, man, very impressive”, Mandela adds: “It was my first time to watch…a head of
state going through the formalities.” Here is the whole text.
Conversations with Richard Stengel about meeting Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia
STENGEL: So tell me about the Emperor, Haile Selassie. You met him.
MANDELA: That was an impressive fellow, man, very impressive. It was my first time to
watch…a head of state going through the formalities… the motions of formality. This chap came
wearing a uniform and he then came and bowed. But it was a bow which was not a bow –he
stood erect, you see, but just brought down his head…then…took his seat and addressed us,
but he spoke in (Amharic)…Then, at the end of the conference he saw every, each
delegation…and Comrade Oliver Tambo asked me to speak for our delegation, to speak to him.
And I explained to him very briefly what was happening in South Africa…He was seated on his
chair, listening like a log…not nodding, just immovable, you know, like a statue…The next time
I saw him was when we attended a military parade, and that was very impressive (whistles),
absolutely impressive. And he was then giving awards…to the soldiers; everyone who had
graduated got a certificate… A very fine ceremony-a very dignified chap- and he also gave
medals. There (were) American military advisors… (and) groups of military advisers from
various countries …And so he gave medals to these chaps too. But to see whites going to a
black monarch emperor and bowing was also very interesting.
|Tsega Tekle Haimanot ~ the album African Unity . ~ 17 August 2020|
Nelson Mandela's Fondness for Ethiopia and Her Last Emperor
Nelson Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader and
philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, the country's first
black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election, had
a great fondness for Ethiopia. He personally stated that,
"Ethiopia always has a special place in my imagination and the prospect of visiting Ethiopia
attracted me more strongly than a trip to France, England, and America combined. I felt I would
be visiting my own genesis, unearthing the roots of what made me an African."
Mandela also as well had, apart from Ethiopia, great admiration for Ethiopia's sovereign ruler,
and the Father of Africa, Emperor Haile Selassie. Nelson Mandela saw Emperor Haile Selassie
as, "the African giant". For Mandela, seeing Emperor Haile Selassie in the early 1960s, it was
the first time he saw a man inspecting his troops, "a black man", inspecting black troops who
was highly armed. It was right then and there that, he, Nelson Mandela knew, upon seeing the
Emperor, who was small in stature, but who possessed a face that was full of dignity, that
Africans were meant to win the war against colonialism.
It was in July 1962 when Mandela visited Ethiopia. On this visit, Col. Fekadu Wakene, taught
the then South African political activist the tricks of guerilla warfare including how to plant
explosives before slipping quietly away into the night.
Mandela was in Ethiopia learning how to be the commander-in-chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe -
the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). The group had announced its arrival at
the end of 1961 by blowing up electricity pylons in various places in South Africa. Then on 11
January 1962, Nelson Mandela, had secretly and illegally slipped out of Africa.
His mission was to meet as many African political leaders as possible and garner assistance for
the ANC, including money and training for its military wing, as well as to be moulded into a
Emperor Haile Selassie would order Col Tadesse Birru who was in charge of the military
training of Nelson Mandela (who was then holding an Ethiopian passport issued by the
emperor under the alias David Motsamayi, which he used on his tour of several African
countries) to give him a symbolic and good luck Soviet made semi-automatic weapon and 200
rounds of ammunition. This gun was the first weapon ever owned by the father of free South
Africa, Africa's pride and joy, Nelson Mandela who had left a deep impression on those who
met him during his stay in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Abeba. Mandela, neither himself, never
forgot and referred to this encouraging symbolic gesture from the leader of the only
uncolonized nation in Africa. The gun was buried by Mandela in his house after his return and
had been the holy grail of the liberation of South Africa which would later be unearthed.
May God bless their memories eternal.
|Nothing is hidden from God's view!...
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