The ISSA Award Acceptance Speech
SEPTEMBER, 1997. WASHINGTON D.C.
SPEECHES & ARTICLES
Remarks By His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie Haile-Selassie in Response to the International Strategic Studies Association “Award for Outstanding Contributions to Strategic Progress For Services to Humanity”, Washington DC, September 23, 1997.
Mr. President, your Royal Highnesses, Right Honourable and Honorable Guests, Your Excellencies, and Distinguished Guests, it is a wonderful tribute to the Ethiopian people that the International Strategic Studies Association has tonight recognized their efforts throughout the world to overcome the difficulties imposed upon them by decades of civil war. And although the Association has chosen to make this presentation to me, I know that I am merely symbolic of the determination of all the peoples and clans of Ethiopia to rebuild the wellbeing of our nation.
We as a people have suffered terrible privations over the past few decades. Many of us, in order to preserve institutions and our way of life, and even in order to preserve the lives of our families, were dispersed into a diaspora around the world. And today, the Ethiopians of this diaspora, scattered throughout Europe, Africa, the Americas, Australasia, and elsewhere, have begun to come together once again to help rebuild their country and to assist Ethiopians who were able to remain in our country.
I thank the International Strategic Studies Association for the honour of this Award, but I accept it on behalf of the many thousands, tens of thousands, of Ethiopians around the world who have, from nothing, built worthwhile lives and professional careers in new lands, and who have now committed themselves to helping their less-fortunate countrymen. We are a proud people, who have resisted foreign domination, and who have maintained the longest continuous chain of government the world has ever known. My own family has, as Gregory Copley noted in his generous introduction, served Ethiopia for 228 generations. But then, so have the families of the Ethiopians who today, around the world, have begun to regroup and stand up for the unity and wellbeing of their homeland.
We have suffered mightily, but we are not poor in spirit. The peoples of every Ethiopian nation — Oromo, Amhara, Tigrean and others —constitute a rich mosaic of cultures in a land steeped in history, and religious and cultural tolerance. My own focus, these recent years, has been to provide to all Ethiopians a reminder that their economic and social success as a federation of nations has come from their willingness to consent to a union and a common cause. My function has not been to seek charity for the Ethiopian people, but rather to help reassert the ability of Ethiopians, where-ever they may be, to rebuild the greatness of the country.
There is an irony in the fact that the diaspora of Ethiopians, caused by the genocidal actions of the unlamented communist Dergue which for a while seized control of our country, has led to a class of Ethiopians who have learned the languages of new countries, and have become educated professionals and skilled workers in new lands. This has created a base of relative wealth, skills and sophistication which will give Ethiopia an unprecedented advantage in moving into the next Century.
My task is to help ensure that the conditions exist for them to be able to go home to a society which will welcome the contributions which they bring back from exile. And that there exists within Ethiopia a society which, in the wake of the hatreds and cruelty stirred up by the Dergue and the civil war which they brought down upon us, is still capable of a proud partnership of the various cultures, traditions, religions and languages which built our land over the past 3,000 years.
There is an understandable nervousness within the Administration governing Ethiopia today, particularly with regard to the return of an emigré and refugee communities which has been exposed to a wide range of foreign influences. There is also a feeling among some Ethiopians that it is a time to settle scores, and to isolate the various peoples — the Oromos, Amhara, Tigreans — from each other. This move toward an Ethiopian apartheid is being tolerated by many in the United States, who should be vocal against the trend. And this division of the country, particularly the suggestion that the Oromo peoples should secede from Ethiopia, is being actively encouraged by some foreign governments, particularly the German Government. As an Ethiopian with Oromo, Amhara and Tigrean ancenstry, I find this as lamentable as the suggestion that Westphalia should secede from Germany, or Texas from the United States.
So, in thanking the Association tonight for this Award, I hope that I have been able to draw attention to the fact that Ethiopia and Ethiopians have the ability to rebuild our great nation, and to the fact that there are divisions which are being allowed to occur in our country because the world is either silent or is actively encouraging them. I urge you to learn what you can of my beautiful and friendly country so that you may be an advocate for her unity and reconstruction, and that she might resume her place as the pride of Africa and a symbol that Africa is a continent of hope and promise.