A new Amharic book by Dr. Dejazmatch Zewde Gabre-Selassie on the history of the Ethiopia-Eritrea War (1998-2000) has been published posthumously. Published seven years after the author’s death, the book has become a best-seller in Addis, with over 5000 copies gone in less than a week. Titled “The Conflict of Ethiopia and Eritrea; Causes and Solutions,” the 330-page book analyses the causes and context of the war that took the lives of some one hundred thousand people and one that continues to be the source of regional instability in the Horn of Africa. The book is described as one that could only be written by someone who possessed an excellent knowledge of Ethiopian and Eritrean history and of the past and present day Ethiopian and Eritrean personalities.
Dejazmatch Zewde, who was a minister under both the imperial regime and the Derg, has been a witness to some of the important events that he recounted in his book. His widow, Alemtsehay Araya Mamo, contributes an introduction, while Dr. Hailu Habtu of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, shares personal memories. Alemtsehay described her late husband as a much-loved family man, a soft-spoken peacemaker, a humble optimist who lobbied for peace and virtue. When the war between the two countries broke out, he had a lot of sleepless nights, she wrote. “It was with such real feeling and conviction that he decided to pen the book and he completed it and submitted the manuscript to the publisher.
I am extremely pleased that the book saw the light of the day even though tardily,” she wrote. Focusing on complex internal and external conditions that produced the brutal war, a “brother’s war,” which continues to fuel tensions in the region, Dejazmatch Zewde G/Selassie used archives in Ethiopia, Italy, UK and interviews with elders of the two countries to show the interlinked history of these two countries and two peoples share a common sense of identity. One chapter deals with short biographies of Eritreans who played a role in the political, social, economic and cultural life of Ethiopia. Prof. Shiferaw Bekele stated in the blurb that as most of the books written about the two countries after the independence of Eritrea have largely ignored the Ethiopian point of view, this book has a great significance as it breaks that tradition. He said it gives great lesson for Ethiopian readers as it shows Eritrea had always been part of Ethiopia from Gubat until the end of the twentieth century.
A great-grandson of the Emperor Yohannes IV and related through marriage to the Crown Prince, Dejazmatch Zewde served the Ethiopian government at various capacities. Obtaining his first, second and final degrees from the Oxford University, he started serving his country by talking over Assab and Massawa ports from the British and administrating them (at a time when Eritrea was being federated to Ethiopia). While he was at this post, he established the Maritime Affairs Department; he initiated the merchant marine company; and founded the naval college.
He headed various offices afterwards. He was appointed mayor of Addis Ababa, minister of Works and Communication, minister of Justice, minister of Interior, and finally minister of Foreign Affairs and deputy prime minster during regimes prior to the current EPRDF regime. He served in between as Ethiopian ambassador to Somalia, as Ethiopian permanent representative and ambassador to the United Nations. As historian he authored the biography of Emperor Yohannes and was published by Oxford University Press. 342
August 22, 2015
By Arefayne Fantahun