insight on American-Ethiopian history
Nov 09, 2011 2:07 pm
By Tayler Cattera,
opian-history> Western Herald
The U.S. military is flying drone aircraft from a base in Ethiopia to fight
against Islamist militants in Somalia. Officials report that the
remote-piloted drones are being used strictly for surveillance and are
flying unarmed because their use is considered sensitive by Ethiopia's
government, according to BBC News.
Today, Ethiopia is letting the U.S. use its remote civilian base in the
southern city of Arba Minch as a way to help fight the war on terror, but
the relationship between the two countries dates back over 100 years.
Dr. Assefa Mehretu, an Ethiopian native and professor of geography at
Michigan State University, spoke about American-Ethiopian relations at
Western Michigan University Wednesday afternoon.
More than 50 people, both students and professors, listened intently as the
accomplished Africa scholar talked passionately about the history America
and Ethiopia share.
"Americans really identified with Ethiopians back then," Mehretu said of the
two countries' relationship in past years. "It was a love affair."
Although just a small country in Africa of about 77 million people, Ethiopia
has always had the attitude that it was a country to be taken seriously and
When Ethiopia first won the war over colonial Italy with King Menelik II in
charge, the United States noticed. They were impressed and made their first
official mission to Ethiopia in 1903.
It was not much later that Italy tried defeating Ethiopia again, but this
time Americans got involved. In the 1930s, many Americans were willing to go
fight the Italians to defend Ethiopia.
"The U.S. didn't endorse people going over to fight but Americans would go
to Ethiopia as tourists and then actually fight," Mehretu said.
Many of the first pilots for Ethiopian airlines were Americans.
Haile Sellassie, king of Ethiopia at that time, became an extremely visible
character even for Americans. He was named man of the year in TIME magazine
for being so progressive.
The relationship between America and Ethiopia truly started in 1945 when
Selassie met former President Roosevelt. Selassie wanted to develop his
country and needed the U.S. in order to cement their independence from
Europe. Roosevelt did not mind helping.
"The relationship between the U.S. and Ethiopia was one of the best examples
of partnership," Mehretu said. "It worked because the U.S. and Ethiopia
respected each other and had started off as a people to people
Selassie went on to meet and work with former Presidents Truman, Nixon and
Kennedy. President Kennedy put a lot of money toward Ethiopian education
during his presidency. Ethiopia was also the first and largest beneficiary
of the Peace Corps.
Ethiopian airlines DC3 also started with assistance from America.
"Whatever the U.S. touched in those days became successful," Mehretu said.
"Ethiopian airlines were one of them."
"On the other hand, Selassie established the first agriculture college as
well as helped the United States in the Korean War.
The relationship changed when President Carter came into office and
supported Somalia over Ethiopia in the 1970s. Ethiopia was then taken over
by the soviets.
"That arrested almost all the work that has been done in past years,"
The light in which Ethiopians view Americans today is a lot different now.
"A whole generation has heard only bad things about the U.S.," Mehretu said.
"You do not hear many good things anymore."
Mehretu credits this to a generational gap.
"Americans invited us into their homes, took us to school, and were part of
our air force," Mehretu said. "Many young people just didn't know how it
Though the relationship has changed between the U.S. and Ethiopia, it is
still considered good.
"The relationship is just more military now because the U.S. wants an ally
in the war," Mehretu said. "It's whatever he can do for us, the war comes
The connection the two countries first had has faded more into one based
mainly on security.
"The relationship that began pre-1974 doesn't exist anymore," Mehretu said.
------------[ Sent via the dehai-wn mailing list by dehai.org]--------------
Received on Wed Nov 09 2011 - 16:49:58 EST