Honoring Ella Baker Through Eritrea and Ethiopia
Obi Egbuna Jr December 16, 2021
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Arguably the most empowering yet subtle aspect of African people’s journey, happens to be a cornerstone of decolonization and ultimately the initial discovery of truth.
Because our movement for civil and human rights within US borders, commands universal respect in virtually every corner of the globe, it has been both advantageous as well as beneficial when we can use the most important fighters who fought honorably to smash every narrow and restricted barrier that exists whenever our enemies chomp at the bit to weigh in on these developments.
Those amongst our ranks currently protesting US Imperialism’s meddling in the affairs of Ethiopia and Eritrea, will bask in a glow rooted in humility, when they learn that one of the most beloved and celebrated mother figures of our Civil/Human rights movement Ella Baker was the first frontline warrior in our community to openly condemn Italy’s fascist and ruthless invasion of Ethiopia.
This special moment in history is heightened when we recognize that Mother Baker took this stand seven years before the most Honorable Elijah Muhammad chose to serve prison time instead of fighting in World War II, over 30 years before the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and Dr. King representing SCLC opposed the Vietnam War and 16 years before Dr. W.E.B. DuBois had his passport confiscated for organizing through the Peace Information Center and circulating the Stockholm Peace Appeal inside North American borders.
When navigating through the annals of our robust history we learn of some of our most impactful organizers, who made some longlasting, groundbreaking contributions in their 30’s.
Therefore, to learn that age of 33 Mother Baker was putting US born Africans on notice that the fascist exploits of Italian Colonialism and Imperialism in Ethiopia/ Eritrea, was not acceptable and we were historically obligated to take a stand. As a matter of fact, objectively speaking Mother Baker’s stance ranks right there next to Brother Malcolm pushing to take US Imperialism before the United Nations, Dr. King coming out against the Vietnam War, or Walter Rodney and Frantz Fanon publishing How Europe Underdeveloped Africa and A Dying Colonialism, Toward the African Revolution and The Wretched of the Earth. When these efforts bore fruit, these humble servants and tireless warriors were all in their thirties.
In a manner very similar to other fighters and organized formations who felt opposing colonialist and imperialist warfare, was inseparable from resisting segregation, abject poverty and dehumanization, Mother Baker clearly understood why her decision to stand up in defense of Ethiopia is treated like a casual footnote overshadowed by her work in the NAACP, SCLC and SNCC.
The fact that Ms. Baker took this stand in defense of Ethiopia while the most celebrated white liberal President in US history Frankiln Delano Roosevelt occupied the White House, should provide both impetus and direction to those in our community who have been convinced that after four years enduring President Trump’s policies, have decided to proceed with the utmost caution before confronting President Biden’s activity domestically as well as globally.
While this has resulted in organized formations like the Institute of the Black World 21st Century led by former US Presidential Candidate Dr. Ron Daniels through a think tank called Pan African Unity Dialogue, taking a rather apologist and moderate approach to the situation by calling on US Congressional Representatives Congresswoman Karen Bass and Congressman Gregory Meeks to take a lead role in resolving the problems on the ground in Ethiopia and Eritrea, US and Diasporic based Ethiopians and Eritreans have established a diplomatic task force and also two grassroots movements called No More and the New African Institute that have a very patriotic and anti- imperialist leaning. The No More movement is also backed by a grass roots contingent called the Horn of Africa Hub and is led out front by a former Al Jazerra and CBS journalist Hermela Aregawi, and the New African Institute is led by Dr. Simon Tesfamariam.
Moving beyond defending the sovereignty and peace agreement between the governments of Eritrea and Ethiopia, what Africans at home and abroad are witnessing are the smashing of a fascist and repressive cycle, that stems from the courage of young Ethiopians/Eritreans like Sister Aregawi and Brother Tesfamariam whose pounding of the pavement in cities like Washington DC and Atlanta are reverberating on our entire mother continent.
What we are referring to specifically is the white cloud of apathy amongst continent born Africans, since 9-11 who due to fear of deportation, surveillance and perhaps even a mysterious death on US soil, has led to decades of silence by this demographic while the Democrats and Republicans force neo colonialist mandates and leadership down our throats.
This political reality is on display on the University level, wherever you see African student unions reduced to focusing on our traditional dress, food and dance, and our civic associations who organize primarily weddings, funerals, birthday/ graduation parties, and finally baby showers.
Any attempt at addressing political concerns and challenges is done at the risk of the eyes and ears of the US State Department in that community, coming forward and spilling the beans to demonstrate their unabridged loyalty to Mother Africa’s most ruthless enemies.
During this political standoff US Imperialism’s attitude toward Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, wreaks of the cultural paternalism that best defines and contextualizes their genocidal Africa and foreign policy, which gave them the impression Emperor Haile Selassie’s obedience and loyalty to Washington was eternal like the flame on the gravesite of the unknown soldier at Arlington Cemetery.
When we as a people explore the numerous dimensions of the African personality, focusing on leadership during the anti- colonial era, Emperor Selassie was without question our biggest chameleon.
From 1930-1974 the same man who through the establishment of US Army military radio installation named Kagnew Station in Eritrea from 1943 to 1947, sent Ethiopian Troops to fight in partnership with UN troops under the watchful eye of US Imperialism against North Korea, also was central in laying the foundation for the Organization of African Unity (Today the African Union).
While it is true that Ethiopia was never subjected to the dehumanizing rigors of Settler Colonialism, when the almighty Emperor visited Eisenhower in 1954, Kennedy in 1963, Johnson in 1967 and Nixon in 1969, 1970 and 1973, it isn’t a mystery who was on their knees before white supremacist cowards whom they deemed politically superior.
Whether showered with praise by Reverend and Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr when receiving the Ethiopian Coptic Cross in 1954 or receiving an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Howard University from President Mordecai Johnson the same year, followed by visiting to Jamaica in 1966 where Rita Marley claimed she saw the nail prints in his hand, platitudes and symbolic gestures towards the emperor do negate the fact that he chose the path of Neo Colonialism willingly and happily.
Some of the golden moments celebrating African Liberation Day in Washington was watching Eritreans educate members of the Rastafarian community, about how the emperor functioned politically, which was the diametrical opposite of his spiritual persona.
By standing committed to the peace agreement, Prime Minister Ahmed and his Sister Counterpart Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde are giving the Biden administration a first-rate diplomatic lesson, that echoes a message that under no circumstances will they turn their back on President Afwerki and the government and people of Eritrea.
For good will purposes, let us remind the parade of Pro Biden apologists that go beyond the call of duty to highlight incidents of rape without confirming the facts with Eritrea and Ethiopia diplomatic corps, how arrogant and presumptuous they appear taking into consideration when implying that an African woman would condone such brutality in a nation that she democratically presides over.
Would the Pan African Unity and dialogue have us believe they are more concerned about the welfare of women in Ethiopia than Madame President Zewde?
Unfortunately, now there is a swarm of social democrats, veteran nationalists who have opportunistically gravitated to the current issue, and due to a limited or non-existent track record of working with either Ethiopia or Eritrea is presenting a cut and paste analysis that magnifies Ethiopia while presenting Eritrea as a casual afterthought.
Because these social democrats can usually be found camping out in both Cuban and Venezuelan solidarity circles, it should dawn on them how the left globally carried Cuba and Venezuela’s banners, in a manner that left the Bolivarian Indigenous revolutionary leadership of Comrade Evo Morales vulnerable to a ruthless and quick stripping of power like drive by shootings in Chicago, Illinois or Johannesburg, South Africa. In the nationalist’s case, it appears they arrived at this conclusion due to limited involvement with the Eritreans and Ethiopians recently. Sometimes our beloved veterans in struggle, analyze a situation based on involvement decades ago, which leads to them coming off politically time warped.
The social democrats and radical moderates appear to be prioritizing Ethiopia, because their interpretation of being anti-war, which correctly condemns imperialism’s military and diplomatic apparatus, but carefully pick their spots concerning when to embrace African liberation movements all out like the EPLF whose ascension to power was a direct byproduct of guerilla warfare.
If US Imperialism decides to jump the gun and carry out an all- out invasion of Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the casualties happen to be President Afwerki and key leadership in EPLF, these same social democrats will use it as a talking point on their podcasts or blogs without mentioning their ambulance chasing analysis helped create the climate and atmosphere for Mother Africa’s enemies to prevail.
Since the former press secretary of the fallen giant and Pan African revolutionary giant Maurice Bishop, Mr. Don Rojas has front and center propagating the Pan African Unity and Dialogue’s position, perhaps he can answer a relatively simple question does he want President Afwerki to end up like Comrade Bishop and Burkina Faso’s first President Thomas Sankara?
The pro Biden apologists who are in their 70’s and 80’s would be better served discussing how the trigger happy TPLF who their President of choice supports unconditionally, is an example of how revolutionary guerillas like Andre Matsangaissa a former senior official in FRELIMO’s armed wing who ended up as the face of the mercenary unit RENAMO. That can be an ideological lesson to those of us who embrace guerilla warfare due to frustration with our leanings towards non-violent protest.
We also must realize solidarity that results in empty promises, shameless masquerades, and feeble attempts to exploit Eritrea and Ethiopia’s efforts to defend their national sovereignty, for cheap political mileage sets a horrendous example for African youth at home and abroad who very soon will find their way to the battlefield.
Mother Baker reminds us that strong people don’t need strong leaders, in a place where the political culture is centered around voices from a microphone podium, we are inspired by African political leadership standing up to our former colonizers and captors.
The way Eritrea and Ethiopia’s leadership and communities in the diaspora, are the biggest blow to US Imperialism in East Africa, since the Somalian National Alliance, Somali Salvation Democratic Front and the Somalian National Democratic Union formed a umbrella alliance in 1993, and when the US-EU backed regime change agent in Zimbabwe the Movement for Democratic Change was forced to enter a Global Political Agreement with ZANU-PF in 2008.
Our extended family in Nigeria, Rwanda and other places where cultural conflict have been exploited by US-EU Imperialism, has led to countless tombstones that caused devastating decline of human resources, have the privilege of witnessing a process in motion where ruthless outsiders are politically handcuffed and none involvement drives them up the wall.
We thank Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah for reminding us “ The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep apart”.
May the African fighting spirit continue to guide Eritrea and Ethiopia until the Biden administration is forced to the realization that their barbaric political culture will not be allowed to impose their will this go round.
Obi Egbuna Jr is the US Correspondent to the Southern African Times ands the External Relations Officer of the Zimbabwe Cuba Friendship Association. His email is [email protected] His twitter account in @JrEgbuna His Instagram account is @obiegbuna15