By Wedi Campo-Loggio
Legends or myths are often neglected, and no action is taken to debunk the myths, because many believe they have not much relevance to the real world. However, myths may dictate the thinking of people decisively, and people act based on what they think, on what they believe is true. It is when people act, based on myths, that the effect of the myths proves to be horrific. Many Germans believed that the sole cause of all German-ills were the Jews, based on the myths they were told over the centuries. For the anti-Semitic legends, some of which are still accepted by many, refer https://www.pitt.edu/~dash/antisemitic.html. No wonder Hitler needed to exert little effort to mobilize Germans for the Holocaust. The rest is history.
Legends or myths usually defy logic. For example, Ethiopians’ understanding of the word Banda is a myth. Banda is a synonym to “traitor”, someone who collaborates with the enemy of own country to harm own country. I do not have any problem with this definition of Banda. My problem is the fact Ethiopians make the word ethnic-specific. They often refer to soldiers of Colonia Eritrea who were hired by their country to serve their existing administration. They had no other (own) government. Logically the then citizens of Eritrea can not be considered as bandas, if they serve the government by which they were administered at that time. The fact that they were being administered by the Italians is, in fact, the making of the then Ethiopian emperor. The irony is the same Ethiopians who sold Eritrea to Italy blame the victims (Eritreans), and not Emperor Menilik, who sold Eritrea to Italy.
In fact, the real bandas are the ones shown in the picture below. These are Amhara Askari of Italy (Amhara bandas from Debre Berhan) who betrayed their country. They had a government, albeit in exile, but chose to serve the enemy of the country they belong to. They betrayed their own fellow citizens who were fighting against the Italians (the resistance, Arbegnoch).
How are legends or myths created? Let me begin by giving two examples:
There is a German myth which is popular with every German child/teenager. It is a legend which asks a question and answers it at the same time: “Warum sind die Bananen krumm? Weil der N. (Schwarze) im Dschungel die Früchte krumm biegen”. Translated it goes: “Why are bananas crooked?” Because N. (the Blackman) in the jungle bends the fruits crooked”. I have met kids and teenagers who still believe this story. Why? Because the story is faithfully passed from generation to generation. (You can guess how old the story is: When the story was told for the first time, it seems the only place where bananas were imported from was Africa. Asia and South America were probably not yet discovered).
An old friend of mine told me a true story regarding how rumors and lies can be considered as facts and disseminated – until the one who created the story refutes it.
Mr. X tells Mr. Y a sensational breaking news.
Y: Wow? really? Who told you this story?
X: Mr. Z told me.
Y: Forget it. If it is Mr. Z who told you, then that is not true.
X: Why do you say it is not true because Mr. Z told me the story? Mr. Z is a trustworthy person. Y: Well, I know Mr. Z is a trustworthy person. However, it is me who told the story to Mr. Z, and I lied. The story didn’t happen. I created it
Having explained how myths are created, I would like to say a few points, based on logic, to debunk a popular myth regarding Alula’s role in the amputation of Eritrean prisoners of war (POW) after the battle of Adwa.
Who gave orders to amputate Eritrean askaris? Menilik or Alula? Some Eritreans would say: Alula; as if the Amharas do not have a history of amputating POW. (For example: Tedros had amputated the Shoans after he defeated Menilik’s father). In the aftermath of Adwa battle, had Menelik relinquished his powers of punishing POW to Alula?
I do not claim to have any historical proof, or disproof. I am not a historian. My argument is solely based on common sense and logic and not on historical research. The purpose of this writing is to serve as a call to others (Tigrigna-speaking people from both sides of the Mereb), to openly discuss taboo-level topics and issues, like the Alula-myth. (Fortunately, the other ethnic-groups, the Afars, Kunamas, Saho living in both Eritrea and Tigray have no such myths to debunk).
Punishing and/or pardoning prisoners of war is the prerogative of the souverain of a country – the Emperor. If Alula has the authority to punish prisoners of war, then he must also have the authority to pardon. Logically, punishing means, not pardoning; and pardoning means, not punishing, and these two are inseparable – they can only be in the hands of a single person. A dichotomy is impossible.
The Italians were pardoned. Now, did Alula, who supposedly had the authority to punish/pardon the POW, pardoned the Italians? Very unlikely. In fact, Alula, who was a bitter enemy of the Italians, was ready to chase and bury the Italians in the red sea. However, he was prevented by Menelik, since, to Menelik, the Italians were temporary enemies, but strategic allies against his eternal enemies: Tegaru. Even Negadras Gebrehiwot Baikedagne (1886-1919), who used to serve at Menelik’s government, could not fathom why Menelk hated Tigraway. He mentions this in his writing “Atse Menelik and Ethiopia” (1905).
After their Adwa debacle, the Italians were pardoned by Menelik and lived a comfortable life in Addis Abeba, where Menilik provided them with mistresses, until they left to Italy. (In fact, it is documented that they loved their stay in Addis so much. Some were even in tears when they had to separate from their mistresses to board the train to Djibouti).
Now, are those who say Alula was the one responsible for the amputation of Eritreans implying that Menelik relinquished his powers of punishing prisoners of wars to Alula, and kept the power of pardoning prisoners of war to himself? How can one separate the two?Only a single person can punish/pardon. Therefore, I believe, Alula’s story is a myth.
Some Eritreans who have cleansed themselves recently from Tigray-hate might now need to debunk the Tigray-myths they themselves created and/or disseminated, when they were Tigray-haters. One of such myths is the Alula-amputated-Eritreans story.
By now, the consequences of failure to debunk such myths should be clear to everyone. Such myths are the sole inspiration and reason not only for the vigour by which Eritrean soldiers are executing the genocidal agenda/orders; but also for the deafening silence of many Eritreans, especially those in the diaspora.
(Will Eritrean soldiers commit the same atrocities if they were sent to Sudan with the same genocidal mission/orders? I do not think so. Why? Because what an average Eritrean knows about Sudan is Sudanese inspirational music, and not myths about the Sudanese people crafted with evil intent. An ordinary Eritrean soldier will rather defect than kill an innocent Sudanese.)
Going forward, business will no more be as usual. So far, the current aggression against Tigray has costed precious Tigraway lives. The aftermath of the war will see a balanced bill sent to all: to Ethiopians and Eritreans, who actively participated in the genocide; and to those who did not actively participate in fighting their house’s fire when it engulfed their neighbours’ houses. This might not be manifested in the temperament of a Tigraway; but it should be clear to all – both friends and foes of Tigray. As the saying goes: “What goes around comes around” or “as you sow, so shall you reap”. My preference and prayer are that such a future balancing act be executed by a non-Tigraway.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are the author’s opinions and do not necessary represent Dedebit Media’s position on the issue, unless explicitly expressed.
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