Seyoum Haregot’s New Book: A Critique

The Bureaucratic Empire
Serving Emperor Haile Selassie
Red Sea Press

For over a century, successive regimes in the Horn of Africa, have served their respective populace the Tantalus cup of freedom and prosperity. It has become a vicious cycle; a never-ending season of conflicts which has rendered many much worse off than they were a half century ago. Seyoum Haregot’s family is a case in point.

 Revolutions, coup d’état and large-scale interstate and civil wars have proven to be the ill winds that blew nobody good. Even the so-called successful wars and revolutions could declare nothing but cadmean victory. Something has gone terribly wrong; and it is incumbent upon all of us who hail from the Horn of Africa to seek understanding and make sense of what seems utterly senseless. We need to know our past because, in the words of Alexis De Tocqueville, the author of the famous book, Democracy in America, “When the past does not illuminate the future, the human mind wonders in the dark.”

Seyoum Haregot’s book is a great addition to the mushrooming literature of Ethiopian, Eritrean and the Horn of African history. It is the result of a manuscript the author wrote and a diary he kept while in detention at the Menelik II Palace, in Addis Ababa, from April 26, 1974 until September 11, 1982. The first-hand account of the events which have shaped modern Eritrea and Ethiopia, in particular and the Horn of Africa in general, is bound to make the book a vade mecum to the 20th century history of the region. The book is impressively rich in details; in fact, it is the author’s tour de force. Sometimes, it reads like a legal brief and could be unappealing to the uninitiated and less enthusiastic reader. The key is not allow the writing style prevent you from partaking in the bonfire of first-hand account of modern history that has the greatest impact in the lives of many. It is undoubtedly a gem of information.

From the onset, the author underscores his sole interest in writing the book is “to report objectively my [his] experiences in the government,” and it is “neither a stricture of nor a eulogy for the Government of Haile Selassie I.” It is only fair that I also reciprocate the gesture and mention, in advance that my knowledge of Ethiopian history does not allow me to judge whether he has succeeded in his stated mission or not, but, I can safely say that, in the subject where I am much more informed—Eritrean history—he has left out a lot to be desired. His omission can speak volumes to many people.

Seyoum: The Prodigal Son who never returned.

Many Eritreans of Seyoum’s generation have to navigate the unchartered territories of multiple national identities. A significant part of them have learned to straddle between Eritrean and Ethiopian identities while firmly rooting themselves in the former. A majority, however, have categorically rejected the Ethiopian identity and these are the heroes who fought the liberation struggle. A few, however, enthusiastically embraced an Ethiopian and an Amhara identity and marrying an Amhara with a “blue blood” was presumably the down-payment they had to make in order to gain an access to the corridors and climb the echelons of power. Seyoum was the personification of the last category. There were few who married for love; and most of the women were not from the royal family or nobility.

 It is hard not to be conscious of the fact that the late Seyoum had spent the best years of his life “serving Emperor Haile Selassie” and his last years serving a vulgar version of Haile Selassie—Isaias Afeworki. It is uncanny how the two rulers have much in common; the latter only being boorish, crude and a Philistine beyond redemption. Inadvertently or not, the author does not say much about Isaias Afeworki, although, it is not hard to tell his disappointment with the state of affairs under the dictator’s rule. In a telling sentence, this is what he had to say upon his visit to Eritrea:

“I went back to Eritrea, in a quest of the ‘Holy Grail’. I even invested some of my savings to help in that search, but alas the Holy Grail kept on vanishing beyond the horizon! I hope it will not again be necessary to use guns in the continued search for the Grail.” (pg. 109)

Typical of the evident contradictions in his life where on one hand, he portrays himself as an Eritrean nationalist who had written his position on Eritrea “in the hearts and minds of many [Eritreans] whom I [he] helped,” and, on the other, one who had proudly served the Ethiopian cause by lobbying foreign governments to stop supporting the Eritrean Liberation Fronts. Nowhere does Seyoum show remorse for being on the wrong side of Eritrean history. In fact, he neither apologizes for standing against his own fellow-Eritreans during the struggle nor for his new Ethiopian/Amara identity which was imposed at the expense of our own; but seems to take particular delight in parading the list of the two or three close female relatives with the name “Ethiopia” in the preface of the book. Let me put this in perspective: when Seyoum first met Emperor Haile Selassie someone had to do the translation for him since he, like the overwhelming majority of Eritreans, didn’t know an iota of Amharic.

“I went to Belgrade and told President Tito that despite Ethiopia’s support of the Arabs at the United Nations, these countries provide material and financial support to liberation fronts in Ethiopia. I conveyed the Ethiopian Government’s request to intercede on our behalf and put pressure on the Arab countries to stop supporting liberation fronts.” (pg. 179)

 In the Eritrea of Isaias Afeworki that has gone rogue, it is, of course, the resumes of turn-coats, people of questionable backgrounds and those who have successfully made virtue of selfishness and feathering their nests that matter the most. (In a language the late Seyoum would have appreciated, let me say: Exhibit A: Yoftahe Dimetros and Dr. Amare Tekle. I rest my case.)

True to the adage of “wedi dumu kem qedemu” or is it “zeyHafr dumu Hailemariam shmu” [Incidentally the latter saying is attributed to the grandfather of Yoftahe Dimetros who allegedly violated his monastic oath by fathering the notorious Dimetros from a nun.], the author rationalizes Isaias’s refusal to implement the ratified 1997 constitution on the 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia. “Under these circumstances, President Isaias felt it would be difficult to implement the Constitution.” He conveniently forgets the border war was started almost a year after the ratification of the constitution. In September 2001, the author was one of the six former members of the Constitutional Commission who wrote an open letter to Dr. Bereket Habte Selassie accusing their “errant colleague” of “impropriety”, making “self-serving claims”, “molestation of the truth” and “egregious pretensions.”

The open letter was replete with outright falsehood, exaggerations, half-truths without any proper context, and, most of all, malice. The fact is Dr. Bereket wrote the original draft in English and Zemehret Yohanness was responsible for translating it into Tigrinya. The final version had a couple of new clauses written in Tigrinya; and it is these additions that Seyoum had the undeserved honor of translating them into English; and this, in a convoluted higdefite world, denies Dr. Bereket the honor of being the principal author of the Constitution. Seyoum, however, seems to modify his earlier position in the open letter, and, in this book has tried to reflect the truth as often told by Dr. Bereket. Hallelujah! And in the words of the Seyoum Haregot, “sometimes there is sanity even among devils.”

“Dr. Bereket left Eritrea after the Constitution was ratified, but before its publication in the official Gazette. I finalized the English version, and its publication in the official Gazette followed.” (Pg. 110)

This is a far cry from what the ignoble six had said in September 2001. The ignoble six were: Dr. Amare Tekle, W/ro Amna Hassen Naib, Ato Musa Hassen Naib, Dr. Seyoum Haregot, w/ro Zahra Omar Jabir and the Joseph Goebbels of the Tigrinya speaking Dergue, ato Zemehret Yohannes. (Source:

“A propos, you have declared that the original Draft of the Constitution was in English. We are aware only of the Tigrinya text. It was in fact for this reason that we requested one of our colleagues to translate it into English. If you had an English text why was it necessary to have the Tigrinya text translated?”

Of all people, Seyoum should have been more sensitive to politically motivated character assassinations and accusations. In his blind loyalty to the defunct regime and naiveté which, even, in his later years, has obviously not outgrown, he had refused an opportunity to escape to Djibouti because he was concerned his move would be misconstrued as admission of “wrong doing”; but, more importantly, he did not want to separate from his family. (I can certainly respect him for the latter.) Instead, he chose to remain and face the music. Consequently, he was unjustly forced to spend eight and half years of his life in prison on false and trumped up charges that were initially approved by the very emperor—who happens to be his wife’s grandfather and one whom he served with devotion and loyalty.

The emperor had reluctantly accepted the resignation of Aklilu’s cabinet the day before their arrest, but on this infamous day of betrayal, it was presented as “desertion”; and, hence, an offense which accordingly elicited the indignation and wrath of the emperor and his coterie of nobles who had their own hidden agenda. With a twinge of remorse, Seyoum recalls, “At Goffa Sefer, we [they] were prisoners of the Emperor and Endalkachew Mekonnen, prisoners of the very regime we [they] had long served.” (Pg. 277) In a face to face meeting with the emperor which turned out to be his last day of freedom, Aklilu Habtewold, (based on the book, it is very hard not to like this guy. He was suave, debonair and a consummate diplomat.) in a prophetic utterance, vented out to the Emperor:

“If our imprisonment, even our death, can save both Your Imperial Majesty and Ethiopia, we are ready to sacrifice ourselves, but let me assure you it will not stop there. All of you who are here will be joining us.” (Pg. 275)

Sadly, many of Seyoum’s fellow cabinet ministers and other high-ranking government officials and prominent church leaders including His Holiness Abune Theophilos, the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahdo Orthodox Church were later brutally executed by the savage, Menghistu Hailemariam. (It is a shame we, Ethiopians and Eritreans, let this brute die of natural death without being duly prosecuted for all the crimes he committed against humanity.) After so much personal loss and the horrific experience he went through, one would have expected Seyoum to be a man who would tirelessly crusade for justice and freedom and champion the cause of political prisoners. But, not surprisingly, he reverted to his earlier selfish state of only looking out for himself and his interests; even if that meant being on the wrong side of justice and history. Seyoum had shamelessly sold his humanity to the devil. He could not even sympathize with Eritreans who had become victims of similar circumstances as him. There was no compassion or sympathy, for instance when he mentioned Salih Kekia, a former Eritrean minister who is now languishing in PFDJ’s dungeons and, even worse, presumed dead by many. Kekia was one of the young Eritrean students who had returned to Asmera in protest and who were later persuaded by the likes of Haregot Abbai, Seyoum’s father and Tesfayohnnes Berhe to return to Baherdar, Ethiopia, and resume their studies.

“Among the group, I distinctly remember Salih Kekia, who became Minister of Communications and Transport in the Government of Eritrea, and who is currently under detention with other former ministers, known as the “Group of 15” or “G 15.” (pg. 108)


Not worthy enough to stoop down and untie the strap of their sandals.

Seyoum characterized, perhaps nonchalantly, the principled and honorable stand of Dr. Assefaw Tekeste, a veteran tegadalay who brilliantly served the EPLF as the chief medical doctor as “disillusioned with EPLF policies.” For the record, Dr. Assefaw accuses the current leadership in Eritrea of betraying the principles which made the EPLF great; and bitterly laments how the organizational culture that unleashed unprecedented creativity and innovation during the liberation struggle was quickly and unwisely abandoned to serve the political ambitions of one man. Dr. Assefaw is one of the few credible and qualified Eritreans to accuse the regime of highjacking EPLF’s values because it was the underground hospitals and medical facilities which were the crown jewel of Eritrean pride.

The many innuendos and explicit accusations the author makes against Dr. Bereket also seem to emanate from a man who has not outgrown his childhood and school rivalry at the Evangelical School in Asmera where Dr. Bereket was a stellar student; a record which became a prelude to an even more impressive career. It is amazing how far he has gone to hit a man below the belt who was one of his best men at his wedding. To portray him as an ungrateful, subservient and dangerously ambitious man, he had unleashed all the arsenals of falsehood and defamation. “Dr. Bereket Habteselassie was the prima donna of the Enquiry Commission. He clearly relished his new role in the Dergue.” (Pg. 284) Even worse, he uses and quotes the notorious butcher of Addis Ababa, Meghistu Hailemariam, as a credible source of authority in tarnishing the reputation of Dr. Bereket. I hope Seyoum does not repeat a similar mistake of quoting Satan when he “gives an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12)

Dr. Bereket’s anti-establishment’s views were known to many Eritreans and Ethiopians who knew him; he was part of the new intelligentsia who were openly and secretly advocating revolutionary change. Seyoum, on the other hand is known among many Eritreans for his Amara-philia who tied the knot with a member of the Royal Family—against the advice of some Eritrean friends—to perpetuate the status quo and expedite his meteoric rise to power. The young World Bank lawyer Bereket who had been imbued with anti-establishment, revolutionary, democratic, socialist and liberal views had tacitly consented to his like-minded friends to not start the revolution without him. When the long-awaited revolution took place and his best friend, General Aman Andom, a man of courage and definitely worthy of his military title, was at the top of the leadership, it is only expected for somebody of the caliber of Dr. Bereket to lend a hand and be part of the revolution. This is the Bereket I personally know; a man who is now in his sunset years, but with a fire still in his belly who would talk till the wee hours of the night about the great ideas which have inspired many revolutions throughout the world. And, yes, he has inherited the oratory skills that his late father, Qeshi Habte Selassie, was known for throughout Karneshim and my own neck of the wood, DeqeTeshim, and beyond.

It is true that Dr. Bereket had asked the Prime Minister Aklilu and Getahun Tessema for their assistance to join the World Bank in Washington DC., but not while he was in Harar. Dr. Bereket was relieved from Harar two years prior to the request, thanks to the efforts of Bitweded Zewde Gebrehiwet. Dr. Bereket’s main motivation for requesting the assistance was to provide his sick daughter the treatment she desperately needed. Aklilu could not even make an exception on humanitarian grounds and had to slam the door in Dr. Bereket’s face. It was the intervention of Abebe Kebede that made it possible for Dr. Bereket to join the World Bank. There was no cause for Dr. Bereket to write “a letter to Tsehafe Aklilu,” let alone, to “thanking him profusely.”

It is also true and Dr. Bereket’s first memoir, “The Crown and the Pen” has beautifully depicted how some ELF fighters played a role in his escape from Ethiopia to Eritrea. Immediately, upon his arrival in Eritrea, however, he participated in the peoples’ mediation efforts that spontaneously erupted when the conflict between the two warring groups—ELF and EPLF— reached an alarming height. This is the civil war that took the lives of many heroes such as Israel Mesghina, the son of the prominent Asmera lawyer, the late aboy Mesghina Gebrezghi.

Dr. Bereket never joined any organization before the mediation efforts and it is wrong for Seyoum Haregot to say, “There he joined ELF, only later to switch to EPLF.” Seyoum was in prison during this time and had no first-hand information about these events. But, what can you expect from a man who had used Menghistu Hailemariam as a credible source to defame his own compatriot and an old friend. Anything will do when one is not guided by the truth and a strong sense of justice and fairness. Dr. Bereket has gone on record of choosing the EPLF over the ELF for its organizational skills and for the greater likelihood that it can accomplish its stated goals; and time has proven him right. He never joined the ELF and “Jebha Aba’y” has never claimed the good doctor as one of its own.

 The Eritrean people in their collective wisdom have an effective litmus test of knowing who has done his share of the public good and it is a simple question: What have you done for us? Drs. Bereket and Dr. Assefaw have proudly served their country and people and the cause of freedom, justice and kbri ade abo; and they are still standing tall. Seyoum is not worthy enough to stoop down and untie the strap of the sandals of these towering Eritreans who had given a life-time of service to the Eritrean cause. Zgebere wey negerelu wey gebrelu and I hope I’ve done a bit of negerelu in this article, at least, about these two great Eritreans whom I have the honor of knowing. I’m proud and appreciative of their records; but, more importantly, I’m even prouder to call them comrades in the ongoing struggle for justice and freedom. By the same token, if I were an Ethiopian, I would have said the same thing about Seyoum Haregot. The Ethiopians owe the late Seyoum this much deserved and well-earned accolade.

Haregot Abbai: Asmera’s Favorite Son.

Seyoum’s father, Haregot Abbai, was Asmera’s favorite son. As mayor, businessman, community and church leader and philanthropist, his name is still remembered with awe and reverence by most people who knew him. Asmera’s love for its beloved son was conspicuously displayed on the day, aboy Haregot was arrested—July 13, 1974.

“On the day he was arrested, the tabot (Ark of Covenant) of the Asmara St. Mary Church (with all its priests) were out and all businesses were closed as protest, and citizens of Asmara came out to protest.” (Pg. 279)

Aboy Haregot had the same love towards Asmera and its residents. In a uniquely Eritrean way, he expressed his love for his city and ancestral village by wishing everything good he encountered for Asmera. In a moving passage, shortly after the execution of his father in Addis Ababa, Seyoum penned down a sentence that captures the love of Asmera most Eritreans are infected with. (Both father and son were detained at the same prison. Hard not to feel their pain.)

“After they took my father, there was a heavy rain in Addis Ababa, and I thought that if my father were here he would have asked, ‘Could there be the same kind of rain in Asmera too?” (Pg. 301) [i]

The native son of Arbate-Asmera was as successful and influential in his private as he was in his public life. His “home was imbued with the sense of hard work, achievement, including academic excellence, and that nothing is permanent. Devotion to religion, beauty and gentleness gave tonality to our [their] lives.” (Pg.XXII) When Seyoum was young, aboy Haregot used to advise him, “if you want peace of mind, you must always try to find solutions to what is bothering your mind, and don’t let your emotions dictate your actions.” It is an advice all Eritreans in general and the youth in particular need to heed.

Seyoum briefly writes about the history of his hometown, Arbate Asmera and he is, so far, the only one I know and recall who has given an approximate date of when the place was named “Asmera.” “One day, in the thirteenth century, eight hundred years ago, their wives conspired to force their husbands to unite the endas [Gheza Asmaa, Gheza Sirinsir, Gheza Shilele and Gheza Guretom] and establish a ‘United Arabaate Asmera’ in the vicinity of what is today St. Mary Church.” (Pg. XXI) He does not tell how he arrives on this date, but it does not contradict with the information available in the Tewahdo church records—reservoir of a rich heritage. Beginning in the thirteenth century and onwards, Asmera was emerging as the second most important trade center in the highlands and the home of a great church that frequently attracted such luminaries as Abba Eswostatewos and Abba Indrias. Saint Eswostatewos died in exile in Armenia on September 15th, 1352.

It rejoices my heart to learn that Aboy Haregot was finally put to rest in his hometown of Asmera. After a decade and half, his body was exhumed. In a passage reminiscent of the Biblical Israelites carrying Jacob’s remains out of Egypt to Canaan, the Haregot boys (‘Atsmom yKhber) brought their father home and paid a precious tribute to our tradition of honoring the dead and the coveted honor of being buried in one’s hometown. (This is the honor the cruel regime in Asmara is denying veteran Tegadelti—bonafide heroes—who have given a life-time service to their country and people.)

“My late brother, Ato Fessahaie, himself a detainee of the Dergue, joined the search and identified my father’s remains by his shoes and other items. My father’s remains were brought to Asmara and buried at St Mary’s Church in the family burial place. St Mary is the Church of our ancestors, and he was one of its administrators.” (Pg. 302)

I hope to see one day an institution of City Management and Urban Planning at the University of Asmera, named in honor of Haregot Abbai, mayor extraordinaire. (Meqaberka yrHab)

The over-all theme of the book:

 The main theme of the book is to explore how “The bureaucratic empire was inaugurated with the creation of ministries staffed with trained, salaried civil servants at the national and local levels. The bureaucratic empire was the major success of his [Haile Selassie’] regime while the attempt to modernize the Kibre Neguest was the primary failure.” (Pg. 113) Authority under the Kibre Neguest was “maintained by tradition, religion and naked power.” The author argues Haile Selassie successfully arranged the bureaucracy by “skillfully combining centralization and modernization.” He installed the bureaucratic empire with the help of “the educated elite and the middle class”. This change came about at the expense of the traditional nobility. Ironically, it was the former in collaboration with the army that “brought down the emperor and ended the Kibre Neguest.”

Aside from the rich details and first-hand accounts that tantalizingly adorn the book, it is the story of a nation, perhaps the greatest in Africa that has miserably failed to live up to peoples’ expectations. The author dissects the anatomy of social forces that contributed to the downfall of the monarchy and the rise of the military junta. But beneath the plethora of information, a clear pattern emerges which sheds light on the problems which afflicted Ethiopia and by extension, the Horn of Africa. Strangely, the author’s own life mirrors that of the government of Ethiopia. It is hard not to notice that both of them lacked an authentic voice and were, for the most part, guided by self-serving political expediency. There was no fundamental sense of who and what they are and a vision of where they need to go and this has haunted them both and is responsible for their tragic downfall and irrelevancy. What a travesty for a Harvard educated lawyer to spend his life serving an emperor (Haileselassie) who was and a petty tyrant (Isaias) who is above the law.

Ethiopia under Haile Selassie was swinging all over the international political spectrum like a crazy pendulum. There was no marked difference in the way Haile Selassie conducted his foreign and domestic policies. He was more interested in appearing a statesman and powerful than actually being one; and a lot of energy was spent in his showmanship. A focus on short-term political benefits by catering to multiple and often competing interests and responding to emergencies which ruled out any chance the country could have to charter a long-term path of development specifically tailored for it. Unlike the Japanese who early on figured out what they want and where they need to take their country, the Ethiopian leaders (feudal lords) were totally clueless. The Japanese formulated a long-term plan of modernizing their country by identifying the industries which would assure them lasting success; and the students who were sent for studies abroad had to strictly follow the criteria laid out by the government. Japan is the only country besides Ethiopia which has the proud distinction of winning a war against a Western/European power. Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 and the first Italo-Ethiopian war of 1885-1866.

“These efforts [educational] were supplemented by sending students to foreign countries to pursue higher education. However, education was pursued without any rational basis, students left to choose the subject they wished to study without considering its functional link to the socio-economic policies of the Government. There was no harmonized Program of study relevant to the needs of the country.” (Pg. 223)

Accidental Lessons Eritreans must take from this book:

For Eritreans, there is a cautionary tale of how Ethiopia had dealt with its border problems with Somalia and the Sudan. In short, “adhering to principles” and “doing the right thing” meant nothing to Ethiopia; the only game it was interested in was winning, through either chicanery that masqueraded as diplomacy or brute force. Ethiopia invoked the sanctity of treaties in its conflict with Somalia while rejecting Somali’s position as a dangerous legal precedent. It then shamelessly invoked the same Somali’s position in its conflict with the Sudan; and Seyoum was tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the Sudan will never have the contested territories whether it wins ownership of it through arbitration or other legal and political means. Does this sound familiar? It should; and we need to take notes.

Ethiopia had effectively used Ethiopian Afars to change the political situation in Djibouti. In order to defeat the idea of a Greater Somalia, it made so many strange bedfellows: Kenya, France and others. In contravention of the OAU (Organization of African Unity) charter, Ethiopia was ready and willing to let the French’s rule continue in Djibouti in its desire to defeat the idea of a Greater Somalia which it perceived as its greatest regional threat. Addis Ababa is the home of the OAU and Haile Selassie is its most illustrious Founding Father.[ii]

And who can forget the Ethiopian financed shiftas who terrorized many good Eritreans in the 1940s and early 1950s. In the second half of the 1950s, Ethiopia which “had been grooming its own candidate, Bitweded Asfaha Woldemichael, an Eritrean who was the Deputy Representative of the Emperor in Eritrea,” put the final nail in the coffin of the UN approved Federation while the Unionists “were determined to make Federation a viable arrangement under which Eritrea could operate, if not independently, at least autonomously, as anticipated under the Federal Act.” One must appreciate the likes of Tedla Bairu who in remorse took the ultimate action and redeemed himself by joining the Eritrean revolution. To err is human, but to acknowledge mistakes and take corrective action accordingly is a sign of greatness. Eritreans were not totally wrong when they sung: ati men kedinki zAleba: Tedla Bairu do eyelen sni Tseba. The Prodigal Son, Tedla, surely came home.

In the footsteps of his father, Herui Tedla Bairu, while a student in London, rejected the promise of a “junior” ministerial position and subsequently joined the Eritrean revolution; while the late Seyoum dashed to “adi amhara” and left no stone unturned to get a high government position. Some Eritreans advocated andnet; Seyoum lived it.

The original “andnet”, although understandable, was wrong, but the new born-again “andenetism” is annoyingly stupid. The latter-day andnet are the intellectual “Rashaida and Bedouin thugs” who are trying to exploit us in our moment of weakness and despair. But these momentary headaches can be tolerated for the greater good of freedom of expression.

“But the Eritrean Liberation Front, with the defection of Dejazmach Tedla Bairu, the former Secretary of the Unionist party and the first Chief Executive of the Government of Eritrea, has started to attract young Christian Eritreans of the Highlands, particularly those in the Haile Selassie University in Addis Ababa and the University of Asmara.” (Pg.180)

 Reading the book, one fearfully comes to the conclusion that Ethiopia is primarily guided by winning and the culture of “zemecha” and the motto “To the victor goes the spoilage.” To the chagrin of many of us, the late Meles and the current regime in Ethiopia have and are religiously following a long tradition of Ethiopian diplomacy that skillfully pays lip service to legality and morality. Might has always been the ultimate right to the Ethiopian rulers; and right is, and ought only to be, according to Ethiopian modern history, the slave of might, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey it.[iii]

One definite thing a reader will learn from reading the book is the inevitability of the revolution and the overthrow of the monarchy. Many people, foreigners and Ethiopians alike, had seen the handwriting on the wall and all had warned the emperor. But even the emperor who had “the wisdom to heed the voices counseling” was blinded by the calm before the storm.


The book offers a wealth of information and insights that would enhance readers’ understanding of the gigantic and historic problems confronting the countries of the Horn of Africa. Any serious student of the Horn of Africa must read it. I’m glad that Seyoum had taken the time to write it and could hardly wait for his next autobiographical book, “From Arbate Asmara to Harvard Square” which will be released at the end of the year.

May Seyoum rest in peace.

The book can be purchased from the publisher, Red Sea Press or Amazon:


Semere T Habtemariam is a culumnist at; author of “Hearts like Birds” and the forthcoming book on the History and Faith of the Tewahdo Orthodox Church of Ethiopia and Eritrea. He can be reached at or via


[i] [From the coffee shop where I am currently writing, I could see through the glass window a beautiful April day with lash green trees and grasses on a well-manicured yard a few feet away from me and I can’t help but say, in the words of aboy Haregot, ‘Could there be the same beautiful day in Asmera too?’]

Deqe Asmera promenading on a beautiful Asmera evening! A sight I can get used to. Sga sayram ele.

Asmera, under the leadership of Haregot was truly, “Arusa beHineta”. A bride adorned with Hina. I dream of the day when the likes of aboy Haregot will be running our beloved capital city.

[ii] The OAU is the precursor of the AU (African Union).

[iii][iii] From Hume’s definition of reason


Related Posts