Nelson Mandela (Madiba), one of the great democratic leaders in the world had said many things about his stay in Ethiopia. His started the appreciation with the black Ethiopian pilot:
“We put down briefly in Khartoum, where we changed to an Ethiopian Airways flight to Addis. Here I experienced a rather strange sensation. As I was boarding the plane, I saw that the pilot was black. I had never seen a black pilot before, and the instant I did I had to quell my panic. How could a black man fly an airplane? But a moment later I caught myself: I had fallen into the apartheid mind-set, thinking Africans were inferior and that flying was a white man’s job. I sat back in my seat, and chided myself for such thoughts. Once we were in the air, I lost my nervousness and studied the geography of Ethiopia, thinking how guerrilla forces hid in these very forests to fight the Italian imperialists.”
In addition, he gave his assurance that Ethiopia is the leader of African nationalism and freedom. “Formerly known as Abyssinia, Ethiopia, according to tradition, was founded long before the birth of Christ, supposedly by the son of Solomon and the queen of Sheba. Although it had been conquered dozens of times, Ethiopia was the birthplace of African nationalism. Unlike so many other African states, it had fought colonialism at every turn. Menelik had rebuffed the Italians in the last century, though Ethiopia failed to halt them in this one. In 1930, Haile Selassie became emperor and the shaping force of contemporary Ethiopian history. I was seventeen when Mussolini attacked Ethiopia, an invasion that spurred not only my hatred of that despot but of fascism in general. Although Selassie was forced to flee when the Italians conquered Ethiopia in 1936, he returned after Allied forces drove the Italians out in 1941”.
Madiba was highly interested about his stay here in Ethiopia. He expressed his feeling about Ethiopia like this: “Ethiopia has always held a special place in my own imagination and the prospect of visiting Ethiopia attracted me more strongly than a trip to France, England, and America combined. I felt I would be visiting my own genesis, unearthing the roots of what made me an African. Meeting the emperor himself would be like shaking hands with history. Our first stop was Addis Ababa, the Imperial City, which did not live up to its title, for it was the opposite of grand, with only a few tarred streets, and more goats and sheep than cars. Apart from the Imperial Palace, the university, and the Ras Hotel, where we stayed, there were few structures that could compare with even the least impressive buildings of Johannesburg.”
Madiba expressed his feeling concerning to the issue that motivates him for his future struggle like this ”Here, for the first time in my life, I was witnessing black soldiers commanded by black generals applauded by black leaders who were all guests of a black head of state. It was a heady moment. I only hoped it was a vision of what lay in the future for my own country.”
As he mentioned, the training was fantastic; “Although I was sad to leave my friends in London, I was now embarking on what was to be the most unfamiliar part of my trip: military training. I had arranged to receive six months of training in Addis Ababa. I was met there by Foreign Minister Yefu, who warmly greeted me and took me to a suburb called Kolfe, the headquarters of the Ethiopian Riot Battalion, where I was to learn the art and science of soldiering. While I was a fair amateur boxer, I had very little knowledge of even the rudiments of combat. My trainer was a Lieutenant Wondoni Befikadu, an experienced soldier, who had fought with the underground against the Italians.”
Finally, colonel Taddesse gave his own pistol and 200 bullets as a gift “The training course was meant to be six months, but after eight weeks I received a telegram from the ANC urgently requesting that I return home. The internal armed struggle was escalating and they wanted the commander of MK on the scene. Colonel Tadesse rapidly arranged for me to take an Ethiopian flight to Khartoum. Before I left, he presented me with a gift: an automatic pistol and two hundred rounds of ammunition. I was grateful, both for the gun and his instruction. Despite my fatigue marches, I found it wearying to carry around all that ammunition. A single bullet is surprisingly heavy: hauling around two hundred is like carrying a small child on one’s back”
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