It is central to the story of the glorified Ethiopian figure Kassa Hailu, later crowned Emperor Tewodros II, to illustrate his exceptional accomplishments in a light that deserves valor and acknowledgement. On 18 January 2018 the University of Gondar did just that. By organizing a press conference, that has national and international implications, Ethiopia’s top flight university felt it necessary and essential to celebrate the Emperor’s 150th anniversary.
The King of Kings Tewodros II’s story is not new to any Ethiopian let alone the British who know him very well for his love for technology and innovation. Perhaps in fact it is this infatuation for something greater and unfettered boundless love for his country that lead to his demise. But one thing is certain in the years of his reign there was a lot to learn. The Great Unifier as he is known is showing present day Ethiopians exactly what it means to be ‘Ethiopian’.
At the press conference reporters and news outlets from all over the country were present to explain and show to the world the significance of the late emperor. Those who were present to take in the memorable day were, amongst others, the President of the University of Gondar Dr. Desalegn Mengesha, the Minister of Culture and Tourism Dr. Hirut W/ Mariam, Dr. Hirut Kassew head of the Amhara region Culture and Tourism bureau, Dr Kassahun Tegene Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities and the head of the department of History and Heritage Management (Ass. Prof) Mr. Marshet Girmay.
A number of individuals who were present got a chance to ask questions and react to the day’s events. Dr. Desalegn, UoG President, in his remarks emphasized with clarity the need to commemorate such leaders. “We should learn from him and use his story and role in history to make a difference now” he said.
Dr. Desalegn also referenced the king’s many accomplishments that were timeless. In his 13 years in power King Tewodros incorporated policy reforms that would become the foundation for future rulers. From centralizing the entire country to one hub, creating a pay system for soldiers, seeking innovative technology, prohibiting the slave trade, and even furthering diplomatic alliances with world hegemonic powers, Tewodros was a man who was ahead of his time.
“We cannot forget history and this current generation should know about the attempts of past leaders who sustained and promoted unity” said the President. Atse Tewodros, as he is called in Amharic, was a larger than life character and his courage resonates till this day with the current generation Dr. Desalegn said.
The press conference also allowed the formulation of a number of steps to further the vision of the late Emperor. Dr. Hirut W/ Mariam the Culture and Tourism Minister proposed a number of ideas to propel the start of a number of projects.
She first started by thanking the University of Gondar for conceiving such an event and ensured those who were in attendance that it is a topic that needs to be addressed. “We can learn a lot from his life,” she said, “this story needs to be excavated, told and celebrated.”
The Minister of Culture and Tourism also stressed the need to preserve the historical areas that were crucial to his reign. “Quara and Maqdala could be huge tourist attractions, such ideas could do wonders for business in the area hence creating prosperity for the economy” she said.
It is a must that to progress such events and matters that comprehensive research should be conducted to identify a problem area to pinpoint and focus on it. By taking a look at the press conference, media outlets such as ENN, LTV, EBC and others asked several concise questions to strengthen ideas on furthering the cause but more importantly played a significant role in broadcasting this milestone ceremony to the world. Questions from the current division of the country (and what we could learn from King Tewodros) to the incorporation of other universities into the planning of the anniversary were asked.
Even though it has been 150 years since his death this iconic personality and world leader still resonates in the hearts of many Ethiopians today. Without shying away from the work and preparation that comes along with this great responsibility, the University of Gondar is set to make history by celebrating the late king with distinction and honor.
April 10-14 2018 marks the date of the festivities and the University of Gondar invites the whole world to take part.
By Samuel Malede| Public & International Relations Directorate