Ethiopia: What’s Missing in African Union’s New Building?

The new towering complex that opened in Addis Ababa on January 28, 2012 overlooks a vast conference centre where African heads of state will meet for years to come.

Tadias Magazine
History | Editorial

Updated: Saturday, February 11, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – The forecourt of the recently inaugurated African Union building in Addis Ababa – a $200m complex funded by China as a gift to the AU – features a beautiful statue of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, one of the founders of the OAU. It is fitting that Dr. Nkrumah is honored for the role he played in African liberation struggles and the Pan African movement. It is also equally deserving and historically accurate to extend the recognition to other leaders who were involved in the formation of the organization.

On May 25, 1963, less than 22 years after Ethiopia fought and retained her independence from military occupation and annexation into the colony of Italian East Africa, several Heads of State from 32 newly independent African countries gathered in Addis Ababa. The meeting brought together various factions from across the continent that held differing views on how to achieve union among the emerging, decolonized African countries – an issue that also preoccupied the continent’s press and academics at the time.

(Photograph: The statue of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in Addis Ababa. Photo credit: us-africarelations updates)

One such promiment group, “The Casablanca bloc,” led by President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, argued for the federation of all African states. A second group of countries called “The “Monrovian bloc”, led by Léopold Senghor of Senegal, preferred a more gradual economic cooperation. Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia offered a diplomatic solution and brokered the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now renamed the African Union (AU). The assembly settled its headquarters in Addis Ababa and entrusted Haile Selassie with the very first of its rotating chairmanships. Gamal Abdul Nassar of Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana served as subsequent OAU leaders.

Today, however, we should not only remember the founders of the AU, but also embrace our modern day heros like Nelson Mandela who continue to give us renewed hope that ‘African union’ can be more than a name on a brick tower. By acknowledging our past legacy and embracing current inspiring leaders we can begin to set our sights on a new morning in Africa.

A Chinese gift, an Ethiopian omission and a screaming Shame (The Africa Report)
Ethiopians give lacklustre welcome to Kwame Nkrumah statue (The Independent)
AU’s lavish new home hit by statue row (Reuters)
Ethiopia’s Conundrum : A statue for Nkrumah or Selassie? (The Africa Report)
African Union opens Chinese-funded HQ in Ethiopia (BBC)

Video: President John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana Unveils Nkrumah’s Statue In Addis Ababa

46 Responses to “Ethiopia: What’s Missing in African Union’s New Building?”

  1. 1 Shame Feb 10th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Embarrassing for AU. Disappointing for Ethiopians.

  2. 2 Reason Feb 10th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Nikrumah has earned it. However not including Haile Selassie is dishonest.

  3. 3 Minalush Hagere Feb 10th, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    The new generation who is nostalgic about unity and reason should not expect much defense of Haile selassie from the current leaders. They see him as Abyssinian invader and colonialist (whatever that means). Janhoy represents the idea of Ethiopia whose time has come. The lion is roaring!

  4. 4 teddy Feb 10th, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    more than any one Haile Selassie have done a lot to the OAU.

  5. 5 Chole Feb 10th, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    the Chinese communist leaders know how to butter their bread! Of course, they did not do their homework when it come to facts. They should have checked the history books before they built the still under construction fancy gift.

  6. 6 Woy-Good Feb 10th, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    Did you see the Parliament, aka, polit biro meeting discussing this? meles gets the most Pinocchio points for his interpretation of history!!

  7. 7 African Feb 10th, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    The Ethiopian government does not want it!

  8. 8 Dr. Alemwork - Food for Thought Feb 10th, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    Haile selassie deserves more than a statue, it is hypocritical for his political predecessors to rewrite history.

  9. 9 aida Feb 11th, 2012 at 12:35 am

    African union is a dictator’s club. What do they know?

  10. 10 Mamo Feb 11th, 2012 at 1:10 am

    Give credit where credit is due. It is our history you can’t change it. weather You agree with his politics or not, his contribution to African history can not be erased!

  11. 11 Jah One Love Feb 11th, 2012 at 2:41 am

    God bless!

  12. 12 Nebyou Feb 11th, 2012 at 6:05 am

    I don’t think there is any different have statu of Hile selase or somebody we have to unite to the lion (AU) growes his teeth.

  13. 13 Addis Martinie Feb 11th, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    What is AU’s criteria for selecting single person? Is it ideology, leadership, or both? If it is ideology and leadership, Nkrumah gets “A” on all counts. After all he was the winner of the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963. If the metrics is leadership Haile Selassie receives “A+”. Both were imperfect men, ironically, the two were overthrown by military coup unhappy with their rules in their home countries. Of course, that’s should not cloud their other accomplishments. Nkrumah never returned to Ghana, but lucky for him he continued to push for his vision of African unity from exile in Conakry, Guinea, as the guest of President Ahmed Sékou Touré, who made him honorary co-president of the country. He read, wrote, corresponded, gardened, and entertained guests. At the same time Haile Selassie was bieng peed on his grave by brutal half-brain mengistu HaileMariam for seventeen years. Now Meles is ashamed even to mention his name. It makes me want to vomit. Meles’ lecture in Parliment was based on his narrow reading of Nkrumah’s revolutionary papers because just like him Nkrumah had a non-aligned Marxist perspective on economics. The statute is not about ideology it’s about respecting our history! LONG LIVE HIM!

  14. 14 Nigist Saba Feb 11th, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    African leader without sin let him be the first to spit at its founding father Janhoy, Talaqu Meri, and Abba Tekel. They will build the statue sooner or later and the world will celebrate with Africa!

  15. 15 Her Story Feb 11th, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    I am in agreement with Tadias on the statue rowe. Add to the list of modern African heroes my favorite women in the world Kenyan Wangari Maathai, the first African female to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, as well as democracy and peace. Let’s also root for President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first and currently the only elected female head of state in Africa. Sirleaf was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

    With love
    Johannesburg, SA

  16. 16 King Feb 11th, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    The fist question which i would like to ask Mr. Zenawi is, why was Ethiopia chosen to be the home to OAU now Au? shame on you. you already messed up.

  17. 17 Mintesinot Feb 12th, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    This editorial is inconclusive. What is Tadias’ stand on this? Who is missing then? Is it His Majesty Haile Selassie, peace be upon him? or is it Mandela? or Gamal Abdul Nasser? Or is it Jomo Kenyatta? Or may be it is Emperor Menelik – a black African king who fended of European colonial aggression?

    Isn’t it obvious? Or may be who should have a statue of Mao Tsu-Tung or Confucius! Why not? They built the Head Quarters with their own money and skillset, right?

    We might as well start singing L’internationale in Mandarin!

  18. 18 Woy-Good Feb 13th, 2012 at 12:27 am

    mmmmm don’t think so. What do Tsu-Tung, Confucius, and singing french in Mandarin have to do with this :-)

  19. 19 EzPass Feb 13th, 2012 at 1:12 am

    What is the point of not accepting as true and valid events that are true and valid and consistent with fact and reality?

  20. 20 Ethiopian Feb 13th, 2012 at 1:56 am

    I agree with the editorial 200 %.

  21. 21 Nubian Queen Feb 13th, 2012 at 2:30 am

    Nkrumah is also our hero, but even Nkrumah would say that His Majesty Haile Selassie is a given to stand tall next to him.

  22. 22 Paslm Feb 13th, 2012 at 2:50 am

    Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.

    Imperial Gurd

  23. 23 Domestic Observer Feb 13th, 2012 at 3:16 am

    People who oppose giving Ethiopia her due place at the AU have no valid argument except to mix apples and oranges and fabricate things that are not written. You can spin and stretch the truth but you can’t break it. There is nothing wrong in giving Haile Selassie his due place and respect in History. Don’t all the leaders – no disrespect – have the same fantasy of being remembered like Nikrumah and Selassie?

  24. 24 Muzlitach Feb 13th, 2012 at 3:33 am

    Let’s build a statue for mels and menge.

  25. 25 Anbesaw Feb 13th, 2012 at 4:03 am

    The chickens have come home to roost!

  26. 26 H.I.M Feb 13th, 2012 at 4:34 am

    “Spirituality is not theology or ideology. It is simply a way of life, pure and original as a way given by the Most High of Creations. Spirituality is a network linking us to the Most High, the universe, and each other.” – Haile Selassie I

  27. 27 rOsa Feb 13th, 2012 at 5:09 am

    What is the issue?

  28. 28 Mintesinot Feb 13th, 2012 at 2:56 pm


    “What do Tsu-Tung, Confucius, and singing french in Mandarin have to do with this”

    I thought it can’t be any clearer than that! If we can’t honor our great fathers, then let’s honor the ones who built the HQ for us! Now we have no secrets, every confidential AU Meeting is heard in Beijing! So long live the merger between China and Africa! Let’s all speak Chinese and sing the gospel song ‘communism’!

  29. 29 JJ Tomas Feb 13th, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    I think they will correct the mistake. I am curious tho what does African Union do in that mega house? They have nothing to show for it as far as I can tell.

  30. 30 Bole Bole Feb 14th, 2012 at 2:26 am

    Jah was molqaqa KeeING. That’s why he’s still grounded :-)

  31. 31 Yewichi Guday Tebeqa Feb 14th, 2012 at 3:52 am

    This supposed to be the job of our FM to provide advocacy for these kinds of crises on behalf of Ethiopia. Supporting the facts about Haile Selassie in this situation does not mean a return to feudalism and monarchy.

  32. 32 Opembe Feb 14th, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Not including His Majesty Haile Selassie’s statue is very hypocritical. Two of the most loved sons of Africa are His Majesty and Nkurumah. Nkurumah will fill cheated if King Selasie’s statue is not raised next to his. Ofcourse there are many others but these two mostly for conceiving and advancing the idea of african unity and not other non-related issues.

  33. 33 Temari Feb 14th, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Dear Tadias,

    Thank you for the editorial. I am proud to be Ethiopian. You may also find the following behind-the-scene historical account by a person who witnessed the signing ceremony of the OAU charter in Ethiopia on May 25, 1963, to your liking and helpful. Thank you again!

    “News was filtering that the experts had reconciled the draft Charter and it was rumored also that the Emperor had given an impassioned plea that Africa would be the laughing stoke of the world if the leaders depart without an agreement. The meeting went on and until 3:00AM when it was announced that the Charter was going to be signed. The mood in the hall was electrifying. Everybody including the Emperor looked fresh, even at these wee hours of the morning. Nkrumah looked happy and was writing something and beaming broadly at everybody. Then cheering and clapping when it was announced that the Charter has been agreed upon and will be signed by the African leaders momentarily. Applause after applause when each one signed one after another, the loudest and most sustained for the Emperor. Then it was announced that President Nkrumah will read a poem that he has compose on the spot. It was short and beautiful. A copy of it was distributed to all in the hall by the UN staff. I treasured that copy for a long time until I could not find it when I searched for it among my documents a few years ago. (a copy could surely be found in the AU).

  34. 34 Sira bizu Feb 15th, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Africa has to pay the Piper. That is it. Instead of complaining now, we should have complained then, at the time when the Chinese promised to build us a ‘HOME”. The Chinese didn’t build the Hall so that the Ethiopian King will be celebrated. For them Kwame, who had spent time in China, a follower of Chinese nationalist communist philosophy, is much more closer. They built the place with their money, people talent and sweat. They got to pick whose monument should be placed in the compound.

  35. 35 Mintesinot Feb 16th, 2012 at 10:08 am

    I think Nkrumah’s Statue was made in Ghana. I think I have read some news saying that!

    The independent news (by a Mr. Daniel Howden) reporting as if Ethiopians resisted Nkrumah’s Statue at the AU is outrageously irresponsible and completely unacceptable!

    The irony is we have a government who built a statue for a Patriarch who did nothing really for the country in the middle of a city but works so hard that the Emperor, who did so much for Africa, shouldn’t be honored!

    This is not just an Ethiopian Issue. This is an African Issue! Nkrumah is honored for his work for Africa and Africa decides! Whether His Majesty’s work for Africa should be honored or not, should be decided by Africans at large – not just by Ethiopians. Whether Nkrumah was a ‘democrat’ in Ghana or whether His Majesty, Peace be Upon Him, was a ‘feudal dictator’ in Ethiopia, is not the issue. It is their contribution to Africa and the AU that matters during troubling times! Let Africa Decide! Let Africa honor its Great Fathers!

  36. 36 Truth Feb 16th, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Ethiopians do not want Nicrumah’s statue removed. What Ethiopians want is a second statue to stand tall right next to the golden statue of Nicrumah’s. Build a statute for Haile Sellassie respecting and honoring Ethiopia’s historically undeniable contribution to African union. Ethiopians respect Nicrumah’s role during the birth of OAU.

  37. 37 Fish Feb 16th, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    @Mintesinot, I agree that there is a rotten rumor trying to pit Ethiopians against Ghanians or the Nikrumah family. That’s evil. Why is Ethiopia’s contribution to the AU visa-vi Haile Selassie was left out? That’s a legitimate question to ask. The easy answer would be to build another statue for Haile Selassie next to Nikrumah? That’s what Ethiopians are asking. To say that Ethiopians want Nikrumah’s statute removed is false. Weather it comes from Europe or the Ethiopian govt, it is designed to bring back the old Italian media description of Ethiopians as savages that need to be civilized. Ethiopians should push back from this kind of paint-brushing of their character and truth of their demand. Ethiopians should insist that AU respect it’s own history. Otherwise, it can go to hell.

  38. 38 Ghanaian Feb 17th, 2012 at 12:15 am

    The brain behind the statue was Dr Don Arthur, who is also an architect and a sculptor. Some work was done on the 3.5 meter statue of Dr Nkrumah, which is cast in Bronze, by Mamphey Developers in Accra, when the Government of Ghana insisted to the AU for the statue to be done in Ghana. By in large Ghanaians are proud that one of our own is honored. I personally prefer, and many Ghanaians feel, that there was no controversy. I wish that His Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie was accorded his due honor. It is the right thing to do. The time is always right, to do right.

  39. 39 gagi Feb 17th, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Perhaps the reverse would have happened if the new AU building was built in Accra. We would have had Hailesellasie’s statute and not Nkrumah’s because most leaders across the continent are tribalist and egoistic who do not allow any celebration of their predecessors in their own country.

  40. 40 Ghanaian Feb 17th, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Well, not sure about that because the unavailing ceremony in Addis Ababa was attended by Ghanian officials from all political spectrum, such as the current President John Evans Atta Mills, former President Jerry Rawlings, Mr Allan Kyerematen of the largest minority New Patriotic Party , Mrs Mary Chinery-Hesse, former Special Advisor to former President John Agyekum Kufuor, Dr Don Arthur of the Office of the President, and Mr Kwesi Quartey, Ghana’s Ambassador to Ethiopia. Not to mention family members and children of Dr Nkrumah, such as Professor Francis Nkrumah, a medical biologist, and Madam Samia Nkrumah, Chairperson of the Convention Peoples Party (CPP).

  41. 41 Mintesinot Feb 17th, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    @Ghanaian! This is what I am saying! Thank you! This is an African issue to be decided by Africans at large.

  42. 42 letsbfair Feb 20th, 2012 at 2:49 am

    Prime Minister Meles produced one of hist best speeches when he stated the achievements of Haile Selasie I and Mengistu in a past meeting to decide the head quarters of AU when there was real oppostition (specially from Gadaffi)to the idea of Addis being the seat of AU. That was brilliant leadership. But now he comes out and belittles the achievements of one of Africa’s greatest leaders. It is only now we realise he was using the moment to his advantage. No leader in the world is without fault. We can dig out fault in the life of Mandella, Ghandi, etc. But it should not take away their achievments.

  43. 43 Shame Feb 20th, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Sadly, The prime root of the PM’s comment lie in colonial age thinking of divide and rule. This deliberate denial of African history arose out of the European desire to justify such colonialist domination, conquest, enslavement, and plunder. Hence, this brash denial of history and culture to Africa, and indeed even of human qualities and capacity for ‘civilization’ to the indigenous people of Africa, in this case the victims are the people of Ethiopia today.

  44. 44 Ethiopiawit Feb 20th, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    What’s the point AU trying to make?

  45. 45 Almaz Mequanint Mar 7th, 2012 at 10:16 am

    I hope this message finds you well & happy. I am just asking you humbly favor to everyone read this message to sign the petition for the statue of Emperor Haile Selassie (HIM) on the AU building. I’m not monarchist or supporter but I believe in our factual history that we inherited as Ethiopians. I know there were others that contributed to the League of Nations & African Union Organization but among them was HIM. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but not to twist the facts. Thanks for your cooperation in advance in signing this petition if you honor the truth. God Bless!
    Best Regards,
    Almaz Mequanint

  46. 46 Ethiopiawit Mar 7th, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Thank you for the petition. I will sign it right-away. Likewise, I don’t support the return to the old style of monarchy rule. I am a Democrat. I believe that Ethiopia’s future should be anchored in real Democracy, not the phony type we have right now. I am, however, an Ethiopian first and I believe in truth and in preserving our history and identity. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. For AU to dismiss Haile Selassie is like America dissing George Washington. Unbelievable. Frankly, it’s the fault of the current leaders. I am sick and tired of being sick tired about the continuing disrespect of Ethiopia, Ethiopians, and their history for no reason except ignorance and misplaced hate.

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