Ketema Yifru: The Architect Behind the OAU

Emperor Haile-Selassie conferring with his foreign minister, Ketema Yifru. (The Ethiopian Reporter)

The Ethiopian Reporter


A country is best represented by its people or leadership and leaders are the ones who are of the people by the people and for the people.

As a result, leadership shapes the character, behavior and culture of its people and the country.

A country’s good or bad image is determined by the good or bad image of its leader.

In this regard, it is the right time for Ethiopia to talk about the demonstration of the above facts.

Ethiopia is hosting one of the biggest continental events. As a seat of the continent’s grandest institution, Addis Ababa is colorfully celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Organization of African Unity/African Union (OAU/AU). Because of this all eyes are focused here.

Fifty-four African countries are represented and have convened here to celebrate the union.

This historical advantage has lifted the country’s image to the highest stage. So who to be praised? No doubt, its brightest leaders. Certainly, Emperor Haile-Selassie I. He is considered by many to be the Father of Africa. In the last half of the 20th century, Haile-Selassie’s name has never been omitted whenever the OAU is mentioned. It seems that His Majesty had amassed all the credit for the country’s success in the formation of OAU.

However, little attention is given to those who were doing the work behind the scenes. Sometimes, the success of these individuals goes unnoticed.

Obviously, one Ethiopian has been overshadowed by Emperor Haile-Selassie’s grace and reputation regarding the OAU. The man who looks to be left under the surface is the architect and the master whose role was instrumental. Also he is the person who was able to make Addis Ababa the home of the OAU.

He is the late Ketema Yifru, Haile-Selassie’s Foreign Minister He is rarely heard of and that is why some call him the “unsung hero” while others describe him as the “Amed Afash” (a person who is negatively rewarded).

After serving as a foreign minister for ten years from (1961 to 1971) he spent eight years in prison when the Derg was in power.

Ketema Yifru was also recognized by the media as having played a prominent role in the creation of Africa’s regional organization.

In a recently published article on his personal blog, Ketema Yifru’s son, Mekonnen Ketema quoted that his father as saying:

“Based on the discussions I had with my father as well as his taped and written interviews, I now clearly understand what he meant when he said, ‘Only a few are aware of the hard work and all the effort that brought about the creation of the OAU.’ Most of the public is not aware of the shuttle diplomacy, the closed door negotiations, and all the tireless effort, in general, that paved the way towards creating the OAU. In addition, the majority of the public are not aware of the fierce diplomatic battle that was fought by a number of states to have the OAU headquartered in their respective capital cities.

Read the full article at:

AU Celebrates 50-Year Anniversary At Landmark Summit in Ethiopia (Video)
African Union leaders mark 50th anniversary in Ethiopia (BBC)
The African Union Turns 50: Voices From Ethiopia (TADIAS)
The OAU: Fifty years on (BBC News)
African Union Celebrates 50th Year (AP)
Watch: AU anniversary video spotlight (Economist)
Yadesa Bojia Reflects on African Union Flag on 50th Anniversary (TADIAS)

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1 Response to “Ketema Yifru: The Architect Behind the OAU”

  1. 1 The African Union Turns 50: Voices From Ethiopia — Past and Present at Tadias Magazine Pingback on May 26th, 2013 at 6:53 pm
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