Ethiopia's Relationship to the Pan-African Movement (Part II)
by Lindsey Herbert

Editor’s Note: Part I of this article appeared on our October/ November 2003 Issue.

Success of Repatriation to Shashamane
Repatriation has yielded both positive and negative experiences for Rastafarians. On one hand, the Rastafarians were welcomed by the Ethiopian government because Haile Selassie I understood the urgency of returning Black people to Africa and freeing them from the bondage of the colonial powers who had enslaved them. Yet, having government, even royal approval, did not automatically mean that repatriation had the support of the majority of the local people, nor did it mean that those who did repatriate would be united and live in harmony. There have been both internal and external factors that have impacted the situation in Shashamane.

External Factors
When people first settled in Shashamane, there was a disjunction between their expectations and the response of the local people to the settlers. This is still a source of tension today. Local Ethiopians often do not regard the Rastas as true Ethiopians, leaving Rastafarians with the feeling that they are not accepted or treated as brothers and sisters. In a New York Times article, this issue was observed by a visitor reporting on the situation:

Like most Rastafarians, Mr. Isles, a carpenter, saw himself as Ethiopian and was angry that the locals did not. ‘They call me faranji,’ he said, using the Ethiopians’ term for foreigners. ‘The people don’t treat us well. We give them work, but they still rob us. I have to have a guard at my house. If I don’t they would come and steal from me. B.J. Moody, 65, a Rastafarian elder who has lived here since 1980, tried to soften Mr. Isle s words. ‘All of us are experiencing some sort of cruelty, some unbrotherly actions by our Ethiopian brothers,’ said Mr. Moody, a tiny man with the gentlest of voices. ‘But we are determined to bring them to a higher state of consciousness.’

The consciousness that the elder was referring to is the consciousness of the Pan-African movement, which expresses an urgency to unify Africans on the continent and abroad in order to strengthen Africans as a people as well as their economic and political infrastructure. Unification and resistance to colonialism and neo-colonial practices in the New World is a common goal and struggle for Pan-Africans who want to preserve Africa and her people.

Internal Factors
The Rastafarians who have settled have noted some difficulties after settling, due to the divisions among Rastafari. There are differences in ideology among the Rastafari that is visible through the various sectors of Rastafari such as The Twelve Tribes, The Bobo, Nyabingi, Ethiopian Orthodox and others. Although they maintain a community and have positive interactions and goals, there is still some internal strife and divisions that people experience when they move to Shashamane.

Present Day
In the 1970s there was a reclamation of land by the Ethiopian government. With the rise of the Marxist regime, which overthrew the Emperor in 1974, the majority of the land was taken from the E.W.F., impacting the fate of Rastafarians. They originally had 500 hectares, but were left between 11 to 44 after the coup. This was a great setback to the settlers and the future settlers in Shashamane. It not only physically extracted the resources that they were granted by the Emperor, but it emotionally and mentally impacted the movement. However, it has never destroyed the Rastafarian hope of repatriation.

Repatriation is still a priority for many Rastafarians. The E.W.F. is active in recruiting members to support the development of Shashamane and repatriation. The E.W.F. is an organization that supports Ethiopia, promotes repatriation, prepares people for repatriation, and seeks support for the land. The E.W.F. prepares people for what they will experience in Shashamane and works to assist people in achieving the goal of repatriation while building alliances between those living in Shashamane and those in the West. Since many Africans remain impoverished in the West, getting to Africa is not an easy task, or an easy step to take. Some people see the idea of repatriation symbolically, and the more realistic view for those who do not have the resources or support for leaving the West is evident in the following quote:

I know that many people, today, are still exploring and hoping to achieve repatriation to Africa. But, I believe that, on many levels, the whole discussion of repatriation needs to be rethought. Africa is not simply the landmass that is called Africa. Africa is wherever the African is. Wherever the African people are, thereis Africa... So, there is a movement occurring, but it is not occurring under the umbrella of the traditional notion of repatriation. It is as if Africa is expanding.

There is an expansion of the African world - musically, spiritually, culturally, politically, and it is no longer driven by the idea that the exiles from the West will return to Africa.

The Rastafarians in Shashamane are working toward the completion of many projects including organic agriculture, electrical installation, a welding and wrought iron unit, and a building project. Other endeavors such as education, art and craft making, music, and religious celebration and practice remain part of daily life and culture in Shashamane. The overall sentiment from the people living there now, and the representatives that recruit for the E.W.F. is that there is a lot of hope, and that Rastafarians can succeed if people with practical skills, a “clean livity” and a good heart forward “home” to Shashamane. The Rastafarian children are seen as the future, and they are being trained and educated under the Rastafarian teachings and the culture of Ethiopia. With their strength and endurance the next generation may prosper and share their blessings with the people of Ethiopia. Only time will tell. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned (Hebrews 11:15).


1896 - Battle of Adwa - Ethiopia proves victorious in resisting colonial rule.

1920s - Marcus Garvey becomes a significant figure in Jamaica and America, promoting repatriation, and glorifying the history and future of Africa.

1930s -The Jamaican people begin to feel the pressure of an economically and politically oppressive government.

1930 - Emperor Haile Selassie I (Ras Tafari) was crowned King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

1933-1940 - Leonard P. Howell promotes Rastafari ideology, creating momentum in the Rastafari movement

1955 - Emperor Haile Selassie I grants 500 hectares of land to the Ethiopian World Federation (E.W.F.).

1966 - The Emperor visits Jamaica, increasing the popularity and expansion of the Rastafari movement, which further influenced people outside of Jamaica in the African Diaspora

1974 - A reclamation of land by Mengistu’s government (from 500 hectares approximately 44)

Lindsey Herbert holds a master’s degree in Afro-American Studies from UCLA. She is currently a Student Affairs Officer at the African-American Studies Department at the University of California in Berkeley.