November 2 is the anniversary of the coronation ceremony of the last Emperor Haile Selassie I.
We were invited by the non-profit organization "Emperor Haile Selassie Memorial Association" whose purpose is to carry on the legacy of the last Emperor.
We wanted to see the immediate descendants of the Emperor; what I had requested through the Japanese embassy was realized.
Also from the embassy, an officer who who gave a great support, accompanied us.
We were ushered into a meeting room, and they started by giving us an explanation about their association.
After a while, one of the grandchildren of the Emperor and a board member of the association came to see us. His name is Lig Mikeale Mengesha Seyum.
He had an air about him, and I thought he looked like His highness, Prince Mikasa. (He is on the right in the picture below. The man on his left is his cousin.)
He is the man who is next to the Emperor.
When Emperor Hirohito was the Crown Prince, he and Princess Michiko visited Ethiopia for their honeymoon. When they were in Ethiopia, Lig’s parents showed them around. The picture of their visit can still be seen.
Looking at the picture at the embassy, he said "Oh, this person next to the crown prince, this is my father!" He said his father is still alive.
The person on the left in this picture that is displayed at the Japanese embassy is his father.
●Japan impressed the Ethiopian Emperor
The Ethiopian Emperor came to Japan for the first time in 1923 when he was the crown prince.
He was impressed by how Japan accomplished its modernization while preserving its traditions. Since Ethiopia had not achieved modernization yet, he was convinced that Japan should be a model for Ethiopia.
Haile Selassie I unified Ethiopia which was made up of tribal groups and laid the foundation for the development of the state by enacting Ethiopian’s original constitution based on the Japanese Imperial Constitution of that time.
Haile Selassie I also thought that education was important, and he adopted Japan’s style of education and contributed to the development of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that did not become a European colony.
During WWII, Ethiopia faced an Italian invasion and was able to hold its ground with the pride of Ethiopians, defeat Italy, and maintain its independence.
Behind the scenes was Japan.
Emperor Haile Selassie I visited Japan and wanted to see Japan with his own eyes because Japan was a hero for the colored race at that time because of Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese War.
●The Ethiopian Kingdom disappeared
However, because of the autocratic system, there was a negative effect on the people creating a gap between the rich and the poor in the domestic market and economic downturn occurred, and finally the Emperor was overthrow in 1974 in a coup.
It did not become like Japan.
The Emperor was captured, and many of the family members were executed.
One of the world's oldest royal families, which was believed to have been come from the ancient Israeli King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba some 3,000 years ago, disappeared.
●The Emperor’s descendants now
However, Lig Mikeale Mengesha Seyum, who resembled Prince Mikasa, escaped from the difficulties as he was in his twenties studying in Canada.
A while later, his cousin showed up.
His name is Leauel Bedemaryam Mekonen Hailselasa. He runs a hotel called Wabishebele Hotel.
(2nd from the top, on the left)
He was seventeen years old when the military coup happened.
He had been imprisoned for fifteen years, and he was not treated well because he was a royal family member. He stayed in the same room as prisoners on death row and had to be in fear of not knowing when he might be killed. He endured this for 15 years.
"Only my faith in God was my support, which got me through"
He said with a serious look.
Faith is important in this country.
I was able to have a deep and profound conversation with him at the office of their association and at the hotel which he runs for at least three hours in total.
●Staking their lives for the mission of building up the nation
They talked very enthusiastically about their mission of building up their nation.
Even though they had had terrible experiences, they remained devoted to this mission for their country.
Following the intention of the last Emperor that education is vital, they have been actively involved in a project of providing collage scholarships and are collaborating with more than twenty universities.
It has been a while since the coup, and now because of the advent of the democratic government, they said that they can talk about the achievements of the last emperor more than before.
Through education, they have been devoting themselves to passing down to the next generation the greatness of the former Emperors.
In Japan there are no organizations which support them.
For that reason, I noticed they had high expectations for us.
What impressed me was that they didn’t seem to be seeking to gain power politically in order to reestablish the throne.
According to the officials of the Japanese embassy, “They can not express their political intentions publicly.”
They insisted that their activities were not related to politics, but the future of Ethiopia relies on human resources, which is education. They seek to reduce the number of poor children who cannot receive education.
While listening to these words spoken by the man who had an air like Prince Mikasa, I was greatly moved because I felt as if I had been talking to the royal family of Japan.
They have been developing their activities on a steady pace so as not to incite the current government too much.
It is said that 75% of the current generation does not know about the last emperor, so it is necessary to convey the correct history of their own country.
I felt that their activities and aspirations closely matched our mission and activities in that all our traditional values were denied by the education imposed upon us after WW II, so we are on the mission of conveying what is good from our history to the next generation through entertainment.
●The heart of the Japanese Imperial Family shining in Ethiopia
I was deeply impressed by their love for their country which their family had established. As civilians, they have a constructive vision; they are not seeking to regain power, and they have been involving themselves in education projects. I thought this is something every Japanese politician should learn from them.
But not limited to politicians, but also we as civilians should learn from them since the royal family of Ethiopia set an example for us by showing what civilians can do.
They said, "The relationship between Japan and Ethiopia has been good for nearly 100 years, and we should never let the relationship decline. We would like to make this friendship stronger and immovable between the two countries by passing down the proper history to the next generations.”
His mind is set to carry out the will of the last Emperor.
The last Emperor was convinced that education was vital.
For Ethiopia to accomplish modernization without losing its traditions, their model is Japan.
The Emperor's will has been handed down and is alive in their work.
That also means they inherit the relationship with Japan, which had impressed the last Emperor.
We shook hands saying, "Let's go hand in hand."