Closer to Ethiopia - Crown Prince comes to T&T
Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2002
by Deborah John, Express
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Greetings in that Divine name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who has revealed himself through the personality of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I...(traditional greeting)
Rastafari are ready.
All over the world they’ve been ready.
Now, they say is the time.
Time for repatriation...to Ethiopia.
Repatriation was a word that would be repeated several times during the gathering.
Rastafari from all over the country had come together to discuss the upcoming visit to Trinidad and Tobago of His Imperial Majesty Crown Prince Zere Yacob Afsa Wossen.
Around the room there were the flowing robes and high turbans of the Bobo dreds, and rastafari sported dreads of all lengths and stages of development.
There was some disappointment in the night as an expected appearance by the dreadlocks wearing government Minister Fitzgerald Hinds did not materialise.
But the point would be made that it was a history making occasion as there were representatives of the different rastafarian sects in Trinidad and Tobago gathered under one roof for the first time —12 Tribes of Israel, the Bobo Shanti, Nyabinghi, Ethiopian World Federation, Rastafarian Corporation, Brotherhood of the Cross and Star, Universal Love.
Though the organising House for this visit is the Trinidad Chapter of the 12 Tribes of Israel established in 1978, all rastafari in the country are coming together to ensure that this visit of the Crown Prince is a success, particularly as it will follow on the heels of a visit to Jamaica. He is to spend a month here.
At the microphone was Sister Carol Rocke who made the point over and over that not only was repatriation a “must by any means necessary” it was also a must that the Crown Prince be returned to the throne.
“He must sit on the throne”, she reiterated over and over.
The affirmations to this were many in the repeated cries of “rastafari” whenever the point was made during the night.
Many were awkward in their delivery but all were steadfast in declaring their intention towards repatriation.
“We must leave them,” Rocke declared, “nuff foolishness ah gwan in de West.”
Later in an in interview Rocke explained that the Crown Prince though in exile is doing a series of benefit dinner and dances throughout the world. The purpose of this is two fold to let the world know he is the successor to the world know he is the successor to the throne; secondly to raise funds for repatriation and to help put into place schools, hospitals, buildings and projects for those who wish to return there.
Basically, the Crown Prince is due here in November for a visit in which the highlight will be a benefit dinner and dance on November 27, followed by a show, November 30 featuring Jamaican and local artistes. This is still in the planning stages. An impressive line up of Jamaican artistes have already pledged to perform for free.
The Crown Prince is head of an organisation of which he is the founder called The Ethiopian Peace Foundation. Founded “for the purpose of the repatriation and development of Ethiopia and Africa by those Ethiopians and Rastafarians in the international diaspora who wish to return and make a contribution.”
Through this Foundation which is based in Manchester, England, the Crown Prince has been sending out letters to rastafari worldwide telling them about a fundraising effort through a series of benefits called the Musical Odyssey Concerts.
“The Foundation is requesting all vocalists and musicians to contribute their time and effort to accelerate the repatriation movement. The time has come for all those who are committed to repatriation to Africa, specifically to Ethiopia to finally unite and cause our dreams to become a reality,”the letter states.
Rocke and other rastafari in Trinidad and Tobago agree that this should be so.
“Repatriation is a must. He must sit on the throne,” she reiterates and points out that things have already started happening.
These include a building foundation preparing land and a hundred-plus room hotel which is heing built. There is also an organisation called Nurses of Israel, which comprises sisters from England and America seeing about hospitals and health infrastructure.
She herself, a businesswoman, visited several African countries including Ethiopia in 1986. She points out that a number of Trinidadians and other West Indians and rastafarians from all over the world already live in Shashamane, which is in the Shore Province of Ethiopia.
Of her visit there she remembers “beautiful, it is like bible land”.
Shashamane, she explains, is 500 acres of land given by His Majesty to rastafarians who want to “come home.” His Majesty, she explains earnestly, was the only African head of state to designate a piece of land to any black person who wanted to go home.
But why would rastafarians want to live in a land where the royal family is exiled?
Rocke and other rastafarians believe that the day is coming soon, when the royal family will once again sit on the throne in Ethiopia.
“The government” (in Ethiopia) she insists, “has got to acknowledge the monarch, the present government is lenient towards repatriation.”
Efforts are now concerted to making the Crown Prince’s visit a success.
“We want all rastafari to come out to the airport, when him step off the place, he must see rastafari,” she says.
Emperor Haile Selassie I
According to Rastafarian belief, Emperor Haile Selassie I is the only true God (originally known as Ras Tafari), and Ethiopia is their spiritual homeland, the true Zion.
Haile Selassie I (1892-1975) was the last emperor of Ethiopia (1930-1974). Born near Harar on July 23, 1892, Selassie’s original name was Lij Tafari Makonnen. He was a grandnephew of Emperor Menelik II. In 1916, when he was 24-years-old, he ousted Lij, Iyasu, Menelik’s successor, replacing him with Zauditu, the old emperor’s daughter. Selassie made himself regent. When Zauditu died in 1930, he succeeded her, taking the name Haile Selassie I, which means “Might of the Trinity.” His other titles included Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God, and King of Kings.
In 1935 the Italians invaded Ethiopia. Selassie made an impressive plea for help before the League of Nations, but was unsuccessful. He went into exile in England in May 1936 and from there he helped the British plan a campaign that led to the liberation of Ethiopia. He returned to power in 1942. Another attempt to overthrow Selassie was made in 1960 but was quickly stopped. By 1974, however, worsening conditions in Ethiopia— government corruption, inflation, drought, starvation, and Selassie’s perceived hesitancy in dealing with these and other issues — led the army to revolt. Once again, Selassie was removed from power. He was formally deposed in September 1974 and died in Addis Abeba on August 27, 1975. He was 83 years old. Today, some Rastafarians say they are looking forward to the worlds they know he is laying down on their behalf.
Among Selassie’s accomplishments were major land reform, (1942 and 1944), emancipation of slaves (1942), and a revised and somewhat broadened constitution (1955) that provided for universal suffrage. He also played a leading role in the formation of the Organization of African Unity in the 1960s.
Ethiopia, formerly Abyssinia, is a republic in eastern Africa, bounded on the northeast by Eritrea and Djibouti, on the east and southeast by Somalia, on the southwest by Kenya, and on the west and northwest by Sudan. The area of the country is 1,128,176 sq km (435,606 sq mi).
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