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Rastafari at the African Union and Repatriation

Greetings and Blessings to the Rastafari Family Worldwide and the African Diaspora Civil Societies of the Americas in the Name of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, Father and Founder of the Organization of African Unity (1963), now transformed into today’s African Union.

I write this message with faith, hope and love at the start of the Ethiopian New Year, 1,090 days before the Ethiopian Millenium on September 11, 2007.

The Rastafari Family Worldwide begins the Ethiopian New Year with great momentum. Only a month and a half ago, an unprecedented gathering of Rastafari at the Lake Salvington Tabernacle in Covington (Atlanta), Georgia, sealed up the Jubilee Commemoration Exhibition of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I First Visit to the United States (1954) with seven lights of Ises. During that time, the Divine Order of the Nyahbingi gathered at the Scott Pass Tabernacle in Jamaica and restructured the Ancients Council and the Administrative Committee. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian World Federation Incorporated has established a headquarters in New York and the judiciary unit, working alongside Ethiopian attorneys, has corrected much of the errant legal issues which were hindering its effective operation. In late August, Sister Lily Mihirte posted a comprehensive report (www.rastaites.com) entitled “Communication and Networking: Rastafari in Afro Latin America” that called attention to the works of Rastafari in Cuba, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina. In early September Ras Bongo Wisely informed I&I of the formal diplomatic relations established between Ethiopia and St. Lucia, which will have a positive effect on the Rastafari Family. On September 7, The Jamaican Observer (www.jamaicanobserver.com/news/html/20040906T) reported that, at a UNESCO-sponsored conference on Slavery, the Haitian Revolution and Reparations, a consortium called the Rastafarian Nation in Jamaica (RNIJ) representing the David House, the Nyahbinghi, the 12 Tribes, the BOBO/EABIC, and the EWF, along with the Jamaica Reparations Movement, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and the UNIA, announced an invoice that would supply the resources needed to allow up to 500,000 members of the Rastafari Family to settle in the motherland. The invoice included a 10-year stipend for 500,000 persons, totaling $5 billion; five jet airplanes at $1.5 billion; two cruise ships at $1 billion; five merchant ships at $2.6 billion; five hospitality centers in Africa at $5 billion; tractors, farm equipment, communication satellites, solar power equipment, computers, and cultural products totaling $10 billion; five multi-purpose hospitals at $5 billion; and sustainable project funding totaling $40 billion. The RNIJ petition mandates that “The Government of Jamaica . . . place this invoice before the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) and the United Nations International Court at the Hague.” The Jamaican Observer article noted that the idea is not far fetched since Opposition Member of Parliament Mike Henry raised the issue in July and plans to have it debated in Parliament. The Issembly For Rastafari Iniversal Education (IRIE) has forwarded a position paper which the Nyahbingi Administrative Committee requested and is now reviewing. Finally, on September 12, the Rastafari Alliance of Panama announced that it has the support of several government ministries and NGO’s for the upcoming Rastafari Hispanic Summit in Panama in May, 2005 and is accepting registrations. Thus, the Rastafari Family Worldwide should watch, work and pray.

There are, also, even greater developments occurring at this time which effect the entire African Diaspora. These developments are centered on an effort to define the African Diaspora as a 6th Region of the African Union, thereby giving it full participation in the Pan African Parliament (PAP), that was established through a Protocol To The Treaty Establishing The African Economic Community, in Sirte, Libya, March 2, 2001. It should be remembered that after establishing the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, 1963, Emperor Haile Selassie came to Jamaica in 1966 in order to include Jamaica in the OAU. Said Haile Selassie I,

“From another fundamental point of view this is why the Organization of African Unity has been established. It is because the African continent, which comprises more than 250 million people, were it to remain divided among more than 30 states, their individual voices would not carry weigth. It is precisely since there is an identity of interest, we have attempted to include Jamaica also, so that we can carry this weight in the councils of nations and also through the process of cooperation and expanded economic relations we might be in a position to quicken the pace of development of the individual member countries of the Organization of African Unity.”

Unfortunately, states with a majority population of Africans like Jamaica could not join the OAU, and, despite its role in the founding of the pan-African movement, the African diasporans were excluded from its secretariat.

All this, however, changed, on February 3, 2003, when the 1st Extra-Ordinary Summit of the Assembly of the African Union voted to amend the Constitutive Act of the African Union by adding amendment “q” which commits the AU to “Invite and encourage the full participation of Africans in the Diaspora in the building of the African Union in its capacity as an important part of our continent.” (see www.rastafarispeaks.com/articles/03032003.html and Ites-Zine Archive 4 January – March 2003 at www.rastaites.com). At the Third Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union in May, 2003, the AU Commission was encouraged “to respond speedily to proposals from the African Diaspora to help the AU and the Continent and provide moral and diplomatic support for Diaspora initiatives aimed at effectively assisting the Continent.”

Prior to these extraordinary sessions, the AU had sponsored the First African Union Western Diaspora Forum held in Washington, D.C. December 17-19, 2002 that drafted advisory proposals. Incredibly, no invitation was given to the Rastafari Movement to participate in that session, and consequently, I&I were absent. Fortunately, Ras Nathaniel was present at the AU in February 2003 as a journalist for the Rastafari Speaks newspaper, and, consequently, the Rastafari Family submitted six proposals to be considered in Maputo.

Finally, in Maputo, Mozambique, July 2003, the AU summit took the legal steps and created the Pan African Parliament, naming Gertrude Mongella from Tanzania as the first President of the Parliament.

Since then, Mr. Alpha Oumar Konare, Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, organized two meetings in October and November, 2003, on the importance of African intellectuals contributing to the structure of the AU. The African Strategic and Peace Research Group (AFSTRAG) and The Initiative for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean (IRADAC) held a two-day roundtable conference at the City College of New York, February 26-27, 2004, for the African Diaspora to advance the development of the 6th Region within the AU. That conference developed a draft for the April 2004 Roundtable Conference in London that gathered prominent economic, political and technological experts from Africa and the Diaspora to fashion advisory documents for the AU Secretariat, civil society, and the private sector in Africa. On March 26-28, 2004, the AU convened a meeting in Africa on the future role of the Diaspora and preparatory committees/conferences (prepcom’s) for the upcoming First Conference of Intellectuals of Africa and the Diaspora organized by The African Union were held by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal in Dakar in 2003, and this week (September 2004) in Barbados.

Rastafari participation in these developments is growing. Following Ras Nathaniel’s coverage of the AU in February 2003 and the submission of the Rastafari Family Worldwide’s recommendations, Sister Desta made a follow-up visit to the AU in October, 2003 and is there now making a second visit.

At a meeting of Pan-African Civil Society Organisations with Dr. Adisa of the African Union this past weekend in Barbados, under the aegis of the Commission for Pan-African Affairs and the Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad & Tobago, Sis Ijahnya (Anguilla) Ras Iral (B'dos), Ras Andre (St. Vincent), Ras Kesate (Dominica), Ras Emmanuel (St. Thomas), and Ras Ikael (Barbados) gave their input. A Repatriation Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Ras Ikael that made the task of deploying a Caribbean-wide census for Repatriation as the first business at hand.

The significance of all this is twofold:

1) With the establishment of the 6th Region of the African Union, the African Diaspora, including the Rastafari Movemant, will, for the first time, be able to directly participate in the government of the African continent; and
2) New opportunities to effect Repatriation now present themselves.

In a three-way teleconference during the AU meetings in Barbadoes, Ras Ikael, Ras Kasate and Ras Nathaniel discussed the implementation of an expanded Repatriation Census supported by a Pan-Afrikan Network. As engagement with the African Union and African governments increases and intensifies, the need for a Rastafari United Front (ie a Rastafari Global Secretariat) to speak with ONE VOICE is critical. Towards that end, a formal endorsement and full participation in the final Repatriation Census (form not yet finalized) by the Nyahbinghi Ancients Council and Administrative Committee, The Executive Council of the Ethiopian World Federation Incorporated, the Ethiopian African Black International Congress/BoboShanti, the Caribbean Rastafari Organization, The Empress Manen Foundation, The Empress of Zion Collective, The Rastafari Hispanic Summit, the Organization of African American Rastafari Unity, the Trinidad and Tobago Rastafari United, and all other Rastafari houses, organizations, collectives, families, and individuals, will allow for an EFFECTIVE MEDIA AND GOVERNMENT LOBBYING CAMPAIGN.

No more shall news articles such as “Experiences of Western Rasta’s in Africa Fail” (By Wyger Wentholt); “Rastafarians Chase A Dream” (major US newspapers, June 14, 2003); “Is Ethiopia a Holy Land or Hell for Rastafarians” (Ethiopian Reporter, July 2, 2003); and “Shashemane – Rasta Dreams, Junctions, and Cross-roads at the Great Ethiopian Rift Valley” (article highlighting Shashemane sex-trade at www.mediaEthiopia.com) present a bleak picture for Repatriation. Instead, a message of unity and positive expectation should be written by I&I and about I&I and circulated through the Pan African News Agencey (PANA), the Associated Press (AP), etc.

Ras Ikael and Ras Kesate emphasized that the Rastafari Movemant must make a concerted effort in every nation, to build Pan-African coalitions especially should the 6th Region (Diaspora) of the Pan African Parliament become a reality. This should not be difficult. Already, Ras Bongo Spear has developed Afrika Hall in Barbados, Sister Barbara Makeda Blake-Hannah is a leading figure in the Jamaican Reparations Movement (JARM), several Rasses are involved with the Global Afrikan Congress and are forming an African Diaspora Civil Society Committee of the Caribbean. In the United States, Elder Ras Marcus has already begun organizing the PanAfrican Organizing Committee-USA (PAOC) [headquarters Unity United Methodist Church, 1433 Edmondson Avenue, Baltimore Maryland, P.O Box 77804, Washington, D.C. 20013-8804 www.paoc-usa.org/). As per the suggestion of Ras Ikael and Ras Kasate, groups like the PAOC, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA), The Indigenous African American Reparations Tribunal (IAART), the Committee for African American Reparations (CAAR), The International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM), FIHANKRA International, and many other African American organizations including churches, student groups, and professional guilds, can form an African Diaspora Civil Society Committee of North America (ADCSC-NA) for the specific purpose of educating and preparing African Americans for the historic opportunity to participate directly in the government of the African continent through the Pan African Parliament.

With Pan Afrikan support and participation in the Repatriation Census, I&I will more quickly reach the critical mass (number of Repatriates) needed to develop and implement Repatriation proposals on a large economy of scale. Up to now, I&I have not been able to achieve this – we have “migrated” in small numbers or else spoken in grandiose terms of “repatriation doctrine” without representing any real, defined constituencies. As noted in the IRIE Star Order Report: “Towards Repatriation By The Ethiopian Millennium” (see www.rastaites.com/report6.htm) a Repatriation Proposal based on Repatriation Census data for hundreds and even thousands of Repatriates, will offer African governments:

1) permanent increased human resources and capital flows that will reduce the effect of Africa’s “Brain Drain” by contributing to “Brain Gain”;
2) an infusion of a Pan-Afrikan spirituality and culture
3) positive pressure for the creation of continental structures and paradigms leading to solutions to such problems as AU citizenship;
4) a foundation for other sections of the Diaspora to repatriate

In closing, it should be remembered that eighty-eight years ago, in September, 1916, the daughter of Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II, became the first Empress to be installed since the Queen of Sheba gave her throne to her son, Menelik I, the son of King Solomon, in the 10th century BC. Upon the installation of Empress Zauditu, a young prince named Ras Tafari became Regent and Heir to the Throne of David in Ethiopia. Thus began the reign of Ras Tafari, later to be crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of Judah.

At that time, Ethiopia was the last remaining sovereign kingdom in Africa, all others having been colonized as a result of the European Scramble for Africa. In 1919, Ras Tafari sent four Ethiopian Ambassadors – the Commander of the Imperial Army, his Secretary, and the Mayors of Addis Ababa and Gondar – to the United States to prepare the way for commercial trade. During that visit, the Ethiopian Mission extended an invitation to Black Americans to return to Ethiopia. The invitation was made to Rabbi Arnold Ford, then Musical Director of Marcus Garvey’s UNIA and leader of the Hebrew Israelites (“Black Jews”) of Harlem. That the offer of repatriaton was given to Ford was extremely significant. As leader of the Black Jews, he would be able to resettle the existing remnat of Israel that was captured in the slave trade. In addition, given that the UNIA was the largest, greatest organization of the scattered Ethiopians/Africans, it made perfect sense to make the offer to the UNIA. Finally, it made sense to make the offer through Ford, who, as musical director of the UNIA, he could use the traditional, spiritual medium of song (psalms, hymns), to communicate the Ethiopian message to the mass of black people scattered in north, south and central America, including the Caribbean. This Rabbi Arnold Ford did. It is therefore no coincidence that Rabbi Arnold Ford gave the UNIA “The Universal Ethiopian Anthen”, later to be used by the Ethiopian World Federation, Incorporated and still sung by the Rastafari Family Worldwide today.

And thus was born the Rastafari Repatriation Movement. The following chronology details the efforts that His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I made to repatriate the Universal Black Commonwealth scattered in the West:

1922 UNIA CONVENTION Persian Consul General H. Topakyan reads message from Ethiopian Regent Plenipotentiary Ras Tafari: “I invite [Africans in the Americas] back to the homeland, particularly those qualified to help solve our big problems and to develop our vast resources. Teachers, artisans, mechanics, writers, musicians, professional men and women – all who are able to lend a hand in the constructive work which our country so deeply feels and greatly needs.”

1927 Dr. Workineh Martin sent by Ethiopian Regent and Plenipotentiary Ras Tafari to recruit Black Americans for Lake Tana Dam Project
Sent by Ethiopian Regent Plenipotentiary Ras Tafari, Dr. Martin tells Ethiopian student at Howard University, Malaku Bayen, that “the greatest service you could render your country would be to influence thousands of Black people in the USA and the West Indies and let them come and help us develop Ethiopia.”

1930 Ato Gabrou Mission to obtain Advisers
Sent by Ethiopian Negus Tafari, delivers the following message from Negus Tafari to the same Rabbi Arnold Ford, formerly of the UNIA: “We would welcome them back to Ethiopia, their Fatherland . . . . There is plenty of room for them here and we are certain they would be of the greatest aid in restoring their ancient land to its pristine glory.” Three months after this meeting, Rabbi Ford’s congregation sent him to Ethiopia accompanied by Miss Eudora Paris.

1930 November 2 Ras Tafari is crowned Haile Selassie I, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of Judah and Elect of God. Haile Selassie issues the Consolidated Laws of Ethiopia which become part of the 1931 Constitution. Under Section 9 NATIONALITY 12(2) Haile Selassie provides for Citizenship for Black people of the West: “12(2) If the Imperial Ethiopian Government deems any foreigner who applies for Ethiopian citizenship to be of value or if it finds other special reason which convinces it that the applicant should be granted citizenship it may grant him/her Ethiopian citizenship even if he/she does not fulfill the requirements prescribed in Article 12(b) and (d) -- i.e. residency and language – of the Nationality Law of 1930.

1931 Ato Gabrou Informs Rabbi Ford of Land Concessions Granted. The land grant gave repatriated Blacks the “special reason” for immediate citizenship. Nine more members of Ford’s Congregation repatriate to Ethiopia, including UNIA members Ada and Augustine Bastian, joining Rabbi Ford who had been in Ethiopia since the Coronation. During this period, 1930-1931, approximately 100 Blacks from America and the Caribbean repatriate to Ethiopia.

1935-1941 Italian Invasion of Ethiopia interrupts HIM Haile Selassie’s program for development.

1936-1937 HIM Haile Selassie I comissions Dr. Malaku E Bayen to organize and centralize the support of the Black People of the West through The Ethiopian World Federation, Incorporated, which granted the Universal Ethiopian Commonwealth its first Constitution..

1942 The Executive Secretary of the EWF Headquarters in New York City, George Bryant, requests a land grant in Ethiopia.

1948 HIM Haile Selassie I grants 5 gashas of land in Shashemane to be administered through the Ethiopian World Federation, Inc. Because the Preamble of the EWF Constitution states, “We, the Black People of the West . . .” the land grant is interpreted as given “To the Black People of the West”, though actually it was given to the EWF.. The land was granted with the understanding that more lands would be provided as needed, when occupancy and development of the first settlement was achieved. The Ethiopian World Federation, Incorporated, was given the responsibility to manage the development and settlement of the land. The EWF was not given the ownership of the land, but rather the land was given as “resty gulty” or “Charter Land”. In a letter to the Executive Committee of Local 31 in Kingston, Jamaica, Bryan announces that the 500 acre land grant was the personal property of the Emperor, given on a trial basis, “since the way it is utilized will be the touchstone for additional grants.” Furthermore, Bryan advised that the settlers “must be in groups and have the cooperative spirit of all for one, one for all . . . . operating in this manner there can be no failure.” The announcement also emphasized that skilled persons should be the first to go.

1953 Emperor Haile Selassie sends his personal emissary, Madame Sahara, on 18 month tour in America to recruit Afro-Americans for Repatriation.

1954 May – June HIM Haile Selassie I visits the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
At a special Joint Session of the US Congress, on May 28, 1954, HIM Haile Selassie stated, “ In consequence, in many respects, and particularly since the last world war, Ethiopia has become a new frontier of widely expanding opportunities, notwithstanding the tremendous set-back which we suffered in the unprovoked invasion of our country nineteen years ago and the long years of unaided struggle against an infinitely stronger enemy. The last seventeen years have seen the quadrupling of our foreign trade, currency and foreign exchange holdings. Holdings of American dollars have increased ten times over. The Ethiopian dollar has become the only US dollar-based currency in the Middle East today. The assets of our national bank of issues have increased one thousand percent. Blessed with what is perhaps the most fertile soil in Africa, well-watered, and with a wide variety of climates ranging from temperate on the plateau, to the tropical in the valleys, Ethiopia can grow throughout the year crops, normally raised only in widely separated areas of the earth’s surface.

Since the war, Ethiopia has become the granary of the Middle East, as well as the only exporter of meat, cereals and vegetables. Whereas at the end of the war, every educational facility had been destroyed, today, schools are springing up throughout the land, the enrollment has quadrupled . . . . . Finally, through the return in 1952 of its historic ports on the Red Sea and of the long-lost territory of Eritrea, Ethiopia has territory pursuant to post-war treaties and in application of peaceful means and methods. We have thus become a land of expanding opportunities where the American pioneering spirit, ingenuity and technical abilities have been and will continue to be welcomed.” Later during His Majesty’s visit to the United States, Haile Selassie, regarding the United States’ outstanding position as leader of the world today, stated to the Black people of Chicago, “It has been due, in no small part, to your [i.e. descendants of Africa] profound religious faith and ideals. . . . It is only natural, therefore, that we Africans should follow with deepest interest the inspiring achievements and contributions of the peoples of African origin in the United States.”

According to Madame Sahara, who was responsible for recruiting Black repatriates for His Imperial Majesty, HIM Haile Selassie offered the following Repatriation invitation: “A house, rent-free, a salary at least equaling that which applicants are now earning or could earn in America, free transportation to Ethiopia for applicants and their families, annual three-months vacations with pay, and, in some instances, automobiles provided by the government.” Interested persons were instructed to contact the Ethiopian Embassy and apply.

1955 September EWF International Organizer Mrs. Mamie Richardson, visists Jamaica. According to The Daily Gleaner, Ms. Richardson announced that: 500 acres of land was granted through the EWF to the Black people of the West who aided Ethiopia during her period of distress. She also stated that the land was the personal property of His Imperial Majesty and is given on a trial basis. The manner in which it is used to be the touchstone for additional grants. Finally, she noted that the Ethiopian government was not prepared for mass migration and the people willing to go must be of pioneer caliber and be willing to forgo many things they are accustomed to.

1961 April 21 According to the Mission to Africa – Minority Report submitted to the Jamaican Government by mission members Filmore Alvaranga, Douglas Mack and Mortimo Planno, “[His Imperial Mjaesty Haile Selassie] said we should send the right people. The Emperor said Ethiopia was large enough to hold all the people of African descent living outside Africa . . . . “

1967 January 1 Alem-Gena Wollamo Road HIM Haile Selassie I states,
“The economic value of land and a town near a road is highly rewarding and those who posses such land or live in such a town know its vitality. . . . Education, roads and communications are pre-requisites fro a country’s development. . . . The importance of highways is paramount. They are useful during time of peace as well as hardship. As a matter of fact, a country without highways is like a disabled person. God-willing, We hope, We may be able to see Our country inter-connected by means of roads from east to West, from North to South in the near future.”

It should be understood that Shashemane is situated on the Imperial (King’s) Highway, the main road in the entire country. It is one day’s drive south from the capital Addis Ababa, and one’ day’s drive from the Kenyan Border. There is little if any light on the road, so night driving is a minimum. Thus, anyone traveling south from the Capital or north from the Kenyan border, must stop at the end of the day. Moreover, there is in Shashemane a main East-West highway. Thus, Shashemane lies at the crossroad of the major north-south, east-west traffic. After a long days drive, one will definitely need something to eat, somewhere to rest, and perhaps, some entertainment. The placing a peculiar people known for their tasty “Ital” vegetarian cuisine, reggae music, pan-African arts and crafts, powerful “exotic” dreadlocks, and, most importantly, their devoted love for their God and King Haile Selassie, in a prime location, can not be over-looked in terms of the importance placed on such a project for national development. To be sure, consider how Jamaica’s image, culture and economy has been elevated by the presence of the Rastafari people.

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