Ambassador Kadafo Hanfare: Observation #3

A continuation on my earlier note on the Ethiopian Governments of my lifetime:

Hanfare, Dessalen, and myself; Kadafo Mohamed Hanfare, arrived in the US and got started on settling in. For his part, Dessalen did introduce us to the people who would eventually help me and Hanfare in enrolling at The American University of Washington DC. We started off at English For Foreigners and began fully at university in the fall of 1972.


Just as we were getting settled, The Sultan urged Hanfare and I to return. The US State Department had invited The Sultan to visit and he needed company on this journey, so myself, Hashim Jamal El Din and Ali Ibrahim Yusuf were chosen to accompany him.


We arrived in New York to a chorus of applause. We were surprised at the warm reception only to realize that the applause was for The Actor Bob Hope. From New York, The State Department arranged our trip to Washington DC where we were put at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel and briefed on our upcoming 45 day journey across 15 States. In Lubbock, Texas, we were all awarded Honorary Citizenship. At the end of the tour, The Sultan and company went back home while I remained to finish my studies.


In 1974, there were troubles across Ethiopia. Seeing that the situation could get worst for The Sultan, I decided to return to see if I could help. Emperor Haile Selassie I was overthrown by the new Communist Regime, The Derg. In their grab for power, they had killed 60 people in one night while arresting many officials and demanding the presence of more. The Sultan happened to be one of the officials who were ordered to Addis Ababa. Fearing for his life, The Sultan did not feel safe to go to Addis, and so sent Hanfare and myself to negotiate on his behalf. We discussed The Sultans role as traditional leader of The Afars and his willingness to make peace as long as The Derg stays away from his region. We were having a difficult time negotiating with The Derg, and our deal was tenuous, but we had the assurance of an Afar Major, Major Mohamed Yassin. He told us that he was The Sultan’s man and would warn us if The Derg were to break the peace. The Derg had many double operatives, including Major Neguse Haile, who opened the door for me to leave Ethiopia again before it was too late. As soon as the tentative peace was secured, I went back to my studies.


By June of 1975, I had effectively been in exile, unable to return to Ethiopia. One fateful day, a certain headline on the Washington Star newspaper shocked me; “Derg Forces Bomb Aysaita.” I heard The Sultan had escaped to Saudi Arabia and so I rushed towards Jeddah right away. I learned that while some had escaped to Djibouti and Saudi Arabia, some of my family had been killed and others, including my brother, had been arrested. He was released after 3 years but the conditions had left him in poor health. He passed away in 1993 leaving behind 5 children.


After ensuring the security and safety of everyone in Saudi Arabia and being named The Sultan’s personal adviser on Foreign Affairs, I went to check on the state of my people in Djibouti. The French colony had been very helpful to Ethiopian refugees fleeing the communists. The French Army was a definitive factor in the Communist Regime not eliminating the refugees.


Eventually, I returned to The States to continue my Masters and graduated in 1979. Soon after, I began working at The Embassy of Qatar and decided to pursue my PhD at George Washington University.


Meanwhile, The Derg had been weakened enough to negotiate with the rebel forces in London under the supervision of American mediators. Amongst the representatives of the rebel forces were Hanfare Alimirah and future President and Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi. They had created an unbreakable bond through their mutual struggle.


Before I was able to finish my studies, in 1991, The Derg regime collapsed, it’s leader Mengistu fled, and the opposition groups who struggled against them for 17 years took over. Hanfare called me and introduced me to his friend Meles over the phone who urged my return to Ethiopia to assist them in the transition. I was beyond excited at the prospect of returning home and I left my studies to help build my Ethiopia of old.


After several years of absence, on July 1st of 1991, I arrived in Addis Ababa. Hanfare welcomed me at the airport and together we went to The Hilton where we found The Sultan and his entourage, finally restored and back from exile. I later on met Meles in person and we confirmed our commitment to Ethiopia and to work together.


The first order of business was to hold a conference where all the Liberation Fronts would come together to discuss the future of the country. The Afars were represented by The Sultan and his two children; Hanfare and Ahmed Alimirah. Myself and Alimirah Helem, a fellow Afar who had recently returned from London, were there as observers. It was at this conference that I first met Eritrean Leader Isayas Afwerki. He made his shocking intention clear to have Eritrea secede from Ethiopia. The Sultan stood in protest to this and asked to be recognized to speak, but the moderator ignored him. The Sultan refused to let this disrespect pass and stood up regardless and spoke while his son translated. We had won back the country together, he said, and should not be so quick to break it apart. The Sultan went on to say that if the Eritreans were resigned on seceding, then The Afars in Eritrea should be given a chance to decide where to go. Isayas left in anger, unwilling to hear another word.


On the 4th of July, Hanfare and myself were invited to the Independence Day reception at the US Embassy where we ran into Isayas. Isayas let us know that he knew The Sultan who he considered a father would not be against his proposal, and so he must’ve been influenced to make those statements at the conference. He demanded an apology from us, as he deemed us responsible, but I let him know that this was neither the time nor place to discuss these matters. Hanfare adamantly refused to apologize, feeling disrespected by Isayas. I intervened to find an amicable solution when Isayas invited us to have lunch with him the next day to discuss this further. We left Isayas with a promise of meeting the next day, but the damage had been done with Hanfare, and the lunch never happened. That was the last time I spoke to Isayas.

The rest will come soon.


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