By now in 2020, I have lived through 3 Governments in Ethiopia. The first government I experienced was Emperor Haile Selassie I, during my Elementary School days. I went to Dajazmatch Wonderad Elementary School at Kotobe, Addis Ababa. I finished High School during The Emperor's reign as well, at Haile Selassie Secondary School.
I think most Ethiopians from my generation would agree that those were the best times to be Ethiopian. The country was at peace internally and held in high esteem internationally. That is why most of us are nostalgic for those days.
After finishing High School in 1971, I had planned to continue my studies with my cousin, current Afar Sultan Hanfare Alimirah. We had heard of a trend of Ethiopians studying in Beirut and came to know of The American University of Beirut, so that was the plan. Our plan was changed by Captain Dessalen Beyene. As an Ethiopian Army Captain, he was sent to The United States to study at The University of Tuskegee. Unfortunately, Dessalen fell in with the wrong crowd and got involved with a Bank Robbery. The authorities extradited him back to Ethiopia where he served a 2 Year sentence before he was dismissed from the military.
In prison, he had heard of the Sultan of The Afars, Alimirah, a great Ethiopian known for his generosity to all Ethiopians in need. After being released from prison, he journeyed to Aysaita in hopes of meeting The Sultan. Instead, he found the Sultan's son, Hanfare.
Dessalen was shocked at the youth of the future Sultan and asked him of his plans for school, and that's how he came to know of our plans for Beirut. Dessalen proposed to take Hanfare and myself to America instead, where through his expertise, he would introduce us to people and help us settle in. In return, Dessalen wanted his tuition paid off, which Hanfare was more than willing to do. Hanfare sent Dessalen to meet with me in Addis Ababa where we'd be able to finalize the details.
Dessalen came to my home in Popolare, Addis Ababa, where I greeted him with a well made lunch; traditional Ethiopian Doro Watt. As I was eating, I noticed Dessalen hadn't taken a single bite and he sat there shaking his head sadly. I asked what was wrong, to which Dessalen responded, "you know I'm not Muslim, and yet you present me Muslim food knowing that I have no choice but to eat it because I'm poor." I was shocked to hear this as it was not my intention at all and put my food away to treat him to a restaurant instead.
After a lunch conversation, we agreed on waiting for The Sultan to return to Aysaita, upon which Hanfare would be able to come to Addis Ababa, and then we could proceed. A month later, Hanfare was in Addis Ababa and we went straight to The Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get passports. The Minister recognized Hanfare as being the son of the Sultan and took care of us personally. We did not have a lot of information, including birth certificates and photographs, but we were accommodated right away. From there, we went on to the US Embassy where we asked to talk to the Ambassador for a visa, but we were sent to a Counselor instead. The Counselor asked if the Ministry of Education was sending us or whether we had any sort of sponsorship, to which the answer to both was no, and so we were denied a visa.
Not easily discouraged, Hanfare and I resigned to go back to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to deal with this on our behalf, but after our lunch at The Hilton Hotel. It was there that we encountered the same Counselor who was in charge of issuing the visas. He was surprised to see us kids at such a high end establishment and told us to come back to him after our lunch. Our Visa's issued, we went on to the travelling agency to get our tickets. Ready for whatever to come, the 3 of us, Hanfare, Dessalen, and myself, were on our way.
The rest will follow soon.