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TO: Alula

FROM: Gebru

Selam Ato Alula,

As I have been gently urged to start this exchange, I shall do so by taking myself back to a year or so ago when the world was delirious with the anticipated (but mistaken) changing of the millennium guard. Lists of the Century, Millennium, the greatest, the sweetest, the coarsest, the mightiest, the most historic etc...having proliferated, it was inevitable that we Ethiopians would soon be inundated with similar lists, even though we still have about seven or eight years to do THE XXXXX of the millennium. Inevitably too, these lists mentioned figures from the last 100 to 150 years whose doings are the freshest in memory and sharpest still in impact.

But, being an odd fellow and a sometime wefefE known to have graced the bars around Arat Kilo (maybe that is why I am in sdet? hmmm....), it seemed to me that there are only two or three people who could without a doubt wear the mantle of the Person of the Millennium. One figure came to mind. Before I pop the name out though, let me hasten to define the phrase "Person of the Millennium" as refering to the person to have had the most impact in subsequent history.

OK, his name is Imam Ahmed Ibrahim AL-GHAZI. Very few Christian Ethiopians even recognize that name, but if you add the word "Gragn," then it is a different story. I do not know if he was indeed a southpaw, as they say in the west, or was so named because he was too effective an enemy to the Christian armies he repeatedly faced and vanquished. What is certain is that he was a brilliant military leader who started his "jihad" from Harrer, and made it to virtually all areas of the Christian kingdom before he was stopped.

My choice of Ahmed Gragn as the "Person of the Millennium," however, is based on events subsequent to his rise (and fall). Consider just the following two incontrovertible aspects of modern Ethiopia...

  1. The Oromo Expansion
  2. After his wars, both Christian and Muslim sides were so weakened that what had previously been easy before, i.e. stopping the expansion of the nomadic Oromo clans into settled agrarian Christian and Moslem principalities, became virtually impossible. The Oromo are today very much part of the demographic and cultural core of Ethiopia.

  3. Self-Imposed Xenophobia

The Portuguese called to assist in stopping Gragn decided to stay and Catholicize the Orthodox country. Since this very soon started a vicious civil war, the resolution was for the Potuguese to leave, the Catholics to be forced to recant, and for subsequent Ethiopian emperors to entreat the leaders of Egypt to stop any "Catholic" (which could be translated as any Westerner) from making their way into Ethiopis. The result, in terms of lost contact with a Europe that was just emerging into its Renaissance, is almost incalculable.

And so, he has my vote.

What sayest thou?

Chilot Part II

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