Zer’ai Deres and the Lion of Judah

Most of us may have heard many times about the bravery of Zer’ai Deres from history class at school and/or from the radio. But how many of us know about his story that relates to the survival of the Lion of Judah statues now standing beautifully in Addis Ababa? – see photo (source – Gabagoo’s photostream ) and also here.

Speaking of the bravery of Zer’ai Deres in the streets of Rome and the story of the Lion of Judah statues in Addis and how they survived the Derg regime, the Imperial Ethiopia home page says :

The Lion of Judah Monument stands in the square in front of Addis Ababa’s train station. The golden colored statue of the Lion of Judah in it’s complete glory stands on a black granite pedestal which is decorated with relief portraits of Emperors Menelik II and Haile Selassie I, and Empress Zewditu, as well as Ras Makonnen. It marks the foot of the city’s widest and avenue, Churchill Road which has the impressive Addis Ababa City Hall at it’s other end. The Lion of Judah statue has a very interesting history. Erected in 1930 just before Emperor Haile Selassie’s coronation, it was looted by the Italian occupiers in 1935 and taken to Rome, where it was erected next to the Vittorio Emanuelle Monument. During the 4th anniversary celebrations of the proclomation of the Itlian Empire, Adolf Hitler chose to visit Rome, and attended the celebratory parades along side the Fascist Dictator Musollini and King Victor Emanuelle III. In the parade were numerous subjects of Italy’s African Empire, including a young Eritrean named Zerai Deres. Zerai Deres was marching with other parade members carrying a ceremonial sword with which to salute the King, the Fuhrer, and el Duce, at the grandstand. As the parade marched past the Vittorio Emauelle monument, Zerai looked up and saw to his shock, the golden Lion of Judah, the symbol of the ancient monarchy to which his ancestors had long owed allegiance, erected as war booty in the heart of Rome. It was too much for him to bear, and he promptly drew his sword and with tears of anger running down his face he fell on the first Italian officer he could find. He killed and wounded numerous Italian military officers before he was killed. Zerai Deres is lionized to this day as a brave Ethiopian patriot. The monument remained in Rome for several decades, and was finally returned to Addis Ababa after long negotiations in the 1960’s. When it was re-erected in it’s square the day it arrived, the Emperor was present in military uniform to salute, and to pay tribute to Zerai Deres. Following the revolution in 1974, the Dergue regime decided to remove the statue once more as it was a monarchist symbol. However, the elderly war veterans association members appealed to the Dergue to consider the memory of Zerai Deres and his sacrifice that was inspired by this very symbol. This act saved the statue and it stood it all it’s Imperial glory right through the Dergue era, and continues to stand today.


Hilarious! There are two** Lion of Judah statues in Addis Ababa. According to the above source, they both survived because of the legacy of Zer’ai Deres. More stories about the Imperial Monuments of Ethiopia from here and nice pictures of Haileselassie from here.

** There are actually three. Yekatit 12 Martyrs Square  at Sidist Kilo square has another smaller lion of Judah statue on top of it and it survived too!


Conservation thinking II – Ethiopian Wolf

The Ethiopian Wolf (a.k.a. Abyssinian Wolf , Semein Fox , Qey Qebero, Jedala Farda, Semein Jackal) is the natural Icon of Ethiopian highlands especially of the Semien Mountains. It’s scientific name is Canis semiensis. It was first described in 1835 by the German Naturalist and Explorer, Eduard Rupell in the Semein mountains in north western Ethiopia – thus its scientific name. It is known to be the rarest out of the 36 wild candid species in the world. It is also known to be the rarest carnivore in Africa and is endemic to Ethiopia.


It has got long legs and long muzzle which enables it to hunt its prey. It has got distinct, bright tawny rufous coat with black and white marks and has mean mass of 16kg.

Habitat and Ecology

The Ethiopian Wolf is a very localized endemic species living in confined and isolated pockets of afro-alpine grasslands and heath lands. It normally habits at an elevation on and above 3000 m. They are known to habit in seven isolated populations in Ethiopia – as shown in Figure 1.



Figure 1: Geographical distribution of the Ethiopian Wolf (Sillero-Zubiri, C. & D.W. Macdonald, 1997) (left) and National parks in Ethiopia with Semein and Bale National parks circled in red (Atlas Ethiopic)(right)

But of these seven pockets of afro-alpine, the wolves are protected only in two of these areas where the majority of the populations exist – the Semein National Park and the Bale National Park.

The afro-alpine habitat is a unique, rare and the only refuge for three of Ethiopia’s endemic species – the Walia Ibex, the Gelada Baboon and the Ethiopian Wolf.


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Good Bye Lucky Dube!

It is very sad to hear the tragic death of Lucky Dube! Just how do you explain when some jerk comes up out of nowhere and takes away – not just your car, not just money – but your life? It is just unspeakable! Stealing, car jacking, burglary to some extent could be there everywhere but shooting people at this scale- just to steal – I think there is something wrong!

Youtubing good old times . . .

Good old times! Every thing seems to be classic in these old time Ethiopian TV music videos – the music, the dance, the clothes, the shoes, the hair style, the curtains . . .

Even more, every body seems to be very happy – or may be dancers had to visibly smile by then! Not bad!

Baba Maal and Gaddaffi

Baba Maal is a popular Senegalese singer who sings with a truly African taste. Thanks to an inquisitive flatmate – I recently discovered his songs and liked it. Check it out yourself some of the clips on his site.

I also discovered later that he had a show in Addis Ababa where he performed at the African Union Hall. What made the news tastier was his encounter with Gaddaffi while performing for African Head of States. It is written on his site:

The Gala was attended by the African heads of state who are all said to have greatly enjoyed Baaba’s performance, except Colonel Gaddafi who kindly requested that the volume be turned down.

hilarious and continues . . .

It’s a good thing Colonel Gaddafi was not in attendance three days later when Baaba Maal performed at the Taste of Addis-Africa show. The high energy show went down a storm as Baaba took the stage and performed at the Glocal Hotel venue on the 2nd February.

Apart from singing, Baba says he is working and committed to contribute more to improving the living conditions of disadvantaged people in Africa.

But speaking of Gaddaffi, I keep on getting hilarious stories about this guy such as this, this and this.

King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

Professor Solomon in Baltimore has made his Book – The Book of King Solomon – freely available for download (pdf) on his site. The book is quite interesting and I have already read the chapter that tells the story of the Queen of Sheba!

In just ten pages, the Professor hilariously documents how beautiful, intelligent and revered the Queen of Sheba was. And how she happened to be impressed with the wits and wisdom of King Solomon, traveled all the way to Israel to test his wisdom and some of the hilarious questions she asked during her one month stay in Israel. King Solomon in return asked her about how the Shebans (the people she ruled and came from) managed to avoid war for centuries and about her foreign policy to which the Queen replied:

“Our secret is simple enough – what we call the Three D’s. Distance between our land and others. Desert as a barrier to invasion. And – when necessary – skilled Diplomacy. Thanks to these, we have avoided conflict and maintained our independence.”

The book also mentions about the debate over the exact location of Sheba -whether it’s Africa or Arabia? Ethiopia or Yemen? But it cites evidences like Kibre Nagast and Josephus’ Antiquities for her being African and Archeologists placing Sheba in Yemen. ( But I have a question here, haven’t I seen the ruins of the Palace of the Queen of Sheba in Axum ? – obviously dug up by Archaeologists?). This is not the first time that I heard blurred stories about the Queen of Sheba. I have once heard some researchers on the BBC that the Queen of Sheba is just a Legend. That she never existed at all!

Speaking of Kibre Negest (the Glory of Kings) and How influential a medieval African literature it was and what it means in the context of Ethiopian history and religion and perhaps its influence in the future is excellently and concisely put in here.

The Book is fantastic and you can download the free pdf from the Professor’s site in here or buy in here.

Reciprocity – Ethiopia, Mexico

I am in the middle of reading quite an excellent book – Influence by Robert B. Cialdini – where at one point the author was explaining about Reciprocity which he says is one of the fundamental psychological principle that directs human behavior. The reciprocity rule basically requires that one person try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided. While explaining this rule, he cites interesting example that caught my eye. He writes :

I know of no better illustration of the way reciprocal obligations can reach long and powerfully into the future than the perplexing story of $5,000 of relief aid that was exchanged between Mexico and Ethiopia. In 1985, Ethiopia could justly lay claim to the greatest suffering and privation in the world. Its economy was in ruin. Its food supply had been ravaged by years of drought and internal war. Its inhabitants were dying by the thousands from disease and starvation.Under these circumstances, I would not have been surprised to learn of a $5,000 relief donation from Mexico to that wrenchingly needy country. I remember my feeling of amazement , though,when a brief newspaper item I was reading insisted that the aid had gone in the opposite direction.Native officials of the Ethiopian Red Cross had decided to send the money to help the victims of that year’s earthquakes in Mexico City.

It is both a personal bane and a professional blessing that whenever I am confused by some aspect of human behavior, I feel driven to investigate further. In this instance, I was able to track down a fuller account of the story. Fortunately,a journalist who had been as bewildered as I by the Ethiopians’ actions had asked for an explanation. The answer he received offered eloquent validation of of the reciprocity rule : Despite the enormous needs prevailing in Ethiopia, the money was being sent to Mexico because, in 1935, Mexico had sent aid to Ethiopia when it was invaded by Italy(“Ethiopian Red Cross,” 1985). So informed, I remained awed,but I was no longer puzzled. The need to reciprocate had transcended great cultural differences, long distances,acute famine, many years and immediate self-interest. Quite simply,a half-century later, against all countervailing forces, obligation triumphed.