Journal of the People’s Pastor

“Writing The History I’ve Lived, Living The History I Write!”


Part XIV: Darfur Diary – My Journey to Juba, South Sudan

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I awakened at 7:30am, was out at 8am. This was very late for me. I spent an hour doing my rituals around the grounds of the hotel. It is a spacious, sprawling complex, consisting of a steam swimming pool, (very tempting, I was undecided on going to the pool or completing my ritual. I decided to continue my ritual.) There were a mini golf course, three tennis courts, bocha ball, gym, sauna, all interspersed with trees and shrubbery. There were restaurants and snack bars around the pool. There was a juice bar, where I stopped after my ritual. I drank two large, 16 oz juices. First, a large papaya and carrot, then an orange and pineapple. They were delicious and energizing. They cost $4 each. Cheaper than the USA.

As scheduled, I met Sharon at 10am in the lobby. She had sent the press release from the hotel. I dictated it yesterday in Juba. Inside, the hotel was as spacious as outside – marble floors, restaurants, beauty salons, banks and a quaint place where traditional coffee is served with burning incense artistically situated. (Coffee is Ethiopia’s leading export.)

Our first stop was the computer workplace. We wanted to send the pictures we had taken in Juba with the press release. It was a small place with eight computers. People were constantly coming and going. We couldn’t send the pictures. But we could make international calls for 2 Biers. (There are nine Biers to a dollar.) In Juba, it was pounds, two pounds to a dollar.

We ate lunch at the Simeon Hotel. This is the same Hotel where we stayed on our way to Juba. Our first stop after lunch was Trinity or Haile Selassie’s church. It is where Haile Selassie, the former emperor of Ethiopia is buried. Haile Selassie ruled Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. While to some people he was a god, to others he was a dictator. He was put to death by Mengistu Haile Mariam (Haile means power, Selassie means trinity.) Amin said he was kept alive for a year, as attempts were made to abstract information from him regarding his Swiss bank accounts. He took the secrets to his death. Sixty eight cabinet members were put to death too. They are buried in the Trinity Church yard.

Eventually, Mariam, a communist was rejected by the people. We were told he is in exile in Zimbabwe, President Mugabe refuse to extradite him. Mariam trained Mugabe’s army doing the battle against what was then Southern Rhodesia. Mugabe remembered what he had done and rewarded him with asylum.
Another little tidbit the guide gave us, he said, Haile Selassie's father named him Lij Taffari, which means Ras – Governor Tafferi. On the right side of the church as you enter was the burial ground of the high and mighty – but now, just dead bodies having gone the way of all flesh. There is a pathway that leads to the Parliament and the Prime Minister’s palace. We took our shoes off as we entered the church through the visitor’s entrance – there is an entrance for males and females and priest. A prayer or ceremony was in progress. Mostly dressed in white, the worshippers followed the instructions of the priest who gave instructions from the front of what appeared to be the altar.

We walked along the left side of the church. There were paintings depicting the stories of the Old Testament. On the other side of the church, the New Testament stories were told in paintings. In the center of the church, was a huge painting of Mary, all the pictures were European or white. It was incredible that here in this Black country, the oldest church in Christendom with its rich history, hanging in the most conspicuous place is a white picture of Mary and all around the walls, European images.
We went to the room where the large coffins containing the bodies of Haile Selassie and his wife. The coffins were brown colored marble. At the top was stillae, made famous in lababellie, and the four lion’s paws at the bottom. The behavior of humans is strange and complex indeed. First, they rejected the man, killed him and then built monuments in his honor. And put him away in a huge magnificent coffin. I’m reminded of something Bishop Washington used to say, “People lie on you while you are alive and then lie for you when you are dead.” Looking at the coffins of Haile and his wife; we can expand upon Bishops observation. We can say, “People kill you and then crown you with the highest honors.”

We tried to take pictures. But the camera would not work in the dark room. “How could the Rastafarians believe that Selassie was a god and he is dead?” I asked. “They don’t believe he is dead,” said our guide. “Like Tupac,” Sharon responded in unison with our guide. “People don’t believe that Tupac is dead. But he is dead!”

In the center of the church, facing the doors from the altar’s rear were two huge chairs with a crown above one. They were the chairs of Haile Selassie and his wife. For the children there were smaller ordinary chairs placed in front close to the altar. We walked out of the church into the sun light. The morning chill had disappeared. We rode through town to our next stop, the National Museum. We passed the monument of the martyrs. Father Paedro, who was killed by Italian General, Graziani. There was an attempt on the life of the General. He responded by killing multitudes indiscriminately. We passed another monument raised to Mariam. It has the communist symbol. It is dedicated to working people.

We went to the Museum, primarily because we wanted to see Mother Lucy. She was located on the first floor among her fossilized friends. She was found in 1974. She is 3.2 million years old. She stands 31⁄2 inches. They found 40% of her bones.

The final visit was the Ethnographic Museum located on the grounds of the University of Addis Ababa. It was 4:30pm when we arrived. The guard refused to let us in. He argued that the Museum close at 5pm. But it was only 4:30pm, we reminded him. It still did not move him. Our guide became angry and insisted on seeing the manager. He returned, after a few minutes, with the manager who allowed us to enter. There is a resistance, or a something that we found prevalent among the Ethiopians that we encountered when trying to take care of any kind of business. Some one called it, “Imperialism.” But, perhaps, closer to the truth is what three Ethiopians told us. For the most part, they are uneducated. They are not taught to think. They are clock watchers. They just want to do their jobs, nothing deviated. We found most of those that we met to be abrupt and non-cooperative. Someone compared them to the French that one interacts with in France. They give the appearance of arrogance. But I am not sure that is what it is. I will go along with what the Ethiopian said about their own people.

Inside the museum, we saw the handy work of the various tribes, the robes and crowns of Kings and pictures of King Johonns and Theodadress. Our guide, Amin, said, “King Johonns betrayed King Theodadress to the British. He committed suicide rather than be taken by the British. We were shown Haile Selassie’s room. The Museum had been his palace. He donated it to the City and moved into another larger place, which is now occupied by the President of the Country. The President, by the way, has little power. The real power is in the Prime Minister.

There was nothing impressive about the rooms. His wife had an adjourning room. Several things struck me. The size of the bed. It was small and short. The guide pointed this out. He emphasized Selassie was a very short man. The second attraction around the room was robes, crowns and other paraphernalia which seemed to be a reminder to the King that he was really the King. And then there were the bullet holes. There had been a coup attempt. The place where the bullets pierced is still evident. Amin explained there had been another attempt on Selassie’s life. Two brothers snatched Selassie’s son while Selassie was away. They forced Selassie’s son to declare himself emperor. When Selassie returned, he put the two brothers to death. And he maintained his crown until he was put to death… And the sad human saga continues!

So ended our sightseeing venture. At 8:15pm, we headed to the airport for the 10:15pm fight. It was around 10:30pm when we started moving towards the sky.

Somewhere across the Heavens, maybe around midnight (Ethiopian time), dinner was served, lentil and rice and green beans for me. I had ordered a vegetarian plate. I closed my eyes, leaned back in my seat and fell asleep.

To be continued…

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