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Jan-01-2012 15:56printcomments

Option for Sweden; Napier Expedition or the intercession of a tycoon

Placating the crimes of dictators; a benefit to only a few..

A cartoon by John Tenniel in <i>Punch</i> (10 August 1867), showing Britannia threatening King Theodore
A cartoon by John Tenniel in Punch (10 August 1867), showing Britannia threatening King Theodore - Courtesy: Wikipedia

(UGANDA) - At the time of writing this, it’s January 1, 2012. It is my first piece on the very day of the New Year; hence, I ask readers indulgence to allow me to be a bit didactic for the purpose of explaining the term “Napier Expedition.”

The fortress of Magdala burning
after the British expeditionary force
defeated Tewodros of Ethiopia.

The term came from a military operation conducted in 1868 to rescue Europeans jailed by an Ethiopian King called Emperor Tewodros.

Among the jailed Europeans were British missionaries such as Henry Stern, the then Consul Charles Duncan Cameron and another envoy named Hormuzd Rassam who was sent to negotiate their release.

As the Emperor’s vision of unifying Ethiopia and advancing it with the then technology got frustrated by the Orthodox clergy’s intrigue and various other forces while on a project of freeing the nation from a divisive politics known as the “Era of Princes,” he became increasingly erratic manifested in the harsh and equally magnanimous measures he took.

To cut a long story short, Queen Victoria announced the decision of sending a military expedition to free the European hostages.

Sir Robert Napier - Wikipedia

Lieutenanet-General Sir Robert Napier was chosen to command the expeditionary force who found it easy to defeat Emperor Tewodros whose power base had already been weakened by rebellion and defection.

However, the expedition which became synonymous with the commander’s name failed to fulfill one of its objectives; and that’s capturing the King alive. After releasing the prisoners in the final act of magnanimity, Tewodros denied Napier the chance by committing suicide thereby turning Magdala, his last fortress, into a symbol of defiance.

That’s ancient history played out at a time where no veneer of civilization were put in place to resolve disputes.

Unfortunately,even after the adoption of international norms where all states are supposedly bound by it, we’re still witnessing hostage taking under various pretexts.

Meles Zenawi - Ethiopia

While the culprits are mostly tin-pot dictators who rule over failed states, the responses to their hostage taking by the so-called international community is also varied depending upon other interests ranging from “economy” to “strategy.”

Eritrea's Isaias Afeworki

If the dictator is one who has already got in the way of Western interest, his hostage taking of the citizens of the Western world would be additional cause for condemnation which sometimes may entail military action.

That’s why the “international community” that passed sanction on Isaias Afeworki, who incidentally jailed an Eritrean-born Swedish journalist called Dawit Isaak, treats Meles Zenawi with a kid’s glove despite slapping via his kangaroo court two Swedish journalists named Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye to 11 years of imprisonment.

Apart from Sweden’s pacifist tradition that’s anathema to drastic measures such as the Napier Expedition, Zenawi “scored” his latest victory in Somalia which would endear him more as an “ally on the war on terror.”

This along with his successful pandering to the Western interest by doling out all the arable lands to so-called investors would even prevent the poor Swedish officials from describing him as a “village tyrant” like Idi Amin Dada, a former dictator of Uganda.

Idi Amin's rule was characterized by gross human rights abuse, political repression, ethnic
persecution, extrajudicial killings, nepotism, corruption, and gross economic mismanagement.

What’s more, in 1995, a Swedish Ambassador with 17 other Western ambassadors in Ethiopia expressed his government’s unconditional support to the Ethiopian regime in a joint letter despite the regime’s unpopularity and lack of mandate to rule Ethiopians.

Worse, the latest reports implicated Swedish officials involvement with business interest in Ethiopia that apparently gagged them from expressing a strong stance against the Ethiopian regime over its jailing of their compatriots.

Sweden's Carl Bildt

According to the Swedish media, the Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt was a board member of Lundin Petroleum, a company that’s engaged in the oil exploration business in Ogaden, Southeast of Ethiopia where the Ethiopian regime has been accused of committing crimes against humanity and from where the Swedish journalists got picked. The Ethiopian regime has made Ogaden a no-go area by denying access to all independent journalists and human rights workers.

Yet, the situation is not that gloomy, so long as the Swedish officials had the will to see their citizens freed. Employing their “quiet diplomacy” they can quietly resort to seeking the intercession of a Saudi/Ethiopian tycoon; Sheikh Mohammed Al Amoudi.

Catha edulis or 'Khat', a narcotic leaf-chewing
- Wikipedia photo

In addition to his immense wealth that enabled him to own Zenawi & Co. in his pocket, reports indicate that he is also one of the largest investor in Sweden.

Since unbridled greed is the prime motivator in our “global”village, I am certain that Al Amoudi would intercede on behalf of them provided the Swedes are smart enough to part company with a few million dollars for Zenawi’s latest siphoning scheme called “the renaissance dam.”

After all, their counterparts in the United States applied a similar method in order to free their citizens who found themselves in a bad fix after wandering in places such as North Korea, Iran etc.

Meanwhile,any foreign news outlet desirous of venturing in Ethiopia by sending a correspondent or by recruiting a local one must bear in mind that he or she can only report on soft issues such as the spread of Khat, a narcotic leaf-chewing in Addis without touching upon the fact that Zenawi himself is reportedly addicted to the stuff, not to mention his wife’s profiteering from the proceeds of the sale. Of course, that’s no journalism.

Kiflu Hussain is an attorney based in Uganda. He says his passion for writing came from reading, and that it’s inevitable that the more one reads, the more one develops the urge to write. Kiflu has published articles in Ethiopia on the English Reporter, then a weekly newspaper along with a few Amharic articles on the defunct Addis Zena. It was after he and his family found refuge in Uganda, that he began contributing writings to the local papers and various websites such as Daily Monitor, Uganda Record, The New Vision, Ethioquestnews, Garowe Online, WardheerNews etc.

The reason for this is clear. Ethiopia, despite being a seat of the African Union had never produced a regime that allows even the minimum space for dialogue that other people in Africa enjoy so naturally. So Kiflu's ending up as a refugee in Uganda is a blessing in disguise for it accorded him with the opportunity to write. He says at the same time he learned, unfortunately, that his refugee status would be what showed how deep the hypocrisy of the “international community” goes. We at are honored to carry this gentleman's work and we hope that in the process, western people may come to appreciate the struggle of refugees throughout the world.

You can write to Kiflu at this address: E-mail;

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Tewodros January 1, 2012 9:36 pm (Pacific time)

Mr Eritrean man, your perception is impaired or you are blinded by your hatred towards Ethiopia. Oh you said you live in Uganda. Now the probability of you being granted asylum in Sweden is very high

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