Friday, October 30, 2015

A00575 - Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia

August 28, 1975

Haile Selassie of Ethiopia Dies at 83

Haile Selassie, the last emperor in the 3,000-year-old Ethiopian monarchy, who ruled for half a century before he was deposed by military coup last September, died yesterday in a small apartment in his former palace. He was 83 years old.
His death was played down by the military rulers who succeeded him in Addis Ababa, who announced it in a normally scheduled radio newscast there at 7 A.M. They said that he had been found dead in his bed by a servant, and that the cause of death was probably related to the effects of a prostate operation Haile Selassie underwent two months ago.
The broadcast said that the once-revered "Lion of Judah's" only surviving daughter, Princess Tenagne-Work, visited the former Emperor Tuesday at his request, after he had determined that his health was rapidly deteriorating.
But in London, Crown Prince Afsa Wossen Haile Selassie, who has been living abroad since the leftist government in Ethiopia formally declared an end to the monarchy last March, said his father had been in "excellent health."
In a written statement issued in London, it was said that "the Crown Prince demands that independent doctors and the International Red Cross be allowed to carry out an autopsy to ascertain the cause of death of Ethiopia's and Africa's father."
Official sources said that burial of the former Emperor would be "in the strictest privacy." According to Ethiopian custom, burial must take place within 24 hours after death.
As a symbol of regal power, His Imperial Majesty the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Haile Selassie I, Elect of God, Emperor of Ethiopia, had ruled his ancient realm as a medieval autocrat.
Seized in a military coup after almost a year of festering discontent with his regime, Haile Selassie, who was accustomed to Rolls-Royces, was hustled from his spacious palace to an army officer's bungalow in the back seat of a blue Volkswagen. The final confrontation between the aged and frail Emperor and the young and robust army men was like a scene from a Verdi opera. Haile Selassie scolded and insulted the officers as insolent, and they, with mounting ire, decided on the spot to take him to a military camp rather than to another palace. And on the way, he was jeered by crowds yelling: "Thief! Thief!"
Haile Selassie's troubles began in 1973 with disquiet in the countryside and in the peasant-based army over Government attempts to hush up a drought that eventually took 100,000 lives in two northern provinces. The unrest was compounded in February, 1974, when mutinies broke out in the military over low pay; and a secessionist guerrilla war in Eritrea complicated the Emperor's problems. In the spring and summer, after riots in Addis Ababa, the capital, his absolute power was gradually circumscribed.
Lost Touch With Subjects
Ironically, Haile Selassie initiated the changes that led to his downfall--the military training program that exposed Ethiopian officers to representative institutions in the United States, and Haile Selassie I University, where students learned to think about political economy. The Emperor, however, could not seem to adapt to new concepts, and he lost touch with his subjects in recent years, showing more affection for his pet cheetahs and dogs, diplomats said, than for his human entourage.
In the working out of Haile Selassie's cautious reforms, a thin layer of technocrats and intellectuals was created, a group that perceived the country far differently from the tradition-bound Emperor. The reform process, moreover, created a dependency on the United States, which equipped the army and which drew Ethiopia into the periphery of superpower politics.
This came about because of the country's strategic position on the Red Sea. The Soviet Union, likewise alert to geopolitics, equipped the military forces of Somalia, which also lies on the Red Sea and abuts Ethiopia on the southeast. For years the two countries quarreled over their border, adding to tensions inside both nations.
'Preserving' Progress
The combination of circumstances that led to Haile Selassie's downfall tended to obscure his accomplishments in leading a largely illiterate, rural and feudal country with 2,000 languages and dialects into the 19th, if not the 20th, century. And it also shadowed his contributions to African unity. An African who met the Emperor at the United Nations Security Council session in Addis Ababa in 1972 summed up a widespread feeling when he said:
"Haile Selassie is one of the world's great men. He did a lot for his country and early became a respected voice for Africa and for the third world."
If the pace of change was snailish under the Emperor, it was deliberately so. "We must make progress slowly so as to preserve the progress we have already made," he said frequently of his reign, in which slavery was legally abolished and limited democratic structures instituted.
But he was also regarded as one who ruled too strictly by prerogative for the benefit of his family and friends. And at his ouster he was popularly accused as an exploiter who had secretly sent billions of dollars to private bank accounts abroad.
The drama of his departure from power and the intrigues that preceded it were kin to the events of his long life.
Coming to power in a palace coup and, later, discomfiting his enemies in battle, Haile Selassie was driven into exile by the troops of Fascist Italy after the civilized world had spurned his eloquent and poignant appeals for help.
Restored to his capital in World War II, he obtained for Ethiopia a coastline on the Red Sea, skillfully courted foreign economic aid, strove to improve education, squashed an attempted coup and, despite the anachronisms of his person and the archaicisms of his country, emerged as an elder statesman of African anticolonialism.
The prestige and power of Haile Selassie, waxing over more than a half century, made of him a personage larger than life. With a splendid sense of theater, he lived up to, and even surpassed, the role in which he was cast.
Once the Emperor was distributing gifts to men who served the Ethiopian cause in World War II. After he had finished, one man approached him and complained that he had been overlooked.
"You lie," Haile Selassie replied, calling the petitioner by name and citing the exact place, day and hour that he had been rewarded for obtaining a string of mules for the army.
The man flushed and trembled, for he had never suspected that the Emperor would remember, since scores of others had been honored at the same time. He started to inch away, but the Emperor summoned him back and tossed him a bundle of banknotes anyway.
Such magnificent and munificent gestures tended to obscure the fact that the Emperor looked emaciated, and was only 5 feet 4 inches tall. But he managed to convey an imposing presence and an air of cold command whether he was seated at his desk in military uniform with a blazing array of decorations across his chest; or whether he was standing, caped, on the rostrum of the League of Nations; or whether, seated bolt upright in his green or maroon Rolls-Royce, he was motoring through the dusty streets of Addis Ababa as his subjects lay prostrate while he passed.
What helped to make Haile Selassie so physically imposing was his bearded and dark- complexioned face, his aquiline nose over full lips and his steady, penetrating black eyes. It was a mien both melancholy and fearsome, the visage of one who ruled by the precepts of John Stuart Mill as well as by those of Niccolo Machiavelli, by compassion as well as cruelty; for he could be generous to loyal subordinates, or he could hang the rebellious, or he could keep a rival imprisoned in golden chains.
The limit of his emotional expression was a sad smile, so enigmatic that his true feelings seemed deeply mysterious.
To many in the West, especially in the United States, Haile Selassie was a storied figure. He was the 225th Emperor of Ethiopia in a line that he traced to Menelik I, who was credited with being the child of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, identified in Ethiopia as Queen Makeda. (The constitution of 1955 specified Haile Selassie's direct descent from Menelik I.)
Unbending on protocol and punctilio, the Emperor, in his public appearances, recalled the splendor and opulence of Suleiman the Magnificent or Louis XIV, with the difference that he lived and worked in a modern atmosphere and journeyed abroad in a commandeered Ethiopian Airlines plane. He once had three palaces; but after he transformed the Gueneteleul Palace into the Haile Selassie I University in 1960, he was reduced to a palace to live in--the Jubilee--and one to work in--the Ghibi.
Guarded by Lions
Around the clock, he was guarded by lions and cheetahs, protected by Imperial Bodyguards, trailed by his pet papillon dogs, flanked by a multitude of chamberlains and flunkies and sustained by a tradition of reverence for his person. He took seriously the doctrine of the divine right of kings, and he never allowed his subjects to forget that he considered himself the Elect of God. Indeed, he combined in his person the temporal sovereignty of the state and the leadership of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, the country's established church.
In moments of relaxation--and these were few, for he was an extraordinarily hard- working monarch--Haile Selassie displayed considerable charm. He spoke softly (in halting English if necessary), and he had a mind well furnished with small talk derived from his daily scrutiny of the world press and from viewing films and newsreels. He also absorbed information from his extensive travels about the world. His talk, though light, was not likely to be gay or mirth-providing or quotable. He referred to himself always with the imperial "we."
In his latter years he was a lonely man beneath the panoply of office. He had outlived his wife of 50 years, who died in 1962, and four of his six children. He had, though, more than a dozen grandchildren and some great-grandchildren, with whom he liked to surround himself at dinner.
Leader in Africa
In African affairs, Haile Selassie's courage and his tenacity as a nationalist gave him a position of leadership among such anticolonialist statesmen as Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Sekou Toure of Guinea and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. Despite his autocratic rule, the Emperor represented independence from overt foreign domination as well as the artful acquisition of foreign economic aid. It was Haile Selassie who convoked the first meeting of the Organization of African Unity in 1963 and devised the charter for the 38- nation bloc. Its headquarters are in Addis Ababa.
Moreover, at Haile Selassie's suggestion a United Nations Economic Commission for Africa was set up. Its secretariat is also in Addis Ababa, in a lavish $1.75-million building erected at the Emperor's bidding.
In Ethiopia, he was an object of veneration to the masses of people until his overthrow, but to the new urban elite the centralization of authority in his person and the tepidity of reform had been unpalatable for some time. The two constitutions the Emperor granted, one in 1931 and the other in 1955, were both criticized because the Cabinet was responsible to Haile Selassie and because there was no provision for political parties.
Economic reform, especially changes in the age-old system of land tenure, was far too slow, critics said, with the result that the country's agriculture and animal husbandry--the mainstays of its economy--were operated on a primitive level. Coffee, cereals and beans were the main cash crops; meat and animal products also contributed heavily to the Gross National Product. Manufacturing and power, on the other hand, accounted for only 3 per cent of the G.N.P.
Haile Selassie's kingdom was a wild and sprawling country of 455,000 spare miles (about the size of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma combined) and 26 million people (an accepted guess in the absence of any census). There were a score of tribes, at least one so primitive that its men castrated their enemies to win favor with an intended bride. There were many languages, but Amharic, the official tongue, was spoken in some degree by only 50 per cent of the people.
Although the state religion was a Monophysite Christianity, a substantial portion of the population, perhaps 40 per cent, was Moslem. In addition, there were Animists and Judaists. The multiplicity of religions and customs accented Ethiopia's lack of homogeneity and its general backwardness, for it was a country without a developed highway or rail system and without organized health and social services. The bulk of the people lived in mud and straw huts, even in Addis Ababa.
In the capital, the contrast between the old and the new was especially striking, for its few modern buildings cast their shadow on the far more numerous ancient structures that included, until a few years ago, the Imperial Brothel and the square in which public hangings were carried out.
Of the dominant Amhara tribe, Haile Selassie was born in Ejarsa Gora, in a mud and wattle house, on July 23, 1892. He was named Lij Tafari Makonnen and he was the only legitimate son of Ras Makonnen, Governor of Harar, to survive infancy.
The boy's father was a cousin and close ally of Emperor Menelik II, who was without a legitimate direct male heir. When Ras Makonnen died in 1906, his son, who already had a rudimentary education and spoke French, was summoned to the Court at Addis Ababa, where he was further schooled both in book learning and in the devious intrigues of Menelik's household.
Tafari was passed over on the death of Menelik II in 1913 in favor of the Emperor's grandson Lij Yasu, a handsome, dissolute and athletic young man. Tafari, meantime, had married Lij Yasu's niece, Waizero Menen, after her divorce, and had attained practical experience in government as governor of a province.
Lij Yasu, who was never formally crowned, was converted to Islam and excommunicated by the Ethiopian church. And in the palace coup that followed, Tafari made himself the heir presumptive to the throne and Regent for Zauditu, a daughter of Menelik, who was proclaimed Empress.
'Jaws of a Lion'
Emerging as the strong man, Tafari got rid of the husband of the Empress, putting her under his control, and, capturing Lij Yasu, imprisoned him for the rest of the life. The golden chains in which he was held were not so confining, however, as to prevent him from enjoying the variety of women with whom Tafari plied him.
With his other warlord enemies among the nobles Tafari was less indulgent. "He creeps like a mouse, but he has the jaws of a lion," one of them said. By force of arms and executions he brought an end to the chaos that threatened to envelop Ethiopia and turned his country's eyes ever so slightly toward the outside world.
In 1923 Tafari had the kingdom accepted as a member of the League of Nations. He acted in the hope that league membership would exempt Ethiopia from the colonial ambitions of other countries.
In the following year Tafari, having bulwarked his power at home, undertook an extensive foreign tour. "We need European progress," he explained, "only because we are surrounded by it."
Everywhere he went in Europe, Tafari, with his six lions and four zebras and 30 attendants, created a lasting impression. His modern outlook won him friends; so did his assertions that Ethiopia required innovation and development.
One fruit of his trip was the Tafari Makonnen School, which he founded and staffed with European teachers. (Education was one of the chief interests of Tafari when he became Emperor, and he established primary and secondary schools throughout the country as well as the Haile Selassie I University. Even so, at the end of his reign, only 500,000 school-age children of a potential 3.2 million were enrolled.)
Coup Thwarted
Friction between the Empress and her Regent grew in the late nineteen-twenties. Believing in 1928 that she had the upper hand, the Empress attempted a coup, but she was thwarted by the cunning and alertness of Tafari, who forced her to crown him King of Ethiopia. Two years later, after her mysterious death, Tafari was crowned Emperor and took the name of Haile Selassie, which means "Power of the Holy Trinity."
The coronation on Nov. 2, 1930, was an event of unparalleled sumptuousness in a city that, one observer said, "resembled a shanty town with wedding-cake trimmings." There were only one or two buildings of more than one story, the rest being a tumbled mass of mud huts. Distinguished foreign delegations mingled with the city's 20,000 prostitutes. Describing the coronation, Leonard Mosley wrote in his book, "Haile Selassie: The Conquering Lion":
"Shortly before dawn on the morning of Nov. 2, before the world press, the foreign guests and a great concourse of rases [nobles] in their lion's manes and most resplendent robes, Abuna Kyril [the Archbishop] anointed the head of Haile Selassie and placed on it the triple crown of Ethiopia.
"Simultaneously, the rases put on their coronets, then made their obeisances to him, after which the celebratory shooting, shouting, loolooing, feasting, dancing and drinking broke out all over the city."
The Emperor's initial ventures into reform, in which he changed the status of his people from chattels of the nobles into subjects of the state, culminated in a constitution in 1931. Although its limits on the royal prerogative were negligible, it was a step away from feudalism.
At the same time, administrative changes improved the civil service, and a tax system was introduced. Road-building and other public works were undertaken. Moreover, several edicts against slavery were promulgated, if not enforced. Virtually total abolition was not accomplished until 1964.
In 1934 Benito Mussolini, the dictator of Fascist Italy, moved against Ethiopia in a border incident. His pretense, that of bringing civilization to a backward country, concealed Italian imperial ambitions for an African colony to supplement Italian Somaliland and Eritrea. In the diplomatic footwork that followed the border clash, the Emperor referred the dispute to the League of Nations for mediation; but Britain and France gave Mussolini to understand that he could expect a free hand in Ethiopia.
"Could we not have called Musso's bluff and at least postponed this war?" Winston Churchill asked later. "The answer I'm sure is yes. We built Musso into a great power."
Deserted by Britain and France, Ethiopia fell to Italian arms shortly after the Fascist invasion began on Oct. 2, 1935. By April, 1936, the conflict ("This isn't a war, it isn't even a slaughter," a British eyewitness said. "It's the torture of tens of thousands of men, women and children with bombs and poison gas") was over. On May 2 Haile Selassie went into exile.
The Emperor went first to Jerusalem to pray and then to Britain as a private guest. Still convinced that the League could be rallied to his cause, he appealed to it and its members not to recognize the Italian conquest. Shamed, the League permitted him to state his case, and his appearance before the delegates assembled in Geneva on June 30, 1936, was a moment in history that few who witnessed it ever forgot.
'Morality at Stake'
Aloof, dignified, gazing in contempt at the Fascist journalists who shouted at him, and looking directly at the uneasy, shuffling delegates, he began his speech in Amharic by saying:
"I, Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, am here today to claim that justice that is due to my people and the assistance promised to it eight months ago by 52 nations who asserted that an act of aggression had been committed in violation of international treaties."
After reciting the principal events of the war and his betrayal by the big powers, he continued:
"I assert that the issue before the Assembly today is not merely a question of the settlement in the matter of Italian aggression. It is a question of collective security; of the very existence of the League, of the trust placed by states in international treaties; of the value of promises made to small states that their integrity and independence shall be respected and assured. . . .
"In a word, it is international morality that is at stake. . . .
"Outside of the Kingdom of God, there is not on this earth any nation that is higher than any other. If a strong government finds that it can, with impunity, destroy a weak people, then the hour has struck for that weak people to appeal to the League of Nations to give its judgment in all freedom. God and history will remember your judgment.
"Placed by the aggressor face to face with the accomplished fact, are states going to set up the terrible precedent of bowing before force?
"I ask the great powers, who have promised the guarantee of collective security to small states--those small states over whom hangs the threat that they may one day suffer the fate of Ethiopia: What measures do they intend to take? . . . What answer am I to take back to my people?"
As Haile Selassie concluded what was certainly his saddest (and greatest) hour and moved from the tribunal to a scatter of embarrassed applause, he murmured:
"It is us today. It will be you tomorrow."
In practical terms the Emperor's speech was a magnificent but futile gesture, for one by one the powers recognized the Italian regime in East Africa. Haile Selassie, meantime, went to live as an unwanted guest in Bath, England; he was so broke that the local bookshop stopped his credit.
From this seedy oblivion the Emperor was rescued on May 10, 1940, when Italy entered World War II as an enemy of Britain. Churchill, long a friend, had him flown incognito, as Mr. Strong, to Africa. Landing at Alexandria, he spent the night in the men's room of the Italian Yacht Club before going on to Khartoum in the Sudan. There he helped to organize an army of liberation with the aid of Orde Wingate, one of the most picturesque British officers in the war.
The result of these exertions was that Haile Selassie returned to his country on Jan. 20, 1941, and made his state entry into Addis Ababa on May 5 in the back of an Alfa Romeo motor car. It was five years to the day since the Italians had entered the city. The country remained under British administration, however, until Jan. 31, 1942, when London recognized Ethiopia as a sovereign state.
In the years that followed the restoration, Haile Selassie enhanced his personal power while acting slowly to solve the country's grave economic and social problems. Some advance in education was also made, for 200 school buildings were put up between 1942 and 1952. In this period, too, a new force was reaching manhood in the kingdom--the educated elite whose travels and schooling abroad made them restive over their nation's introversions.
Partly as the result of pressure from this group and partly because of the rising tide of anticolonialism in Africa, Haile Selassie granted a new constitution in 1955. It promised his subjects equal rights under the law, plus a vote; but it also retained his traditional prerogatives. One clause read:
"By virtue of His Imperial Blood as well as by the anointing which He has received, the person of the Emperor is sacred. His dignity is inviolable and His Power indisputable. He is, consequently, entitled to all the honors due Him in accordance with tradition and the present Constitution. Anyone so bold as to seek to injure the Emperor will be punished."
Mutiny During Absence
The surface placidity of Ethiopia was shattered in 1960, when Haile Selassie was absent on a state trip to Brazil. The Imperial Bodyguard mutinied and some members of the royal family, including Crown Prince Asfa Wossen, joined an attempt to dethrone the Emperor and promote faster social and economic progress. The Emperor returnedto Addis Ababa, crushed the revolt and had the commander of the bodyguard publicly hanged for treason. The Crown Prince was put out of favor, from which he finally emerged, but slowly.
The attempted coup led the Emperor to try to communicate more directly with his subjects in radio talks and to indicated what he was doing for them in his paternal fashion.
One such advance was foreign aid. In the final years of his reign he contrived to obtain help from diverse sources without creating crosscurrents among the donors. Italy and Yugoslavia build dams for him; the Addis Ababa airport was constructed by the United States; the Soviet Union put up a polytechnic institute on the shores of Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile.
The Emperor much enjoyed state visits--to Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, to Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, to the United States, where he was the guest of the last five Presidents before Gerald R. Ford. In all, he traveled to more than 60 countries, including China, where he was received in 1971 by Mao Tse-tung.


Haile Selassie I (Ge'ezቀዳማዊ ኃይለ ሥላሴqädamawi haylä səllasé[nb 1]Amharic pronunciation: [ˈhaɪlɜ sɨˈlːase])[nb 2] (23 July 1892 – 27 August 1975), born Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael,[4] was Ethiopia's regent from 1916 to 1930 and Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. He also served as Chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity from 25 May 1963 to 17 July 1964 and 5 November 1966 to 11 September 1967. He was a member of the Solomonic Dynasty.
At the League of Nations in 1936, the Emperor condemned the use of chemical weapons by Italy against his people during the Second Italo–Ethiopian War.[5] His internationalist views led to Ethiopia's becoming a charter member of the United Nations, and his political thought and experience in promoting multilateralism andcollective security have proved seminal and enduring.[6] His suppression of rebellions among the landed aristocracy (the mesafint), which consistently opposed his reforms, as well as what some critics perceived to be Ethiopia's failure to modernize rapidly enough,[7] earned him criticism among some contemporaries and historians.[8]His regime was also criticized by human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, as autocratic and illiberal.[8][9]
Among the Rastafari movement, whose followers are estimated at between two and four million, Haile Selassie is revered as the returned messiah of the Bible, Godincarnate.[10][11] Beginning in Jamaica in the 1930s, the Rastafari movement perceives Haile Selassie as a messianic figure who will lead a future golden age of eternal peace, righteousness, and prosperity.[12] Haile Selassie was an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian throughout his life. Haile Selassie is a defining figure in both Ethiopian andAfrican history.[13][14]
Haile Selassie died on 27 August 1975 at the age of 83 following a Coup d'etat.[15]


Lij TeferiMakonnen at age 3
Haile Selassie was known as a child as Lij Tafari Makonnen (Amharic ልጅ ተፈሪ መኮንንlij teferī mekōnnin). Lij translates to "child", and serves to indicate that a youth is of noble blood. His given name, Tafari, means "one who is respected or feared". Like most Ethiopians, his personal name Tafari is followed by that of his father Makonnenand rarely that of his grandfather Woldemikael. His Ge'ez name Haile Selassie was given to him at his infant baptism and adopted again as part of his regnal name in 1930.
As Governor of Harer, he became known as Ras Teferi Makonnen About this sound listen Ras translates to "head"[16] and is a rank of nobility equivalent to Duke;[17] though it is often rendered in translation as "prince". In 1916, Empress Zewditu I appointed him to the position of Balemulu Silt'an Enderase (Regent Plenipotentiary). In 1928, she granted him the throne of Shoa, elevating his title to Negus or "King".[18]
On 2 November 1930, after the death of Empress Zewditu, Ras Tafari was crowned Negusa Nagast, literally King of Kings, rendered in English as "Emperor".[19] Upon his ascension, he took as his regnal name Haile Selassie I. Haile means in Ge'ez "Power of" and Selassie means trinity—therefore Haile Selassie roughly translates to "Power of the Trinity".[20] Haile Selassie's full title in office was "By the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of JudahHis Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Elect of God".[21][nb 3] This title reflects Ethiopian dynastic traditions, which hold that all monarchs must trace their lineage to Menelik I, who in the Ethiopian tradition was the offspring of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.[22]
To Ethiopians, Haile Selassie has been known by many names, including JanhoyTalaqu Meri, and Abba Tekel.[23] The Rastafari movement employs many of these appellations, also referring to him as JahJah Rastafari, and HIM (the abbreviation of "His Imperial Majesty").[23]


Early life[edit]

Ras Makonnen Woldemikael and his son LijTafari Makonnen
Haile Selassie's royal line (through his father's mother) originated from the Amhara people,[24] but he also had Oromo, and Gurage[25] roots. He was born on 23 July 1892, in the village of Ejersa Goro, in the Harar province of Ethiopia. His mother was Woizero ("Lady") Yeshimebet Ali Abba Jifar, daughter of the renowned Oromo ruler of Wollo province Dejazmach Ali Abba Jifar.[26] His maternal grandmother was of Gurage heritage.[27] Tafari's father was RasMakonnen Woldemikael Gudessa, the governor of Harar. Ras Makonnen served as a general in the First Italo–Ethiopian War, playing a key role at the Battle of Adwa;[26] he too was paternally Oromo but maternally Amhara.[27] Haile Selassie was thus able to ascend to the imperial throne through his paternal grandmother, Woizero Tenagnework Sahle Selassie, who was an aunt of Emperor Menelik II and daughter of Negus Sahle Selassie of Shewa. As such, Haile Selassie claimed direct descent from Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, and King Solomon of ancient Israel.[28]
Ras Makonnen arranged for Tafari as well as his first cousin, Imru Haile Selassie, to receive instruction in Harar from Abba Samuel Wolde Kahin, an Ethiopiancapuchin monk, and from Dr. Vitalien, a surgeon from Guadeloupe. Tafari was named Dejazmach (literally "commander of the gate", roughly equivalent to "count")[29] at the age of 13, on 1 November 1905.[30] Shortly thereafter, his father Ras Makonnen died at Kulibi, in 1906.[31]


Dejazmatch Tafari, as governor of Harar
Tafari assumed the titular governorship of Selale in 1906, a realm of marginal importance,[32] but one that enabled him to continue his studies.[30] In 1907, he was appointed governor over part of the province of Sidamo. It is alleged that during his late teens, Haile Selassie was married to WoizeroAltayech, and that from this union, his daughter Princess Romanework was born.[33]
Following the death of his brother Yelma in 1907, the governorate of Harar was left vacant,[32] and its administration was left to Menelik's loyal general, Dejazmach Balcha Safo. Balcha Safo's administration of Harar was ineffective, and so during the last illness of Menelik II, and the brief reign of Empress Taitu Bitul, Tafari was made governor of Harar in 1910[31] or 1911.[25]
On 3 August, he married Menen Asfaw of Ambassel, niece of heir to the throne Lij Iyasu.


The extent to which Tafari Makonnen contributed to the movement that would come to depose Iyasu V has been discussed extensively, particularly in Haile Selassie's own detailed account of the matter. Iyasu V, or Lij Iyasu, was the designated but uncrowned Emperor of Ethiopia from 1913 to 1916. Iyasu's reputation for scandalous behavior and a disrespectful attitude towards the nobles at the court of his grandfather, Menelik II,[34] damaged his reputation. Iyasu's flirtation with Islam was considered treasonous among the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian leadership of the empire. On 27 September 1916, Iyasu was deposed.[35]
Contributing to the movement that deposed Iyasu were conservatives such as Fitawrari Habte Giyorgis, Menelik II's longtime Minister of War. The movement to depose Iyasu preferred Tafari, as he attracted support from both progressive and conservative factions. Ultimately, Iyasu was deposed on the grounds of conversion to Islam.[16][35] In his place, the daughter of Menelik II (the aunt of Iyasu) was named Empress Zewditu, while Tafari was elevated to the rank of Ras and was made heir apparent and Crown Prince. In the power arrangement that followed, Tafari accepted the role of Regent Plenipotentiary (Balemulu 'Inderase)[nb 4] and became the de facto ruler of the Ethiopian Empire (Mangista Ityop'p'ya). Zewditu would govern while Tafari would administer.[36]

Empress Zewditu with one of her trusted priests
While Iyasu had been deposed on 27 September 1916, on 8 October he managed to escape into the Ogaden Desert and his father, Negus Mikael of Wollo, had time to come to his aid.[37] On 27 October, Negus Mikael and his army met an army under Fitawrari Habte Giyorgis loyal to Zewditu and Tafari. During the Battle of SegaleNegusMikael was defeated and captured. Any chance that Iyasu would regain the throne was ended and he went into hiding. On 11 January 1921, after avoiding capture for about five years, Iyasu was taken into custody by Gugsa Araya Selassie.
On 11 February 1917, the coronation for Zewditu took place. She pledged to rule justly through her Regent, Tafari. While Tafari was the more visible of the two, Zewditu was far from an honorary ruler. Her position required that she arbitrate the claims of competing factions. In other words, she had the last word. Tafari carried the burden of daily administration but, because his position was relatively weak, this was often an exercise in futility for him. Initially his personal army was poorly equipped, his finances were limited, and he had little leverage to withstand the combined influence of the Empress, the Minister of War, or the provincial governors.[37]
During his Regency, the new Crown Prince developed the policy of cautious modernization initiated by Menelik II. Also, during this time, he survived the 1918 flu pandemic, having come down with the illness.[38] He secured Ethiopia's admission to the League of Nations in 1923 by promising to eradicate slavery; each emperor sinceTewodros II had issued proclamations to halt slavery,[39] but without effect: the internationally scorned practice persisted well into Haile Selassie's reign with an estimated 2 million slaves in Ethiopia the early 1930s.[40][41]

Travel abroad[edit]

In 1924, Ras Tafari toured Europe and the Middle East visiting JerusalemAlexandria, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Stockholm, London, Geneva, and Athens. With him on his tour was a group that included Ras Seyum Mangasha of western Tigre ProvinceRas Hailu Tekle Haymanot of Gojjam ProvinceRas Mulugeta Yeggazu of Illubabor ProvinceRas Makonnen Endelkachew; and Blattengeta Heruy Welde Sellase. The primary goal of the trip to Europe was for Ethiopia to gain access to the sea. In Paris, Tafari was to find out from the French Foreign Ministry (Quai d'Orsay) that this goal would not be realized.[42] However, failing this, he and his retinue inspected schools, hospitals, factories, and churches. Although patterning many reforms after European models, Tafari remained wary of European pressure. To guard against economic imperialism, Tafari required that all enterprises have at least partial local ownership.[43] Of his modernization campaign, he remarked, "We need European progress only because we are surrounded by it. That is at once a benefit and a misfortune."[44]
Throughout Ras Tafari's travels in Europe, the Levant, and Egypt, he and his entourage were greeted with enthusiasm and fascination. He was accompanied by Seyum Mangasha and Hailu Tekle Haymanot who, like Tafari, were sons of generals who contributed to the victorious war against Italy a quarter century earlier at the Battle of Adwa.[45] Another member of his entourage, Mulugeta Yeggazu, actually fought at Adwa as a young man. The "Oriental Dignity" of the Ethiopians[46] and their "rich, picturesque court dress"[47] were sensationalized in the media; among his entourage he even included a pride of lions, which he distributed as gifts to President Alexandre Millerand and Prime Minister Raymond Poincaré of France, to King George V of the United Kingdom, and to the Zoological Garden (Jardin Zoologique) of Paris.[45] As one historian noted, "Rarely can a tour have inspired so many anecdotes".[45] In return for two lions, the United Kingdom presented Ras Tafari with the imperial crown of Emperor Tewodros II for its safe return to Empress Zewditu. The crown had been taken by Robert Napier during the 1868 Expedition to Abyssinia.[48]
In this period, the Crown Prince visited the Armenian monastery of Jerusalem. There, he adopted 40 Armenian orphans (አርባ ልጆች Arba Lijoch, "forty children"), who had lost their parents in Ottoman massacres. RasTafari arranged for the musical education of the youths, and they came to form the imperial brass band.[49]

King and emperor[edit]

In 1928, the authority of Ras Tafari Makonnen was challenged when Dejazmatch Balcha Safo went to Addis Ababa with a sizeable armed force. When Tafari consolidated his hold over the provinces, many of Menelik's appointees refused to abide by the new regulations. Balcha Safo, the governor (Shum) of coffee-rich Sidamo Province, was particularly troublesome. The revenues he remitted to the central government did not reflect the accrued profits and Tafari recalled him to Addis Ababa. The old man came in high dudgeon and, insultingly, with a large army.[nb 5] The Dejazmatch paid homage to Empress Zewditu, but snubbedRas Tafari.[50][51] On 18 February, while Balcha Safo and his personal bodyguard[nb 6] were in Addis Ababa, Ras Tafari had Ras Kassa Haile Darge buy off his army and arranged to have him displaced as the Shumof Sidamo Province[52] by Birru Wolde Gabriel who himself was replaced by Desta Damtew.[37]

Cover of Timemagazine, 3 November 1930
Even so, the gesture of Balcha Safo empowered Empress Zewditu politically and she attempted to have Tafari tried for treason. He was tried for his benevolent dealings with Italy including a 20-year peace accord which was signed on 2 August.[30] In September, a group of palace reactionaries including some courtiers of the empress, made a final bid to get rid of Tafari. The attempted coup d'état was tragic in its origins and comic in its end. When confronted by Tafari and a company of his troops, the ringleaders of the coup took refuge on the palace grounds in Menelik's mausoleum. Tafari and his men surrounded them only to be surrounded themselves by the personal guard of Zewditu. More of Tafari's khaki clad soldiers arrived and, with superiority of arms, decided the outcome in his favor.[53] Popular support, as well as the support of the police,[50] remained with Tafari. Ultimately, the Empress relented and, on 7 October 1928, she crowned Tafari as Negus (Amharic: "King").
The crowning of Tafari as King was controversial. He occupied the same territory as the empress rather than going off to a regional kingdom of the empire. Two monarchs, even with one being the vassal and the other the emperor (in this case empress), had never occupied the same location as their seat in Ethiopian history. Conservatives agitated to redress this perceived insult to the dignity of the crown, leading to the rebellion of Ras Gugsa WelleGugsa Welle was the husband of the empress and the Shum of Begemder Province. In early 1930, he raised an army and marched it from his governorate at Gondar towards Addis Ababa. On 31 March 1930, Gugsa Welle was met by forces loyal to Negus Tafari and was defeated at the Battle of Anchem. Gugsa Welle was killed in action.[54] News of Gugsa Welle's defeat and death had hardly spread through Addis Ababa when the empress died suddenly on 2 April 1930. Although it was long rumored that the empress was poisoned upon the defeat of her husband,[55] or alternately that she died from shock upon hearing of the death of her estranged yet beloved husband,[56] it has since been documented that the Empress succumbed to a flu-like fever and complications from diabetes.[57]
With the passing of Zewditu, Tafari himself rose to emperor and was proclaimed Neguse Negest ze-'Ityopp'ya, "King of Kings of Ethiopia". He was crowned on 2 November 1930, at Addis Ababa's Cathedral of St. George. The coronation was by all accounts "a most splendid affair",[58] and it was attended by royals and dignitaries from all over the world. Among those in attendance were George V's son the Duke of Gloucester, Marshal Franchet d'Esperey of France, and the Prince of Udine representing the King of Italy. Emissaries from the United States,[59] Egypt, Turkey, Sweden, Belgium, and Japan were also present.[58] British authorEvelyn Waugh was also present, penning a contemporary report on the event, and American travel lecturer Burton Holmes shot the only known film footage of the event.[60] One newspaper report suggested that the celebration may have incurred a cost in excess of $3,000,000.[61] Many of those in attendance received lavish gifts;[62] in one instance, the Christian emperor even sent a gold-encased Bible to an American bishop who had not attended the coronation, but who had dedicated a prayer to the emperor on the day of the coronation.[63]
Haile Selassie introduced Ethiopia's first written constitution on 16 July 1931,[64] providing for a bicameral legislature.[65] The constitution kept power in the hands of the nobility, but it did establish democratic standards among the nobility, envisaging a transition to democratic rule: it would prevail "until the people are in a position to elect themselves."[65] The constitution limited the succession to the throne to the descendants of Haile Selassie, a point that met with the disapprobation of other dynastic princes, including the princes of Tigrai and even the emperor's loyal cousin, Ras Kassa Haile Darge.
In 1932, the Sultanate of Jimma was formally absorbed into Ethiopia following the death of Sultan Abba Jifar II of Jimma.

Conflict with Italy[edit]

Ethiopia became the target of renewed Italian imperialist designs in the 1930s. Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime was keen to avenge the military defeats Italy had suffered to Ethiopia in the First Italo-Abyssinian War, and to efface the failed attempt by "liberal" Italy to conquer the country, as epitomised by the defeat at Adowa.[66][67][68] A conquest of Ethiopia could also empower the cause of fascism and embolden its rhetoric of empire.[68] Ethiopia would also provide a bridge between Italy's Eritrean and Italian Somaliland possessions. Ethiopia's position in the League of Nations did not dissuade the Italians from invading in 1935; the "collective security" envisaged by the League proved useless, and a scandal erupted when the Hoare-Laval Pact revealed that Ethiopia's League allies were scheming to appease Italy.[69]


Following the 5 December 1934 Italian invasion of Ethiopia at Walwal, Ogeden Province, Haile Selassie joined his northern armies and set up headquarters at Desse in Wollo province. He issued his mobilization order on 3 October 1935:
If you withhold from your country Ethiopia the death from cough or head-cold of which you would otherwise die, refusing to resist (in your district, in your patrimony, and in your home) our enemy who is coming from a distant country to attack us, and if you persist in not shedding your blood, you will be rebuked for it by your Creator and will be cursed by your offspring. Hence, without cooling your heart of accustomed valour, there emerges your decision to fight fiercely, mindful of your history that will last far into the future.... If on your march you touch any property inside houses or cattle and crops outside, not even grass, straw, and dung excluded, it is like killing your brother who is dying with you.... You, countryman, living at the various access routes, set up a market for the army at the places where it is camping and on the day your district-governor will indicate to you, lest the soldiers campaigning for Ethiopia's liberty should experience difficulty. You will not be charged excise duty, until the end of the campaign, for anything you are marketing at the military camps: I have granted you remission.... After you have been ordered to go to war, but are then idly missing from the campaign, and when you are seized by the local chief or by an accuser, you will have punishment inflicted upon your inherited land, your property, and your body; to the accuser I shall grant a third of your property....
On 19 October 1935, Haile Selassie gave more precise orders for his army to his Commander-in-Chief, Ras Kassa:
  1. When you set up tents, it is to be in caves and by trees and in a wood, if the place happens to be adjoining to these―and separated in the various platoons. Tents are to be set up at a distance of 30 cubits from each other.
  2. When an aeroplane is sighted, one should leave large open roads and wide meadows and march in valleys and trenches and by zigzag routes, along places which have trees and woods.
  3. When an aeroplane comes to drop bombs, it will not suit it to do so unless it comes down to about 100 metres; hence when it flies low for such action, one should fire a volley with a good and very long gun and then quickly disperse. When three or four bullets have hit it, the aeroplane is bound to fall down. But let only those fire who have been ordered to shoot with a weapon that has been selected for such firing, for if everyone shoots who possesses a gun, there is no advantage in this except to waste bullets and to disclose the men's whereabouts.
  4. Lest the aeroplane, when rising again, should detect the whereabouts of those who are dispersed, it is well to remain cautiously scattered as long as it is still fairly close. In time of war it suits the enemy to aim his guns at adorned shields, ornaments, silver and gold cloaks, silk shirts and all similar things. Whether one possesses a jacket or not, it is best to wear a narrow-sleeved shirt with faded colours. When we return, with God's help, you can wear your gold and silver decorations then. Now it is time to go and fight. We offer you all these words of advice in the hope that no great harm should befall you through lack of caution. At the same time, We are glad to assure you that in time of war We are ready to shed Our blood in your midst for the sake of Ethiopia's freedom..."[70]
Compared to the Ethiopians, the Italians had an advanced, modern military which included a large air force. The Italians would also come to employ chemical weapons extensively throughout the conflict, even targeting Red Cross field hospitals in violation of the Geneva Conventions.[71]

Progress of the war[edit]

Starting in early October 1935, the Italians invaded Ethiopia. But, by November, the pace of invasion had slowed appreciably and Haile Selassie's northern armies were able to launch what was known as the "Christmas Offensive". During this offensive, the Italians were forced back in places and put on the defensive. However, in early 1936, the First Battle of Tembien stopped the progress of the Ethiopian offensive and the Italians were ready to continue their offensive. Following the defeat and destruction of the northern Ethiopian armies at the Battle of Amba Aradam, the Second Battle of Tembien, and the Battle of Shire, Haile Selassie took the field with the last Ethiopian army on the northern front. On 31 March 1936, he launched a counterattack against the Italians himself at the Battle of Maychew in southern Tigray. The emperor's army was defeated and retreated in disarray. As Haile Selassie's army withdrew, the Italians attacked from the air along with rebellious Raya and Azebo tribesmen on the ground, who were armed and paid by the Italians.[72]

When the struggle to resist Italy appeared doomed, Haile Selassie traveled to the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela for fasting and prayer.[73]
Haile Selassie made a solitary pilgrimage to the churches at Lalibela, at considerable risk of capture, before returning to his capital.[74] After a stormy session of the council of state, it was agreed that because Addis Ababa could not be defended, the government would relocate to the southern town of Gore, and that in the interest of preserving the Imperial house, the emperor's wife Menen Asfaw and the rest of the imperial family should immediately depart for Djibouti, and from there continue on toJerusalem.

Exile debate[edit]

The emperor arrives in Jerusalem. May 1936
After further debate as to whether Haile Selassie should go to Gore or accompany his family into exile, it was agreed that he should leave Ethiopia with his family and present the case of Ethiopia to the League of Nations at Geneva. The decision was not unanimous and several participants, including the nobleman Blatta Tekle Wolde Hawariat, strenuously objected to the idea of an Ethiopian monarch fleeing before an invading force.[75] Haile Selassie appointed his cousin Ras Imru Haile Selassie as Prince Regent in his absence, departing with his family for Djibouti on 2 May 1936.
On 5 May, Marshal Pietro Badoglio led Italian troops into Addis Ababa, and Mussolini declared Ethiopia an Italian province. Victor Emanuel III was proclaimed as the new Emperor of Ethiopia. However, on the previous day, the Ethiopian exiles had left Djibouti aboard the British cruiser HMS Enterprise. They were bound for Jerusalem in the British Mandate of Palestine, where the Ethiopian royal family maintained a residence. The Imperial family disembarked at Haifa and then went on to Jerusalem. Once there, Haile Selassie and his retinue prepared to make their case at Geneva. The choice of Jerusalem was highly symbolic, since the Solomonic Dynasty claimed descent from the House of David. Leaving the Holy Land, Haile Selassie and his entourage sailed forGibraltar aboard the British cruiser HMS Capetown. From Gibraltar, the exiles were transferred to an ordinary liner. By doing this, the government of the United Kingdom was spared the expense of a state reception.[76]

Collective security and the League of Nations, 1936[edit]

Mussolini, upon invading Ethiopia, had promptly declared his own "Italian Empire"; because the League of Nations afforded Haile Selassie the opportunity to address the assembly, Italy even withdrew its League delegation, on 12 May 1936.[77] It was in this context that Haile Selassie walked into the hall of the League of Nations, introduced by the President of the Assembly as "His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of Ethiopia" (Sa Majesté Imperiale, l'Empereur d'Ethiopie). The introduction caused a great many Italian journalists in the galleries to erupt into jeering, heckling, and whistling. As it turned out, they had earlier been issued whistles by Mussolini's son-in-law, Count Galeazzo Ciano.[78] Haile Selassie waited calmly for the hall to be cleared, and responded "majestically"[79] with a speech sometimes considered among the most stirring of the 20th century.[5]
Although fluent in French, the working language of the League, Haile Selassie chose to deliver his historic speech in his native Amharic. He asserted that, because his "confidence in the League was absolute", his people were now being slaughtered. He pointed out that the same European states that found in Ethiopia's favor at the League of Nations were refusing Ethiopia credit and matériel while aiding Italy, which was employing chemical weapons on military and civilian targets alike.
It was at the time when the operations for the encircling of Makale were taking place that the Italian command, fearing a rout, followed the procedure which it is now my duty to denounce to the world. Special sprayers were installed on board aircraft so that they could vaporize, over vast areas of territory, a fine, death-dealing rain. Groups of nine, fifteen, eighteen aircraft followed one another so that the fog issuing from them formed a continuous sheet. It was thus that, as from the end of January 1936, soldiers, women, children, cattle, rivers, lakes, and pastures were drenched continually with this deadly rain. In order to kill off systematically all living creatures, in order to more surely poison waters and pastures, the Italian command made its aircraft pass over and over again. That was its chief method of warfare.[80]
Noting that his own "small people of 12 million inhabitants, without arms, without resources" could never withstand an attack by a large power such as Italy, with its 42 million people and "unlimited quantities of the most death-dealing weapons", he contended that all small states were threatened by the aggression, and that all small states were in effect reduced to vassal states in the absence of collective action. He admonished the League that "God and history will remember your judgment."[81]
It is collective security: it is the very existence of the League of Nations. It is the confidence that each State is to place in international treaties.... In a word, it is international morality that is at stake. Have the signatures appended to a Treaty value only in so far as the signatory Powers have a personal, direct and immediate interest involved?
The speech made the emperor an icon for anti-fascists around the world, and Time named him "Man of the Year".[82] He failed, however, to get what he most needed: the League agreed to only partial and ineffective sanctions on Italy. Only six nations in 1937 did not recognize Italy's occupation; they were China, New Zealand, the Soviet Union, the Republic of Spain, Mexico and the United States.[67]


Haile Selassie in 1942
Haile Selassie spent his exile years (1936–1941) in Bath, England, in Fairfield House, which he bought. The emperor and Kassa Haile Darge took morning walks together behind the high walls of the 14-room Georgian house. Haile Selassie's favorite reading was "diplomatic history." But most of his serious hours were occupied with the 90,000-word story of his life that he was laboriously writing in Amharic.[83]
Prior to Fairfield House, he briefly stayed at Warne's Hotel in Worthing[84] and in Parkside, Wimbledon.[85] A bust of Haile Selassie is in nearby Cannizaro Park to commemorate this time and is a popular place of pilgrimage for London's Rastafarian community. Haile Selassie stayed at the Abbey Hotel in Malvern in the 1930s and his granddaughters and daughters of court officials were educated at Clarendon School in North Malvern. During his time in Malvern he attended services at Holy Trinity Church, in Link Top. Ablue plaque, commemorating his stay in Malvern, was unveiled on Saturday, 25 June 2011. As part of the ceremony, a delegation from the Rastafari movement gave a short address and a drum recital.[86][87][88][89][90]
Haile Selassie's activity in this period was focused on countering Italian propaganda as to the state of Ethiopian resistance and the legality of the occupation.[91] He spoke out against the desecration of houses of worship and historical artifacts (including the theft of a 1,600-year-old imperial obelisk), and condemned the atrocities suffered by the Ethiopian civilian population.[92] He continued to plead for League intervention and to voice his certainty that "God's judgment will eventually visit the weak and the mighty alike",[93] though his attempts to gain support for the struggle against Italy were largely unsuccessful until Italy entered World War II on the German side in June 1940.[94]
The emperor's pleas for international support did take root in the United States, particularly among African-American organizations sympathetic to the Ethiopian cause.[95] In 1937, Haile Selassie was to give a Christmas Day radio address to the American people to thank his supporters when his taxi was involved in a traffic accident, leaving him with a fractured knee.[96] Rather than canceling the radio appearance, he proceeded in much pain to complete the address, in which he linked Christianity and goodwill with the Covenant of the League of Nations, and asserted that "War is not the only means to stop war":[96]
With the birth of the Son of God, an unprecedented, an unrepeatable, and a long-anticipated phenomenon occurred. He was born in a stable instead of a palace, in a manger instead of a crib. The hearts of the Wise men were struck by fear and wonder due to His Majestic Humbleness. The kings prostrated themselves before Him and worshipped Him. 'Peace be to those who have good will'. This became the first message.
[...] Although the toils of wise people may earn them respect, it is a fact of life that the spirit of the wicked continues to cast its shadow on this world. The arrogant are seen visibly leading their people into crime and destruction. The laws of the League of Nations are constantly violated and wars and acts of aggression repeatedly take place... So that the spirit of the cursed will not gain predominance over the human race whom Christ redeemed with his blood, all peace-loving people should cooperate to stand firm in order to preserve and promote lawfulness and peace.[96]
During this period, Haile Selassie suffered several personal tragedies. His two sons-in-law, Ras Desta Damtew and Dejazmach Beyene Merid, were both executed by the Italians.[93] The emperor's daughter, Princess Romanework, wife of Dejazmach Beyene Merid, was herself taken into captivity with her children, and she died in Italy in 1941.[97] His daughter Tsehai died during childbirth shortly after the restoration in 1942.[98]
After his return to Ethiopia, he donated Fairfield House to the city of Bath as a residence for the aged, until modified in the 1990s where it is now used as a residential meeting centre.[99]

1940s and 1950s[edit]

Newspaper illustration drawn by Charles H. Alstonfor the U.S. Office of War Information Domestic Operations Branch News Bureau, 1943

Meeting with Crown Prince Akihitoin 1955
British forces, which consisted primarily of Ethiopian-backed African and South African colonial troops under the "Gideon Force" of Colonel Orde Wingate, coordinated the military effort to liberate Ethiopia. The emperor himself issued several imperial proclamations in this period, demonstrating that, while authority was not divided up in any formal way, British military might and the emperor's populist appeal could be joined in the concerted effort to liberate Ethiopia.[94]
On 18 January 1941, during the East African Campaign, Haile Selassie crossed the border between Sudan and Ethiopia near the village of Um Iddla. The standard of the Lion of Judah was raised again. Two days later, he and a force of Ethiopian patriots joined Gideon Force which was already in Ethiopia and preparing the way.[100] Italy was defeated by a force of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of NationsFree FranceFree Belgium, and Ethiopian patriots. On 5 May 1941, Haile Selassie entered Addis Ababa and personally addressed the Ethiopian people, five years to the day since his 1936 exile:
Today is the day on which we defeated our enemy. Therefore, when we say let us rejoice with our hearts, let not our rejoicing be in any other way but in the spirit of Christ. Do not return evil for evil. Do not indulge in the atrocities which the enemy has been practicing in his usual way, even to the last.
Take care not to spoil the good name of Ethiopia by acts which are worthy of the enemy. We shall see that our enemies are disarmed and sent out the same way they came. As Saint George who killed the dragon is the Patron Saint of our army as well as of our allies, let us unite with our allies in everlasting friendship and amity in order to be able to stand against the godless and cruel dragon which has newly risen and which is oppressing mankind.[101]
On 27 August 1942, Haile Selassie abolished the legal basis of slavery throughout the empire and imposed severe penalties, including death, for slave trading.[102]After World War II, Ethiopia became a charter member of the United Nations. In 1948, the Ogaden, a region disputed with Somalia, was granted to Ethiopia.[103] On 2 December 1950, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 390 (V), establishing the federation of Eritrea (the former Italian colony) into Ethiopia.[104] Eritrea was to have its own constitution, which would provide for ethnic, linguistic, and cultural balance, while Ethiopia was to manage its finances, defense, and foreign policy.[104]
Despite his centralization policies that had been made before World War II, Haile Selassie still found himself unable to push for all the programs he wanted. In 1942, he attempted to institute a progressive tax scheme, but this failed due to opposition from the nobility, and only a flat tax was passed; in 1951, he agreed to reduce this as well.[105]Ethiopia was still "semi-feudal",[106] and the emperor's attempts to alter its social and economic form by reforming its modes of taxation met with resistance from the nobility and clergy, which were eager to resume their privileges in the postwar era.[105] Where Haile Selassie actually did succeed in effecting new land taxes, the burdens were often passed by the landowners to the peasants.[105] Despite his wishes, the tax burden remained primarily on the peasants.
Between 1941 and 1959, Haile Selassie worked to establish the autocephaly of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.[107] The Ethiopian Orthodox Church had been headed by theabuna, a bishop who answered to the Partriarchate in Egypt. Haile Selassie applied to Egypt's Holy Synod in 1942 and 1945 to establish the independence of Ethiopian bishops, and when his appeals were denied he threatened to sever relations with the See of St. Mark.[107] Finally, in 1959, Pope Kyrillos VI elevated the Abuna to Patriarch-Catholicos.[107] The Ethiopian Church remained affiliated with the Alexandrian Church.[105] In addition to these efforts, Haile Selassie changed the Ethiopian church-state relationship by introducing taxation of church lands, and by restricting the legal privileges of the clergy, who had formerly been tried in their own courts for civil offenses.[105]
In keeping with the principle of collective security, for which he was an outspoken proponent, he sent a contingent under General Mulugueta Bulli, known as the Kagnew Battalion, to take part in the Korean War by supporting the United Nations Command. It was attached to the American 7th Infantry Division, and fought in a number of engagements including the Battle of Pork Chop Hill.[108] In a 1954 speech, the emperor spoke of Ethiopian participation in the Korean War as a redemption of the principles of collective security:
Nearly two decades ago, I personally assumed before history the responsibility of placing the fate of my beloved people on the issue of collective security, for surely, at that time and for the first time in world history, that issue was posed in all its clarity. My searching of conscience convinced me of the rightness of my course and if, after untold sufferings and, indeed, unaided resistance at the time of aggression, we now see the final vindication of that principle in our joint action in Korea, I can only be thankful that God gave me strength to persist in our faith until the moment of its recent glorious vindication.[109]

Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, photographed during a radio broadcast
During the celebrations of his Silver Jubilee in November 1955, Haile Selassie introduced a revised constitution,[110] whereby he retained effective power, while extending political participation to the people by allowing the lower house of parliament to become an elected body. Party politics were not provided for. Modern educational methods were more widely spread throughout the Empire, and the country embarked on a development scheme and plans for modernization, tempered by Ethiopian traditions, and within the framework of the ancient monarchical structure of the state.
Haile Selassie compromised when practical with the traditionalists in the nobility and church. He also tried to improve relations between the state and ethnic groups, and granted autonomy to Afar lands that were difficult to control. Still, his reforms to end feudalism were slow and weakened by the compromises he made with the entrenched aristocracy. The Revised Constitution of 1955 has been criticized for reasserting "the indisputable power of the monarch" and maintaining the relative powerlessness of the peasants.[111]

Charitable gesture[edit]

He sent aid to the British government in 1947 when Britain was affected by heavy flooding. His letter to Lord Meork, National Distress Fund, London said, "even though We are busy of helping our people who didn't recover from the crises of the war, We heard that your fertile and beautiful country is devastated by the unusually heavy rain, and your request for aid. "Therefore, We are sending small amount of money, about one thousand pounds through our embassy to show our sympathy and cooperation."[112]
He also left his Home in Exile, Fairfield House, Bath, to the City of Bath for the use of the Aged in 1959.


Golden 50 E$ coin issued in 1966 to commemorate 50 years of reign by Haile Selassie
Haile Selassie
1st & 5th Chairman of the Organization of African Unity
In office
25 May 1963 – 17 July 1964
Succeeded byGamal Abdel Nasser
In office
5 November 1966 – 11 September 1967
Preceded byJoseph Arthur Ankrah
Succeeded byJoseph-Désiré Mobutu
Haile Selassie contributed Ethiopian troops to the United Nations Operation in the Congo peacekeeping force during the 1960 Congo Crisis, to preserve Congolese integrity, per United Nations Security Council Resolution 143. On 13 December 1960, while Haile Selassie was on a state visit to Brazil, his Imperial Guard forces staged an unsuccessful coup, briefly proclaiming Haile Selassie's eldest son Asfa Wossen as emperor. The coup d'état was crushed by the regular army and police forces. The coup attempt lacked broad popular support, was denounced by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and was unpopular with the army, air force and police. Nonetheless, the effort to depose the emperor had support among students and the educated classes.[113] The coup attempt has been characterized as a pivotal moment in Ethiopian history, the point at which Ethiopians "for the first time questioned the power of the king to rule without the people's consent".[114] Student populations began to empathize with the peasantry and poor, and to advocate on their behalf.[114] The coup spurred Haile Selassie to accelerate reform, which was manifested in the form of land grants to military and police officials.
The emperor continued to be a staunch ally of the West, while pursuing a firm policy of decolonization in Africa, which was still largely under European colonial rule. The United Nations conducted a lengthy inquiry regarding the status of Eritrea, with the superpowers each vying for a stake in the state's future. Britain, the administrator at the time, suggested the partition of Eritrea between Sudan and Ethiopia, separating Christians and Muslims. The idea was instantly rejected by Eritrean political parties, as well as the UN.
A UN plebiscite voted 46 to 10 to have Eritrea be federated with Ethiopia, which was later stipulated on 2 December 1950 in resolution 390 (V). Eritrea would have its own parliament and administration and would be represented in what had been the Ethiopian parliament and would become the federal parliament.[115] However, Haile Selassie would have none of European attempts to draft a separate Constitution under which Eritrea would be governed, and wanted his own 1955 Constitution protecting families to apply in both Ethiopia and Eritrea. In 1961 the 30-year Eritrean Struggle for Independence began, followed by Haile Selassie's dissolution of the federation and shutting down of Eritrea's parliament.
In September 1961, Haile Selassie attended the Conference of Heads of State of Government of Non-Aligned Countries in BelgradeFPR Yugoslavia. This is considered to be the founding conference of the Non-Aligned Movement.
In 1961, tensions between independence-minded Eritreans and Ethiopian forces culminated in the Eritrean War of Independence. The emperor declared Eritrea the fourteenth province of Ethiopia in 1962.[116] The war would continue for 30 years, as first Haile Selassie, then the Soviet-backed junta that succeeded him, attempted to retain Eritrea by force.
In 1963, Haile Selassie presided over the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor of the continent-wide African Union (AU). The new organization would establish its headquarters in Addis Ababa. In May of that year, Haile Selassie was elected as the OAU's first official chairperson, a rotating seat. Along with Modibo Keïta of Mali, the Ethiopian leader would later help successfully negotiate the Bamako Accords, which brought an end to the border conflict between Moroccoand Algeria. In 1964, Haile Selassie would initiate the concept of the United States of Africa, a proposition later taken up by Muammar Gaddafi.[117]
On 4 October 1963, Haile Selassie addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations[118][119] referring in his address to his earlier speech to the League of Nations:
Twenty-seven years ago, as Emperor of Ethiopia, I mounted the rostrum in Geneva, Switzerland, to address the League of Nations and to appeal for relief from the destruction which had been unleashed against my defenceless nation, by the fascist invader. I spoke then both to and for the conscience of the world. My words went unheeded, but history testifies to the accuracy of the warning that I gave in 1936. Today, I stand before the world organization which has succeeded to the mantle discarded by its discredited predecessor. In this body is enshrined the principle of collective security which I unsuccessfully invoked at Geneva. Here, in this Assembly, reposes the best – perhaps the last – hope for the peaceful survival of mankind.[120]
On 25 November 1963, the Emperor was among other heads of state, including France's President Charles de Gaulle, who traveled to Washington D.C. and attended the funeral of assassinated President John F. Kennedy.
In 1966, Haile Selassie attempted to create a modern, progressive tax[citation needed] that included registration of land, which would significantly weaken the nobility. Even with alterations, this law led to a revolt in Gojjam, which was repressed although enforcement of the tax was abandoned. The revolt, having achieved its design in undermining the tax, encouraged other landowners to defy Haile Selassie.

Haile Selassie on a state visit to Washington, 1963
While he had fully approved of, and assured Ethiopia's participation in, UN-approved collective security operations, including Korea and Congo, Haile Selassie drew a distinction with the non-UN approved foreign intervention in Indochina, and consistently deplored it as needless suffering, calling for the Vietnam War to end on several occasions. At the same time he remained open toward the United States and commended it for making progress with African Americans' Civil Rights legislation in the 1950s and 1960s, while visiting the US several times during these years.
In 1967, He visited Montreal, Canada to open the Ethiopian Pavilion at the Expo '67 World's Fair where he received great acclaim amongst other World leaders there for the occasion.
Student unrest became a regular feature of Ethiopian life in the 1960s and 1970s. Marxism took root in large segments of the Ethiopian intelligentsia, particularly among those who had studied abroad and had thus been exposed to radical and left-wing sentiments that were becoming popular in other parts of the globe.[113] Resistance by conservative elements at the Imperial Court and Parliament, and by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, made Haile Selassie's land reform proposals difficult to implement, and also damaged the standing of the government, costing Haile Selassie much of the goodwill he had once enjoyed. This bred resentment among the peasant population. Efforts to weaken unions also hurt his image. As these issues began to pile up, Haile Selassie left much of domestic governance to his Prime Minister, Aklilu Habte Wold, and concentrated more on foreign affairs.


Outside of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie continued to enjoy enormous prestige and respect. As the longest-serving head of state in power, he was often given precedence over other leaders at state events, such as thestate funerals of John F. Kennedy and Charles de Gaulle, the summits of the Non-Aligned Movement, and the 1971 celebration of the 2,500 years of the Persian Empire. In 1970 he visited Italy as a guest of President Giuseppe Saragat, and in Milan he met Giordano Dell'Amore, President of Italian Savings Banks Association. He visited China in October 1971, and was the first foreign head of state to meet Mao Zedongfollowing the death of Mao's designated successor Lin Biao in a plane crash in Mongolia.
Human rights in Ethiopia under Selassie's regime were poor. Civil liberties and political rights were low with Freedom House giving Ethiopia a "Not Free" score for both civil liberties and political rights in the last years of Selassie's rule.[121] Common human right abuses included imprisonment and torture of political prisoners and very poor prison conditions.[9] The Ethiopian army also carried out a number of these atrocities while fighting the Eritrean separatists. This was due to a policy of destroying Eritrean villages that supported the rebels. There were a number of mass killings of hundreds of civilians during the war in the late 60s and early 70s.[122][123][124][125]

Wollo famine[edit]

Famine—mostly in Wollo, north-eastern Ethiopia, as well as in some parts of Tigray—is estimated to have killed 40,000 to 80,000 Ethiopians[8][126] between 1972 and 1974. A BBC News report[127] has cited a 1973 estimate that 200,000 deaths occurred, based on a contemporaneous estimate from the Ethiopian Nutrition Institute. While this figure is still repeated in some texts and media sources, it was an estimate that was later found to be "over-pessimistic".[128] Although the region is infamous for recurrent crop failures and continuous food shortage and starvation risk, this episode was remarkably severe. A 1973 production of the ITVprogramme The Unknown Famine by Jonathan Dimbleby.[129][130] relied on the unverified estimate of 200,000 dead,[127][131] stimulating a massive influx of aid while at the same time destabilizing Haile Selassie's regime.[126] Against that background, a group of dissident army officers instigated a creeping coup against the emperor's faltering regime. To guard against a public backlash in favour of Haile Selassie (who was still widely revered), they contrived to obtain a copy of The Unknown Famine which they intercut with images of Africa's grand old man presiding at a wedding feast in the grounds of his palace. Retitled The Hidden Hunger, this film noir was shown round the clock on Ethiopian television to coincide with the day that they finally summoned the nerve to seize the Emperor himself.[132]

The 1973 oil crisis, the severity of which is demonstrated by this graph, hit Ethiopia amidst a devastating famine, compounding its effect and undermining support for the emperor.[111]
Some reports suggest that the emperor was unaware of the extent of the famine,[127] while others assert that he was well aware of it.[133][134] In addition to the exposure of attempts by corrupt local officials to cover up the famine from the imperial government, the Kremlin's depiction of Haile Selassie's Ethiopia as backwards and inept (relative to the purported utopia of Marxism-Leninism) contributed to the popular uprising that led to its downfall and the rise of Mengistu Haile Mariam.[135] The famine and its image in the media undermined popular support of the government, and Haile Selassie's once unassailable personal popularity fell.[136]
The crisis was exacerbated by military mutinies and high oil prices, the latter a result of the 1973 oil crisis. The international economic crisis triggered by the oil crisis caused the costs of imported goods, gasoline, and food to skyrocket, while unemployment spiked.[111]


In February 1974, four days of serious riots in Addis Ababa against a sudden economic inflation left five dead. The emperor responded by announcing on national television a reduction in petrol prices and a freeze on the cost of basic commodities. This calmed the public, but the promised 33% military wage hike was not substantial enough to pacify the army, which then mutinied, beginning in Asmara and spreading throughout the empire. This mutiny led to the resignation of Prime Minister Aklilu Habte Wold on 27 February 1974.[137] Haile Selassie again went on television to agree to the army's demands for still greater pay, and namedEndelkachew Makonnen as his new Prime Minister. However, despite Endalkatchew's many concessions, discontent continued in March with a four-day general strike that paralyzed the nation.


The deposition of Emperor Haile Selassie I (above rear window) from the Jubilee Palace on 12 September 1974, marking the coup d'état's action on that day and the assumption of power by the Derg.
The Derg, a committee of low-ranking military officers and enlisted men, set up in June to investigate the military's demands, took advantage of the government's disarray to depose Haile Selassie on 12 September 1974. General Aman Mikael Andom, a Protestant of Eritrean origin,[137] served briefly as provisional head of state pending the return of Crown Prince Asfa Wossen, who was then receiving medical treatment abroad. Haile Selassie was placed under house arrest briefly at the 4th Army Division in Addis Ababa,[137]while most of his family was detained at the late Duke of Harar's residence in the north of the capital. The last months of the emperor's life were spent in imprisonment, in the Grand Palace.[138]
Later, most of the imperial family was imprisoned in the Addis Ababa prison Kerchele, also known as "Alem Bekagne", or "I've had Enough of This World". On 23 November 1974, sixty former high officials of the imperial government were executed without trial.[139] The executed included Haile Selassie's grandson and two former Prime Ministers.[138] These killings, known to Ethiopians as "Bloody Saturday", were condemned by Crown Prince Asfa Wossen; the Derg responded to his rebuke by revoking its acknowledgment of his imperial legitimacy, and announcing the end of the Solomonic dynasty.[139]

Death and interment[edit]

On 28 August 1975, the state media reported that the "ex-monarch" Haile Selassie had died on 27 August of "respiratory failure" following complications from a prostate examination followed up by a prostate operation.[140] His doctor, Asrat Woldeyes, denied that complications had occurred and rejected the government version of his death.[citation needed] Some imperial loyalists believed that the emperor had in fact been assassinated, and this belief remains widely held to this day.[141] One western correspondent in Ethiopia at the time commented, "While it is not known what actually happened, there are strong indications that no efforts were made to save him. It is unlikely that he was actually killed. Such rumors were bound to arise no matter what happened, given the atmosphere of suspicion and distrust prevailing in Addis Ababa at the time."[142]
The Soviet-backed Derg fell in 1991. In 1992, the emperor's bones were found under a concrete slab on the palace grounds;[141] some reports suggest that his remains were discovered beneath a latrine.[143] For almost a decade thereafter, as Ethiopian courts attempted to sort out the circumstances of his death, his coffin rested in Bhata Church, near his great-uncle Menelik II's resting place.[144] On 5 November 2000, Haile Selassie was given an imperial-style funeral by the Ethiopian Orthodox church. The post-communist government refused calls to declare the ceremony an official imperial funeral.[144]
Although such prominent Rastafari figures as Rita Marley and others participated in the grand funeral, most Rastafari rejected the event and refused to accept that the bones were the remains of Haile Selassie. There remains some debate within the Rastafari movement whether Haile Selassie actually died in 1975.[145]


Asfaw Wossen, eldest son of Haile Selassie I, on a voyage to Jerusalem in 1923.
There is some controversy as to the motherhood of Haile Selassie's eldest daughter, Princess Romanework. While the living members of the royal family state that Romanework is the eldest daughter of Empress Menen,[146] it has been asserted that Princess Romanework is actually the daughter of a previous union of the emperor with Woizero Altayech.[147] This may be a nickname she used, as nobleman Blata Merse Hazen Wolde Kirkos, a contemporary source prominent in both the Imperial Court and theEthiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church names her as Woizero Woinetu Amede. The emperor's own autobiography makes no mention of this previous marriage or having fathered children with anyone other than Empress Menen, although he mentions the death of this daughter in captivity at Turin. Other sources such as Blata Merse Hazen Wolde Kirkos mentions Princess Romanework's mother Woizero Woinetu Amede as attending the wedding of her daughter to Dejazmatch Beyene Merid in a first hand account in his book about the years before the Italian occupation.
Prince Asfaw Wossen was first married to Princess Wolete Israel Seyoum and then following their divorce to Princess Medferiashwork Abebe. Prince Makonnen was married to Princess Sara Gizaw. Prince Sahle Selassie was married to Princess Mahisente Habte Mariam. Princess Romanework married Dejazmatch Beyene Merid. Princess Tenagnework first married Ras Desta Damtew, and after she was widowed later married Ras Andargachew Messai. Princess Zenebework married Dejazmatch Haile Selassie Gugsa. Princess Tsehai married Lt. General Abiye Abebe.
Princess RomaneworkCirca 190914 October 1941Dejazmatch Beyene MeridDejazmatch Merid Beyene
Dejazmatch Samson Beyene
Lij Getachew Beyene
Lij Gideon Beyene
Princess Tenagnework12 January 19126 April 20031st Ras Desta Damtew
2nd Ras Andargatchew Messai
Princess Aida Desta
Prince Amha Desta
Princess Seble Desta
Rear Admiral Prince Iskinder Desta
Princess Hirut Desta
Princess Sophia Desta
Emebet Tsige Mariam Abebe Retta
Emebet Mentewab Andargatchew(died in childhood)
Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen27 July 191617 February 19971st Princess Wolete Israel Seyoum
2nd Princess Medferiashwork Abebe
Princess Ijigayehu
Princess Maryam Senna
Princess Sehin Azebe
Princess Sifrash Bizu
Crown Prince Zera Yacob
Princess Zenebework25 July 191825 March 1933Dejazmatch Haile Selassie Guglsa
Princess Tsehai13 October 191917 August 1942Lt. General Abiye Abebe
Prince Makonnen Duke of Harrar16 October 192313 May 1957Princess Sara Gizaw Duchess of HarrarPrince Paul Wossen Seged Makonnen Duke of Harrar
Prince Mikael Makonnen
Prince Tefferi Makonnen
Prince Dawit Makonnen (or Makonnen Makonnen)
Prince Beede Mariam Makonnen
Prince Sahle Selassie27 February 193124 April 1962Princess Mahisente Habte MariamPrince Ermias Sahle Selassie

Rastafari messiah[edit]

Today, Haile Selassie is worshipped as God incarnate[148] among followers of the Rastafari movement (taken from Haile Selassie's pre-imperial name Ras—meaning Head, a title equivalent to Duke—Tafari Makonnen), which emerged in Jamaica during the 1930s under the influence of Marcus Garvey's "Pan Africanism" movement. He is viewed as the messiah who will lead the peoples of Africa and the African diaspora to freedom.[149] His official titles are Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah and King of Kings and Elect of God, and his traditional lineage is thought to be from Solomon and Sheba.[150] These notions are perceived by Rastafari as confirmation of the return of the messiah in the prophetic Book of Revelation in theNew TestamentKing of KingsLord of LordsConquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and Root of David. Rastafari faith in the incarnate divinity of Haile Selassie[151] began after news reports of his coronation reached Jamaica,[152] particularly via the two Time magazine articles on the coronation the week before and the week after the event. Haile Selassie's own perspectives permeate the philosophy of the movement.[152][153]
In 1961, the Jamaican government sent a delegation composed of both Rastafari and non-Rastafari leaders to Ethiopia to discuss the matter of repatriation, among other issues, with the emperor. He reportedly told the Rastafari delegation (which included Mortimer Planno), "Tell the Brethren to be not dismayed, I personally will give my assistance in the matter of repatriation."[154]
Haile Selassie visited Jamaica on 21 April 1966, and approximately one hundred thousand Rastafari from all over Jamaica descended on Palisadoes Airport in Kingston,[152] having heard that the man whom they considered to be their messiah was coming to visit them. Spliffs[155] and chalices[156] were openly[157] smoked, causing "a haze of ganja smoke" to drift through the air.[158][159][160] Haile Selassie arrived at the airport but was unable to come down the mobile steps of the airplane, as the crowd rushed the tarmac. He then returned into the plane, disappearing for several more minutes. Finally, Jamaican authorities were obliged to request Ras Mortimer Planno, a well-known Rasta leader, to climb the steps, enter the plane, and negotiate the emperor's descent.[161] Planno re-emerged and announced to the crowd: "The Emperor has instructed me to tell you to be calm. Step back and let the Emperor land".[162] This day is widely held by scholars to be a major turning point for the movement,[163][164][165] and it is still commemorated by Rastafari as Grounation Day, the anniversary of which is celebrated as the second holiest holiday after 2 November, the emperor's Coronation Day.
From then on, as a result of Planno's actions, the Jamaican authorities were asked to ensure that Rastafari representatives were present at all state functions attended by the emperor,[164][165] and Rastafari elders also ensured that they obtained a private audience with the emperor,[164] where he reportedly told them that they should not emigrate to Ethiopia until they had first liberated the people of Jamaica. This dictum came to be known as "liberation before repatriation".
Haile Selassie defied expectations of the Jamaican authorities,[166] and never rebuked the Rastafari for their belief in him as the returned Jesus. Instead, he presented the movement's faithful elders with gold medallions – the only recipients of such an honor on this visit.[167][168] During PNP leader (later Jamaican Prime Minister) Michael Manley's visit to Ethiopia in October 1969, the emperor allegedly still recalled his 1966 reception with amazement, and stated that he felt that he had to be respectful of their beliefs.[169] This was the visit when Manley received the Rod of Correction or Rod of Joshua as a present from the emperor, which is thought to have helped him to win the 1972 election in Jamaica.
Rita MarleyBob Marley's wife, converted to the Rastafari faith after seeing Haile Selassie on his Jamaican trip. She claimed in interviews (and in her book No Woman, No Cry) that she saw a stigmata print on the palm of Haile Selassie's hand as he waved to the crowd which resembled the markings on Christ's hands from being nailed to the cross—a claim that was not supported by other sources, but was used as evidence for her and other Rastafari to suggest that Haile Selassie I was indeed their messiah.[170] She was also influential in the conversion of Bob Marley, who then became internationally recognized. As a result, Rastafari became much better known throughout much of the world.[171] Bob Marley's posthumously released song "Iron Lion Zion" refers to Haile Selassie.

Question of his divinity[edit]

In a 1967 recorded interview Haile Salassie appeared to deny his divinity. In the interview Bill McNeil says: "there are millions of Christians throughout the world, your Imperial Majesty, who regard you as the reincarnation of Jesus Christ." Selassie replied in his native language:
"I have heard of that idea. I also met certain Rastafarians. I told them clearly that I am a man, that I am mortal, and that I will be replaced by the oncoming generation, and that they should never make a mistake in assuming or pretending that a human being is emanated from a deity."[172][173]
For many Rastafari the CBC interview is not interpreted as a denial of his divinity and according to Robert Earl Hood Haile Selassie neither denied nor affirmed his divinity either way.[174] In Reggae Routes: The Story of Jamaican Music, Kevin Chang and Wayne Chen note
It's often said, though no definite date is ever cited, that Haile Selassie himself denied his divinity. Former senator and Gleaner editor, Hector Wynter, tells of asking him, during his visit to Jamaica in 1966, when he was going to tell Rastafari he was not God. "Who am I to disturb their belief?" replied the emperor.[166]
After his return to Ethiopia, he dispatched Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq Mandefro to the Caribbean to help draw Rastafari and other West Indians to the Ethiopian church and, according to some sources, denied his divinity.[175][176][177][178]
In 1948, Haile Selassie donated a piece of land at Shashamane, 250 km south of Addis Ababa, for the use of people of African descent from the West Indies. Numerous Rastafari families settled there and still live as a community to this day.[179]

Biographical film[edit]

In 2008 a full-length feature film, Man of the Millennium, was produced by an Ethiopian film-maker Tikher Teferra Kidane of Exodus Films, in collaboration with an Alaskan TV station Tanana Valley TV and 4th Avenue Films.[180]


A house built on granite and strong foundations, not even the onslaught of pouring rain, gushing torrents and strong winds will be able to pull down. Some people have written the story of my life representing as truth what in fact derives from ignorance, error or envy; but they cannot shake the truth from its place, even if they attempt to make others believe it.
— Preface to My Life and Ethiopia's Progress, Autobiography of H.I.M. Haile Selassie I (English translation)
That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained and until the ignoble but unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique, and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and goodwill; until all Africans stand and speak as free human beings, equal in the eyes of the Almighty; until that day, the African continent shall not know peace. We Africans will fight if necessary and we know that we shall win as we are confident in the victory of good over evil.
— English translation of 1963 Speech delivered to the United Nations and popularized in a song called "War" by Bob Marley.
Our attitude to the Somalis who belong to the same race as the Ethiopian people and share with them a common history, has always been crystal clear.
— April 5, 1958 Interview with BBC
Apart from the Kingdom of the Lord there is not on this earth any nation that is superior to any other. Should it happen that a strong Government finds it may with impunity destroy a weak people, then the hour strikes for that weak people to appeal to the League of Nations to give its judgment in all freedom. God and history will remember your judgment.
— Address to the League of Nations, 1936.
We have finished the job. What shall we do with the tools?
— Telegram to Winston Churchill, 1941.
Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.
Today I stand before the world organization which has succeeded to the mantle discarded by its discredited predecessor.
— In a speech to the United Nations.
Misguided people sometimes create misguided ideas. Some of my ancestors were Oromo. How can I colonize myself?
— in response to accusations by dissidents
I have heard of that idea [i.e., of Haile Selassie being the reincarnation of Jesus Christ]. I also met certain Rastafarians. I told them clearly that I am a man, that I am mortal, and that I would be replaced by the oncoming generation, and that they should never make a mistake in assuming or pretending that the human being is emanated from a deity."
— Interview with Bill McNeil.
A qualified man with vision, unmoved by daily selfish interests, will be led to right decisions by his conscience. In general, a man who knows from whence he comes and where he is going will co-operate with his fellow human beings. He will not be satisfied with merely doing his ordinary duties but will inspire others by his good example. You are being watched by the nation and you should realize that you will satisfy it if you do good; but if, on the contrary, you do evil, it will lose its hope and its confidence in you."
— 2 July 1963 – University Graduation

Title as Emperor[edit]

  • 2 November 1930 – 12 September 1974His Imperial Majesty the King of Kings of Ethiopia, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God.



Military ranks[edit]

Haile Selassie held the following ranks:[188]


Haile Selassie I, original name Tafari Makonnen    (born July 23, 1892, nearHarer, Eth.—died Aug. 27, 1975Addis Ababa), emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974 who sought to modernize his country and who steered it into the mainstream of post-World War II African politics. He brought Ethiopia into theLeague of Nations and the United Nations and made Addis Ababa the major centre for the Organization of African Unity (now African Union).
Tafari was a great-grandson of Sahle Selassie of Shewa (Shoa) and a son of Ras (Prince) Makonnen, a chief adviser to Emperor Menilek II. Educated at home by French missionaries, Tafari at an early age favourably impressed the emperor with his intellectual abilities and was promoted accordingly. As governor of Sidamo and then of Harer province, he followed progressive policies, seeking to break the feudal power of the local nobility by increasing the authority of the central government—for example, by developing a salaried civil service. He thereby came to represent politically progressive elements of the population. In 1911 he married Wayzaro Menen, a great-granddaughter of Menilek II.
When Menilek II died in 1913, his grandson Lij Yasu succeeded to the throne, but the latter’s unreliability and his close association with Islam made him unpopular with the majority Christian population of Ethiopia. Tafari became the rallying point of the Christian resistance, and he deposed Lij Yasu in 1916.Zauditu, Menilek II’s daughter, thereupon became empress in 1917, and Ras Tafari was named regent and heir apparent to the throne.
While Zauditu was conservative in outlook, Ras Tafari was progressive and became the focus of the aspirations of the modernist younger generation. In 1923 he had a conspicuous success in the admission of Ethiopia to the League of Nations. In the following year he visited Rome, Paris, andLondon, becoming the first Ethiopian ruler ever to go abroad. In 1928 he assumed the title of negus(“king”), and two years later, when Zauditu died, he was crowned emperor (Nov. 2, 1930) and took the name of Haile Selassie (“Might of the Trinity”). In 1931 he promulgated a new constitution, which strictly limited the powers of Parliament. From the late 1920s on, Haile Selassie in effect was the Ethiopian government, and, by establishing provincial schools, strengthening the police forces, and progressively outlawing feudal taxation, he sought to both help his people and increase the authority of the central government.
When Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, Haile Selassie led the resistance, but in May 1936 he was forced into exile. He appealed for help from the League of Nations in a memorable speech that he delivered to that body in Geneva on June 30, 1936. With the advent of World War II, he secured British assistance in forming an army of Ethiopian exiles in the Sudan. British and Ethiopian forces invaded Ethiopia in January 1941 and recaptured Addis Ababa several months later. Although he was reinstated as emperor, Haile Selassie had to recreate the authority he had previously exercised. He again implemented social, economic, and educational reforms in an attempt to modernize Ethiopian government and society on a slow and gradual basis.
The Ethiopian government continued to be largely the expression of Haile Selassie’s personal authority. In 1955 he granted a new constitution giving him as much power as the previous one. Overt opposition to his rule surfaced in December 1960, when a dissident wing of the army secured control of Addis Ababa and was dislodged only after a sharp engagement with loyalist elements.
Pompidou, Georges-Jean-Raymond: with Haile Selassie I in Addis Ababa, January 1973 [Credit: AFP/Getty Images]Haile Selassie played a very important role in the establishment of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. His rule in Ethiopia continued until 1974, at which time famine, worsening unemployment, and the political stagnation of his government prompted segments of the army to mutiny. They deposed Haile Selassie and established a provisional military government that espoused Marxist ideologies. Haile Selassie was kept under house arrest in his own palace, where he spent the remainder of his life. Official sources at the time attributed his death to natural causes, but evidence later emerged suggesting that he had been strangled on the orders of the military government.
Haile Selassie was regarded as the messiah of the African race by the Rastafarian movement.
Haile Selassie I, original name Tafari Makonnen (b. July 23, 1892, near Harer, Abyssinia (Ethiopia).— d. August 27, 1975, Addis Adaba, Ethiopia), emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974 who sought to modernize his country and who steered it into the mainstream of post-World War II African politics. He brought Ethiopia into the League of Nations and the United Nations and made Addis Ababa the major center for the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union). 
Tafari was a great-grandson of Sahle Selassie of Shewa (Shoa) and a son of Ras (Prince) Makonnen, a chief adviser to Emperor Menelik II.  Educated at home by French missionaries, Tafari at an early age favorably impressed the emperor with his intellectual abilities and was promoted accordingly. As governor of Sidamo and then of Harer province, he followed progressive policies, seeking to break the feudal power of the local nobility by increasing the authority of the central government — for example, by developing a salaried civil service. He thereby came to represent politically progressive elements of the population. In 1911 he married Wayzaro Menen, a great-granddaughter of Menelik II.
When Menelik II died in 1913, his grandson Lij Yasu succeeded to the throne, but the latter’s unreliability and his close association with Islam made him unpopular with the majority Christian population of Ethiopia. Tafari became the rallying point of the Christian resistance, and he deposed Lij Yasu in 1916. Zewditu (Zauditu), Menelik II’s daughter, thereupon became empress in 1917, and Ras Tafari was named regent and heir apparent to the throne.
While Zewditu was conservative in outlook, Ras Tafari was progressive and became the focus of the aspirations of the modernist younger generation. In 1923, he had a conspicuous success in the admission of Ethiopia to the League of Nations.  In the following year, he visited Rome, Paris, and London, becoming the first Ethiopian ruler ever to go abroad. In 1928 he assumed the title of negus (“king”), and two years later, when Zewditu died, he was crowned emperor (November 2, 1930) and took the name of Haile Selassie (“Might of the Trinity”). In 1931 he promulgated a new constitution, which defined the limits of the Parliament. From the late 1920s on, Haile Selassie in effect was the Ethiopian government, and, by establishing provincial schools, strengthening the police forces, and progressively outlawing feudal taxation, he sought to both help his people and increase the authority of the central government.
When Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, Haile Selassie led the resistance, but in May 1936 he was forced into exile. He appealed for help from the League of Nations in a memorable speech that he delivered to that body in Geneva on June 30, 1936. With the advent of World War II, he secured British assistance in forming an army of Ethiopian exiles in the Sudan. British and Ethiopian forces invaded Ethiopia in January 1941 and recaptured Addis Ababa several months later. Although he was reinstated as emperor, Haile Selassie had to recreate the authority he had previously exercised. He again implemented social, economic, and educational reforms in an attempt to modernize Ethiopian government and society on a slow and gradual basis.
The Ethiopian government continued to be largely the expression of Haile Selassie’s personal authority. In 1955 he granted a new constitution giving him as much power as the previous one. Overt opposition to his rule surfaced in December 1960, when a dissident wing of the army secured control of Addis Ababa and was dislodged only after a sharp engagement with loyalist element.
Haile Selassie played a very important role in the establishment of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. His rule in Ethiopia continued until 1974, at which time famine, worsening unemployment, and the political stagnation of his government prompted segments of the army to mutiny. They deposed Haile Selassie and established a provisional military government that espoused Marxist ideologies. Haile Selassie was kept under house arrest in his own palace, where he spent the remainder of his life. Official sources at the time attributed his death to natural causes, but evidence later emerged suggesting that he had been strangled on the orders of the military government.
Haile Selassie was regarded as the messiah of the African race by  the Rastafarian movement.