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Life and times of Emperor Haile Selassie

Life and times of Emperor Haile Selassie

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08.FEB.08

The Church of I Majesty Ivine Order of Niahbinhhi in collaboration with the celebration of Black History Month, features Ethiopia’s 225th King, Emperor Haile Selassie I.

The Emperor was born on 23rd July, 1892 in Harrar, Ethiopia the youngest of ten children born to Ras Makonnen and his wife Wayzero.{{more}}

In 1913, when Emperor Melelik II died, the Emperorship was passed to his grandson Lij Yasu who was very young and inexperienced and was overthrown after only three years on the Throne. He was replaced by Menelik’s granddaughter Zaukitu who became Empress. Ras Tafari (Selassie) then twenty four was made chief Adviser, the Regent and Heir Apparent to the Throne.

In these positions he used the power he had to re-organise his country, build more schools, hospitals, sent Ethiopians abroad to study and to keep the various kingdoms of the country together. In general he attempted modernization of a country very steep in tradition. In 1923, he succeed in getting Ethiopia recognized as a member of the League, of Nations (U.N.). In 1928, with increasing reputation and proven ability both in military and civilian affairs he was made Negus (King) Tafari.

Within two more years, with the death of Empress Zauditu after some internal power struggles, he was made Emperor on November 2nd 1930 at an impressive Coronation Ceremony.

Now officially known as Emperor Haile Selassie I (power of the Trinity) King of King, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, he continued in his attempts to modernize Ethiopia. In 1913 a written constitution which established a two-chamber Parliament was improved and at the same time steering a diplomatic course between opposing internal faction.

Modernisation was not a very easy task as the Emperor had to contend with powerful Rases and clergy who was opposed to it, added to this there was the general shortage of funds for development.

A more immediate problem of the Emperor was the possibility of an invasion by Italy who claimed Ethiopia and who Menelik had defeated in the 1880’s. This fear of invasion was realized in 1935 when Italy invaded and occupied the country for five (5) years. The Ethiopians although not possessing the same quality and quantity of weapons as the Italians fought bravely losing many men and battles. In 1936, after a year of battle which saw Ethiopia on the losing side, the Emperor left Ethiopia to present his country’s case to the U.N. in Geneva. Some critics including Marcus Garvey felt that the Emperor had too much trust in the white nations and he should not have left the country when he did, paving the way for Italian troops under Mussolini, to take control of the country. The Emperor said later in 1973 that “It was the most painful day of my life and the most misunderstood because it took a lot of courage”.

In Geneva, the Emperor in a very stirring and passionate speech spoke of how thousands upon thousands of his people had died from poisonous mustard gas and other tortures inflicted upon them. He warned the U.N. members that internationally, morality had broken down and that the life of no small nation was henceforth safe, and that the fascist ruthlessness that had engulfed his country might one day engulf them.

After his address to the League the Emperor went to London where he was received at a reception by several Black groups and individuals among them the U.N.I.A. From England, Selassie made several more trips to Geneva, to put forward Ethiopia’s case, but all in vain. Guerilla activity though persisting was not enough and it was not until the outbreak of World War II that liberation became possible. England forced by circumstances of war, now began to support the Emperor.

In 1940 he flew to the Sudan and began preparations to free his country; Ethiopian refugees there and in Kenya were organized and in January 1941 with English soldiers and the support of his countrymen, he successfully retained power in Ethiopia. The Emperor then displayed rare and unbelievable qualities when he ordered no retaliation be taken against the Italians captured.

His rule of Ethiopia which continued from 1941 was to last until 1974 when he was overthrown by the military. The Army and Air Force however, remained loyal, and the Emperor returned to regain power after four (4) days. The Emperor in the late 1950’s and 1960’s together with Kwame Nkruma represented the new direction continental Africa was to take. He made many speeches and supported the cause of African freedom relentlessly. His efforts saw Ethiopia becoming the location of Africa Hall which is the centre of the Organization of African Unity and also the location of the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa.

He had traveled to the Caribbean, America, China and several African countries and was received with much acclaim. The Emperor was indeed a symbol of African independence inspiration and unity.

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