Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Haile Selassie of Ethiopia
Haile Selassie was born in the town-village of Ejersa Goro, Ethiopia, as Ras (Duke) Tafari (Amharic Fearsome) Makonnen. His father was Ras Makonnen, the governor of Harar and his mother was Wezero (lady) Yeshimebet Ali, who died on March 14, 1894. He inherited his Imperial blood through his paternal grandmother, Tenagnework Sahle Selassie, who was an aunt of Emperor Menelik II and claimed to be a direct descendant of Makeda, Queen of Sheba and King Solomon of ancient Israel. Tafari had a child, Princess Romana Worq , with Wayzaro Altayech .In 1911 in a Coptic Christian ceremony Tafari became the third or fourth husband to Menen Asfaw (1889-1962). They had six children, Princess Tenagnework, Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen, Princess Tsehai, Princess Zenebework, Prince Makonnen Duke of Harar, and Prince Sahle Selassie.
In September 1916, an assembly of nobles with the agreement of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church deposed Menelik II's grandson and heir Emperor Lij Iyasu (Iyasu V) for suspected conversion to Islam. They crowned Menelik's daughter Zauditu as Empress of Ethiopia while her cousin Tafari became Crown Prince and Regent.
He became Negus in 1928 and then Emperor upon Zauditu's death on April 2 1930. His coronation was on November 2 in the capital Addis Ababa in front of representatives from 12 countries in cluding Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester Louis Franchet d'Espèrey representing the United Kingdom and France as well as delegates from the United States and Italy. The world press attended, including TIME magazine, who published 2 consecutive weekly articles on the event, resulting in Selassie gaining world wide publicity. He took the full title His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God.
He developed the policy of careful modernisation initiated by Menelik II, securing Ethiopia's admission to the League of Nations and abolishing slavery in the Empire in 1923. He introduced Ethiopia's first written constitution on July 16 1931 which provided for an appointed bi-cameral legislature. It was the first time that non-noble subjects had an active role in official government policy. The League's failure to stop the Second Italo-Ethiopian War—Italy's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935—led him to five years in exile, during which he was based at Bath in England, but spent time elsewhere, for example in Great Malvern. Selassie returned to Ethiopia in 1941, after Italy's defeat in Ethiopia by British and Ethiopian patriot forces. Ethiopia became a charter member of the United Nations (UN). In 1951, after a lengthy fact finding inquiry by the allied powers and then the UN, the former Italian colony of Eritrea was federated to Ethiopia as a compromise between the sizable factions that wanted complete Union with the Empire and those who wanted complete independence from it. In November 1955 he introduced a revised constitution,  under which he retained effective power while extending political participation by allowing the lower house of parliament to become an elected body. 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 monarchial structure of the state.
Following an abortive coup attempt on December 13 1960 by his Imperial Guard forces, who proclaimed the Selassie's son Asfa Wossen as the new Emperor. Selassie pursued more conservative policies, aligning Ethiopia with the West and distancing himself from the more common radical leftist African governments.
In 1961, the Eritrean parliament voted to dissolve itself and abolish the Federation, making Eritrea a province of Ethiopia. This triggered a long simmering war for independence continuing well past Selassie's losing power.
An increasingly radical student movement took hold in Addis Ababa University and high school campuses, and student unrest became a regular feature of Ethiopian life. Marxism took root in large segments of the Ethiopian intelligentsia. Resistance by conservative elements at the Imperial Court and Parliament, in addition to within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, made proposals of widespread land reform policies impossible to implement, and also damaged the standing of the government. The majority of the largely agricultural population remained tenant farmers on land owned by a small number of wealthy absentee landlords which included members of the nobility, the Ethiopian Church, and the Imperial family.
Outside of Ethiopia, however, the Emperor continued to enjoy enormous prestige and respect. As the longest serving Head of State then in power, the Emperor was usually given precedence over all other leaders at most international state events such as the celebration of the 2500 years of the Persian Empire, the summits of the Non-aligned movement, and the state funerals of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Charles de Gaulle. His frequent travels around the world raised Ethiopia's international image.
A devastating drought in the Province of Wollo in 1972-73 caused a large famine which was covered up by the Imperial government and kept from Selassie, who was celebrating his 80th birthday amidst much pomp and ceremony. When a BBC documentary exposed the existence and scope of the famine, the government was seriously undermined, and Selassie's personal popularity fell. Simultaneously, economic hardship caused by high oil prices and widespread military mutinies in the country further weakened him. The Derg, set up to investigate the military's demands, took advantage of the government's disarray to depose Selassie on September 12, 1974.
The Emperor and his family were placed under house arrest. A year later, on August 28, 1975, the state media reported that Selassie died on August 27, 1975, following complications from a prostate operation. His doctors denied that complications had occurred and rejected the government version of his death. Some believe that he was suffocated in his sleep, and his remains buried beneath the president's personal office. On November 5, 2000, Selassie was given an Imperial funeral by the Ethiopian Orthodox church. The current post-communist government refused to give it the status of a state funeral.
The Emperor's seat as a Knight of the Garter in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle had the unusual feature of a double-sided banner, one side representing the Emperor of Ethiopia, and the other for the Lion of Judah. He had originally asked for two seats.
Amongst followers of the Rastafarian movement, a religion which developed in the 1930s in Jamaica under the influence of Marcus Mosiah Garvey's "Back to Africa" movement, Haile Selassie is seen as God incarnate, the Black Messiah who will lead the peoples of Africa and the African diaspora to freedom. His official titles, King of kings, Lord of lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah and Root of David, are believed to be the titles of the returned Messiah in the New Testament Book of Revelation. Their belief in the incarnate divinity of Selassie began very shortly after his crowning.
When Haile Selassie visited Jamaica on April 21 1966 somewhere between one and two hundred thousand Rastafarians from all over Jamaica descended on Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston having heard that the man whom they considered to be God was coming to visit them. When Haile Selassie arrived at the airport he refused to get off the aeroplane for an hour until Mortimer Planner, a well known Rasta persuaded him that it was safe to do so. From then on the visit was a success. Rita Marley, Bob Marley's wife, converted to the Rastafarian faith after seeing Haile Selassie, and her fervour was what drew Bob Marley into the faith himself.
Selassie's attitude to the Rastafarians
Haile Selassie was never a member of the Rastafarian faith, though he refused to condemn it, as he did not want to disturb the faith of the Rastas. The Rastas were never worried by Selassie never claiming to be God, saying that the real God would never claim to be so just to get worldly acclaim and power. During Selassie's visit to Jamaica he told the Rastafarian community leaders that they should not emigrate to Ethiopia until they had liberated the people of Jamaica. After the visit, the Emperor is said to have told Ethiopian Orthodox Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq: "There is a problem in Jamaica… Please, help these people. They are misunderstanding, they do not understand our culture… They need a church to be established and you are chosen to go." In the light of the deep longing of Rastafarians to return to Africa he donated a piece of land at Shashamane, 250 km south of Addis Ababa for the use of Jamaican Rastafarians. There is still a community there. He remained a devout member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church his entire life.
The Rastafarians' attitude to Selassie
Rastafarians say that they know Selassie is God, and therefore do not need to believe it. Belief implies doubt, and they claim to have no doubts about his divinity. In the early days of the movement he was seen as a symbol of black pride, and as a king for African people. The first Rastafarian to appear in front of a court was Leonard Howell, who was charged with sedition against the state of Jamaica, and its King George V. Howell declared himself a loyal subject not of the king of England, but of Selassie. Selassie going to plead in front of the League of Nations, and then being rejected by them, confirmed their belief in his greatness. For them the nations of Babylon, in reference to the ancient biblical place turned their back on the returned messiah. Many equated the Italo-Ethiopian war with the fight in the Book of Revelation between the returned messiah and the antichrist. Selassie's restoration to power in 1941 strengthened the Rastafarian faith that he was Almighty God.
They also call him Jah Rastafari (Jah is an obscure King James Version of the Bible word for Jehovah), and affectionately Jah Jah. They are very proud of knowing and declaring that he is their God. They believe that marijuana brings them closer to God, and will always bless the pipes they communally smoke in the name of Selassie. Roots reggae is full of thanks and praises towards Selassie. He is referred to as Haile Selassie I, pronouncing as in the first person pronoun, thus emphasising the personal relationship they have with Selassie. They believe Selassie will one day call the day of judgement, calling the righteous and the faithful to live with him for ever in Holy Mount Zion, a mythical place in Africa.
Rastafarians believe that Haile Selassie is still alive, and that his purported death was part of a conspiracy to discredit their religion. It is almost certain that more people have now heard of Haile Selassie through the Rastafarian movement than know of him as a historical or political figure. Many Rastas are very concerned that the world should see Haile Selassie in a positive light.
- "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." – Haile Selassie, United Nations, and popularised in a song called War by Bob Marley.
- The Haile Selassie Archives
- Imperial Crown Council of Ethiopia
- Speech to the League of Nations, June 1936 (full text)
- Speech to the UN on October 4, 1963 from which Bob Marley made his famous song 'War'.
- Marcus Garvey's prophecy of Haile Selassie as the returned messiah
- Selassie's attitude to the Rastas
- Selassie and the Italo-Ethiopian war
- Time article 25 years after his death with links to other Time articles on him
- Paul B. Henze. "The Rise of Haile Selassie: Time of Troubles, Regent, Emperor, Exile" and "Ethiopia in the Modern World: Haile Selassie from Triumph to Tragedy" in Layers of Time: A History of Ethiopia. New York: Palgrave, 2000. ISBN 0312227191
|Ethiopian Royal Family||Succeeded by:
Emperor Amha Selassie