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Haile Selassie I

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Haile Selassie I
His Imperial Majesty

Negusa Nagast

Defender of the Faith
ReignApril 2, 1930 - September 12, 1974
ImperialApril 2, 1930
Born23 July 1892
Harar, Ethiopia
DiedAddis Ababa
SpouseMenen Asfaw
IssuePrincess Romanework

Princess Tenagnework Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen Princess Zenebework Princess Tsehai Prince Makonnen

Prince Sahle Selassie
HouseSolomonic House
FatherMakonnen Wolde Mikael
MotherYeshimebet Ali
ReligionEthiopian Orthodox Church

Haile Selassie I ( born Tafari Makonnen July 23, 1892 - August 27, 1975[1]) was the Emperor of Ethiopia from April 2, 1930 to September 12, 1974. He was Regent Plenipotentiary of Ethiopia from 1916 to 1930, when he was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia as one of the Solomonid dynasty. He fought against Italy, shortly before World War II. He was one of the founding fathers of the League of Nations and the United Nations and the 8th person to be recognized the Time Person of the Year.

Tafari was made into local governor of Sidamo in 1907 and Harar in 1911. In Harar, he had a huge following, but he agreed not to remove Lij Iyasu from power as regent in exchange for Iyasu not removing him as governor of Harer. However, Iyasu became a Muslim and broke his agreement by trying to remove Tafari as governor. Tafari said that he now did have to keep the agreement and so he removed Iyasu as regent.

Because Iyasu was a Muslim, the nobles replaced him with Empress Zauditu on September 27, 1916 and made Tafari regent. From to then on, Tafari controlled Ethiopia. He was made negus (king) in 1928 and was crowned "Haile Selassie I, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Lord of Lords, Elect of God" on November 2, 1930. His coronation was given widespread publicity throughout the world, especially in two TIME Magazine articles. The publicity created interest on the faraway island of Jamaica, where a belief in his divinity (Godliness) soon arose because of his titles, and he was seen as a symbol of black liberation.

In 1936, he left Ethiopia after an invasion by Benito Mussolini's Italy. The Emperor gave a speech at the League of Nations that asked the world to stop the Italians, but it failed to act. With the help of the British in World War II, he returned to Ethiopia in 1941. In 1963, the Emperor did everything he could to help start the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), with its headquarters in Addis Ababa. In 1966, he visited Jamaica, where he met the Rastafarian community of Jamaica.

On September 12, 1974, he was overthrown by a Marxist coup. He was said to have died of natural causes in August 1975, but evidence later showed that he had been murdered. However, many Rastafarians claim that he is still alive.

Foreign relations[change | change source]

Haile Selassie contributed Ethiopian troops to the United Nations operation in the Congo peacekeeping force during the 1960 Congo Crisis to preserve Congolese integrity, according to United Nations Security Council Resolution 143. On 13 December 1960, while Haile Selassie was on a state visit to Brazil, his Kebur Zabagna (Imperial Guard) forces staged an unsuccessful coup and briefly proclaimed Haile Selassie's eldest son, Asfa Wossen, as emperor. The regular army and police forces crushed the coup attempt since it lacked broad popular support; was denounced by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church; and was unpopular with the army, the air force, and thr police. The effort to depose the Emperor, however, had support among students and the educated classes. The coup attempt has been characterized as a pivotal moment in Ethiopian history, when Ethiopians "for the first time questioned the power of the king to rule without the people's consent". Student populations began to empathise with the peasantry and the poor and advocate on their behalf. 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 although he pursued a firm policy of decolonisation in Africa, which was still largely under European colonial rule. The United Nations conducted a lengthy inquiry regarding Eritrea's status, with each of the superpowers vying for a stake in the state's future. The British administrator suggested Eritrea's partition between Sudan and Ethiopia to separate Christians and Muslims. The idea was instantly rejected by Eritrean political parties, as well as the United Nations.

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 be represented in what had been the Ethiopian PA, which would become the federal parliament. Haile Selassie would have none of the European attempts to draft a separate constitution under which Eritrea would be governed, and he wanted his own 1955 Constitution protecting families to apply to 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 the Eritrean Parliament.

In September 1961, Haile Selassie attended the Conference of Heads of State of Government of Non-Aligned Countries in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. That is considered to be the founding conference of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Emperor Haile Selassie with President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt in Addis Ababa for the Organization of African Unity summit, 1963.
Emperor Haile Selassie I, and President John F. Kennedy

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. The war would continue for 30 years. Haile Selassie and then the Soviet-backed junta that succeeded him attempted to retain Eritrea by force.

In 1963, Haile Selassie presided over the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the precursor of the today's African Union (AU). The new organization would establish its headquarters in Addis Ababa. In May 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 Morocco and Algeria. In 1964, Haile Selassie would initiate the concept of the United States of Africa, a proposition later taken up by Muammar Gaddafi.

On 4 October 1963, Haile Selassie addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations that referred to 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 defenseless 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.

Emperor Haile Selassie standing in front of throne c. 1965

On 25 November 1963, the Emperor was among other heads of state, including French President Charles de Gaulle, ti traveed to Washington, DC, and attend the funeral of assassinated President John F. Kennedy.

In 1966, Haile Selassie attempted to replace the historical tax system with a single progressive income tax, which would significantly weaken the nobility, which had previously avoided paying most of their taxes. Even with alterations, the law led to a revolt in Gojjam, which was repressed although enforcement of the tax was abandoned. Having achieved its design in undermining the tax, the revolt encouraged other landowners to defy Haile Selassie.

A parade in honoir of Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I, turns onto Pennsylvania Avenue from New York Avenue; crowds line the street. Washington, D.C 1963

While he had fully approved and assured Ethiopia's participation in UN-approved collective security operations, including Korea and Congo, Haile Selassie drew a distinction between it and the non-UN-approved foreign intervention in Indochina, consistently deplored it as needless suffering and called for the Vietnam War to end on several occasions. At the same time, he remained open toward the United States and praised it for making progress with civil rights legislation in the 1950s and the 1960s. He visited the US several times during those years.

Titles and styles[change | change source]

Main article: List of titles and honours of Haile Selassie

  • 23 July 1892 – 1 November 1905: Lij Tafari Makonnen
  • 1 November 1905 – 11 February 1917: Dejazmach Tafari Makonnen
  • 11 February 1917 – 7 October 1928: Le'ul-Ras Tafari Makonnen
  • 7 October 1928 – 2 November 1930: Negus Tafari Makonnen
  • 2 November 1930 – 12 September 1974: His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Elect of God.
  • 134th Christian ruler of Ethiopia.
  • On 21 January 1965, Haile Selassie I was venerated with the title of "Defender of the Faith" by the Patriarchs of the Oriental Orthodox Churches of the World.

National orders[change | change source]

  • Chief Commander of the Order of the Star of Ethiopia (1909)
  • Grand Collar of the Order of Solomon (1930)
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Seal of Solomon
  • Grand Cordon with Collar of the Order of the Queen of Sheba
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Holy Trinity (Ethiopia)
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of Menelik II
  • Order of Fidelity

References[change | change source]

  1. britannica.com