H.I.M. EMPEROR HAILE SELLASSIE By Imru Zelleke

July 23rd, 2012 Print Print Email Email

A commemoration.

Today we commemorate the birthday of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I.

In reminiscing about Emperor Haile Selassie or any other monarch of Ethiopia, one must understand first the history, legends, fables and myths that make-up this age old institution. The Ethiopian monarchy is said to descend from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, whose progeny was Menelik I, the first King of Ethiopia. Mentioned in the Bible, whether real or mystical, this notion has been part and parcel of Ethiopian identity, traditions and an act of faith. Thus, Ethiopian monarchs have existed believing their role to be a sacred trust and a manifest personal destiny. Having been endowed with Divine power, they believed the ruler must be just and fair to all his subjects, as laid out by the canons of the Kibre Negest and Fitha Negest.
Therefore, like his predecessors Emperor Haile Sellassie and his generation grew up in this mold, believing in the ruler’s sacred duty to God and country. For instance when the 1955 Constitution was being drafted, I was secretary of the drafting committee. On one occasion a suggestion was made by one of the foreign advisers to take out the term “Elect of God” from the titles conferred to the Emperor. When I reported this to the Emperor, he said “Were it not for God’s will, how do you think I came to this position?” and he really meant it.
Having lost his mother at birth and his father in his early teens, growing up in the Imperial Court must have been very challenging for the young Prince. The entourage of loyal and wise men to whom his father entrusted his upbringing was evidently a great support to help him master and survive the byzantine intricacies of court politics. Indoctrinated in Coptic Orthodox doctrine with some influence from western Catholic educators, he was a young man living in a centuries-old political and social milieu that was confronting a twentieth-century world. A man of exceptional intelligence endowed with exceptional memory, he had visited Europe and met many statesmen from which he was exposed to new notions of governance. Although without formal education in the Western sense, he had quickly realized the importance of modernizing Ethiopia, a belief that prompted him to give priority to education throughout his life. To quote:
His premonition to the world powers who had allowed his country to be violated by the Fascists hordes that their turn will also come, remains a remarkable prophecy in modern times. While living in exile,the Emperor succeeded in maintaining the legitimacy of the Ethiopian nation, and eventually securing back her independence and sovereignty, which was no small diplomatic feat. After the liberation the reconstruction of the country was not an easy matter. Confrontation with the liberating colonial allies who wanted to make of Ethiopia a protectorate, as well as reestablishing a viable government administration in highly different and adverse conditions, offered many pitfalls that the Emperor surpassed with skill and hard work.
The Emperor was an indefatigable worker totally dedicated to his mission. From what I had observed occasionally, his day started around five in the morning and ended around midnight. He insisted that everything be reported to him by ministers, governors and department heads. All officials, big and small, were expected to report to him about their work, which allowed him to keep tight control over what went on in the country. The various functions he presided were strictly scheduled and regulated. He attended rigorously all religious and national celebrations. Every afternoon he visited hospitals, schools and attended functions where his presence was required. He presided every day over the Imperial Court of Justice. All decisions he made were after consultation with all interested parties. He was highly disciplined and punctual in the performance of his imperial duties. Gifted with an extraordinary and unique personality, he represented Ethiopia and its glorious past with dignity and honor.
Some of the salient achievements of his reign were – obtaining the Ethiopian Orthodox Church its own Patriarchy; securing Ethiopia’s independence and national integrity; gaining full international recognition and status for Ethiopia; modernizing the government administration; promulgating provincial autonomy; establishing the civil service; restoring Ethiopia’s legitimate access to the sea and returning Eritrea to the motherland; granting free education to all citizens including university; introducing a modern legal system and codification of the civil, commercial and penal codes; modernizing the police; creating a modern defense force (Army, Airforce and Navy); adopting quinquennial development plans; establishing banking and financial institutions, an airline, telecommunications, a highway authority, shipping lines, ports, a refinery, hydroelectric dams and countless other projects. All the above were achieved with a minimum reliance on foreign interference. Last but least, he conducted an independent neutral foreign policy, particularly in fostering African freedom from colonial subjugation. To quote: “Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned – well, everywhere there’s war. And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race – it’s a war. And until there’s no longer first-class or second-class citizens of any nation… Until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes – it’s a war. Until that day the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, and a rule of international morality will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained.” ― Haile Selassie

At the end he did not allow his reign to terminate in bloodshed and sorrow, for which we are all grateful. Emperor Haile Selassie was an exceptional human being and a great Ethiopian Emperor whose name will be remembered as such in the annals of World History.

  1. Tibebe Samuel
    | #1

    Dear Ambassador Imeru: First of all, I like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to list some of the great accomplishment of this great emperor of Ethiopia. His legacy has been tarnished by the people who turned our motherland in to a blood bath. People like you who have first hand information should right books about the emperor and his legacy. I have been trying to get in touch with his Excellency Dr. Minasse Haile to plead with him about writing a book not only about King Haileselassie’s legacy, but also about your generation that has done so much for our country but got no credit for it. I believe, you have a responsibility to teach us your accomplishments and the challenges that your generation faced nationally and internationally. It may not be politically correct, but it is the right thing to do. GOD BLESS YOU. I am touched and delighted.

  2. Monde
    | #2

    I second Tibe Samuel here. But I also want to add that any such endevour must attempt to attain a delicate balance both over his grand achievements which are beyond doubt and his numerous deficiencies which have been relegated to a mere footnote so far.

  3. TEKLE
    | #3

    Thanks for this – what about the emprors private business and lavish spendings – what about the corruption and greedyness of the royal family – They harvested what they planted

  4. Anonymous
    | #4

    Thank you Ambassador Imeru.
    It is unfortunate that sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have in life till they are gone. The unstable madman mass murderer Mengestu that was brainwashed by Esayas and Meles’ propaganda, didn’t have the intellectual capacity to recognize what HaileSelassie contributed to his beloved country Ethiopia. If it weren’t for the bloodthirsty dictator Mengestu and the worst of them all Meles, Ethiopia and Ethiopians wouldn’t be living in the TPLF Hellhole for the last almost forty years. May God bring deserving peace and prosperity to Ethiopia.

  5. እውነት ነው አንዱም ጠብ አይል
    | #5

    ጃንሆይን ለአገር ቀሮ ለአፍሪካ ለሰው ልጅም አልሰሩም ተራማጅ አልነበሩም በቅን አልሰሩም የሚል ሐቁን ዛሬ ያየዋል
    ዘመኑን ጦርነትና ጥቀር የክፈለውን መስዋዕትና እነዚሁ ዘራፊዎች አሁንም የሚሰሩትን ወንጀል ብታዩት

    http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/…/08/2011828135228487172.html
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYBT9gNpXUM
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKhbKSD9u0s&feature=relmfu

    አሁንም በድጋሚ አመስግኖታለሁ

  6. Anonymous
    | #6

    God bless you. To this day i remember the day i was invited to the palace with a group of students from Teferi Mekonen school in 1972 EC and recieved my diplomafrom his Majesty after passing the Matriculation Exam. Those were the days. When the news of the palace event reached Teklehaimanot woreda in addis abeba everyone congradulated me and was surprised by His Majesties accordanceof an invitation for the young generation. His majesty did that a lot.

  7. Mariam
    | #7

    I am always collecting history of Ethiopia and this piece is definitely a contribution to my knowledge. Thank you Ambassador! I read a book by Ernest Work “Ethiopia, a Pawn in European Diplomacy” written in 1933. This book provides a good documentary of the 1890s to 1914 and the challenges that the Ethiopian rulers had to face in warding off the Europeans and it provides a good explanation why none of the great powers succeeded in colonizing Ethiopia. Makes one appreciate the audacity of the people at the time without any Western education to face mighty empires and beat them at their own games.

  8. Yohannes 19
    | #8

    Ambassador Imeru; I thank you and applaud you for sharing these honorable and dignified history of ethiopians.

  9. tewbel
    | #9

    Please get Ambassador Zewde Retta’s recent Book “The Government og Haile Sellassie” “Ye Haile Sellassie Mengist” just published in Amharic.

  10. Yinegal Belulign
    | #10

    Thank you and God bless. The generation is looking a uniting lesson from the expert.

  11. Dawi
    | #11

    I know some of you shall demand to take it down but I just saw photos of Atse Haile Silassie in his finest moments at the League of Nations, the OAU..etc on no other place but, EPRDF – Ministry of Ethiopia Foreign Affairs WEB sight.

    What is going on? :-)

    http://www.mfa.gov.et/

  12. Anonymous
    | #12

    Thank You Ambassador Imeru for sharing the unforgettable legacy of H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie with us.God Bless you.

  13. love
    | #13

    By the way the TPLF and Shaebia have brainwashed the West that the Amara and Haile Selassie are bad that only Shaebia and TPLF are the friends of West. The TPLF and Shaeiba may have told the West that Amaras and Haileselassie are anti West. The West must know that haile selassie has always been ally of the West. The campaign of Shaebia to convice West to support them instead of Ethiopia is that, Ethiopia is anti colonialist and therefore anti colonialism agenda by Ethiopia will make the rest of Africans stronger so the West must go after Ethiopia as Ethiopia is seen as leader of African union since its war for anti colonialism in the past. Since the West doesn’t want China in Africa and the West want to come back to Africa, they will support such ideas from TPLF and Shaebia to weaken Ethiopia. Perhaps this explains why the West is supporting TPLF and secretly Shaebia. We Ethiopians have done diservice for Ethiopia and will not be surprised if it disintegrates or in civil war. We have gullibly silenced ourselves thinking TPLF is only doing dictatorship and nothing serious and the seceded Eritrea only wanted independent and to move on. I am afraid it could be more than that, what they need is the destruction of Ethiopia.

    @TEKLE
    Tekle,

    Are you kidding me? Even if he lives lavishly he is Emperor like any other Emperorors look around the globe. He didn’t claim to be any one else except be that. TPLF claims he stood up for uhm we know who and yet in the history of the country or even in the region has become billionaires over night. Unlike the Emperor, TPLF has been blatantly thiefs taking from the most impoverished country in the world today. Back then, Ethiopia was relatively in better position than today. Oh, not to mention today TPLF stands only for Eritrea and Tigray (the few). Nice propoganda. you will harvest what you yourslef plant also don’t forget Karma whether you believe it or not. In fact yours will be the worst.

    Anonymous,

    Indeed the unmaking of Ethiopia started by bringing the madman inferiority complex and brainwashed who lived in fear for 20 years of his reign strted since Mengistu and the rise of EPRP. The remenants of EPRP still think and want to be considered a hero writing articles on Ethio blogs such as Messay, etc. They don’t know they are in fact the ones prior to Mengistu that caused havoc by importing foreign ideology that brainwashed the TPLF and even to some extent Shaebia. Becareful what you wish for. The EPRP want to become still today relevant they want medal of honor from Ethiopians that is why their useless party that still supports TPLF still exists. The indication Ethiopians were relatively happy although there was still more work to be done under Hailese was, there were none or very few rebels. Today every brainwahsed rebel claims that muliplied today beleive they were “opressed by haile selassie”.

    Dawi,

    Of course EPRDF/TPLF uses this to pretend about Ethiopia’s history when infront of the world but in reality you are burning with jealousy of who HIM was. HIM actually embraces all ethnicity: he is Amara, Oromo, Gurage, Jew, Muslim. This is the best leader you can get. Today we ended up with ethno facsit groups such as TPLF/Meles.

    As I always mention, Ethhiopians should write our history on every warriors, Abebe bikila, emperors, churches, mosques, flash histroy, etc. There is so many books to write about Ethiopia and yet, we don’t have confindence enough to write. Are we that fearful to do that?

  14. እውነት ነው አንዱም ጠብ አይል
    | #14

    ጥቁር አፍሪካው በሁለተኛው ዓለም ጦርነት የሞተው ለማን ነበር?

    http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeracorrespondent/2011/08/2011828135228487172.html

    ታዲያ ኢትዮጵያን በኮሪያና ኮንጎ ጦርነት መዋጋትስ ክድሉ ምን ተጠቀሙ?
    ወዳጆቻችን ለኢትዮጵያ መውደቁ አገዙ ወይስ አላገዙም?

  15. God’s Man
    | #15

    H.I.M. EMPEROR HAILE SELLASSIE a great leader no doubt. His vision for Ethiopia has never been parochial most ethicist groups have been trying to implicate him. But he should have put in place structure that would endure the test of time. Independent institutions that could stand and defend themselves and the Ethiopian people. Institutions who can guide the Ethiopian peoples inspiration to fruition. But He made a mistake all institution to depend on him for their existence, and when he got weaker to lead the institutions also withered away. Had he nurtured those institutions while he was young and vibrant along everything he had been doing, we could have by now had a country prosperous and at peace. He could have secured all his achievement for centuries to come.
    That didn’t happen. We would have been the beneficiary of that achievement. Most of all More than even Him we paid dearly in our life and future. He was a good man, but he failed to see what was coming from under or has failed to chart a way forward for coming generation.Now Meles is dead or decapitated — his ethnic Babylon is about to explode still we don’t have a clear idea where we are heading although we know were we want to go. GOD HELP US

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