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Ras Tafari Makonnen (H.I.M Haile Selassie I Of Ethiopia)

In todays personality of the month we shall study the life of an african, the first and fifth chiarman of the Organisation of African Unity(now African Union), the last mornach of the Ethiopian Solomonic Dynasty and Emperor of the 20th century. He was the leader of the first african country to be a member of the the League of  Nation,
He was born Tafari Makonnen, was Ethiopia's regent from 1916 to 1930 and Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. He was the heir to a dynasty that traced its origins to the 13th century, and from there by tradition back to King Solomon and Queen Makeda, Empress of Axum, known in the Abrahamic tradition as the Queen of Sheba. Haile Selassie is a defining figure in both Ethiopian and African history. Haile Selassie is revered as the returned messiah of the Bible, God incarnate, among the Rastafari movement whose followers are estimated at between 200,000 and 800,000. Begun 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. Haile Selassie was an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian throughout his life.
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 Abajifar, daughter of the renowned Oromo ruler of Wollo province Dejazmach Ali Abajifar. His maternal grandmother was of Gurage heritage. Haile Selassie's father was Ras Makonnen Woldemikael Gudessa, the governor of Harar.  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.  his father Ras Makonnen died at Kulibi. Tafari assumed the titular governorship of Selale in 1906 at age 14, a realm of marginal importance ,but one that enabled him to continue his studies. 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 Woizero Altayech, and that from this union, his daughter Romanework Haile Selassie was born.
Tafari was made governor of Harar . he later married Menen Asfaw of Ambassel, niece of heir to the throne Lij Iyasu. In 1916, 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  and became the de facto ruler of the Ethiopian Empire while the Empress Zewditu who took over power would govern while Tafari would administer.During his Regency, the new Crown Prince developed the policy of cautious modernization initiated by Menelik II. He secured Ethiopia's admission to the League of Nations in 1923 by promising to eradicate slavery. on 7 October 1928, the empress crowned Tafari as Negus (Amharic: "King").and on the  2nd of  April 1930 the Empress died suddenly, the causes of death was not clear as there were conflicting reports. 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", and it was attended by royals and dignitaries from all over the world. Among those in attendance were George V's son Prince Henry, Marshal Franchet d'Esperey of France, and the Prince of Udine representing Italy. Emissaries from the United States, Egypt, Turkey, Sweden, Belgium, and Japan were also present. British author Evelyn 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
During the early years of his reign as emperor he implemented:

  • a penal code
  • imported printing presses
  • started a national newspaper
  • made electricity widely available
  • connected phone service
  • promoted health care
  • established the Bank of Ethiopia

  • Italian invasion

    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 AdowaEthiopia'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.
    In 1936, he went on exile to the United Kingdom after the Italian troops took over Ethiopia, Haile Selassie spent his exile years (1936–1941) in Bath, it was during this period he wrote his 90,000-word  biography.
    Return and Defeat of Italy
      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. On 18 January 1941, during the East African Campaign, Haile Selassie crossed the border between Sudan and Ethiopia near the village of Um Iddla.  Italy was defeated by a force of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of Nations, Free France, Free 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.

    Revolution And Imprisonment           
    In February 1974, four days of serious riots in Addis against a sudden economic inflation left five dead. The emperor responded by announcing on national television a rollback of gasoline 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. 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, 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, 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. Later, most of the imperial family was imprisoned in the Addis Ababa prison Kerchele, also known as "Alem Bekagne", or "Goodbye, cruel world". 
    On 23 November 1974, sixty former high officials of the imperial government were executed without trial. The executed included Haile Selassie's grandson and two former Prime Ministers. 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.
    Death and interment
                    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 operation. His doctor, Asrat Woldeyes, denied that complications had occurred and rejected the government version of his death. Some imperial loyalists believed that the emperor had in fact been assassinated, and this belief remains widely held to this day. Court testimony given by the emperor's servants, however, indicates that they were ordered to leave his rooms for the night, and that they returned in the morning to find him dead in his bed, with a strong chemical smell in the room.They further testified that the emperor had been in perfect health the night before when they had left him. Professor Asrat Woldeyes also testified that his patient had completely recovered from the effects of the surgery and that there had been no complications. The Soviet-backed Derg fell in 1991. In 1992, the emperor's bones were found under a concrete slab on the palace grounds; 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 imperial resting place. On 5 November 2000, Haile Selassie was given an imperial-style funeral by the Ethiopian Orthodox church.     CONTROVERSY   
      when the name rastafari is mentioned, the first thing that comes to your mind is the Rastafarian religion and reggea music that popularised rastafarianism all around the world. 
    Rastafari faith in the incarnate divinity of Haile Selassie began after news reports of his coronation reached Jamaica, particularly via the two Time magazine articles on the coronation the week before and the week after the event. The impoverished blacks in jamaica who had been victims of the slave era of the late 18th century, sought solace in a communual brotherhood, that comprised mainly of peasant farmers and ex-slaves. In dire need of leadership and political emacipation from their then colonial masters, several figures like Alerxander Bustamante,Marcus Garvey,Norman Manley rose up.Their political ideas and agitation help to secure their independence.     
            It was during this period that the rastafari movement began, not initially called ratafari movement, but the group that later became known as rastafari movement was actually a black liberation group, that followed the political ideology and philosophy of Marcus Garvey. Marcus Garvey was a radical , black nationalist leader that inspired blacks all over the world. Garvey believed that all black people should return back to their rightful homeland Africa.   
          In one of his speeches in 1920, he said, "Look to africa, when a black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is at hand". This very sentence is what caused the grand confusion of the group and inspired the rastafarianism. They believed Garvey made a prophecy, which was fufilled when Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned emperor in 1930. And the group kicked off afterwards.  
           Did Garvey prophesy, that Ras Tafari Makonnen was going to be crowned ? or was he inspiring a group of oppressed black folks to look at themselves for liberation.         The rastafari also claim, he is the Incarnate of Jesus christ. But is this man the incarnation of Jesus Christ? Jesus clearly stated in the book of revelation "... I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last..."(rev 1:11), thus putting to rest the event of another christ, Jesus was the first and last christ, there is none before him and there would be none after him. Ras Tafari Mokenna was a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, he believed in Jesus Christ and after his visit to Jamaica in 1966, he dispatched Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq Mandefro to the Caribbean to help draw Rastafarians and other West Indians to the Ethiopian church.He wanted to convert the confused rastafarians.  
           Ras Tafari Mokenna never smoked hemp or carried dreadlock. He was an educated leader that spoke with a clean brithish accent and not patwa or broken English. He was a fine gentleman that stood for his people. it is wrong to associate him with rastafarianism and indian hemp.     
         He refuted the claim that he was Jesus incarnate, " 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)           This group has soiled the image of this great african leader, with their hemp induced fantasies. The coming generation would have to dig deep to uncover the true image of Emperror Haile Selassie that has being battered and rammed from all sides by rastafarianism, reggea music, BOB MARLEY and his cohorts, that has reduced all he stands for to hemp and dreadlocks.    
           Ras Tafari Mokenna may be dead and gone, but he sure left his foot prints in the sands of africa for all time....Even in death you are a true Ras, we thus salute!

     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.

    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?
                           — Interview with Bill McNeil. 

    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."
    — in response to accusations by dissidents I have heard of that idea [i.e., of Haile Selassie being the reincarnation of Jesus Christ]. 

      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 

      Ras Tafari Makonnen And His Pet


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