Haile Selassie
(1892-1975)

Born Tafari Makonnen in Ethiopia he married into the country's royal family in 1917 becoming Prince (Ras) Tafari, regent and heir to the throne. In 1930 he ascended to the position of Emperor, the 111th emperor in the succession of King Solomon, whereupon he took the name Haile Selassie, meaning "Might of the Trinity."

In the years prior to his being crowned king Selassie established himself as a progressive moderniser of this ancient domain, improving healthcare, the rule of law, social services and worked to abolish the existing slave trade along the country's coast and in 1931 established the first Ethiopian constitution, thoroughly concentrating power around him. loyalty to his reign was established via social works and suppression of any social revolts.

The problems began for Selassie in 1935 when the Italian army based in neighbouring Eritrea invaded Ethiopia. Despite condemnation by the League of Nations no action was taken and this allowed Mussolini (qv) to push forward, eventually seizing the entire kingdom and forcing the Emperor into exile. He returned to the country at the head of a multinational army with mostly British support in May 1941 but fighting with the Italians continued until the following January

His years of bureaucratic advice from Britain reinforced the need in Selassie's mind for a solid tax base. His first attempt at levying this base was calling for a flat tax based on the quality of land owned. This was rejected by the established gentry with a compromised tithe introduced in its place. A new constitution was established in 1955 which strengthened his central role while also enshrining universal rights to free assembly, speech and due process.

While the landed gentry surely disliked the reform for some its pace was not quite quick enough and a coup was launched in the capital Adiss Ababa in December 1960. The Emperor successfully put this down on his return to the country (he had been on one of his many trips abroad when it took place) but this seemed to reinforce the frailty of his position and the lack of any tangible progress in the following years combined with a severe famine in 1972 led to a second, and this time successful, coup in January 1974.

In the months immediately afterward a group of about 120 army officers calling themselves the Derg - or committee - began arresting members of the aristocracy and while proclaiming loyalty to the Emperor consigned him to house (actually palace) arrest and stripped him of all virtually power. Selassie's estate was nationalised in August and on 12th September he was formally arrested, being charged with failing to address the 1972 famine properly. In August 1975 the King of Kings, the Lion of Judah, the Might of the Trilogy died in his bed. The official Derg line is that he perished from natural causes but the rumour persists that he was strangled by his successor and head of the Derg Haile Mariam Menghistu

Length of Rule - Thirty Nine years

Related Links

The Ultimate Rastifari resource

Books

The Dark Valley

Piers Brendon

Read thedictatorship.com review

Haile Selassie I

Harold G Marcus

Buy this book Buy this book
Back to Index page