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EMPEROR HAILE SELASSIE

Emperor Haile Selassie Emperor Haile Selassie

Emperor Haile Selassie is considered one of Africa's mightiest leaders. The fact that Ethiopia remains the only African nation to have escaped the wrath of European colonialists is attributed to the Emperor's tremendous might, which was best demonstrated during the Italo-Ethiopian war of 1935, where he almost miraculously resisted Mussolini and his mighty Italian army. By virtue of this, Ethiopia became the oldest country on the African continent.

Emperor Selassie remains quite a celebrated figure in Africa, even enjoying religious following in certain quarters. The Rastafari movement, first popularized by Jamaican Reggae legend Bob Marley, was built around the emperor's person, and in fact borrows from the Emperor's birth name Tafari. The Emperor enjoys quite a rich family heritage, with roots tracing back to none other than the Biblical Great King Solomon of Israel. Born Tafari Makonnen on July 23rd 1892 in the town of Ejarsa Gora, he is believed to be one of the descendants of King Solomon and Queen Makeda of Sheba. He thus joins a long list of Ethiopians claiming Jewish ancestry, and is the reason why most Rastafarians and Reggae artists often refer to the 12th Tribe of Israel.

Tafari became a Provincial Governor when he was only 14. When he attained the age of 25, he was designated Ras(meaning Prince), and became the heir apparent to the throne. Shortly before he became Emperor, he adopted the name Haile Selassie I. Selassie was the last name of his great grandfather. Haile Selassie means Might of the Trinity. During the 1930's, still early into his reign, Selassie is on record as having played a major pioneering role in establishing infrastructure vital to the development of his Ethiopian nation. He is credited for instance, with drafting the first constitution for Ethiopia. He also paved way for the development of newspapers, transport and communications infrastructure, and founded the Bank of Ethiopia, which introduced paper currency in Ethiopia.

On October 3rd 1935, without a Declaration of War, Benito Mussolini of Italy ordered his forces to attack Ethiopia, to add on to neighbouring African countries Somalia and Eritrea, that Italy had already occupied. At the time Mussolini attacked, it was a gone conclusion in the minds of many what the outcome of this invasion would be. Nobody in their right-thinking mind would have even envisioned a spirited military engagement between an African country and a major European military power. But Emperor Selassie proved everybody wrong when he put up a well orchestrated millitary resistance to the Italian aggression. A mission the Italians had anticipated would last several days ended up being a protracted war lasting several months, seriously embarassing Italy's "strongman" Musolini. In May 1936, as pressure built up on Selassie and his forces, he fled into exile after which the Italians momentarily gained control over Ethiopia. While on Exile, Selassie thought it wise to continue fighting the Italians using Diplomatic channels rather than engaging them militarily. On 30th June 1936, while in exile, Selassie addressed the League of Nations in Geneva and succeeded in convincing both the U.S and the Soviet Union not to recognize Italy's occupation of Ethiopia. France and Britain however went on and recognized Italy's occupation of Ethiopia.

Italy's position with its European friends changed dramatically in the early 1940s when it alligned itself with Germany during World War II. The British, previously strong supporters of Italy, suddenly became opposed to their occupation of Ethiopia and began working with Emperor Selassie to kick them out. On May 5th 1941, with the assistance of the British, Selassie made a triumpahnt return to Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, 5 years after the Italian occupation began. It didnt take long however for the jubilant Emperor to realise that an even harder work of rebuilding a nation shattered by war lay squarely before him. In an effort to restore order and curb lawlessness, he instituted a very strict legal system which was regarded by some of his subjects as a dictatorship. Reports indicate that he presided over courts similar to those of his legendary ancestor King Solomon. His verdicts were final and were carried out immediately, including death sentences. This practice lasted until 13th December 1960, when a section of Ethiopians, dissatisfied by the way the Emperor ruled the country staged a coup. The coup comprising mainly intellectuals and lacking the much needed blessings of the military failed. However 14 year later, on 12th September 1974, the military got involved and Emperor Selassie's regime was overthrown. The Emperor was captured and placed under house arrest in a palace in Addis Ababa. The brave Emperor is reported to have said on the day of his capture, If the revolution is good for the people, then I am for the revolution.

On August 27th 1975, while still under house arrest, an announcement was made of Selassie's death due to circulatory failure. It later turned out that he had been assasinated by strangulation, on orders of the military regime that had taken over from him. His body was placed in a makeshift grave underneath a lavatory. In 1992 however his remains were exhumed and placed in a mausoleum as a sign of respect for the Great Ethiopian Emperor. AfricanTribute salutes The Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie and hopes his soul rests in eternal peace.

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