Haile Selassie

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Haile Selassie, around 1965

Haile Selassie I. ( Amharic ቀዳማዊ ኃይለ ሥላሴ , Qädamawi Haylä Səllase, German literally “Power of the Trinity, the First”; *  July 23, 1892 as Täfäri Mäkʷännən ( ተፈሪ መኰንን ) in Edjersso , Ethiopia ; †  August 27, 1975 in Addis Ababa , Ethiopia) was initially regent (1916–1930) and then the last emperor of Abyssinia (1930–1936 and 1941–1974). His ruler title was Neguse Negest (German "King of Kings") and he called himself the 225th successor of King Solomon . His prince name was Lij-a Ras Täfäri Mäkonnen ( ልጅ ራስ ተፈሪ መኰንን ). Haile Selassie is revered by the Rastafarian faith as the returned Messiah .


Täfäri Makonnen with his father Ras Makonnen Woldemikael, around 1900
Täfäri Makonnen at the age of three, 1895
Haile Selassie, photographed by Walter Mittelholzer , 1934
The Imperial Palace, the "Great Gibi" from the air, 1934
Haile Selassie in his Addis Ababa office, around 1942

Haile Selassie was born in the Ethiopian province of Hararghe , east of the capital Addis Ababa , as the son of the local governor (see Ras ) and was given the name Täfäri Makonnen. His parents were Oromo , his paternal grandmother Amharin . Through them he claimed to be part of the Solomonic dynasty (i.e. the imperial family).

In his youth he was governor of small areas. Whether and to what extent Täfäri Makonnen was directly involved in the deposition of his third degree nephew, Iyasu V. , is a matter of dispute . Iyasu was the designated but uncrowned emperor of Ethiopia since 1913. After a putsch by the Christian Orthodox aristocracy against Iyasu V because of his Islamic-friendly policies, Täfäri Makonnen was declared crown prince on September 27, 1916. Iyasu's aunt Zauditu became empress, but did not interfere in daily politics. As Balemulu 'Inderase (Plenipotentiary Regent), Makonnen was responsible for administering the country. At his instigation, Ethiopia became a member of the League of Nations in 1923 . However, he commented on the modernization he was continuing with the words: “We only need European progress because we are surrounded by it. That is both an advantage and a misfortune. "

In 1928 the conflict between the conservative camp, which Empress Zauditu supported, and the liberal nobles escalated. When Balcha Safo, the governor of Sidamo , delivered too few taxes, Makonnen summoned him to Addis Ababa. However, Balcha Safo did not come to the capital alone, but brought a large army and only met with the empress. Makonnen, snubbed, initiated the removal of Safos. Safo's rebellion gave Empress Zauditu the opportunity to use military pressure to accuse Makonnen of treason - among other things because he had recently concluded a twenty-year peace treaty with Italy . In September 1928, conservative forces tried to finally overthrow Makonnen - the attempted coup turned into a disaster. The people, the police and the military supported Täfäri Makonnen, consequently the empress lost even more power. On October 7, 1928 Makonnen was crowned king (Amharic Negus ).

After another uprising, led by her husband, was put down in 1930, Empress Zauditu died. On November 2, 1930 Makonnen was under the name of Haile Selassie I. emperor (Amharic Neguse Negest, from German "King of Kings") Ethiopia crowned. As early as July 1931, as part of the modernization process, he passed the country's first constitution, the 1931 Constitution of the Abyssinian Empire , which formally converted the country into a constitutional monarchy , but actually consolidated its absolute position of power.

After the attack by the Italian army under Benito Mussolini in the Italo-Ethiopian War between 1935 and 1936, he fled to Great Britain , from where he led the Ethiopian resistance. On January 24, 1941, he returned to Addis Ababa with British support. As a politician, he ushered in an era of social and economic modernization in Germany, but retained absolute rule and did not allow any significant political opposition. On the political level, he tried to establish a national state similar to the European model , an undertaking that was based on a linguistic-cultural amharization, especially of the southern Oromo ethnic groups . The elite of his ruling apparatus was based on Amharic and Amharized Orom officials, nobles and generals. Haile Selassie enjoyed a high reputation abroad as the head of state of the oldest African country, a founding member of the United Nations and was the gray eminence and figure of integration of the African continent in the decolonization phase . Nevertheless, several wars fell during his term of office, including with Somalia around the border area of ​​the Ogaden and against separatists in the former Italian colony Eritrea , which had been a federal part of Ethiopia since the end of World War II and 1950, but was then downgraded by the emperor to an administrative province. In November 1954, Haile Selassie was the first foreign head of state ever to pay an official state visit to the young Federal Republic of Germany . On April 21, 1966, Selassie first visited Jamaica , where he was received by hundreds of thousands of followers of the Rastafarian religion at Norman Manley International Airport . His visit is said to have ended a dry season and brought rain to the island, which had previously been plagued by drought, which among other things contributed to the rise and recognition of Selassie as the Messiah.

At the beginning of the 1970s, the population, especially the students, became increasingly dissatisfied with the power of the emperor, who was not ready for any reform of the conservative-aristocratic state structure, which was shown in the parliamentary elections in Ethiopia in 1973 . This dissatisfaction, together with an acute deterioration in the food supply of the rural population, led to violent protests by students at Haile Selassie University (now Addis Ababa University ) and other universities in 1974, and finally to the revolution, in the course of which the demand for a parliamentary monarchy was swift under the leadership of the captain and later Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam gave way to a Marxist-Leninist doctrine. After a military coup, the emperor had to abdicate on September 12, 1974 and died soon afterwards under arrest under unknown circumstances. His great-nephew Asfa Wossen Asserate wrote in his memoirs that Haile Selassie had been suffocated with his pillow.

The later dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam had Selassie's body walled up under a toilet. Only after the end of communist rule was the funeral made up in 2000.

Conclusion of the political work

Asfa-Wossen Asserate , the great-nephew of Haile Selassie, summarizes his political work in the epilogue of his biography of the emperor:

  • he was "a child of the late 19th century", his education rudimentary by European standards; "Everything that went beyond that, [he] appropriated himself autodidactically";
  • his path to power was "stony and bloody";
  • he led his country "from the Middle Ages into the modern age";
  • he was full of good will to serve his country and achieved "historical successes", namely resisting Italian fascism and thereby securing Ethiopia's unity and independence;
  • he was a "brilliant foreign politician" and had "played a major role in the decolonization of Africa";
  • he was "no longer up to the challenges ... of the second half of the 20th century";
  • he lacked the insight "that a modern state ... can no longer be governed in a paternalistic and autocratic manner ...";
  • it was "unthinkable for him to share power"; he had "deeply distrusted the people around him" and was "unable to delegate decisions";
  • he made "no distinction between skin color, ethnicity, class and religion", for him the "unconditional loyalty of his subjects" to him was decisive;
  • there had been "fundamental failures and ... stagnation in the country for decades";
  • in "the last decades of his rule it seemed that [the emperor's] main focus was no longer on the development of his country, but on securing his own power";
  • until the end he failed to “pass the scepter on to the next generation”.

Before history was judged, his "services to Ethiopia would outweigh the great flaws that he undoubtedly possessed."


Two daughters of the emperor in the palace park, 1934

His son, the Crown Prince Asfa Wossen (see Amha Selassie I ), was involved in a coup against him as early as 1960, and in 1973 his grandson Iskander Desta , then Commander in Chief of the Ethiopian Navy , tried again to force a coup. In 1974 Haile Selassie appointed another grandson, Asfa Wossen's son Zere Yacobe Selassie , as the new heir to the throne. His grandson, Ermias Sahle Selassie, is now President of the Ethiopian Privy Council .

He had a daughter with his first wife Altayech:

  • Princess Romana Worq († October 14, 1940)

With his second wife, Empress Menen II , he had six children:

  • Princess Tenagne Worq (born January 30, 1913, † April 6, 2003)
  • Prince Asfa Wossen (* July 27, 1916, † February 17, 1997)
  • Princess Zannaba Worq (* July 25, 1918, † March 25, 1933)
  • Princess Tsahai Worq (born October 13, 1919, † August 17, 1942)
  • Prince Makonnen (born October 16, 1923, † May 13, 1957)
  • Prince Sahle Selassie (born February 27, 1931, † April 24, 1962)


The Rastafarian movement (whose name is derived from its original name Ras Täfäri Makonnen), which is mainly represented in the Caribbean , regards Haile Selassie as the Messiah . When he was on a state visit to Jamaica on April 21, 1966 (since then celebrated as Grounation Day ) , he was "recognized" by supporters of the Rastafarian movement. The messianic role within this movement goes next to the role of Ethiopian history (as the only genuinely independent African state until 1957) to the legendary descent of the first Ethiopian emperor Menelik I from the Israelite king Solomon , who in turn is one of the ancestors of Jesus according to the Bible , and the Queen of Sheba (see Axum ) back. Under the honorary title Lion of Judah , he finds godlike veneration among some Rastafarians because they see him as the returned Savior announced in the Bible. The expressions chosen of God and the victorious lion of Judas are not, as is often assumed, the coronation titles of Selassies, but part of a creed with which the Ethiopian emperors traditionally introduced their letters. The colors of the Ethiopian national flag (green, yellow, red) are both the pan-African colors and the colors of the Rastafarian movement.

Awards (selection)


  • My Life & Ethiopias Progress. Autobiography. Research Associates School Times Publications, Chicago 1997, ISBN 0-948390-39-5 .


  • Christian Potyka : Haile Selassie. The Negus Negesti in peace and war. Dissertation. Osang, Bad Honnef 1974.
  • Ryszard Kapuściński : King of Kings. Eichborn, Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-8218-4708-5 .
  • Gerald Steinacher (Ed.): Between Duce, Führer and Negus. South Tyrol and the Abyssinian War 1935–1941. Bolzano 2006, ISBN 978-88-8266-399-5 .
  • Daniel KW Trepsdorf: "When the ruler gets up, the country comes to a standstill". The example of Haile Selassie as a parable of an African loss of power. In: Michael Meißner, Katarina Nebelin, Marian Nebelin (eds.): Elites after the loss of power? Case studies on the transformation of elites in times of crisis. Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-86573-665-9 , pp. 175-198.
  • Asfa-Wossen Asserate : The last emperor of Africa: Triumph and tragedy of Haile Selassie. Propylaen, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-549-07428-2 ( review by H-Soz-Kult , review of the English-language edition in the Guardian ).


Web links

Commons : Haile Selassie  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Christoph Plate: Last rest for the lion in: Berliner Zeitung , queried on June 21, 2012
  2. David Hamilton Shinn, Thomas P. Ofcansky: Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia . Scarecrow Press, 2004, ISBN 0-8108-6566-1 , pp. 265 .
  3. ^ Joel Augustus Rogers: The Real Facts about Ethiopia . 1936, p. 27 .
  4. When Emperor Haile Selassie went to Jamaica on this day in 1966. Retrieved June 4, 2020 (American English).
  5. ^ Ryszard Kapuściński: The emperor: downfall of an autocrat . London 1978.
  6. A prince from the house of David: And why he stayed in Germany. Asfa Wossen Asserate's memories . Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2007.
  7. Christoph Plate: Last rest for the lion in: Berliner Zeitung , queried on June 21, 2012
  8. See literature, 2nd edition Berlin 2014, p. 359 ff.
  9. die-tagespost.de ( Memento of the original dated February 8, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Article by Asfa-Wossen Asserate, a descendant of Haile Selassie, in the daily mail @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.die-tagespost.de
  10. Jean Schoos : The medals and decorations of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the former Duchy of Nassau in the past and present. Publishing house of Sankt-Paulus Druckerei AG. Luxembourg 1990. ISBN 2-87963-048-7 . P. 343.
  11. ein-tag-in-belgrad.com: The honorary citizen of Belgrade ( Memento of 30 June 2017 Internet Archive )
predecessor Office successor

Viktor Emanuel III.
Emperor of Ethiopia

Victor Emmanuel III
Amha Selassie I.