Posted by: mmeazaw | July 28, 2010

Haile Selassie I

Haile Selassie I (1892-1975), last emperor of Ethiopia (1930-74).  Born near Hârer on July 23, 1892, and originally named Tafari Makonnen, Selassie was a grandnephew of Emperor Menelik II. In 1916 he ousted Menelik’s successor, Lij Iyasu, replacing him with Zauditu, the old emperor’s daughter, and made himself regent. When Zauditu died in 1930, he succeeded her, taking the name Haile Selassie I, which means “Might of the Trinity.” His other titles included Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God, and King of Kings.

In 1931 Selassie granted his subjects a constitution. Although limited, it established a Parliament and a court system; all formal power, however, remained with the emperor. In 1935 the Italians invaded Ethiopia, and Selassie, after attempting to resist them and making an impressive but vain plea for help before the League of Nations, went into exile in England in May 1936. There he helped the British plan the campaign that led to the liberation of Ethiopia and his return to power in 1942. The emperor then began rebuilding his war-torn country. Among his accomplishments were a major land reform (1942 and 1944), emancipation of slaves (1942), and a revised and somewhat broadened constitution (1955) that provided for universal suffrage.

An attempt to overthrow Selassie in 1960 was quickly aborted by loyalist factions. By 1974, however, worsening conditions-corruption in government, inflation, drought, starvation, and his hesitancy in dealing with these and other emergencies-led to a revolt by the army and Selassie’s removal from power. He was formally deposed in September 1974 and died in Addis Ababa on August 27, 1975.


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