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Emperor Haile Selassie


Emperor Haile SelasseBorn on 23 July 1892, Emperor Haile Selasse was known as Tafari Mekonnen prior to his coronation on 2 November 1930. He was a great-grandson of Sahle Selassie of Shewa and the son of Ras Makonnen, a chief adviser to Emperor Menilek II. Haile Selasse’s wife Empress Menen was also a great-granddaughter of Menilek II.

Haile Selassie was a progressive emperor who sought to modernize his country and who steered Ethiopia into the mainstream of post-World War II African politics.

He engineered Ethiopia's entry into the League of Nations in 1923, reasoning that collective security would protect Ethiopia from colonial aggression. Upon the end of World War II in 1945, Haile Selassie made Ethiopia one of the founding members of the United Nations. And most importantly, Haile Selassie presided over the establishment of the Organization of African Unity in 1963 and made Addis Ababa the headquarters of this organization, which earned him the name "the father of Africa".


From the 16th century right up to the 19th, Ethiopian slaves were sold across the world in what is known as the Ethiopian Slave Trade and it was Haile Selassie who abolished this practice in the early 1920s. He sought to modernize the many institutions of Ethiopia and made practical attempts to take the country into a market economy.


In 1924 he visited Rome, Paris and London, becoming the first Ethiopian ruler ever to go abroad. Rastafarians, mainly in Jamaica, consider Haile Selassie to be a divine being, the Messiah, and the champion of the black race who would lead the peoples of Africa and the African diaspora to freedom.


Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown in 1974, which effectively ended Ethiopia's longstanding Solomonic Dynasty and was killed on 27 August 1975 at the age of 85 by the Marxist regime who had taken power a year earlier. The state media in 1975 reported that Haile Selassie had died on 27 August of "respiratory failure" following complications from a prostate operation.


In 1992, the emperor's remains were exhumed from under a concrete slab near a lavatory inside the official government palace. And on 5 November 2000, Haile Selassie’s remains were buried at a funeral ceremony attended by some members of the former royal family and international dignitaries at the Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa.