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Haile SelassieKing of Kings,Conquering Lion of thetribe of Judah

23.01.2010 08:14 EST
Joseph CardilloApril, 1998Haile SelassieKing of Kings, Lord ofLordsConquering Lion of thetribe of JudahWhen Ras TafariMakonnen took theimperial throne in Ethiopiain 1930 as Haile Selassie I,a new movement wasborn in Jamaica. Thecrowning of a Black King?Was this not what MarcusGarvey told his Jamaicanfollowers fifteen yearsearlier when he said"Lookto Africa for the crowningof a Black King; he shall bethe Redeemer"(BARRETT 81)?Selassie would prove tobe one of Ethiopia's mostnoble leaders. He pushededucation for his people.He made a valiant effort todrag Ethiopia out of itsstagnant state of unpavedroads, minimal schools,very little education andno say in internationalaffairs. He looked andcarried himself like a king.The Ethiopian Emperortraditionally took the titleKing of Kings, Lion of thetribe of Judah as a title.There are over seventydifferent ethnic groupswithin Ethiopia'smountains. The dominantgroup were the Amharas.Selassie was an Amharic,and the governmenttraditionally waspredominantly Amharic.The people of Jamaica in1930 were in a hopelesssituation. They had beenexploited from the firstdays of slavery on theisland. There wereminimal opportunities forimprovement. With suchBiblical inferences and acontrast to the leading,predominantly white,governments of theworld, it is not hard tobelieve that a people ofsuch strong faith wouldaccept this new Emperoras their living savior. TheRastafarians were bornout of desperation. Theyhad nothing and weregoing no where. HaileSelassie was a symbol tothem that the black mancould be strong, contraryto what they saw in theirown country. Ethiopiawas a black nation thathad been independent forthousands of years,despite its Africanneighbors (with theexception of Liberia). Ithad been ruled by blackemperors who ruled blacksubjects. Haile Selassiewas also believed to bedescended from the lineof David by Solomon.This only added to theJamaicans belief that hewas their savior. Whetheror not he was the secondcoming, Christ himself orjust related to Christthrough his heritage.Haile Selassie was not theinfallible savior that thesepeople saw from theirisland in the Caribbean,however. As true withmost governments andmonarchies, Selassie'sgovernment had its dealof corruption. Althoughthey placed their faith in anoble King, the Jamaicanswere disillusioned aboutthe man they believed tobe their savior.The old Ethiopian legendof the Kebra Negast tellsthe story of the Queen ofSheba's visit to Solomon'smighty kingdom to learnthe secrets of being agreat leader. While in hiskingdom the Queen ofSheba bore Solomon ason, to which Solomongave a jeweled ring toprove his descent fromthe seed of David. TheQueen of Sheba returnedto her land in, thensouthern Ethiopia, what istoday Somalia, with herson to continue to rule theland (GORHAM 9).Between two hundredand three hundred kingsare believed to have ruledbetween the time ofSolomon and HaileSelassie, the last emperorof Ethiopia.Believed to have beendescended from the seedof David, Tafari Makonnenwas born July 23, 1892 inthe city of Harar in theeastern province ofHarege (KALEIDOSCOPE).His mother died twoyears after his birth, andshortly after that hiscountry was engaged in awar with the Italians. TheEthiopian army defeatedthe Italians at the battle ofAdwa in 1896 (GORHAM4), a fate that would bereversed a forty yearslater. It was at this battlethat Tafari's father, RasMakonnen, fought so loyalnext to Emperor Menelikthat the Emperor sworetheir friendship in thehopes of passing thethrone to Ras Makonnenwhen Menelik's time hadcome.Contrary to popularEthiopian tradition, RasMakonnen insisted on adecent education for hisson Lij Tafari."Lij", like theterm"Ras", is an Ethiopiantitle given to people ofroyal blood, except it isgenerally used the lesspowerful men.Fortunately, Makonnensaw to this educationearly because in 1906 hetook ill and died (GORHAM26) leaving his fourteenyear old son to be raisedin the house of Menelik.The death of his fatherremoved young Lij Tafarias a candidate foremperor.Taking the throne withouthis father's help wasgoing to be hard enoughfor Tafari, but he was alsofaced with competition.Menelik's wife, Taitu,wanted to be crownedEmpress, the first femaleruler of Ethiopia since theQueen of Sheba. RasMikael, husband of one ofMenelik's daughters,wanted his son, Lij Yasu,to take the throne.The Emperor, anxious tosee Lij Tafari live up to hisfather's stature and takethe throne when the timecame, made the youngman, now of seventeenyears, Governor of thesouthern province ofSidamo. He won the trustof the people and, moreimportantly, the Emperor.After holding this positionfor eighteen months, LijTafari received word thathe had been madeGovernor of Harar in theprovince of Harege, hishomeland (GORHAM 36).It was around this timethat Lij Tafari found a wifeand was ready to marry.Through the EthiopianCoptic Church he marriedWaizero Menin at the ageof 19. His wife was thecousin of his rival, LijYasu.In 1907, Menelik suffered astroke and as a resultformed the Council ofMinisters to aid him in hisdecisions, especially as hishealth was failing(CLAPHAM 15). His wife,Queen Taitu, tookadvantage of hisweakened state andconvinced him to namethe adolescent Lij Yasu assuccessor (GORHAM 4 1).The Queen pushed forYasu with the intention ofeasily controlling him andhis regent, Ras Tasamma.Ethiopia went through aseries of trials andtribulations during thisperiod in its history.When Menelik tookcontrol in the latenineteenth century, hecentralized thegovernment and madethe Rases who ruled theindividual provincesrespect the authority ofthe King of Kings. This, ineffect, reduced the powerof these Rases. When theyoung successor wasnamed, these Rases werehungry to get that powerback.Aside from the internalpower struggles Ethiopiawas experiencing, it hadother problems. Britain,France, Italy, Germanyand the Turkish Empirewere all looking at Ethiopiawith greedy eyes. Thecountry would soon facethe threat of Islamicconversion and thepossibility of civil war.Lij Yasu would prove tobe a poor choice for thethrone of Ethiopia. He wasmore interested in theslave trade and theMuslim religion than hisown country's affairs.While Lij Tafari had spenta good deal of hisupbringing reading books,Lij Yasu spent it drinkingtej, a native Ethiopiandrink.Menelik could see the evilinherent in Yasu andrefused to crown himEmperor. Yasu reducedhis opposition byarresting some of thehead Rases that opposedhim. Yasu also madeattempts on Selassie's life,and assassinated manyother Rases.Yasu increasingly listenedto and met with theMohemmedan Chieftains.It became apparent thathe intended to changeEthiopia, one of the oldestChristian states, into aMuslim nation (GORHAM5 1). Yasu's popularitywas quickly fading.Under pressure from theChurch, the Council ofMinisters declared a newsuccessor to the throne ofEthiopia. Menelik'sdaughter, Zauditu,became Empress with RasTafari as her regent. LijYasu wasexcommunicated anddenounced from anyposition of power(GORHAM 59). Heremained at large and,with his father, madeseveral attempts to regaincontrol, none of whichsucceeded.Tafari was finally incontrol of Ethiopia in 1916.Although he was notEmperor yet, heessentially ran the countryfor the next sixty years.Queen Taitu soon diedand the rest of Tafari'senemies were thrown injail. Zauditu, however,could see that Tafari washungry for the throne,and plotted against him.The Minister of War,Hapta Giorgis, and theArchbishop Matteo bothbelieved in and supportedTafari but kept his modernideas under control.From the beginning, RasTafari pushed thedevelopment of Ethiopiaand stressed theimportance of education.The Ethiopians hadsteered away from thisdirection for thousands ofyears, avoiding thedreaded ferengi(foreigners) and theirways of life. Sadly,education was viewed asone of the ferengi's ways,and so more than ninety-nine percent of theEthiopian population atthat time was illiterate(GORHAM 73). Educationwas also kept from thepeople because once aculture learned to read orwrite, it was only one stepfurther to be able to think.This was a way ofensuring power to thosein control, and keeping itfrom those not in control.It was an Amharic trait tohoard power and to keepit from those that didn'thave it. Ethiopia still hadhundreds of thousands ofslaves. Addis Ababa,founded less than ageneration before RasTafari came into Menelik'scourt, was a mere mudvillage with no pavedroads. There were nohighways or railroads thatconnected Ethiopia. Whatis worse is that there wasa severe lack ofprofessional men: noengineers, no doctors, noteachers, no educatedmen or women.World War I came to anend and the League ofNations had beendeveloped. Ras Tafaripushed Ethiopia onto theinternational level when itwas accepted to theLeague of Nations in 1924(GORHAM 74). After beingaccepted with some of thegreatest powers in theworld Ras Tafari took itupon himself to see thewhat Europe was trulylike. He visited Londonand Paris delivering lionsas gifts to the King ofEngland and the King ofFrance.Ras Tafari was impressedby what he saw in theseforeign lands. What ismore is that he nowrecognized theimportance of education.If Ethiopia was to pull itselfout of the dark ages, itwould have to educateitself. He saw the pavedroads, and the grandbuildings that these oldtowns had built over theyears. Tafari wanted thesame for his country. Hepushed reform harderthan before and theabolition of slavery wasadded to the list.Hapta Giorgis and theArchbishop, two of thehead figures that werestanding in Tafari's way ofreform, died within a fewmonths of each other.Tafari quickly moved hismen into Giorgis'sterritory before theEmpress could act, andfreed the slaves of thatprovince (GORHAM 79).Now the only person thatstood in his way ofreform was the Empress.Zauditu could see Tafariclosing in on her. Sheplotted against him andstirred up dissent amongthe Imperial Guard. Bykeeping his cool and beingpatient, a characteristicthat would result in manyof Tafari's victories, hewon the respect of theGuard and crushedZauditu's attemptedrevolt. As a result, in 1928Ras Tafari was made aNegus with the title ofKing (GORHAM 83).Zauditu became a merefigurehead now, and all ofthe power lay in thehands of the King.Tafari knew that Ethiopianeeded roads. In order tohave roads, the countryneeded money. Ras Tafarisigned a trade agreementwith Italy, and, to thedismay of manyEthiopians, opened thecountry to trade with thedreaded ferengi.The Empress made onemore attempt to removeTafari Makonnen frompower. In 1930, theItalian-backed Ras Gugsarode to Addis Ababa with35,000 men to depose thenew King. Tafari attackedthe army from the airwith the country's fourplanes, and the rebelarmy retreated. RasGugsa was killed in action(GORHAM 88).On November 2nd, 1930,Ras Tafari, at the age ofthirty-seven, wascrowned Emperor HaileSelassie 1, King of Kings,Lord of Lords, ConqueringLion of the tribe of Judah(FELLEMAN). From thispoint on, he ruled asEmperor of Ethiopia forthe next forty-four years.Within one year of thecoronation, Haile Selassiemade a major step inEthiopia's history. In 1931he made the people ofEthiopia citizens and gavethem a constitution(CLAPHAM 17) . Theconstitution was limited inthe power it gave theEthiopians. To make thecountry free wouldcertainly mean disaster tothe largely uneducatedmasses. The Emperorremained as the sovereignauthority. Theconstitution's mainpurpose was to giveEthiopia a sense ofnationality. Selassie wastrying to centralize thegovernment.The ...
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