Tuesday, 18 August 2020

The Triple Crown Part 3 - Negusa Negast

 3rd April 1930 and 2nd November 1930

After Dejazmach Balcha was removed from office, guilty of mistreating peasants and insubordination to Ras Tafari; ministers, army commanders, nobles and other officials demanded that He be crowned Negus. They wanted Him to have His own power. Ras Tafari denied this nomination as it was against custom for a king and an empress to take residence simultaneously in a city (Addis Abeba), but Empress Zawditu conceded by the insistence of the people.

It only took two years after becoming Negus, for the transition to Negusa Negast to finally happen. And it didn’t happen smoothly either, for the conspiracies against the Crown Prince continued. From His appointment on 7th October 1928 til 1929, many rases swore fealty to Negus Tafari except for Zawditu’s estranged husband Ras Gugsa of Begedemer. Ras Gugsa had not been awarded the title of King alongside his wife, the reigning empress, and was essentially removed from her life. He was therefore upset that another man who was not her husband, was given the kingship, and the power of regency. He had great prestige in the north, and his plans to overthrow the Negus of Shewa meant there would be a civil war between the north and south.

The Ras used the political instability caused by starvation due to droughts in the north, to convince locals to rebel against Tafari. Gugsa sought the support of Ras Seyoum of Tigray, Ras Hailu Tekla Haimanot of Gojjam and Sultan Abu Jaffer of Wollo, and spread the word that Negus Tafari would bring European civilization of Ethiopia, and oust the Church because He had converted to Catholicism.

Negus Tafari retaliated by sending His own men to the north to buy the loyalty of the rases from Gojjam and Tigray. The Abuna also agreed to excommunicate him from the Church, and leaflets were sent all around the country announcing that he was not to be associated with. Tafari also enlisting a skilled, modern, well-equipped army that was loyal to Him as the central power in government. With modern weapons, armored vehicles and a fleet of four planes, Ras Gugsa’s movements were easily tracked and defeated. 

On the 31st of March 1930 Ras Gugsa was killed, and Empress Zawditu received the news in total shock, while in an ailing state. She had been suffering with paratyphoid fever which had lethal effects on her body when paired with her diabetes. Because she was also fasting for Lent, her overall health was frail and deteriorated quickly with such bad news. The final decision of her beloved priests to dunk her in a bath of cold holy water, sent her further into shock and a coma, which essentially killed her on the 2nd of April 1930. 

Many believed that Negus Tafari had a hand in her sudden death, especially after He ordered the death of her jealous husband, but such was not the case. When the Council of State met and declared their decision, Negus Tafari accepted, quoting Psalm 151.

On the 3rd of April 1930, Negus Tafari announced His ascendancy to Negusa Negast or Emperor of Ethiopia, with the death of Queen Zawditu. He chose however, against custom, to be crowned at that time. The coronation was put off until November 2nd 1930. 

Thursday, 2 May 2019

The Ethiopian American Post- Liberation Alliance

The international post World War II climate ensured a decline in European influence, especially for Britain and France. These two countries had notoriously impacted heavily on Ethiopian politics and caused Emperor Haile Sellassie I a fair share of difficulties. After World War II the United States of America emerged on top, dominating political, economic and military platforms. The Soviet Union also held a place with its powerful military resources.

Emperor Haile Sellassie’s ability to modernize and develop from the 1940s onward, was in large part due to an alliance made between Ethiopia and America. In 1943 He sent a mission to seek military, legal and financial advisors which was successful. The mission was able to secure a loan from the US which allowed Ethiopia to establish its own local currency.  This was most necessary because Britain had tried to phase out the Maria Theresa thaler and replace it with the East African shilling. Ethiopian farmers – as major exporters of grain to post war countries – refused to accept the change as their market dealt with the thaler, and as a result the shilling was devalued. To solve this conflict, a local Ethiopia currency was the only viable solution, and with its introduction the Birr contributed to securing Ethiopia’s independence from Britain. 

In 1945 the Emperor met with President Franklin Roosevelt in Egypt. There He granted the Americans the rights to search for petroleum in the Ogaden region. This was another step for Ethiopia’s reclamation of the Ogaden from the British.

Ethiopia was able to return aid to America in the form of communications. The Italians during their illegal occupation, had set up a communications centre in Asmara, Radio Marina, which the US military found to be quite useful. This centre was a key initiative in US support for the return of Eritrea to Ethiopia. 

THe Ethiopian -American alliance also saw the birth of Ethiopian Airlines. In 1945 Ethiopia signed a contract with America’s Transcontinental and Western Airline (TWA) which transformed Ethiopian life significantly. This new form of domestic travel changed the game for Ethiopian communications and trade, improving the standard of living for locals. Ethiopian Airlines gave Ethiopia a leg-up on the continent as well, solidifying its influence in diplomatic affairs and connecting Afrikan governments.

Ethiopia sent a battalion to fight in the Korean War in the 1950s. This was a move that showed their loyalty to the United Nations’ mandate for collective security and to also flex their new military expertise and resources – which they lacked back in the 1930s. Ethiopia’s top performance in this war secured their claim for Eritrea as it gained the support of the UN.

Unrest in the Middle East during this decade also strengthened the alliance with America. THe Egyptian Revolution of 1952 saw the rise of anti-American Gamal Abdel Nasser. Because the Red Sea corridor was dominated by Arabs, Ethiopia became the only port access and all for the US, which they needed in order for their petroleum trade. America was a supporter of Israeli independence and national security, so its ability to rely on Ethiopia was a boon in the hostile Arabic Red Sea region.
America’s aid to Ethiopia was the greatest on the Afrikan continent. They signed the Point Four Program in 1952 which focused on public administration and health, education and locust control. The Imperial Highway Authority was created to build and maintain roadways. Telecommunication facilities expanded and while Sweden provided the equipment and expertise, America handled the administration.

The need to replace the skilled and educated workforce in Ethiopia was one of the most important tasks of the post-liberation period. Numerous schools and training centres were opened all over Ethiopia and Eritrea. The American model was used and American found employment as teachers. Many Ethiopian students were sent abroad to Britain and North America for higher studies and this exposure introduced young Ethiopians to “radical” developments in politics around the world which directly impacted how they viewed their Ethiopian homeland. Such students became eager to see changes happen and brought their “left-wing radicalism of campus politics to Ethiopia.”

“With the advent of the American Peace Corps program in the 1960s, the youth education program in Ethiopia received an additional boost. (There are varying opinions regarding the ideological effect that these Peace Corps teachers had on their Ethiopian students. It has been suggested that the teachers, recent graduates from American universities, were themselves steeped in the radical politics of the American student movement, and that they played a major part in influencing Ethiopian students’ radicalization.) American influence in education went beyond the high school level and was significant in the various colleges, as well as in the Haile Selassie I University, whose academic system was based on the American educational model. This ubiquitous American presence would later be pointed to as one example of American imperialist penetration in Ethiopia.” Beyond the Throne 2001 Indrias Getachew, pg 127

Monday, 15 April 2019

The British Roadblock after Ethiopian Liberation

“Emperor Haile Selassie’s triumphant entry into Addis Ababa was not the expected end to the sovereignty crisis that the Italian Occupation had meant. The Emperor’s victory was achieved with the backing of British military forces. Despite Ethiopia having been an independent state prior to the Italian occupation, and the status of Ally that Italian entry into World War II bestowed on Ethiopia, the British treated the Emperor as the local leader of occupied enemy territory, and not as the leader of an independent country.”
Beyond The Throne by Indrias Getachew, Shama Books 2001 pg 109

Emperor Haile Sellassie I faced many trials and stumbling blocks upon His return to Ethiopia. While He may have expected to “pick up where He left off” and go about re-establishing His government and rule, He found that task to be exceedingly difficult due to a number of factors, on the Ethiopian front and because of British interference.

Post-liberation Ethiopia was a mess. Populations were displaced, the government destroyed, territories had been seized and people were starving and without work or homes. They, moreover, resented the Emperor for deserting them, for running away to Britain while they faced the hell of Italian occupation on their own. The Emperor lost many of His once loyal supporters because He went into exile. He was considered a traitor, disloyal to His own oath which He gave upon His coronation. His image in Ethiopia was severely tarnished as a result. One of His biggest challenges upon return therefore, was to regain the trust of His people, to reestablish and consolidate His authority over them. He set up the Ministry of Interior to handle specifically the socio-economic problems and physical hardships endured around the country as a result of Italian occupation.

Security through resettlement was the biggest and most important task, as much of the population was forced to live in the old Ethiopian tradition as “shiftas” or nomadic bandits that raided travelers and settled communities. The Emperor was also quick to establish a local police force and a new military whereby Ethiopia’s borders and urban centres could be protected.
However, in spite of these efforts, the presence of the British in Ethiopia as both administrative and military factions, made things harder for the Emperor and country to settle. Britain’s help to regain Ethiopian independence, had come at a price. The Occupied Enemy Territory Administration blatantly ignored the Emperor’s right to rule Ethiopia autonomously.

The OETA had its sights set on carrying out the Italian dream of dividing Ethiopia up. The British-led administration planned to integrate Ogaden with British and former Italian Somaliland to make “Greater Somaliland.” The Borana lands of the south would have been merged with Kenya. Eritrea would have been fused with Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in the lowlands, while the rest of it was to unify with Tigray to form an independent nation. Clearly these plans had no reverence to the Emperor’s existence or Ethiopia’s independent status. It disregarded Ethiopia’s status as an Ally as well and violated Ethiopia’s right by law to maintain its pre-occupation territories. The end result of this plan to parcel off the land would have meant that the Emperor would become a puppet to the British Empire, and so He did everything in his diplomatic power to prevent that from happening. It was not a price He was willing to pay in thanks for previous British aid.

The tensions between the Emperor and Britain continued from 1941, starting when the He named a new set of Ministers for His government without British approval. Brigadier Maurice Lush was outraged and stated that the Emperor had no right to do such a thing without signing a peace treaty with the King of Italy. Until this was done the King of Italy was still the legal ruler of Ethiopia! It was obvious that the British would take the side of their European counterparts – Italy- in spite of all that Italy had done.

The soldiers of the liberating forces and detractors were also a source of anxiety for the palace as they clashed with Ethiopian patriots and nobles. With their unruly actions they undermined the authority of the Emperor and compromised His standing in the eyes of His own nation. The Emperor was only able to gain the upper hand over the various factions of the OETA by sending messages directly to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Churchill issued a statement that made it clear that Ethiopia was independent and sovereign, and that this status was officially recognized by Britain. This statement stopped all plans to partition Ethiopian territories.

However, problems still continued. Ethiopia signed the First Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement in January 1942, which gave the British Administration too much liberties in government, and allowed them to continue occupying the Ogaden region of Harar. Luckily, by 1944 the Emperor was able to have the administration removed, eradicating their diplomatic dominance in government.  Slighted by the Emperor’s refusal to bow, the OETA had other tricks up their sleeve to undermine Ethiopian autonomy and weaken efforts in post-occupation development. They removed all Italian war booty -which would have been justified compensation and a boon to regaining stability - from Ethiopia. Machinery, factories, arms and goods were taken by the British to their own colonies – Kenya, Somaliland and Sudan.

In 1937, due to attempt on Graziani’s life, Italy killed the trained and educated Ethiopians left in the country. This meant that the Emperor had virtually no technically trained and skilled workers to employ in His new government, to rebuild and maintain the necessary infrastructure. The Italians served to fill this gap, those who remained in Ethiopia and wanted to help right the wrongs of the past and had fostered warm relations with the locals. The OETA however, insisted on repatriating these Italians, forcing them to go back home.

Territorial issues also continued, as the British kept control of the Ogaden and Eritrea, claiming them to be volatile areas. Britain eventually lost claim on the Ogaden region with the help of the United Nations*. Eritrea itself later voted to become the fourteenth province of Ethiopia, which it remained until the monarchy was abolished.

*"In 1941 Ethiopia was one of the founding signatories to the Charter establishing the United Nation and in 1945 was among the found members present at the inauguration of the organization in San Francisco." Getachew 2001 pg 120

Saturday, 6 January 2018

The Triple Crown Part 2 - Negus of Shewa

Negus Tafari Makonnen of Shewa  22nd  September 1928

The Emperor of Ethiopia is dubbed the “King of Kings” because he is the supreme ruler over all the chiefs or kings of provinces within Ethiopia. These kings of constituent states within Ethiopia (and Eritrea) were called by the title of “Negus” which means in ancient Ge’ez, “to reign.” To be named and crowned Negus of Shewa was of particular importance in the antiquity of Ethiopia, for this region was a capital for the royal House of Solomon/Menelek I, second to Gondar; and functioned autonomously for centuries. It is an abundantly rich and fertile region, in the very centre or heart of Ethiopia, and even partly borders the River Nile. Learning the Istory of King Tafari, many RasTafari are familiar with the towns of Debre Berhan, Ankober and Entoto which in addition to Addis Abeba were once capitals of Shewa.

Shewa is noted to have been a welfare state. It is divided with mainly Amhara Christians and Muslims in the North, but Oromo and Muslims in the South. In the oldest of histories, it was a part of Aksum before it was captured by Muslims.  Shewa was the junior line of ascendancy, a branch of the paternal line of emperors which was rooted in Gondar. Emperor Menelek II was the last emperor under the paternal line of Shewa. Only the paternal line was supposed to ascend the throne, but this rule was often not followed in the 1700s and 1800s, where rulers proclaimed themselves with the majority backing of the nobility and church rather than by being legitimate heirs (hence why the traditional belief in direct succession from Solomon to Haile Sellassie is unfortunately questionable and unfounded in historical fact).

Menelek II was King of Shewa and transferred that title to Emperor of Ethiopia when he proclaimed himself ruler over the entire country. He had seized the throne from the son of his rival Kassai, who had the Abuna crown him Negusa Negast Yohannes. Menelek II built and made Addis Abeba the capital of Shewa and of the monarchy.  Ras Tafari was the last man of the family of Sahle Sellassie to be named Negus of Shewa. This happened when He was 37 years old on September 7th 1928, and He was the first Regent to be given the title under the ruling Emperor/Empress. He also named His firstborn son Asfa Wossen Meridasmach, which means "Fearsome Commander.” This was a title only given to the Ruler of Shewa in the days before Emperor Sahle Sellassie, but when Sahle came into power, on personal preference, he changed it to Negus of Shewa. Therefore, only the descendants of Sahle Sellassie were named Negus of Shewa.

Ras Tafari was granted this title Negus not on the freewill of the Empress, or by seizing the title for Himself as did His predecessors; but because of His popularity among the progressive members of the ruling class, and because it was the best way to avoid bloodshed between the conservatives and progressives. The Empress Zawditu was basically obliged to grant Him this title because of an event dubbed the “Palace Revolt,” and because of an interaction between Him and an aristocrat named Dejazmach Balcha of Sidamo.

When Tafari was named Regent, taking over the position after the death of Habte Giyorgis in 1926, He of course assumed the majority of the ruling duties, and was therefore constantly in the public eye, dealing with the people on a daily basis. Along with His wife Princess Menen He created a lot of new infrastructures based on European models. Printing presses for newspapers and books, telephones and roads were installed at the capital. People started to rise up in socio-economic class, because of booming trade with countries such as Japan, America and India. The Regent and His Wife encouraged nobles in other parts of the country to build schools in their towns, to which Princess Menen’s mother Woyzero Sehin Mikael, obliged.

From Sandford’s and Parnell’s accounts, through Prince Tafari’s administration, He and His wife became quite popular and respected by the nobility who were supportive of continuing Menelek II’s works for Ethiopian progress. Those who supported the traditional feudal system and who did not like all the foreigners Tafari brought to live and work in Abyssinia, nor the changes of society with the increase of wealth; gathered around the reclusive Empress Zauditu. They didn’t want Tafari to get too close to the throne. 
Rumours and biased opinions against Ras Tafari came to Zauditu’s ear, a conspiracy to have Him deposed as Regent was in full swing.  There was even a plan to assassinate the Crown Prince, which was luckily thwarted as His spies informed Tafari of the plan.

In 1927 Ras Tafari summoned the various Rases and lords to Addis Abeba to feast and renew their fealty to him and the crown. Most of them came except for one who did not want to bow before a man he despised. Dejazmatch Balcha was one of the feudal lords who did not like the booming growth of the central government in Shewa. The rise of Shewa caused the power of the provincial leaders such as Balcha to decline. While they themselves grew wealthy and were able to modernize their provinces due to the administration and tax reforms implemented by Tafari, they did not like the fact that they now had to pay generous taxes to Shewa – to Ras Tafari. 

Furthermore, if peasants made complaints that their lords were abusing their station, and were exploiting and cheating their labour force, the lords were required to appear before the Crown Prince for a meeting to discuss such complaints. Dej. Balcha was one such lord called to Addis Abeba, especially after he did not appear to swear his loyalty to the Regent. And he continuously refused to heed to the call which only made the usually patient Crown Prince and Regent, irate. At this point Empress Zauditu’s health was failing due to diabetes and liver complications so she was not in a position to protest against the Regent’s new government policies. This led Balcha to challenge Tafari’s new economy and authority.
It is noted that Balcha finally showed up on the 11th February 1928 with five thousand troops. He had been invited to attend a feast in his honour hosted by Tafari and Zauditu. He set up his camp and took six hundred men with him to go to the palace as protection. At the palace he made a spectacle of himself, as his men performed the traditional display of fukere, where they demonstrated their military prowess before the Regent and His own men.  Because Tafari's men did not respond to the boasting of Balcha's, Balcha and his soldiers believed that they had scared them into submission.

This was certainly not the case however, as when Balcha returned to his camp, he found that the rest of his men were missing. They had been disbanded by Regent Ras Tafari's orders while Ras Balcha was at dinner showing off. With this embarrassment, Balcha sent the remainder of his soldiers back home to Sidamo, and sought sanctuary at St. Raguel Church in Entoto. However, Tafari's men laid siege to the Church and Balcha was officially stripped of office. He lived as a monk until 1935. The remaining property of Balcha’s was redistributed to the loyalists on the Council of State who had replaced the old conservatives. 

Balcha was quoted as saying "do not underestimate the power of Tafari. He creeps like a mouse but he has jaws like a lion." Beyond the Throne page 66

Seeing this take place, it became obvious to all that Zauditu was no longer in power, and that the power of the government was solely Ras Tafari Makonnen. Harold Marcus states that she should have supported Balcha as he had expected in February, if she wanted to maintain the appearance of power, but Zauditu waited until August-September to protest the Regent’s rule, on the matter of the Italo-Ethiopian treaty for the road to be built from Assab to Dessie.

On September 5th, with the conservative nobles of the cabinet, the empress summoned her cousin to her father’s main palace, the Big Ghibbi, where all official business was conducted. As soon as Ras Tafari entered the palace, the doors and gates were barricaded with armed palace guards. He sat with the empress and she questioned Him about His secret plans to overthrow her reign. Along with her retinue she accused the Regent of undermining her authority and trying to steal the crown.

The main accusation against the Regent was the treaty signed with Italy allowing them to build a road from Asab to Dessie. The empress had reluctantly signed it, but she continuously let it be known to her cousin that she was not happy about His foreign relations – it just wasn’t the “Ethiopian Way.” This access road would greatly reduce Ethiopia’s own tradition and natural defenses against the likes of invaders. Though this statement became true in the end, the invasion would have likely happened regardless. At least King Tafari knew the importance of keeping the enemy closer. If He had not been ruling at the time and keeping tabs on Europe via the League of Nations, Ethiopia would have been at a sore disadvantage when Italy invaded.

Dejazmatch Beru and Ligaba Beyene, the Empress named as her two allies that claimed Tafari wanted her gone.  The Regent, in anger, ordered the two men to be arrested for spreading such lies. Beru ran to Menelik II’s mausoleum with his troops and Tafari and His own troops followed and surrounded them, only to then, in turn, be surrounded by Beyene’s men. Denying all claims to His sedition against the crown and the country, Tafari stood strong before the disapproving faces of the crown council, those who did not share His vision for Ethiopia.

In another account of that day it is said:
"Disposing scornfully of such allegations of disloyalty, Ras Tafari maintained complete self-possession in the face of the threatening soldiers of the palace guard. Ordering the great doors of the ghibbi to be thrown open he passed out and down the steps of the assembly hall. The force of his personality held the crowd." (Sandford 2009, page 52)

Hearing of what was happening at the palace, Princess Menen gathered her husband’s own soldiers, equipping them with whatever weapons She could find, and arrived with a tank bursting through the gates, to rescue Her husband. This led to a “hold-up” between the Regent’s own bodyguard and tank, with the Empress’ palace officers. By the next day priests came to intervene and end the stand-off. It was clear who had the upper-hand in the situation as well. With a calm and silent sweep onto His mule, surrounded by His loyal supporters, Ras Tafari rode back to His home.

Witnessing the entire “trial,” and being thoroughly impressed by the maturity of the Regent, later, on September 19th the progressive nobility insisted the Empress crown the Ras as Negus of Shewa. She asked for time to think about the request, while the Regent told her to deny it since a king and queen couldn’t rule in the same city. On the 22nd Empress Zauditu proclaimed the Ras His Majesty Negus Tafari of Shewa; and on the 7th October 1928 the crown was bestowed. At the Church of the Trinity, the ceremony was held in great joy and pomp, reinforcing to the traditionalists/conservatives that there was soon going to be a shift in power. Princess Menen became Itege, or Queen Menen, meaning “the King’s Consort.”

Sources: Sandford, Christine. 2009. The Lion of Judah Hath Prevailed. Orion Publishing Group. London England.

Parnell, Anjahli. 2001. The Biography of Empress Menen Asfaw: Mother of the Ethiopian Nation. Roots Publishing, Hawaii

Getachew, Indrias. Beyond the Throne.

Marcus, Harold. Haile Sellassie I The Formative Years 1892-1936

Young Tafari on the left with Empress Zawditu in the centre

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The Triple Crown Part 1 - Ras Crown Prince Regent

The Triple Crown Part 1: Ras, Crown Prince and Regent
Ras Tafari Makonnen 27th September 1916 and 11th February 1917

In the crowning as Ras, I-Majesty was triple crowned as well because He received three titles and new offices, as Ras, Crown Prince (Heir) and Regent Plenipotentiary.  As Ras He reclaimed His governorship of Harar (but also possessed the governorate of Sidamo), being His childhood home and governorship of His father Ras Makonnen. As Crown Prince He was named the legitimate heir to the throne of Solomon; and as Regent Plenipotentiary (Balemulu Enderase) He was also responsible for running the country behind the face of the newly appointed Empress Zauditu. He was therefore the true leader of the country’s affairs and ceremonially the second most important person after her.

Dejazmatch Tafari was awarded these three titles, not just because He had proven Himself a worthy and progressive leader of the Ethiopian people; but also due to the proclaimed heresy of Emperor Menelek II’s appointed Regent and heir, Lidj Yasu (Prince Joshua).  The misbehaviour of Lidj Yasu would prove a great obstacle Tafari had to overcome in securing His authority in Ethiopian governance, from Dejazmatch to Negusa Negast. It must be noted that while Tafari had His own visions of occupying the throne, He was not actually in the running to be an heir (nor did He proclaim Himself to be), for He had no family or supporters left besides Emperor Menelek before he died to nominate Him, since He claimed descent by maternal lineage. Empress Taitu had been determined to install her own family, of the male lineage of descent – Ras Gugsa, the husband of Menelek’s daughter Zauditu – above Yasu and Ras Bitwaded Tesemma, Menelek’s chosen pair to rule Ethiopia in his stead. It is by proving His worth that Tafari was able to achieve His goals.

Yasu had been appointed Regent by the Council of the State in1911, in accordance to his dying grandfather’s wishes. But from 1910-1916, it had become apparent that Lidj Yasu was forming social, economic and political ties with the Mohammedans (Muslims) of Turkey, Somalia and Ethiopia; which of course was vouched as a threat to the ruling Christian Solomonic nobility as well as the European allies Britain, France and Italy. Yasu declared he was a descendant of the Prophet Mahomed and went as far as to carry an Islamic Ethiopian flag, dress in turban and fashion his facial hair like the Muslim Danakil tribe. He even put away his Christian wife Romane Worq and took a harem of Muslim wives from the Afar and Oromo people. It must be noted however, that in all fairness, Yasu’s paternal lineage was of royal Muslim blood, in Wollo. His mother was a Christian and his father Mohammed Ali was obligated to convert to Christianity when given the title of Ras in 1875, because he married the daughter of a Christian ruler.

In 1916, things came to a head and it became apparent that Yasu was holding a grudge of some sort against his childhood friend and relative, Dejazmatch Tafari. It probably came as a surprise to many given that it was Yasu who arranged for Tafari to marry his niece Woyzero Menen (Menen by his family chart would have also shared the royal blood of Islam). Emperor Menelek II had placed his hopes in these two young men to follow after him and Ras Makonnen, with Tafari being the military and foreign affairs adviser. But the reality was that Yasu and Tafari had different ideas of how they would fulfill the emperor’s wishes. In the memoirs of Haile Sellassie I, He claimed that He and Yasu had together made a pact wherein He would be loyal to the prince, and Yasu in turn would not remove his “most potent rival”  from His post at Harar.

In May 1916, Lidj Yasu summoned Dejazmatch Tafari to the capital, Addis Abeba from Harar. Yasu ordered that Tafari was not to leave, and by June it was declared that Tafari was now the chief of another district called Kaffa. Yasu intended for Harar to become a “royal reserve”  with no replacement governor, which meant more control by the Muslims living there. Yasu therefore broke the treaty, and the transfer greatly upset the people of Harar who were loyal to the family of Ras Makonnen.

It also gave Tafari, being a man of integrity and loyalty, the freedom to retaliate without breaking the same vows. So instead of leaving for Kaffa, Tafari joined the traditionalists in Addis Abeba, who also did not want to see Ethiopia’s throne be overthrown by the Ottoman Empire and Muslim chiefs of the Horn of Afrika.  It must be remembered that at this time Ethiopia did not a have military furnished like the Europeans or Arabs and it would have been detrimental for them if Yasu had gotten into any wars.

In July to August, Yasu made trips that – according to the Crown Council and Orthodox Church – proved his intention to bring a Muslim uprising in Ethiopia and this caused the chiefs and priests to confront him, but he ignored them. His friendliness towards Muslims was offensive to the royal court and by September 27th, right in the very midst of the Meskel Feast, Abuna Mattheos sealed a proclamation that Lidj Yasu was excommunicated from the Church. He was deposed by the Council of State and Ethiopian Rases; and Zauditu, Menelek’s eldest daughter, placed as Empress (a woman was not the first choice but it had to be done). Tafari was promoted to Ras, Regent and Crown Prince at the age of 24.

The very next day, Ras Tafari then sent a telegram to Harar, ordering the chief there to arrest Yasu. Lidj Yasu, stationed in Tafari’s father’s palace, received the news and knew that his only allies were the Muslims he had gathered. But he forced the priests of Harar to swear they would banish anyone who went up against him and followed the orders that came from Addis Abeba. He then organized his own army and sent them out to meet the army coming from the capital to seize him at the very beginning of October. This army later deserted him and went over to Tafari’s side, as they knew they could not be saved from such treason. Yasu then in the cover of night, escaped, but his followers in Harar were not so lucky, and of them those who didn’t surrender were killed by Dejazmatch Balcha’s Shewan army. He had been sent from Addis Abeba to restore order in Harar, which he did.

While Lidj Yasu escaped to Danakil territory, his father, now called Negus Mikhail Wolde Giyorgis, of the Wollo Gallas (Yasu had elevated him from Ras to King of Wollo); decided he could not let this happen. He gathered his own army and marched against the Shewans, whom he was not fond of. With one victory achieved, he was ambushed and captured, and his son upon witnessing this demise, fled to the Eritrean border. Lidj Yasu would then move to the amba or fortress of Magdala where he was then found and held in captivity.  He later escaped but was recaptured in 1921, and sent into house arrest in Fiche, under the protection of Ras Kassa. Empress Zauditu took pity on her nephew, and since she was not allowed to have him live with her so as to reconvert him, ensured that he lived comfortably and had access to whatever he wished.

After the empress’s death in 1930, Yasu took the chance to escape imprisonment once again, but was quickly recaptured. This time the newly crowned Emperor Haile Sellassie I didn’t have to comply with Zauditu’s wishes, and sent him to another fortress under heavy guard. There is much more information available which accounts for the reckless behaviour of Yasu after his appointment as Regent, which give more credit to King Sellassie’s moves to keep him subdued. It was common for ruling kings to banish their rivals to ambas or fortresses in Ethiopia.

In 1935, during the Italian invasion, the Italians tried to get Ethiopians to turn against Emperor Haile Sellassie I, by declaring that Lidj Yasu or Emperor Yasu V was the true Emperor of Ethiopia (Yasu had never been crowned, only appointed heir and given a seal).  Yasu died in 1935, and it is claimed that Haile Sellassie ordered his execution to stop Italy from using him, there is however no proof of such. And so, the picture is clear that for Tafari, becoming Ras, Regent and Crown Prince was a victory won by defeating His childhood friend, His own cousin. The gates were now open to allow Ras Tafari to set His eyes on the throne.

It must be noted that as Regent, in His early to late thirties, Ras Tafari put in place the foundation for modernizing Ethiopia. He was met with resistance by the men who remained from Emperor Menelek’s government, because they feared His big ideas would eradicate their feudal reign; but still achieved the building of schools and a hospital; as well as entry into the League of Nations (which occurred eight years later on the 28th of September 1924 almost exactly to the date of Him becoming Ras). At the time in Ethiopia, Sandford notes that less than one percent of the population was literate, with a basic teaching of letters and numbers done by the priests of the Orthodox Church in villages. In addition to raising the quality of life in Ethiopia, to enter the League of Nations He also had to abolish slavery where it still existed in Ethiopia.

Sources: Haile Sellassie My Life and Ethiopia's Progress Vol 1. 
Christine Sandford The Lion of Judah Hath Prevailed
Asfa-Wossen Asserate King of Kings

Special note:  Iyasu must be overstood as more of a radical personality than Tafari. While some may not agree with the way he conducted himself, he was noted to be intelligent and loved by many. His personality also did not give him much credibility as a monarch however. It was doubted whether he had the capacity to truly rule as Emperor. He likely had the vision of making everyone in Ethiopia equals, which threatened the ruling classes who needed their slaves; he was also said to have conspired to raise a Muslim army to overthrow both the Ethiopian government and the colonial powers taking up the Horn of Afrika. Asserate believes Iyasu has been maligned in history, that he was ahead of his time in wanting to create equal status between the Christians and Muslims, he also like Zauditu didn’t like the foreigners Britain, France or Italy. His policies were radical in the eyes of the Crown Council, but it could be argued that he was just trying to unite his people. If such is true, he certainly had a modern and credible approach to his role as emperor that I admire as well much like Tafari; though I believe he would not have properly  prepared Ethiopia to deal with the threat of Europe – mainly Italy – and fend off the colonization of the land in the footsteps of his grandfather.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

A Brief Account of Coronation Day

At the age of thirty-seven Negus Tafari Makonnen was crowned Negusa Negast Qedamawi Haile Sellassie, on November 2nd 1930. Emperors of Ethiopia did not use their family names when they ascended the throne, they chose a name that expressed their intentions as ruler. For example, Zera Yakob chose this name meaning “seed of Jacob” to express his ideas for religious reform. Sahle Mariam chose Menelik II in the honour of the first Judahite emperor of Ethiopia, the son of Solomon. Tafari Makonnen chose to use His baptismal name Haile Sellassie – Power of the Trinity.

It was also customary for the new emperor to be crowned immediately following the death of the previous emperor, before the death was publicly announced. But in the case of Haile Sellassie, His coronation followed sevenths months after Empress Zewditu’s passing. This was the first break from tradition that was employed in the coronation of Haile Sellassie. The crowning took place seven months later because the Emperor wanted to have a ceremony and celebration that included nations from other countries.

He used the seven months to fix up Addis Abeba, to pave streets and erect/repair structures that lined the main area of the city. Wooden arches lined with muslin were erected. He wanted the areas where the coronation would take place, which His special guests would see, to be presentable. He also installed telephone and electricity in the city. There was nothing done in the construction of the city that escaped the Emperor’s attention. He was on site to ensure that everything was in order. He also requested for special crowns to be made for the imperial family, as well as garments, including lion pelt/mane cloaks. The imperial bodyguard was given khaki uniforms as well. In addition to the crowns, the scepter, orb, robes and sword were also commissioned by the Emperor. The coronation coach was brought in from Berlin, its four white horses were brought from Vienna.

Unfortunately, none of the heads of state invited from the nations that had legations or consulates in Ethiopia, came to the coronation. Addis Abeba was too far off for them to bother with making the journey. Instead they sent envoys bearing gifts. The Emperor invited these dignitaries to prove to the Ethiopians that He was in fact accepted by Europe. He wanted to prove to the Europeans that Ethiopia was civilized in turn (however it is said that so many little quirks happened which did not satisfy the European standards so He did not exactly succeed in this endeavor.)

Duke of Gloucester came on behalf of the British Crown

Prince of Udine came for the King of Ital

Plenipotentiary ambassador Gerard came for the King of Belgium

Baron Bildt dtood in for the King of Sweden

Jonkheer Hendrik Maurits van Haersma de With came for the Queen of Netherlands

Isaburo Yoshida represented the Emperor of Japan

Marshal Franchet d’Esperey came for the French Republic

Herman Murray Jacoby represented the USA

Baron Waldthausen represented the German Weimar Republic

Count Metaxas represented the Greek Republic

Muttihin Pasha came on behalf of Turkey

Count Dzieduszycki came from the Polish Republic

Muhammed Tawfiq Nasim Pasha came for the King of Egypt

Governors from British and French Somaliland and Eritrea were also invited from the neighbouring colonies.

These guests were met by the Emperor or the Crown Prince when they arrived at the capital. They were each given a special envoy to escort them around. They were treated to a lavish, other-worldly extravaganza for two weeks.

The coronation started on November 1st with the unveiling of the statue of Emperor Menelik II in front of St. George Cathedral.

The Emperor and Empress then spent the entire night into November 2nd in a prayer vigil at the cathedral with the assembled priesthood that carried out chants and Ises in groups of seven. That night all the coronation regalia was also taken into the qedusa qedusan or the most holy inner sanctum of the Cathedral where they were blessed by Arch Bishop Kyrillios.

Seated upon the imperial chairs or baldachins, the Emperor and Empress were flanked by their sons Prince Makonnen and Crown Prince Asfa Wossen. The Emperor swore to respect the laws of the church and country and signed his name to seal His oath. He was presented with daggers, a sword, a scepter, orb, signet ring, two spears, a robe, a crown and the Ible. The Emperor’s head was anointed before the crown was finally placed on His head. Each item was present to the Emperor by one Abuna/Bishop and his attending Abbot, about nine in total. These priests represented churches from north, south, west, east and central Ethiopia. The Empress gained a ring, crown and scepter as well, after the Emperor. She was presented to the Archbishop by Her baptismal name Wolette Giorgis by Her Husband. The Emperor placed a crown on His son’s head which was a new feature in the age old tradition of the ceremony. This was to secure Asfa Wossen as the only successor.

After the official ceremony all the guests bowed down to the Imperial couple and the national anthem and a 101 gun salute followed. The royal pair returned to the Cathedral for Their first Holy Communion as Emperor and Empress.

After a parade of the new King and Queen through the streets of Addis Ababa, later there was a royal gala, or ceremonial coronation banquet. It was called the Geber, which was strictly for the Ethiopians. 24,000 dignitaries and soldiers were invited, and they feasted on raw meat with the Emperor and Empress in groups of 6,000. The coronation celebrations finally ended November 9th.

Source: King of Kings by Asfa-Wossen Asserate , Elect of God Chapter.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Mission 101: Gathering Intelligence for Ethiopian Resistance

Colonel Sandford on the left

Italy became a threat to British colonial rule in Afrika and the wider East between 1939 and 1940, as the Romans had accumulated well over four hundred thousand troops throughout North –East Afrika since their invasion of Ethiopia back in 1935-36. With the fall of France, Britain was concerned that Italy would side with Germany in a war against The Allies. Italy would be able, with their large force, to take control of the British Territories, the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the route that led to oilfields and India. It was expected that they would take the Sudan and Egypt to capture access to the Nile, and Britain’s act of defense was to secure the Sudan. To do that, having Ethiopian support was considered most beneficial. On June 18th (eight days after Italy declared war) it was decided by Winston Churchill and his Cabinet that the Ethiopian Emperor would be returned to His country with the help of Britain.

Before this decision, Major-General Colin Hubbins from the British War Office, had set up a special unit, the Special Operations Executive or SOE specifically to organize and support the Resistance factions in territories occupied by Italy. The SOE aimed to support the Ethiopian Resistance. They secured a gift of ten thousand rifles from President Roosevelt, and also arranged for Maria Theresa dollars to be minted in Bombay that would pay the Ethiopian Patriots. The SOE was such a secret operation that there are hardly any records of their involvement in Ethiopian resistance to Italy. The SOE was responsible for the forming of Mission 101 and Gideon Force, the two military teams that brought the Emperor Haile Sellassie back to Ethiopia to regain His throne.

Colonel Daniel Sandford was the veteran British Solider responsible for making the initial plans that would help Emperor Haile Sellassie I return to Ethiopia, leading Mission 101. In previous service to the British realm he went to India and the Sudan and fought in France in the First World War. In August 1939 he was called back to service by General Sir Anthony Wavell who was head of Middle Eastern Command in Cairo. Made a Colonel, Sandford was placed in charge of gathering the Ethiopian intelligence which was Mission 101’s primary purpose. He was a good person for the job as he was also a friend of the Emperor, being one of the many Europeans who lived in Addis Abeba and worked for the Ethiopian Government (from 1920 to 1935), and then forced to flee the country when the Italian threat became apparent. The two maintained contact while the Emperor was in exile at Bath. Colonel Sandford had a productive farm in Addis Abeba and longed to get back to his home that he was forced to leave.

Because Sandford knew Ethiopian territory fairly well, he was the prime person to seek out chiefs and patriots across the land to stir up a native uprising. He was in charge of making the necessary military preparations and also organizing propaganda methods to excite the local uprising. But his works initially started in Khartoum where he liaised with Ethiopian exiles to form a plan for the resistance and return which was called ‘Plan X.’

According to Edmund Stevens, Colonel Sandford on Mission 101, travelled by camel or on foot throughout Western Ethiopia to the hideouts of two major guerilla forces. The headquarters of the unit was in Gojjam, and there Sandford met with Orde Wingate on November 28th 1940 to discuss He was able to move from territory to territory unharmed because of drum signals or tom-toms which the chiefs used to speak to one another in code. This way the Italians never knew he was in their midst, and he was also warned by the tom-toms when the Italians were close by. Sandford gained the trust and support of the chiefs using money and promising them political kick-backs when Ethiopia was once again free. He also organized secret routes whereby the British could distribute arms to the guerillas.

When the resistance was procured, Sandford returned to the Sudan where he met with Emperor Haile Sellassie and became His advisor. When it was time for the advance into Ethiopia by the Emperor’s army, Colonel Sandford joined Gideon Force’s leader Orde Wingate to lead the troops and safeguard the Emperor from Khartoum to Addis Abeba. Their guerilla army comprised British and Australian majors and sargeants, Sudanese, Somali and Kenyan soldiers and the Ethiopian Patriotic army that Sandford had created.

Later in the post war years Daniel Sandford returned to Ethiopia and served the Emperor as a military and political adviser. He also established the Sandford School which was a leading international school. He also received land in Derba just north of Addis Abeba, where he established a farm with coffee, prunes and stables for cattle. He was forced to leave Ethiopia when the Derg seized power from the Emperor which led to the degradation of his farm.


Life’s Reports article “How the British Ran the Italians Out of Ethiopia” by Edmund Stevens, Life Magazine https://books.google.tt/books?id=q0wEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA18&lpg=PA18&dq=daniel+sandford+ethiopia+war&source=bl&ots=3TSsLQlQyC&sig=9IBZBATMaIYNWsNAjFgylAojlsg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwidhNCa9v3OAhVB1h4KHV58AL0Q6AEIKjAD#v=onepage&q=daniel%20sandford%20ethiopia%20war&f=false

Wikipedia, Daniel Sandford British Army Officer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Sandford_(British_Army_officer)