|Ras Makonnen in Paris|
Makonnen Wolde Mika’el Gudessa was the father of Tafari Makonnen/Emperor Haile Sellassie I.
He was granted the title of Ras, and became governor of the Muslim city Harar. He raised a mighty army of men from this city. He also brought the first printing press to Harar. He was respected by the Muslims there for the good works of reform, organization and development he achieved. He even built the first Tewahedo Church there and brought the coexistence of the two religions inside the city walls. He was well loved because he was a kind, hospitable/ and just ruler. He was known for his sound system of reform in administration and law – the ‘Justice of Ras Makonnen’ became a catchphrase of his province.
He was also most noted for his diplomacy across Europe. He was an Ethiopian envoy visiting England, Italy, France, Turkey, Jerusalem and Germany where he received many decorations/medals. While in Italy for example, he learned a lot of their military order – their strengths and tactics - which in the end ironically helped him to defeat the Italians along with the weapons he bought from them. He studied the uropean political climate and history which was uncommon for Ethiopian nobility of his time. This knowledge is what gave him such fame among the foreigners.
He also received various European diplomats at his lovely home in Harar. He was a noted friend of Arthur Rimbaud the French adventurer. Europeans in general found him to be well-mannered, dignified, and carrying a great spiritual character. They believed him to be better suited as a priest, spiritual leader or philosopher more so than a governor or warrior. These characteristics provided the perfect role model for his son Tafari Makonnen who was destined to take his place in the Emperor’s court. Ras Makonnen granted his son the title of Dejazmatch at the age of 13 and entrusted him to his advisors and army, to guide him on this path – to take his place for the next emperor.
Ras Makonnen died unexpectedly on March 21st 1906 on a journey from Harar to Addis Abeba. He fell suddenly ill of typhus and died at Kulubi. His older son Yilma Makonnen took his place as governor of Harar. He was the son of his first marriage.
These are just a few of the many facts on the father of Emperor Haile Sellassie I.
Sources: The Lion of Judah Hath Prevailed by Christine Sandford, King of Kings by Asfa-Wossen Asserate, A Glimpse of Greatness by Abebe Ambatchew, Haile Sellassie I the Formative Years by Harold G. Marcus and Makonnen Wolde Mikael on Wikipedia.