A MEMORIAL FOR EMPRESS MENEN ASFAW’S BIRTHDAY
WRITTEN BY YARED GEBRE MICHAEL
25th of March 1950 E.C. Addis Ababa
translation by: Adane Wondie Gebru (Haile Selassie University)
Starting from the eighth paragraph in from the Preface…
Next to Queen Taitu, our most forunate Queen Empress Menen is, naturally, the one who is the most beautiful. Empress Menen is blessed and rich Queen Menen is kind, human, and God fearing. She is always with the people by sharing in their problems and finding solutions. Queen Menen stretches her hand unto the poor; such that all Ethiopians like her very much.
In 1928 when His Majesty King of Kings went to the battle field, Empress Menen administered the people in the capital city. When the enemy’s airplanes came to bomb, Queen Menen encouraged the people and worked seriously.
In the history of Ethiopia no one, except the King of Kings Haile Selassie and Empress Menen, has had the opportunity to have as many children and Grandchildren; which helps to strengthen the Dynasty. Perhaps one or two children may belong to the former kings, but they cannot taste how sweet it is to witness their grandchildren’s effort and success.
His Majesty King of Kings Haile Selassie and Empress Menen, because God blessed them during 47 years of marriage, have many Children and Grandchildren. The King and the Queen were tied with Holy Communion. Their Children and Grandchildren are engaged in different jobs rendering service to their country. This is (a) special and enduring History for us which can not be found anywhere else.
Empress Menen, since she came to this world in 1883, for 67 years age accomplished great human deeds and charity. This kindness categorized her as a Sacred Woman. Elders, Monks, and priests in the church are witnesses of such Sacred Deeds. I would like to describe Her Eternal Work by Writing Her Biography in the following chapters.
Yared Gebre Michael from wogda (Jirru) Doba
Her Majesty Empress Menen
Princess Mrs (Woizero) now Empress Menen was born on March 25 1883 in Wollo province, in the Ambassel Region in the Egua area from her father Jantirar Asfaw and her Mother Woizero Sehin Michael. She was baptized in Saint Delba George Church. Her Christian name was Wolete Giorgis. Her name Menen is given to the most beautiful respected ladies.
Princess Woizero now Empress Menen was raised well by her parents. She also had an instructor at home like the former Lords’ and Dukes’ sons and daughters. Empress Menen knows reading and writing very well in her native language Amharic. Her Amharic teachers were Maduna and Father Workineh. Beyond academic education she learned home economics and spinning; which is and Ethiopian Tradition. Since she obtained the best knowledge in household management, people called her the head of woman. Indeed, Empress Menen is charming lady and no one can compete with her.
In 1892 she legally married and bore two (2) daughters and two (2) sons. These are Woizero Belaaynesh Janitoror Asfaw, Jantirar Gebre Egziabher and Woizero Desta. On November 5 1903, she began her journey from Dessie and Reached Addis Ababa on Nov. 25, 1903. In the same year in June the then Dejazmatch Tafar’I’, now His Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I King of Kings of Ethiopia, married her. Lij Eyasu was responsible for making them a couple. The Wedding Ceremony was accomplished in the following condition.
His Majesty King of Ethiopia Haile Selassie was the Governonr of Harar. The bride princess Woizero Menen was in Addis Ababa. The then Dejazmatch Tafar’I’ Majesty King of Kings of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I sent for his loyal servants, the then Gijazmatch, now (1950) prince Ras Emiru Haile Sellasse, and Lij Beshah Wured, who were in Addis Ababa. Kegnazatch Gobaw led the other invited fellows and they travelled from Addis Ababa riding horses and mules and reached Harar on July 23, 1903.
When they arrived there, Dejazmatch Tafar’I’ was waiting for them at the place called Hammaressa near Harar. Dejazmatch Tafar’I’ was accompanied by his loyal servants and lords to receive her with respect. In addtion to this, the Harar army was waiting around the Awash area to receive the Princess. The people of Harar wished for the couple to be like the sacred marriage of ABRAHAM and Sarah.
On the 22nd of January 1905 the first daughter oF princess was born. This princess was baptized at Kombolcha Mariam and her christian name is Fikirte Mariam. She was named after her grandfather’s mother’s name Tenagne Work and called Tenagne Work Haile Selassie. Princess Tangne Work has many children and also has become a grandmother.
On July 8, 1908 the second son, the “Duke” was born. This Duke was named Asfa Wosen by his father His Majesty Haile Selassie. He was baptized at Adere Tiko Trinity Church and his Christian name Amha Selassie was given. The then Princess Menen delivered Prince Asfa Wosen in Harar city.
By this timeDejazmatch Tafar’I’ was in Addis Ababa. She held the small baby close and travled to Addis Ababa. She started her journey and reache Qersa. The next day Princess Menen traveled from Qersa to Dire Dawa. From Dire Dawa they travled by train to Awash and they reached Akaki on September 1st. Princess Menen reached Addis Ababa by using the Faltu train on September 2nd. They used the Faltu train because the modern train had recently been introduced in the country. Prince Asfa Wosen has many children and grandchildren.
On July 18, 1909 the third princess was born. The Princess’ Christian name was given as Hirute Selassie. And her birth name is Princess Zenebework. The princess died in March 15 1925 having no children.
On September 17, 1909 Prince Eyashu was impeached by vote and Dejazmatch Tafar’I’ promoted to the rank of Ras and became Crown Prince of Ethiopia. He received full authority to govern Ethiopia on behalf of the people and Empress Menen received the rank of Princess.
On October 17, 1909 Lij Eyasu was over thrown from his authority of ruling the country despite the fact that their grandfather King Mikael created a civil war on behalf of his son Lij Eyasu Mikael. Princess Menen kept her promise to her husband Crown Prince Ras Tafar’I’ Makonnen and showed here loyatly by helping him up to the end.
On February 4 1909 Empress Zawditu took over her father’s position. Her Father was Emperor Menelik II. During that time the Crown Prince Ras Tafar’I’ Makonnen got a gold crown and Princess Woizero Menen also got the rank of Princess and received a gold crown.
On October 2, 1912 a fourth princess was born. The Christian name of this princess was Wolete Birhan and her birth name is Princess Tsehay. Princess Tsehay was kind and willing to help the poor. She died in August 12, 1934 without having any children.
There was an incomplete church being built by Empress Taitu in 1910; which is found in east Addis Ababa around Entoto Tigat. Empress Taitu told Empress Menen to complete the building. Keeping her promise, Empress Menen invested alot of money and constructed the Church. Empress Taitu gave this project to Empress Menen becuase she knew spiritually that princess Woizero Menen would be the Empress in the future.
On March 16, 1915 the “Kidane Mihret” chruch started its ceremony. The church became a monestary and weas Hamere Noh. Empress Menen gave here estate to the monastery and therefore helped those who give service to the Church. This monastery is still a shelter for many Christians.
There is Holy water near the Church in which people immerse themselves and they also drink it. People from every corner of Ethiopia give thanks to Empress Menen for this Holy water.
In March 1915 Empress Menen traveled to Jerusalem to visit the place where Jesus Christ was born. Jesus Christ preached Christianity and sacrificed himself for the sake of our sin. Empress Menen went to Jerusalem by train and ship via Djibouti. After She visited every part of Jerusalem, She went to Egypt to visit holy places. She gave alot of money to monasteries and came back to Ethiopia.
On October 5, 1916 Empress Menen delivered the fifth prince. The Prince took the name of his Grandfather Makonnen while his Christian name was Araya Yohannes.
Orice Makonnen the Duke of Harar, passed away in May 4 1919 after he had five sons.
On May 30, 1916 His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie was visiting Europe in order to introduce to many countries.
On May 20, 1908 Majesty Haile Selassie was saved from the accident in the Harmay sea and Empress Menen was praying; wishing for the Crown Prince to come back home safely.
Empress Menen gave her daughter Princess Tenangne Work Haile Selassie to be married with His Excellency Ras Desta Damtew on Nov. 7 1917.
On may 28 1919 Empress Menen donated a big amount of money to construct schools for the poor children and freed slaves.
On Oct 3 1920, Empress Menen visited Tafar’I’ Makonnen School and donated money after observing different kinds of handicraft products.
On Sept. 27 1921 His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie was promoted as Ethiopia’s King of Kings Crown Prince with full authority and they celebrated with a crowning ceremony. On this occasion Empress Menen showed her hostess ability by inviting many guests for an eight (8) day feasting. The feast began an historical chapter which cannot be forgotten.
On Nov. 18 1921 Empress Menen went to Djibouti due to health problems and came back December 9th
On Feb. 5th, 1921 she took King Mikael’s remains from Holeta Gent Kidane Mihret church to St. Michale Church at Tenta. She accompanied the remains up to Desie and came back to Addis Ababa.
On March 24th, 1922 Her Majesty Empress Zawditu passed away. His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I took over the crown of his grandfather King Menelik II. As a result of this, Empress Menen also had the same fortune of being promoted with her husband.
On September 24, 1923 Empress Menen founded a new school for girls near Genete Loul Palace. This school teaches women to be equal participants with men in the sphere of knowledge and technology. In this school a great number of ladies receive a chance to learn. Many students obtained scholarship to foreign countries; indeed fulfilled its objective.
On Oct. 23 1923 (November 2nd 1930) His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I King of Kings of Ethiopia was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia at Menagesha St. George Church. He allowed Princess Menen to be Empress and crowned the same day. The invited guests from different countries received gifts of silverr medals which had the picture of King of Kings of Ethiopia Haile Selassie I and Empress Menen. Dear invited foreign guests appreciated the beauty of Empress Menen.
On February 20, 1923 Empress Menen delivered the sixth prince. The prince took the Christian name of his grandfather Prince Sahile Aba Dina. He was baptized at Mekane Sellassie Church in Addis Ababa.
On February 3, 1924 Empress Menen went to Djibouti for a visit and came back on February 10th to Addis Ababa.
On April 30th, 1924 Ethiopia’s King of government Crown Prince Mered Azmach Asfa Wosen legally married Princess Wolete Israel.
On November 11, 1925 Empress Menen constructed St. Hana Church at Furi on her estate. She gave alot of acres of land to priest and deacons of the church. Empress Menen also gave urban land for the residents.
On September 6, 1926 Empress Menen went to sacred land Jerusalem for the second time. After she visited different churches and monasteries, she constructed, with her own funds, the St. Trinity Church for the Ethiopians in Jerusalem. She donated a lot of money to the monastery and clergymen and inaugurated the church.
On October 2, 1926 she completed her visit of Jerusalem and came back to Addis Ababa.
On May 19, 1926 Empress Menen went to Harar to visit and inaugurate Prince Makkonnen the Duke of Harar as governor of Harar.
In 1928 Fascist Italy was preparing to invade Ethiopia. Empress Menen gathered Ethiopian ladies by preparing logistic support, first aid materials and sent them to the battle field. She did her best up to the end.
On September 13, 1928, Empress Menen disclosed the aggression to the World Women Association and appealed to all world nation states:
“I am pleased to present my speech to all world women. When Italy conquered our people and country the World Women Association supported us to settle peace and freedom. We are very happy to express our deep feeling for the association. While I am speaking now, in order to be understood by all countries y daughter, Princess Tsehai, will translate my speech into English.
Princess Tsehai made the following speech on behalf of Empress Menen:
“Recently, Italy conquered us unjustly and the world’s women should hear the voice of the Ethiopian people. Even though women of the world are living in different countries with different climates, all woen are interrelated with the same will and objectives. War is a distress and trouble to mankind. For all woen of different countries, different races, and religions, the acts of violence and war have victimized their husbands, brothers and children. War is destruction of the family and creates homelessness. So women are against war.
We know that even Italian others and barren woen ay worry about the war, since war is good for nothing. Therefore, all women should prevent war before it brings trouble and distress. They should collaborate their voices and request the avoidance of war before there is bloodshed on both sides.
Ethiopia does not think of violence as ameans to resolve conflict and wishes to maintain peace. Ethiopia tried to settle the conflict peacefully in the early months. In every aspect Ethiopia has done her best. so we have a clear conscience. Ethiopian people welcomed all foreigners; the guest who came to work peacefully and innocently. The Ethiopian people’s good hospitality towards foreigners has been well narrated in the history of the world. However, one state which is the neighbor to Ethiopia, is trying to control and govern. Ethiopia is always on the line of peace, while the rival state is looking only after its own interest.
The enemy deployed its army and set up bases around our country to kill our women’s husbands, children, and brothers. Our people live and work peacefully, by being God-fearing, but the enemy is trying to devestate the wealth of the country and destroy our families in the name of modernization.
We pray to God not to face this kind of distress and destruction if the so-called modernization brings such big trouble. Hence, the association which is established for the purpose of peace by the world’s women may exert influence to bring peace and stability. We don’t hesitate to believe that the World Women Association may contribute a great deal to settling this conflict peacefully. We pray to God that the Association accomplishes its mission. We hope the activities of the Association may bring fruitful results in the preservation of peace and security in our country.
Nonetheless, if the war is started, we women should treat wounded soldiers and minimize the damage from the war. Women who are living all over the world, who stand for peace, may help us during the time of war. We know that these women assist the sacrificed patriot’s family. All women of the world should struggle to bring about peace and justice. Government officials must be guided along the lines of God and we pray for this as well as your collaboration with us in this effort.”
On November 18th 1928 His Imperial Majesty King of Kings Haile Selassie I went to the north battlefield. Empress Menen styed in Addis Ababa and prepared logistics and sent to the battle field. When the enemy’s planes bombed civilians she advised the people to be careful. During the bombing she traveled by car in the city to advise and embolden the people with courage. In addition to this she kept praying thereby waging spiritual warfare against the enemy.
On April 28, 1928 the Maichew battle field was bombed and devastated by Italian army, His Majesty King Of Kings came back to the capital city to give the fuiding instruction for the rest of the people. Then he went abroad in order to appeal to the League of Nations. Empress Menen also went to Europe with hi to assist him by giving advice and constructive ideas.
From 1928-1933 (1936-1941) they stayed in England in exile. During those trougle years they were praying day and night. They felt deep sorrow for the people becfuase the enemy conquered Ethiopia. Empress Menen stayed with the King of Kings Majesty Haile Selassie as an advisor. In 1933 (1941) she saw the rise of Ethiopia.
On February 12, 1929 the Fascist Italian army led by Graziani killed children, old women and men. When Empress Menen heard this news she felt deep sorrow for the massacred people. She sobbed and prayed to God for this inhuman act.
On April 27, 1933 (May 5th 1941) When His Imperial Majesty King Of Kings Haile Selassie I reached the capital city with victory Empress Menen sent Him the following message:
“I have received a Telegram your Majesty is victorious and has entered in the capital. Your family extends congratulations with great pleasure. I extend my greetings to Prince Crown Makonnen”
After the invader army evacuated Addis Ababa on August 23, 1933, Empress enen returned back home by extraordinary airplane with her beloved daughter PRincess Tsehay. This time His Majesty Kinf of Kings received them at the airport. The residents of Addis Ababa also received the with deep happiness.
In 1934 Empress Menen went to Wollo province and gave a speech through princess Tsehay, offering the following advice:
“My country’s ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to thank the Almighty Lord for our flag having been returned to it’s rightful place. Our patriots were victorious after staying in the bush for 5 years. Secondly, any human being would feel the great pleasure, I feel at this moment, when he or she is rejoined with his/her birth place. By the grace of God, I was eager to see my native home, Wollo. I am very happy as it has been 31 years since I last visited this region. Finally, I am very grateful for the people who received me with great pleasure.
All of you know that this naturally gifted country which is green and different from any other African country has never been colonized and has been ruled only by its own kings. After any attempts at colonization, Italy perpetrated propaganda warfare. Through this campaign, Italy tried to dismiss our unity and divide our people.
Is there anybody who did not lose a relative during the war? Some of our citizens were killed by hoes, spades, and machine guns.
God made it possible that Ethiopia was quickly victorious over its enemy. We, the citizen’s children feel proud when we see our country freed from any aggression and we are very thankful to Almighty God.
Ethiopian people have had good lessons from past experience which enables us to cooperate; much like one mother’s children who love each other. This made every Ethiopian struggle for the country’s independence and freedom. You have seen that a people without freedom are victims; as was seen during the 5 years aggression. Indeed our people did not hate native rulers as long as they kept the language, custom and tradtion of the people. But Italians tried to rule in a subtle way. During the aggression, even though the enemy killed our people, patriots went to the bush and some went abroad in exile. This situation surprised the world.
My native ladies and gentlemen of Wollo, our country has been free for 3000 years. However through the help of England and the fierce struggle of its children, we freed our country, the flag and King of our common motherland Ethiopia. We have to be one and united. The crown prince is selected by and cae up from you, our beloved son, prince Meried Azmach Asfa Wosen is now with you. Even though I was seperated from Wollo 31 years (physically, as it is impossible to say that I was living alienated from you), I was with you spiritually.
Our beloved son is your governor. I believe you will be very happy when I tell you this information. You will treat him loyally and kindly and he will share your probles and help you. He will govern you through good justice. Please, give him good advice and assist him whenever he needs it.
May God keep our country fertile. ay God give long life to our flag.”
Here she completed her speech. At this tie ladies & gentlemen of Wollo event children touched their heart with great happiness by her speech.