HAILE SELASSIE I, Emperor of Ethiopia
The vast information regarding the life of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia has become well known throughout the world. Many of the world’s leaders have absorbed His influence as a prominent statesman of the world stage. Born Tafari Makonnen on 16 Hamle 1884 (July 23, 1892, Gregorian calendar) in the province of Harrar, Haile Selassie came to be identified irrevocably with Ethiopia and the Rastafari Movement. The facts and stories of His life and His words are tightly interwoven into the daily life of the global Rastafari movement.
It has been said that astrologers foretold of His birth. They prophesied that the planets Neptune and Pluto, which had begun moving towards each other in 1399, would intersect in July, 1892. Moreover, this astrological event would influence the constellation Leo, which represents the House of Judah. Born on the first day of the zodiac sign Leo, young Tafari ushers in this cosmic change. The great drought that had begun in Ethiopia in 1889 was then broken, thus confirming His identity and destiny.
Young Tafari was baptized on the fortieth day of His life in accordance with traditional Ethiopian Christian custom. He would later claim to have gained knowledge through the experience. At an early age, He displayed an exceptional understanding of Ethiopia’s ancient religious texts. And it was rumored that He could speak to the animals. He would be seen in the presence of leopards and lions. In His presence, these ferocious beasts were tamed.
At the age of 13, on 21 Teqemt 1898 (November 1, 1905), Tafari was bestowed the title Dejazmatch, or “Keeper of the Door,” by his father, Ras Makonnen. Unfortunately, his father died the following year on 13 Magabit 1898 (March 21, 1906). Afterwards, Tafari resided in the palace of Emperor Menelik II, at Addis Ababa where He continued His education in a school set up by the Emperor.
Emperor Menelik II gave Tafari several administrative positions throughout Ethiopia. He went to Sidamo on April 4, 1908, but had to return to Addis Ababa eight months later after the Emperor suffered a stroke. On March 3, 1910, He was made Governor or “Ras” of Harrar, Ethiopia’s most important province, by Empress Taitu. On July 31, 1911, Tafari married Menen Asfaw, the 22-year-old granddaughter of Ras Mikael. The union lasted 50 years until the death of Empress Menen in 1961. Together they had six children.
When Ras Tafari was 38 years of age, He ascended the throne of Ethiopia. It was at this time He was coronated Emperor Haile Sellassie I according to traditional Ethiopian Christian customs. Translated, His name means the “Power/Might of the Trinity.” He became the 225th Emperor of Ethiopia to descend directly from the Solomonic Dynasty of Kings. At His coronation, He also received the titles “King of Kings, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Defender of the Faith and Light of the World.”
“His Foundation is in the hola mountains. Jah loveth the gates of Zion more than the dwelling places of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, o city of Jah. Selah. I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know I; behold Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there. And of Zion it shall be said. This and that man was born in her; and the highest himself shall establish her. Jah shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah. As well as the singers as well as the players of instruments shall be there; a; all my springs are in thee.” (Psalm 87)
With these titles bestowed upon Him, the fulfillment of the biblical prophesies had come of age. The final trumpet was sounded in Ethiopia, heralding the opening of the seven seals and the rising up of the sleeping disciples in whose heart was written the commandments of ancient livity. The die was cast, the birth and growth of the Rastafari in the Caribbean was quick and decisive. It spread throughout the four corners of the earth at lightening speed. People of all races, creeds and nationalities gathered to reason about the coming of the King of Kings. As the personality of His Imperial Majesty unfolded to the world, the green, gold and red flag of the Lion of Judah became the only flag to be flown internationally, by people of all races and nationalities.
Rarely has the story of a man become so closely knitted to the plight of the world’s suffering masses. In this era of heightened Pan-Africanism and the cries for freedom and the rights of humankind, the name and personage of the Emperor has become a guiding light for “Third World” revolutionaries. Rasta musicians and philosophers have echoed this relentless fight for equality and justice throughout the world.
The Emperor’s speech to the League of Nations of the impending Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 was not one of religion, but one of distinct revolution and changes to global practices. Very few world leaders have had the conviction to engage in actual battle alongside their troops, as was the case for His Imperial Majesty against the invading Italian forces of Benito Mussolini. In its brief occupation of Ethiopia, the Italian regime never became ruler of the Ethiopian people, and never had Ethiopia been ruled by a foreign ideology or power. It was not until 1975 when the Marxism-influenced Derg staged a coup did Ethiopia succumb to a foreign ideological rule, which was the very thing that Haile Selassie resisted.
In 1935, He warned Europe of the impending invasion by Italy upon the Ethiopian people. He admonished that if nothing was done to stop it, that same fire that burned Ethiopia would also burn Europe. Prophetically, Europe was indeed burned by Nazi Germany and Adolph Hitler.
Haile Selassie’s work in the cause of African Nationhood led Him to form the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963. He is the world’s greatest political leader of the twentieth century. His works for the unification of humankind, equal rights and justice are unparalleled. And never will they be equaled
For He is RASTAFARI