The Imperial Prime Ministers
After months of the military co-ordinating committee (Dergue) placing members of the Aklilu Haptewold and Endalkatchew Makonnen governments in prison, along with the senior military officers, nobility and regional governors and officials, it became clear that the days of the Emperor on the throne were numbered. The press was full of vitriol and scathing attacks on the fallen governments, on the corruption and incompitence of the officials, and even on the character and the performance of the Emperor himself. The attacks on the Emperor ranged from critics that stated his reign had been too long, that he should have abdicated in favor of his son or one of his grandsons long ago, that he was too old and too senile to hold state responsibility, to outright attacks on his character labeling him a thief and a despot. The daily attacks eroded the Emperor’s once vast popularity and laid the groundwork for the inevitable. On September 11th, 1974, Ethiopians celebrated their New Year, welcoming the year 1967 according to their version of the Julian Calandar. During the day, truckloads of soldeirs spread out from the baracks of the 4th division and took up strategic positions all over the capital. Tanks and armoured personnel carriers rolled down the streets of Addis Ababa and jeeps with mounted machine guns took up guard outside banks, ninistries, palaces and important junctions in the city. Soldiers wore stickers with the slogan “Ethiopia Tikdem” (Ethiopia before all) on their helmets. Rumors swept the city that Princess Tenagnework and several other members of the Emperor’s immediate family had been placed under arrest. Nothing in the press indicated what exactly was going on. In fact, the Emperor’s daughter Princess Tenagnework, his daughter-in-law Princess Sara Duchess of Harrar and all their children were placed under arrest in Addis Ababa. In Tigrai, the hereditary Prince Ras Mengesha Seyoum had already taken to the hills with a band of followers, but at Mekele’s castle, his wife Princess Aida Desta (daughter of Princess Tenagnework) along with her daughter and the children of her sister Princess Seble were arrested and put on a plane back to Addis Ababa. The Imperial family was systematically being rounded up. Rumors swept the city, but nothing official was announced. Late in the day, as was traditional, the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Theophilos gave his yearly New Year’s Address on national television and radio. In his speech, the Patriarch likened Ethiopia to a ship in stormy seas, charting a new path into the future. At the end of the speech, for the first time ever, he failed to bless the Emperor and the Imperial family, and instead wished success to the mission of the co-ordinating committee. For the Emperor’s loyalists it was a jarring and shocking development. In 1960, Abune Basilios had condemned any attempt to dethrone the man annointed by the Church and stood firm against the Imperial Guard coup attempt. That his successor should make a statement that seemed to abandon the Emperor to his fate was a shock. Then came the Coup-de-Grace on the reign of Haile Selassie I. Ethiopian Television, showed the Ethiopian public the BBC production of the Hidden Famine by Jonathan Dimbleby. The film showing the horrifying famine in Wollo with scenes of death and starvation was damaging enough on it’s own, but the Dergue had re-edited the film to include footage of lavish palace banquets and ceremonies in honor of the Emperor’s 80th birthday, the marriage of Prince Asrate Kassa’s daughter, and other glittering court events. The Emperor was also shown feeding his pet leopards and dogs choice cuts of meat from silver platters held by liveried servants. People watching the film in public places were seen to weep. This time no mention was made of the Aklilu cabinet hiding the famine from the Emperor, or of the ogtagenerian Emperor being out of touch. The film was made to make him seem heartless and steeped in luxury while his people suffered untold misery. It was the final nail in the coffin of Haile Selassie’s reign, and indeed in the coffin of the worlds oldest monarchy.
The following morning, September 12th, 1974 (Meskerem 2, 1967 Ethiopian calander) ten junior officers who were members of the Dergue arrived at the Jubilee Palace which was surrounded for the first time by tanks and machinegun mounted jeeps. A small mostly male crowd had gathered outside the gates suspiciously at the same time as the ten officers. The officers were led by Major Debela Dinsa. Their mission was to inform the King of Kings that his reign was over and to remove him from his palace. Concerned that he might not be cooperative, the Dergue had asked Ras Imiru Haile Selassie, the Emperor’s cousin, life long companion, and socialist sympathizer, to come with them to convince him to step down peacefully. Ras Imiru was also the father of Lij Michael Imiru, the recently appointed Prime Minister. The officers were all armed with Uzzi sub-machineguns and revolvers, and some had grenades strapped to their belts. The senior prince and junior officers waited at the gates for a camera crew from Ethiopian Television to show up. Much to their irritation, the camera crew did not materialize, and when calls were made, it became apparent that Ethiopian Television had not been informed of the event so they scrambled to get a camera man to the palace at once. The small group then entered the palace and asked to see the Emperor. The palace no longer had throngs of courtiers and noblemen attending the Emperor’s person, only the servants walked the halls. Debela Dinsa’s account (refered to in Guenet Ayele’s book “Ye Colonel Mengistu Tizitawoch” as “Dergue member 11” at a transparent attempt at annonimity) states that the encounter between the Emperor and the group of officers took place in the Grand Throne Room, but the film of the event indicates it took place either in the Palace library or the Emperor’s study. The film is quite compelling. The armed soldiers stood in a line facing the Emperor, with Debela Dinsa standing at the center of the line. He stepped forward and saluted before producing from his pocket a speech which he read out loud to the Emperor. The letter was a decree of the Dergue removing Haile Selassie I from the Imperial throne and charging him with abuse of power, lack of compitence to continue to reign due to his advanced age, and the additional charge of embezzeling the money of the people. The Emperor listened to the speech in silence. Debela Dinsa’s hands were visibly shaking throughout his reading of the speech, and his fellow soldiers, although armed to the teeth, seemed awed and nervous while the Emperor sat, regal in his bearing and completely silent. Once the speech was finished, the Emperor continued to sit completely silent looking at the soldiers. Debela Dinsa freely admits in his account of the event that he was awed and frightened in the Emperor’s presence, and he completely understood the stories that even though the Emperor was such a small frail old man, there was something about him that compelled you to bow low before him. As the nervous tension increased in the room, Ras Imiru approached the Emperor and they spoke in low tones for an extended time. The Emperor then spoke. His statement was simple and moving. He stated that all through his life, he had tired endlessly for the benefit of his country and his people, and that ones individual desires could not come ahead of the needs of the nation. The Emperor’s role was to lead in good times and bad, he said, and to serve his people always and without fail. If it was determined that this was for the greater good of Ethiopia, then he would accept the decision and do what was required of him. After another nervous extended silence, still refering to the Emperor as “Your Majesty”, Debela Dinsa asked that the Emperor accompany him and his fellow officers to a place where he “would be safe and comfortable”. The Emperor asked “Where are you taking me”. Debela Dinsa replied that a place had been prepared for “your majesty” that would offer comfort and protection of his safety. The Emperor asked if he could bring some retainers. Debela Dinsa said that he would be allowed some retainers, but for the time being, the Emperor was to bring just one servant with him. The Emperor called out to his servant Merid who came quickly. The Emperor rose and started to walk out with the officers. Ras Imiru, visibly moved asked if he could come with the Emperor. The soldiers informed “His Higness” that he could not come with them, but that he could come see the Emperor later in the day. As the Emperor walked past Debela Dinsa, he asked him “Why are you holding your gun like that?” refering to the Uzzi in Debela Dinsa’s hands. Debela Dinsa nervously replied that it was so he could carry the gun more comfortably. The Emperor smirked and said “I think not, I think it’s so you can shoot it more easily.” and swept by him. As the Emperor walked through the palace with his armed escort, liveried servants began to gather and follow. They all looked shocked and bewildered. When they arrived at the front portico, footmen, maids, Imperial guards, gardeners, and other staff both male and female had gathered on the steps and at the windows of the palace. Debela Dinsa said most of the men looked stunned and many were staring at their shoes or the ground. It was obvious to them all what was happening. Most were openly weeping. A small caravan of vehicles pulled up. The Emperor caught sight of the car which was to take him away from the Jubilee Palace for the last time. It was a small baby blue volkswagen beetle, a far cry from the Rolls Royce and Benz limosines that he was accustomed to. Members of the Dergue have since claimed that this car was chosen in order to take the Emperor away with maximum annonimity to protect him fromt he anger of the people, and not to humiliate him in anyway. This is belied by the fact that the small car was escorted in front and back by two jeeps with mounted machine guns, making it just about the most conspicuous car in the city. For years afterwards, the Dergue would often display this car in public as the final humiliating end of Haile Selassie’s reign, so this statement is obvious in it’s absurdity. As the Emperor was driven away, his servants began to wail and weep loudly, many beating their chests as if at a traditional funeral. Of all his former subjects, the staff of his palaces, people with little power and relatively small personal gain from his reign, have remained the most consistantly loyal to the Emperor’s memory. Once outside the gates however the scene changed dramatically. The small crowd of men which had gathered opposite the palace gates began to scream “Thief! Thief! Thief!” at the Emperor as he passed. They followed the little group of cars as they drove slowly through the city, running after them screaming abuse at the man who had reigned over them till that very morning. Members of the Dergue have claimed that this was a spontaneous demonstration by people who were enraged at the Emperor following the previous night’s broadcast of “The Hidden Famine”. The Dergue leader and subsequent dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in an interview with a biographer Genet Ayele told her that he found the denunciations of the Emperor distasteful and hated the fickleness of these people who only weeks earlier would have bowed to the ground before him. This statement ofcourse should be taken with a grain of salt, as Mengistu spent his entire rule of Ethiopia trying to demolish the memory of Haile Selassie and his reign. However, others have stated that the group of young men, who suspiciously gathered at the gates just as the group of officers arrived to enter the palace that morning, was actually a group of soldiers ordered by the Dergue to appear in civilian dress in order to give the dethronement a look of civilian approval and perhaps also to humiliate Haile Selassie I. If this was the case, it was an unnecissary and cruel measure, for within minuites of Radio Ethiopia announcing that Haile Selassie I had been removed from the Imperial throne, students from the University that still bore his name ran through the streets with burning and torn portraits of the Emperor. The always radically leftist and ardently anti-monarchist students were jubilant and they quickly took up cries of “Taffari Thief” and sang songs sarcastically depicting the wailing of the aristocracy at the end of their days eating fine lamb and chicken. They tossed flowers at the soldiers guarding the city and sang the praises of the Dergue and the Ethiopian revolution. Around the world leaders and governments hailed the peaceful transfer of power in Ethiopia, commending the military for carrying out the coup in a civilized and bloodless manner. Cries of “Etyopia Tikdem” (Ethiopia before all) and the even more ambitious “Yaleminim Dem Etyopia Tikdem” (Without any bloodshed, Ethiopia before all) which was quickly incorporated into a popular song, were heard on the streets and on television and radio. Ethiopia was supposedly embarking on a bright and happy future, emerging from centuries of darkness and backwardness. It would be only a very short time later that the hollowness and falseness of these dreams would be dreadfully apparent. In the immediate aftermath of the dethronement, the Dergue issued a decree establishing itself as the Provisional Military Admimistrative Council (PMAC) and declared martial law. The constitution was suspended, the Imperial court disbanded and the Emperor’s Chilot which was the Supreme Court of the land abolished, as was the Crown Council. Parliament was immediately disolved. The Dergue did not however formally abolish the monarchy at tht time. Instead, it was announced that Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen would be annointed “King” of Ethiopia (as opposed to Emperor) upon his return from medical care in Switzerland. In the following days, it was announced that the title of Conquering Lion of Judah was henceforth to be changed to Conquering Lion of Ethiopia, and that Prince Asfaw Wossen was to be a strictly titular monarch with no political power whatsoever. The brief period of freedom of the press was ended as part of the emergency measures of martial law and would never see the light of day again for 17 years. The Dergue, in an effort to gain support with more liberal elements announced that Lt. General Aman Michael Andom, would serve as it’s new Chairman and acting Head-of-State and Head-of-Government. General Aman was an Eritrean born veteran in his youth of the war against Italy and a renowned Ethiopian patriot. Unlike most of the Ethiopian heirarchy he was not an Orthodox Christian, but born and raised a Protestant (Lutheran). He had attended Sandhurst on an Imperial scholarship and was generally regarded as one of the finest officers in the Ethiopian Army, and widely popular with the rank and file of the military as well as the general civilian population. General Aman had an impecable military record, and was refered to as the “Lion of the Ogaden” due to his heroic role in turning back the Somali invasion of the Ogaden in the early 1960’s. However, his outspoken support for reform had alienated him from the Imperial government, and he had been retired from active military service. The Emperor, in an act he often carried out on public figures who were outspoken in their critisism of his regime, had appointed General Aman to the Imperial Senate. (It was the type of punishment that would soon be looked back with fondness by political dissidents in Ethiopia. It was noted the Emperor used to punish people with appointments to prestegious yet powerless positions or foriegn ambassadorships.) General Aman was popular, and the Dergue was confident that he would lend them added legitimacy. One of his first public acts was to announce that Ras Mengesha Seyoum was to henceforth be regarded as a traitor and an outlaw, and that he was not only stripped of his governorship of Tigrai, but that he was also stripped of his princely title. He also issued an immediate recall to Prince Makonnen (David) Makonnen, second son of the late Duke of Harrar, to immediately leave his military studies in the United States and return to Ethiopia at once. David Makonnen promptly went into hiding.
Emperor Haile Selassie had a large family. His first marriage was to Woizero Altayech, by whom he had a daughter, Her Imperial Highness Princess Romanework Haile Selassie. Princess Romanework was married to Dejazmatch Beyene Merid, and had four sons, two of which survived to adulthood. They were Dejazmatch Samson Beyene, and Dejazmatch Merid Beyene. Dejazmatch Beyene Merid died fighting the fascist Italian invasion in 1936. Princess Romanework and her sons were captured by the Italians, and imprisoned in Italy, where the Princess died on Asinara island in 1940, and her body was returned to the Imperial Family after the restoration of 1941. Her sons returned to Ethiopia and were raised by their grandfather the Emperor. Dejazmatch Samson died in Ethiopia before the revolution. He had been married to Woizero Koremtit Andargatchew, daughter of Ras Andargatche Messai and step-dauther of Princess Tenagnework his aunt. The have one son, Lij Sibistianos Samson. Dejazmatch Merid died in exile in London without issue in 1990. Emperor Haile Selassie was next married to Empress Menen Asfaw, who had previously been the wife of Ras Leulseged Atnaf Seged, an old Shewan noble. Woizero Menen was the daughter of Jantirar Asfaw of Anbassel (Jantirar is a hereditary title reserved for the ruler of Anbassel and is one of the oldest titles in Ethiopia). Her mother was Woizero Sehin Michael, daughter of King Michael of Wollo and sister of Lij Eyasu. Her Imperial Majesty was thus the neice of Lij Eyasu. In 1930, she was crowned Empress-consort upon the coronation of her husband as Emperor.
Empress Menen and Emperor Haile Selassie were the parents of six children. The eldest was Princess Tenagnework, followed by Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen (later Amha Selassie I,Emperor-in-Exile),Princess Zenebework,Princess Tsehai,Prince Makonnen Duke (Mesfin) of Harrar, and Prince Sahle Selassie. Princess Tenagnework first married Ras Desta Damtew who died fighting the Italians in 1936. By him she had two sons, Prince Amha Desta, and Prince Rear-Admiral Iskinder Desta, as well as four daughters, Princesses Aida, Seble, Sophia, and Hirut. Prince Amha Desta died young (possibly of tuberculosis) in Englad during the exile of the Imperial family there. He had no children and was never married. Princess Aida would marry the hereditary prince of Tigrai, Ras Mengesha Seyoum, and had four sons and a daughter. They are Lij Michael Sehul, Lij Yohannis, Lij Stephanos, Lij Jalliye and Woizero Menen Mengesha. Princess Seble Desta would marry the heir to the Oromo ruling family of Leqa-Qellem principality of Wellega Dejazmatch Kassa Jote. They would have four daughters and a son, Woizero Jote, Woizero Yeshi, Woizerit Lally, Woizerit Kokeb and Lij Amha Kassa. Princess Sophia Desta would marry Captain Dereje Haile Mariam , and had a daughter, Woizero Hanna Dereje. Princess Hirut Desta would marry Gen. Nega Tegegne. Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen first married Princess Wollete Israel Seyoum, daughter of the then hereditary prince of Tigrai Ras Seyoum Mengesha. They had one daughter, Princess Ijigayehu Asfaw Wossen. Princes Ijigayehu was married to the heir of the ruling Oromo family of Leqa-Neqemt in Wellega, Dejazmatch Fikre Selassie Hapte Mariam. They had six children (see details under page for Emperor Amha Selassie I on main page). Following his divorce from from his first wife, the Crown Prince married Medferiashwork Abebe, daughter of General AbebeDamtew. The new Crown Princess was thus the neice of Ras Desta Damtew, first husband of Princess Tenagnework. Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen had four more children with Crown Princess Medferiash. They are Princess Mariam Senna (Mary), Princess Sefrash Bizu, Princess Sehin, and Prince Zera Yacob (See under Emperor Amha Selassie). Princess Zenebework Haile Selassie married Dejazmatch Haile Selassie Gugsa, son of the other hereditary prince of Tigrai, Ras Gugsa Araya. Princess Zenebework died in 1934, and her husband defected to the fascist Italians on the eve of the 1935 war. He was sent into internal exile after the restoration. Princess Tsehai Haile Selassie was married to General Abiye Abebe, but died in childbirth in 1941. General Abiye continued to be accorded the protocol rank of the Emperor’s son-in-law, even after his remarriage. General Abiye served in a number of capacities in the Imperial government including Crown Representative in Eritrea, Senator, and Minister of Defence. Lt. General Abiye Abebe was executed with the other high government official by the Derg in November of 1974. Prince Makonnen Haile Selassie, Duke of Harrar was married to Princess Sara Gizaw Duches of Harrar. They had five sons,Princes Wossen Seged, Taffari, Makonnen (David),Michael, and Beide Mariam. Prince Sahle Selassie Haile Selassie was married to Princess Mahisente Hapte Mariam, daughter of the heir to the Oromo principality of Leqa-Neqemt. They had one son, Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie, who is the current President of the Ethiopian Crown Council in exile.
Prince Makonnen, Duke of Harrar, was killed in a car crash on his way to the resort town of Nazareth in 1959. Prince Sahle Selassie died of illness in 1961. Her Imperial Majesty Empress Menen also died in 1961 after many years of ill health. The Empress, the Duke of Harrar, Prince Sahle Selassie, Princess Zenebework, Princess Romanework, and Ras Desta Damtew (first husband of Princess Tenagnework were all buried in the crypt of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa. Princess Tsehai was buried at the Ba’eta Le Mariam Monastery Church, in the Imperial mausoleum with Emperor Menelik II, Empress Taitu and Empress Zewditu. Emperor Haile Selassie had built a huge new sarcophagus for himself and a matching one for his wife in the north trancept of the Nave in Holy Trinity Cathedral. He planed to move the Empress’ remains from the crypt under the cathedral to this new tomb,and to be buried there himself. However, the revolution intervened, and the Empress remained in her original tomb until November 2000. Following the disinternment of the Emperor’s remains from the secret grave he was placed in by the Derg in 1991, disputes between the government in Ethiopia and the Imperial family over whether the Emperor should receve a state funeral or not, erupted. The Emperor’s remains were placed in the mausoleum at the Ba’eta Le Mariam Monastery until the time that an agreement could be reached to hold his funeral and final burial at Holy Trinity Cathedral. No agreement could be reached with the state authorities, so the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Haile Selassie I Memorial Foundation, and the Veterans Association of Ethiopia, in agreement with the Imperial family, held a non-State Imperial Funeral for the late Emperor on November 5th, 2000. Her Imperial Highness, Princess Tenagnework Haile Selassie is the only child of the Emperor who survives.
The post-war period in Ethiopian history was one of unprecidented development and change. The Emperor returned to a country that had recieved some benefits in infrastructure development fromt the colonial administration of Italy, but much had been distroyed in the war, and the British had instituted a parallel administration to his own. It would take years to dislodge them.
The Emperor addresses the League of Nations, 1936
In spite of his victory in the battle for public opinion, the League of Nations did little however to help the Emperor, beyond weak symbolic sanctions that had little effect on Italy. Although the League did recognize the government at Gore, and did not accept the Italian argument that the Ethiopian Empire ceased to exist due to their conquest, Great Britain, France and the United States all gave recognition to the Italian conquest of Ethiopia by acknowledging King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy as Emperor of Ethiopia. The League accepted the Emperor’s argument that the Ethiopian government continued to exist at Gore, and permitted the Ethiopian delegation to continue to sit in the League and represent that government. The Emperor departed for Britain to begin his new life in exile. He was assisted in his work by Lorenzo Taezaz, and Eritrean born loyalist who acted as his primary representative to the league and a frequent go between with exiles and resistance fighters. Azaj Workineh Eshete (Dr. Charles Martin), the Ethiopian minister to Great Britain was also an active participant in raising funds and publicity for the cause of Ethiopia. Blatangueta Hirui, the elderly foreign minister of Ethiopia worked also towards liberation from exile, until his death in London in 1937.
Back in Ethiopia the Italians were settling in. The Italians took possession of the capital and set about building the foundations for their new administration. The former colonies of Eritrea and Italian Somaliland were merged with Ethiopia to form what they called “Africa Orientale Italiana” or “AOI”, a single colony ruled from Addis Ababa by the Vice-Roy as the representative of the King-Emperor(Kesare) and the Duce Mussollini. As administative units, the Empire was restructured into new regions that replaced the old Imperial provinces. The Ogaden was joined to Italian Somaliland and made the new governorate of “Somali” based in Mogadishu in the east, the southern kingdoms, provinces and principalities became the governorate of “Galla-Sidamo” and was ruled from Jimma. In the north, Tigrai and Eritrea were merged into the governorate of “Eritrea” based in Asmara, Gojjam, Beghemidir and Simien, Wello and parts of northern Shewa were merged into the governorate of “Amhara” based in Gondar. The region surrounding Addis Ababa was first named after the capital, but later was re-named the governortate of “Shewa” and was ruled directly by the Vice-Roy. Harrar and Dire Dawa, and their environs became the “Harrar governortate”. The Vice-Roy took up residence in the Emperor’s Guenete Leul Palace. Addis Ababa was divided between the “Native” and “Colonial” districts. The city market, once next to the Cathedral of St. George was moved further out north of St. Tekle Haimanot church and named “Merkato Indigino” and is still refered to as “Merkato” today. This was the “native” district of the city. Italian names were given different parts of the City. The city center of the time was named Piazza (which it is still refered to as even today), the Casa Populare and Casa I.N.C.E.S. are even today refered to as Populare and Casanchis districts of the capital. The Italians would build new buildings and roads, further modernizing the city of Addis Ababa, and the ancient towns of Gondar and Jimma were to be similarly developed by the Italians. Although the Facists ordered strict racial segregation and non-fraternization, this policy was not agressively enforced. The Italian soldiers and officers, and later settlers, formed friendships and romantic liasons, and had children with Ethiopians, relationships that would survive the occupation. For this reason, many would remain in Ethiopia after the occupation was over. However, the Fascist doctrine of conquest was based on an ideology of revenge for the humiliation of Adowa, and the erasing of Ethiopian national identity. The Italians looted what they could of Ethiopia’s heritage. Several crowns of previous monarchs were taken to Italy on Mussolini’s orders. Badoglio showed one crown to the English writer Evlyn Waugh (a fascist sympathizer) to confirm that this was in fact the crown of Emperor Haile Sellassie, whose coronation Waugh had attended five years earlier. Waugh confirmed that the silver gilt crown was indeed the crown of Emperor Haile Sellassie, but he was mistaken. The crown used at the coronation in 1930 was solid gold, not silver gilt, and had accompanied the Imperial family into exile. The Italians carried off the taller of the two standing obelisks at Axum, and erected it in Rome in front of the Ministry of the Colonies (the headquarters for the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization today) where it stood for decades until it was returned in 2006. During the visit to Addis Ababa by the Minister for the Colonies, Lessona, he ordered several other monuments removed also. Taken to Rome was the Lion of Judah monument from in front of the Addis Ababa train station. The lion was re-erected in Rome next to the Vittorio Emanuelle monument. The Italians also removed the statue of Emperor Menelik from the square in front of St. George’s Cathedral and also the crown from the top of the dome of the St. Marys Ba’eta monastery where Menelik II was buried. These two large monuments of the Ethiopian monarchy were removed in the dead of night, and taken out of the city and hidden. The next morning, people came out into the streets of the city and saw the empty pedestal of the statue of Emperor Menelik, and many are said to have beaten their chests and wept as if at a funeral of a relative. The Italians took a host of valuable works of art, manuscripts, and the entire Imperial archives and took them to Italy. They also took the Emperor’s Ethiopian assembled airplane, the “Princess Tsehai” named for his daughter. After a few months as the Vice-Roy of the “King-Emperor Vittorio Emanuelle III”, Marshal Badoglio, “Duke of Addis Ababa” resigned and returned to Rome, where he could better bask in the glory of being the conqueror of Italy’s new Empire. More of a monarchist than a staunch fascist, he found himself in constant battles with the Minister for the Colonies, Lessona, over ideological and jurisdictional issues. He was replaced as Vice-Roy by Marshal Graziani, a staunch fascist, and a man with a long and bloody reputation from his ruthless supression of rebles in Italian ruled Libya. Although the Italians had proclaimed a new “Fascist Empire”, Ethiopia was hardly conquered and pacified. Wide stretches of the countryside remained outside Italian control, and would remain so for the duration of the occupation. Although all the major urban areas were firmly occupied, rural areas remained restive and alive with anti-Fascist activity. The armys of Ras Imiru and Ras Desta remained in the south, very actively opposing the Italians. Guerillas were banding together in the central and northern highlands as well. In particular, Abebe Arregai in Shewa, Belai Zelleke in Gojjam, and “Amoraw (The Hawk)” Wubineh in Beghemidir led well organized guerilla forces that harrassed and bloodied the Italians again and again, making it impossible for them to ever fully extend Fascist rule.
Remnants of the Imperial army however were determined to oust the Italians from Addis Ababa. The scattered brigades needed someone to lead them, and coordinate with the guerillas. Soon, the rumors swept through Addis Ababa, that the Imperial red umbrella’s had been seen in Menz to the north. The House of Solomon was far from finished. In Menz, the sons of the premier prince of the blood, Ras Kassa Hailu, were rallying the peasantry to the banner of the dynasty. Dejazmatch Wondwossen Kassa, Dejazmatch Abera Kassa, and Dejazmatch Asfaw Wossen Kassa began to gather the remnants of the Imperial forces and many more peasants urban intelegencia who had fled the occupation of the cities into a new army. With them was the Bishop of Wollo, Abune Petros himself, who rallied the population and exhorted them to refuse the rule of this godless enemy. The three royal Dejazmatches captured the imagination of the Shewan loyalists of the dynasty, and plans were set up to expell the Italians from Addis Ababa.
In the mean time, Emperor Haile Selassie and his family were entering Djibouti. As the Emperor had left, he had ordered two prominent prisoners be brought to him and be put on the train. The Imperial train had stopped at Dire Dawa, where the Emperor had these prisoners brought before him. They were Ras Hailu Tekle Haimanot, the disgraced Prince of Gojjam, and Dejazmatch Balcha Saffo, the great general of Adowa and servant of Menelik who had tried to rebel against the then King Taffari on behalf of Empress Zewditu and the conservatives. He addressed these prisoners by telling them that although he recognized that they did not favor him, he hoped that their love of their country would guide them in their actions, and he released them. Ras Hailu promptly boarded a train for Addis Ababa and submitted to the Italian forces. He would serve them loyaly for the duration of the occupation, and in return he was recognized as the senior “native noble”. Dejazmatch Balcha however was a man of a different caliber. Although aged and very bitter towards the Emperor (whom he continued to contemptuously refer to as Taffari), he retained a strong love of his country, an unshakable loyalty to Emperor Menelik, and a deep hatred of Italy going back to the Adowa campaign. He and a band of followers became guerrilla fighters who harassed and made life difficult for the Italian occupiers for months on end. Finally, when his troops were almost all dead, and he himself was exhausted and had little hope of success, Dejazmatch Balcha sent a message to the local Italian commander near Harrar and announced that he was prepared to surrender to him and to meet at a specific locale. The officer, accompanied by an appropriate guard in dress uniform went to receive the surrender. The found the old Oromo nobleman, wrapped in a traditional white shawl, sitting under a large tree. As they approached him, he cried out to “Menelik my master” and pulled out a machine gun, killing all the senior officers before being gunned down himself. He is upheld as a great hero of the resistance to this day.
Film exists of the arrival of the Imperial family of Ethiopia and their retinue at Djibouti. They received a state welcome by the French Governor of the colony. The Empress is shown wearing a large hat covered by a heavy veil, but eye witness accounts state that she wept through the whole proceedings. Two trains had arrived in Djibouti carrying many people into exile with the family. Ethiopians resident in the French colony lined the roads in Djibouti to see for themselves if indeed the Imperial family had gone into exile for the first time in history. When they saw that it was indeed a somber Haile Selassie, and a weeping Empress, being driven past them, they too were seen to weep according to the Illustrated Times of London. An English ship had been directed to pick up the Emperor of Ethiopia and convey him to Palestine. When the ship arrived, it was determined that not all of the people that had gone into exile with the Emperor would be allowed to board the ship for Palestine, and when the Imperial family and a small group of followers (about half of those who had arrived on the two trians) boarded the ship and set sail, those anguished people left behind stood on the docks and wailed and wept as the monarch departed. The Emperor relates in his autobiography how some Ethiopian men and women resident in Egypt rented a boat as his ship passed through Port Said, and sailed next to it waving an Ethiopian flag. When he came out on deck to acknowledge them, he saw them break down and weep, the incident moved him deeply. The Illustrated Times of London printed photographs of the Imperial couple arriving at Haifa, the Emperor and Empress looking dejected. They proceeded to Jerusalem to pray, and to settle in while the Emperor prepared to present Ethiopia’s case to the League of Nations at Geneva.
The Emperor and his entourage were determined to make a stand against Italy at the League of Nations. Although France and the United Kingdom had continued to press Ethiopia to accept partition, and now that the Italians had marched into the capital, both these powers were leaning heavily towards recognizing Italian rule over Ethiopia, the Emperor had a strong case to be heard, and they could do little to prevent Ethiopia from presenting her case. Although the French had received him in Djibouti with all the pomp of a visiting monarch, his arrival in Palestine and later in Britain had been treated as the arrival of a private person, and no official notice was taken of the event. Hundreds of anti-fascists however chose to make their presence felt by thronging the docks upon the Emperor’s arrival in England, and by crowding around various places he visited to pay their respects. Many roadblocks were set up though to make it difficult. The Italians spread rumors that the Imperial family had fled with tons of gold and silver, that the Emperor had ordered the torching of Addis Ababa and the butchering of the people. In reality, the Emperor had left to prevent a bloodbath in the city, and he had left with little money, although he did take with him his crown and the old war tent of Emperor Menelik to prevent it from falling into the hands of the fascists. The Emperor arrived in Geneva to address the League of Nations in person. He was the first head of state to appear before the assembly, and the only one who would ever address it. The assembly of the League of Nations was being presided over by the Romanian delegate. The galleries above the floor of the assembly were packed with journalists, many of whom were Italians. When “His Majesty the Emperor of Ethiopia” was announced, the Italian journalists in the gallery began to whistle, stomp their feet and jeer loudly. The Emperor quietly walked up to the podium and stood quietly, a small man in a black cape looking up at the loudly protesting Italians silently. The angry president of the session, the delegate from Romania (who was chairing the session) lost his temper and demanded that the security personnel “Remove the savages!”, and the Italians were removed from the galleries. The Emperor then began his historic speech. The Emperor, although fluent in French, spoke in Amharic. He traced the history of the conflict and the atrocities committed by the Italians. He told of the horrors of poison gas attacks and the death rained on his people. He appealed to the League to follow through on it’s guarantees of collective security, and the promise that small and weak countries would not be allowed to be the victims of the large and strong.
Oddly, while the army retreated in disarray, the Emperor seemed to retreat in leisure. He did not retreat with the army, but behind it, a dangerous situation that upset some of his advisers as dangerous opening him up for possible capture. The monarch had perhaps given up on earthly powers and was turning to higher authorities. Emperor Haile Selassie paid a secret visit to the churches at Lalibella to pray, taking the time to visit the distant church of Our Lady at the summit of Mt. Asheten as well. This trip was a huge detour that extended his retreat considerably and dangerously. Finally, the Emperor finished his prayers and then proceeded out of Wello and on to Addis Ababa. Upon his arrival an emergency meeting of war leaders and nobles was held at the palace to decide what the next action should be. It was agreed that Addis Ababa would be impossible to defend, and that in the interests of preserving the Imperial house, the Empress and the Imperial family should immediately leave for Djibouti, and board an English ship for Palestine. A debate was held as to what the Emperor himself and the government should do. Some believed that it would be best to relocate the government to Gore, in the remote south. The Emperor agreed with this and ordered that it be done immediately. It was then discussed whether it would be wise for the Emperor to move with the government to Gore, and fight on, or leave with his family and present the plea of the Ethiopian people in person before the League of Nations in Geneva. One of his long time supporters and fellow modernist, Blatta Takkele angrily stated that an Ethiopian Emperor had never fled a battle, and that Emperor Haile Selassie should die in the glory of battle rather than go into exile and beg for the help of European colonialists. Ironically, it was the chief voice of conservatism, Ras Kassa Hailu, who just as forcefully argued against this traditionalist position championed by a modernist. The premier prince of the blood argued that if the Emperor stayed and was killed or captured, the cause of Ethiopia would be finished as the forces of opposition to the Italians fragmented. By staying alive and safe abroad, he could appeal for assistance from a position of legitimacy and return some day to fight again, keeping hope alive for the resistance. The Empress also pulled the Emperor aside and stressed her agreement with this position. She added that he should come with her to Jerusalem and pray for the deliverance of their country with her. Blatta Takelle is said to have horrified the assembled courtiers by threatening to draw his gun and saying that he would rather shoot the Emperor himself rather than have his country abandoned by her king. The Emperor made his decision. On the morning of May 3rd, 1936,The Emperor with Empress Menen, Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen with Crown Princess Wollete Israel and Princess Ijigayehu their daughter; Princess Tenagnework and her children, Princesses Aida, Seble, Sophia,Hirut,Princes Amha and Iskinder Desta; Princess Tsehai; Prince Makonnen Duke of Harrar; and Prince Sahle Selassie; along with numerous nobles and officials boarded the train to Djibouti. Crowds assembled to see them off, and as the trian pulled out, the crowds began to wail. When news that the Emperor had fled began to spread, panic began to set in. The government had packed up and departed hurriedly for Gore. The Emperor had appointed his cousin Ras Imiru as Prince-Regent and Commander-in-Chief. Ras Desta Damtew, the Emperor’s son-in-law and husband of Princess Tenagnework was to continue in command of the Imperial forces in the south. The remnants of the northern Armies were directed to join him or Ras Imiru immediately. Dejazmatch Beyene Merid, husband of the Emperor’s eldest daughter, Princess Romanework (from his first marriage) remained in command of troops in Bale, under the general command of Ras Desta. Princess Romanework and her two little sons remained behind with the Dejazmatch rather than go into exile. The chief of the Addis Ababa police, Balambaras (later Ras)Abebe Aregai began to organize a guerrilla army, set fire to key structures that he didn’t want the Italians to seize and marched out of the city. With the departure of the Imperial family, the exit of the government and of the army and police forces, disorder began to take root as the residents realized that the city had no authorities and was on the verge of falling to the hated Italians. Many began to loot and burn stores and warehouses, and foriegn nationals fled to the safety of the compounds of the various diplomatic missions.
On May 5th, 1936, the armies of fascist Italy, led by Marshal Pietro Badoglio marched into Addis Ababa and occupied the city. Promptly, that very day, Benito Musollini went out onto the balcony of the Venezia Palace in Rome and declared that “Ethiopia is Italian” before huge throngs of cheering Romans. The King of Italy emerged on the balcony as the dictator proclaimed him Vittorio Emannuelle, King of Italy and Emperor of Ethiopia before the wildly cheering masses. The new “King-Emperor” of the new “Italian Empire” in gratitude bestowed the title of “Duke of Addis Ababa” as a hereditary title upon Marshal Badoglio, and Marchese of Neghelli on Marshal Graziani, the commander of the Ialian troops that seized Harrar. Mussolini appointed Badoglio as the Vice-Roy (Vice-re) in what would henceforth be referred to as “Africa Orientale Italiana” or Italian East Africa, and would combine Ethiopia with the old Italian colonies of Somaliland and Eritrea. The title of Niguse Negest (King of Kings) which had been used by the Emperors of Ethiopia was forbidden to be used for the King of Italy. His new Imperial title over Ethiopia would be Keasare Ityopia (Caesar of Ethiopia) in an echo of Italian pretensions to ancient empire. The Italian flag was raised over the palace of Menelik, and the Italians began to set up colonial administration as they continued the military campaign to stamp out the resistance in the south.
Ever since the crushing defeat of the Italian Army at Adowa in 1896, Italian officials, especially colonial officials had chaffed at the lack of revenge, or restoration of their honor. Revenge for Adowa was considered essential for Italian prestige in Europe. Italian colonies in Libya, Italian (southern) Somaliland and Eritrea were unprofitable, and in the case of Libya, unstable. The Italians increasingly saw Ethiopia as their natural hinterland for their Somaliland and Eritrean colonies. A vast territory of industrious people, fertile soil, untapped mineral wealth and the prestige of ancient empire were a prize that they were simply unwilling to pass up for good. The fact that relations between Ethiopia and Italy had been outwardly warm since the war of 1896 was no deterrent. As Crown Prince and Regent, the Emperor had visited Rome in 1923 and met with King Victor Emmanuelle and Queen Helena, as well as Italy’s brand new Premier, a vulgar braggart and demagogue named BenitoMussolini. During the visit of Prince Regent Tafari, the leader of the Socialists in the Italian Parliament, and a vocal opponent to Mussolini’s fascism, mysteriously disappeared. A racist cartoon in a Rome Daily depicted the Ethiopian Prince asking el Duce if he had eaten his opponent, as if that was typical behavior for Ethiopian leaders to eat their enemies. The Italian and Ethiopian governments renewed the treaty of Friendship and Commerce, and the King of Italy decorated the Prince with the Order of the Annunziata, entitling him to be called a “cousin” of the King of Italy. The Prince of Udine (later made king of the fascist puppet state in Croatia), an actual cousin of the King of Italy had even attended the Emperor’s coronation in 1930. At the same time, the new fascist government was laying down plans for the eventual conquest of the Ethiopian Empire. The excuse that Italy needed was provided by the infamous Wal Wal incident and the un-demarcated border between Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland. Wal Wal was a outpost in the Ogaden desert that had wells used by the Somali nomads that freely crossed between British, French and Italian Somalilands, and the Ethiopian Ogaden. The treaty that set down the border between Italian Somaliland and Ethiopia stated that the border ran parallel to the Benadir coast of Somalia at a distance of 21 leagues. What was unstated was if this meant 21 standard leagues or 21 nautical leagues. The Italians insisted on the nautical leagues, as this would push the border further inland, while the Ethiopians maintained it was absurd to claim that the treaty used nautical leagues to measure a distance on dry land. Nevertheless, a contingent of Italian soldiers occupied the wells at Wal Wal and built a small fort on what Ethiopia claimed was clearly Ethiopian territory, and had been administered by the Ethiopians. Ethiopian territorial troops under the command of Fitawrarri Shiferaw (posthumously created a Dejazmatch)confronted the Italians, and after repeated requests for the Italians to leave the site, gunfire was exchanged. The fighting grew fierce and Italian airplanesbombed Ethiopian positions. Ethiopia complained to the League of Nations, calling on the collective security agreementsembodied in the charter to be invoked and applied. The Italians railed that it was Ethiopia that had attacked an Italian fortification. The Emperor assumed that the League would protect all members from aggression once the victim party was ascertained. In order to leave no doubt as to who was the aggressor, and in a move that showed exactly how much faith he had put in the League, the Emperor ordered all Ethiopian forces to withdraw from large areas along the borders with Italian Somaliland and Eritrea. In the meantime, Italy charged that its honor had been impinged. Ethiopia was depicted at the League as a savage and barbarous land where slavery and brutality were the common way of life, a land that did not deserve to be treated equally with “civilized countries”. Ethiopia was urged to find a way to accommodate the “civilizing influence” of Italy territorially in the Ogaden and even in Tigrai in the north. The Ethiopian government refused all such urgings as impinging on it’s sovreignity. In November 1935, thousands of Italian troops accompanied by even more native colonial “Askari” troops crossed into Tigrai from Eritrea in the north under the command of Field Marshal De Bono, an elderly and cautious officer who planned to progress slowly into the Empire. They were quickly followed by similar forces from Italian Somaliland in the south and east commanded by Marshal Graziani.
The fact that Italy had crossed deep into Ethiopian territory left little doubt as to who the aggressor was, but there was still little will to stop the aggression. The Emperor had put complete faith in the League, and had resisted the calls of his nobles to declare war because he believed that the League would live up to the charter and rush in to protect his country. The Emperor’s logic was that the doctrine of “Collective Security” would obligate the League to protect Ethiopia. An attack on one member of the League was supposed to be regarded as an attack on all the members. It was this protection that had inspired him to join the League in the first place back when he was still Prince-Regent and faced with a hostile nobility which wanted no part of the “foreigners” League. However, at the time, Hitler was preparing to annex Austria, and the leading voice against this was Mussolini. Britain and France hoped to use Mussolini as a bulwark against German designs on Austria, and thus did not want alienate Mussolini over what they considered an unimportant African remnant. Not only were they not going to help Ethiopia, but France went so far as to forbid the import of weapons into Ethiopia on the Addis Ababa – Djibouti railway. Instead they encouraged mild sanctions on Italy that did not include the all important petroleum used for military trucks and tanks. The sanctions were essentially useless. The Foriegn Ministers of France and Britain (Laval and Hoare) were secretly negotiating a solution that would involve Ethiopia handing over the Ogaden and most of Tigrai to the Italians, grant English hegemony over the basin of the Blue Nile, and the French control of the area adjacent to the railroad to Djibouti. The Emperor would be left with a truncated Empire composed of Shewa and Wollo, with bits and pieces of the Tigrean and Oromo territories. He would be firmly placed under an Italian protectorate. The Hoare/Laval plan was denounced by supporters of the Ethiopian cause in Europe when it was leaked, and the Ethiopians were generally scandalized. The Emperor had no choice left to him but to try and fight an enemy that had massive material resources prepared to defeat him. The great negarit (war drum) of Menelik was beaten at the Palace in Addis Ababa, and war was formally declared. Thousands of irregulars, mostly armed with old guns from the last century and swords, spears and shields, marched north to confront the huge Italian force which was equipped with modern tanks, machine guns, artillery and airplanes armed with bombs and poison gas. Even the modern regular army created by the Emperor was ill equiped to face this technological onslaught. The soldiers even marched barefoot. Emperor Haile Selassie at this point knew that a military solution was futile, but he was determined to fight on militarily and diplomatically until such time as he hoped the League acted. Empress mobilized the women of Addis Ababa in making bandages and provisions for the soldiers. She presided over the Ethiopian Red Cross and became it’s patron. The Emperor established his norther front headquarters at Dessie, and commanded the troops against the Italians. The Italians in the north were led by Marshal De Bono, a senior officer of the Royal Italian army with weak ties to the Fascist hierarchy. His cautious and slow approach to the invasion of northern Ethiopia was regarded with deep impatience by Mussolini who believed that De Bono was dragging his feet. In the mean time, Ethiopian Imperial family was horrified when they learned that the Emperor’s son-in-law, Dejazmatch Haile Selassie Gugsa had crossed over to the Italians. Dejazmatch Haile Selassie was the husband of the late Princess Zenebework, and the great-grandson of Emperor Yohannis IV. His action is said to have been caused by his resentment at not having been made king of Tigrai, or at least Ras. This act of betrayal caused him to still be remembered in Ethiopia as the ultimate traitor against his country. The Tigrean locals looted his home in Mekele in anger. Photographs were taken of him sitting at a table looking over maps with Marshal De Bono and his staff and publicized by the Italians, to show Ethiopian nobles that they could expect good treatment if they collaborated with the Fascists. In the meantime, Ethiopian troops were being pounded by tanks, heavy artillery, airplanes and finally poison gas and liquids. Use of poison gas had been strictly prohibited by the Geneva conventions, yet the world did nothing to stop Italy. Special spraying mechanisms were installed on the aircraft so that poisonous substances could be sprayed directly onto the land, poisoning not just soldiers, but peasants, cattle, fields and bodies of water. Italy even bombed Red Cross ambulances and clearly marked treatment camps that were run by the British and French Red Cross. Rases Imiru, Kassa, Seyum, Getachew and Mulugueta led armies in the north that fought valiantly, but were beaten back by the slow advance of De Bono and his well armed troops. Impatient with the slow pace of the war, Mussollini removed De Bono and replaced him with Marshal Badoglio. As the Italians battled through Tigrai and northern Beghemidir with the forces of Rases Seyoum, Imiru, and Kassa, the Emperor assembled his forces and prepared to meet the fascist invader at Mai Chew in southern Tigrai. Shortly before the battle, the Emperor is said to have given a great traditional Giber Feast in a cave near Mai Chew. Some believe that constant delays in attacking the Italians cost the Ethiopian side the element of surprise at Mai Chew. Although they fought valiantly, it was in vain, and the Ethiopian forces were smashed by the Italians and began to retreat in haste. Taking this opportunity, Raya and Azebo tribesmen attacked the retreating forces of the Emperor in revenge for a recent raid to stop them from raiding and rustling cattle, and in anger over the just announced death of Lij Eyasu who many of them still regarded as their rightful monarch.