Haile Selassie, deposed Ethiopian emperor, dies

Wednesday, 27 August 1975

Haile Selassie was born Lij Tafari Makonnen, in the village of Ejersa Gor, in the Harar Province of Ethiopia. Heir to a 13th century dynasty, he ascended to the throne of Ethiopia in 1930, proclaiming himself "Haile Selassie", which means "Might of the Trinity". In 1936, Emperor Selassie led the resistance against Italy's invasion of Ethiopia and also spoke out against the use of chemical weapons at the League of Nations. Exiled in 1936, he was restored to power in 1941.

However, by the 1970s, Emperor Selassie’s apparent indifference to a major famine in the country resulted in the loss of popular support. In 1974, he was dethroned in a military coup by his successor, Mengistu Haile Mariam. It was reported that Emperor Selassie had died on 27 August 1975, but the cause of his death remained a mystery. There were rumours of complications during a medical procedure but the likelihood was that he was murdered.

Emperor Selassie has been criticised for his suppression of Ethiopian nobles and for his inability to modernise Ethiopia.  However, he is also looked up to as a symbol of African dignity, both within and outside the continent. Rastafarians revere Emperor Selassie as a god that will unify the African Diaspora and lead them into an age of peace and prosperity. Rastafarianism has a following of between 200 000 to 800 000 world-wide. The largest Rastafari community in South Africa is situated in Knysna and comprises of 30 families.

• Biography. (2013) Haile Selassi I [online]. Available at: www.biography.com [Accessed 17 August 2013]
• Answers. (2013) Haile Selassie I [online]. Available at: answers.com [Accessed 17 August 2013]
• Imperial Ethiopia. Reflections on Haile Selassie [online]. Available at: www.imperialethiopia.org [Accessed on 17 August 2013]

Last updated : 26-Aug-2016

This article was produced by South African History Online on 23-Aug-2013

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