Emperor Haile Selassie I

ETHIOPIA

No observer of present day Ethiopia can fail to be inspired by the high ideal, vigilance, dedication, and far-sightedness of Emperor Haile Selassie I; architect and builder of the nation.

A descendant of the oldest and longest line of royalty in recorded history, Ras Taffari, as the Emperor was known in his younger days, was born on July 23, 1892, in Harrar where he received his early training. His father, the famed soldier and astute statesman Ras (Prince) Makonnen, was Emperor Menelik's right hand man and a grandson of King Sahle Selassie.

Emperor Menelik was so struck by the attainments, intellectual powers and great personal dignity of the young Ras Tafari, that he appointed him to several important positions at an early age, including the governorship of his native Harrar in 1910.

In 1917 Ras Tafari was appointed Regent of the Realm - and it was during the fourteen years of his regency that he prepared the ground work for the great reforms like the abolishing of the legal status of domestic servitude, and education which, after 1930, he carried out as Emperor and which, by virtue of its unique nature, will forever be connected with his name.

While still Regent, the Emperor concentrated at first on foreign affairs. In 1923 he had conspicuous success in the admission of Ethiopia to the League of Nations. Thereby, giving practical expression to his desire for collective security, the pillar of Ethiopia's foreign policy.

A year later he visited several European capitals and was thus the first Ethiopian ruler to go abroad and so consolidate his realm's relations with the outside world.

One of the first things Emperor Haile Selassie did after his coronation in 1930 was to grant his people a written constitution - the first act of its kind in the country's 3000 years of recorded history. The Emperor offered the constitution, later superseded by the revised constitution promulgated in 1955, not because there was public clamor for it but because he felt that it is necessary for the modern Ethiopian to accustom himself to take part in the direction of all departments of the State and to share in the mighty task which Ethiopian sovereigns have had to accomplish alone in the past.

The Emperor then turned his attention to the expansion and reform of internal administration, the distribution of duties, the organization of security forces, of financial administration and customs service, and all the paraphernalia of a modern and stabilized Government. All these necessitated the introduction of a cadre of educated and qualified people - a stupendous task which the Emperor found all the more challenging on account of the immense volume of work which he had to carry virtually single-handed, in the early years of his reign, as indeed to a large extent now, the Emperor is not only the inspirer but also the executer of most of the diverse and intricate policies of government.

The unprovoked and unwarranted Italian invasion brought the Emperor's great works of reform and progress to a dead stop. The betrayal by the League of Nations, despite the Emperor's dramatic and eloquent plea is too well known for the details to detain us here. Suffice it to say that the first victim of aggression became, through his exploits and the unswerving faith of his patriots, the first monarch to be restored to his rightful throne. And it will forever redound to his honor and sense of justice, that upon his triumphal return in 1941, he called upon his people to show restraint and mercy to the remnants of the usurpers: Do not commit any acts of cruelty like those which the enemy committed against you.

Ethiopia is still of two worlds; the old and the new. It will always be to Emperor Haile Selassie's glory, as an admirer put it, that he has been able to bring these two worlds into harmony-gently to restrain the impatient and quietly to urge on the tardy, to preserve and to also to discard without loss of Ethiopia's ancient and historic identity.