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How Does World Remember Haile Selassie?

On July 23, 2023, millions of people around the world commemorate the 131st birthday of Emperor Haile Selassie, the former ruler of Ethiopia and a revered figure in modern African history and the Rastafarian religious movement.

Haile Selassie I was born under the name Tafari Makonnen on July 23, 1892 near Harar, Ethiopia. He was a descendant of the Solomonic dynasty, which claimed descent from Biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

Ras Tafari, or Prince Tafari, rose to power as regent of Ethiopia in 1916 after deposing his cousin Lij Yasu, who had converted to Islam and alienated the majority Christian population.

Tafari eventually became Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930, taking his infant baptismal name Haile Selassie, which means “Power of the Trinity” in Amharic.

Emperor Haile Selassie’s Legacy

Haile Selassie is widely regarded as a visionary leader who sought to modernise his country and promote its independence and dignity in the face of colonialism and aggression.

The Ethiopian monarch introduced a number of political and social reforms in his country, including the first written constitution, the abolition of slavery, the expansion of education and health care, and the promotion of women’s rights.

He also played a key role in the creation of the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union), a regional body designed to promote co-operation and solidarity among African states.

In addition, Haile Selassie was a founding member of the United Nations and an outspoken advocate for human rights and world peace.

External and Internal Challenges

The Ethiopian ruler faced many challenges and crises during his reign, such as the invasion of Fascist Italy in 1935, which he resisted with courage and eloquence. He appealed to the League of Nations for help, but was largely ignored by the Western powers.

Haile Selassie spent five years in exile in England during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia until 1940, when he travelled to neighbouring Sudan to help coordinate the anti-fascist struggle in Ethiopia during the so-called East African Campaign waged by the Allies in East Africa during World War II.

Picture: CC BY 2.0/A.Davey/Emperor Menelik II, ensured a decisive victory against an invading Italian army at the Battle of Adwa.

1941: British forces return Emperor to Ethiopia

Haile Selassie also faced internal opposition from various ethnic groups, regional lords, and communist factions who resented his centralisation of power and pro-Western stance. He was finally overthrown by a military coup in 1974, led by a military junta known as the Derg, amid widespread famine and social unrest.

Death and Burial

He died under mysterious circumstances on August 27, 1975, while under house arrest at the Grand Palace in Addis Ababa. It’s believed that the emperor was assassinated by the new authorities, although the Derg claimed that the imprisoned monarch died of “respiratory failure”.

Haile Selassie’s bones were discovered under a concrete slab in his office in 1992, one year after the fall of the Derg and 17 years after his death. His remains were then kept in a church near the tomb of Menelik II, another former emperor of Ethiopia, until 2000.

In 2000, he was finally given a public funeral organised by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and buried in the Holy Trinity Cathedral, where many other Ethiopian royals are buried.

Haile Selassie’s Birthday Celebration

The birthday of the former Ethiopian Emperor is celebrated around the world by various groups and individuals who admire his legacy and achievements.

His supporters also use the occasion to call for his recognition as a national hero and for his reburial in a more dignified place, with many of them believing that he deserves a mausoleum or monument befitting his stature.

In Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean, where Haile Selassie is revered by Rastafarians, his birthday is celebrated as one of the holiest days of the year.

Is Haile Selassie a God?

Rastafarians are followers of Rastafari or Rastafarianism, a religious and political movement that originated in Jamaica in the 1930s following the accession of Prince Ras Tafari (Haile Selassie) to the throne of Ethiopia. Rastafari combines Protestant Christianity, mysticism, and pan-African political consciousness.

Rastafarians consider Haile Selassie to be the Messiah, or God incarnate, or Jah, who manifested in human form to free his people from oppression and fulfil biblical prophecies. They also believe that he will one day return to establish a righteous kingdom on earth.

With an estimated 700,000 to one million members worldwide, Rastafari communities can be found on almost every continent thanks to migration, and reggae music. The late Jamaican reggae superstar Bob Marley was one of the most influential practitioners of Rastafari.

Some Rastafarians observe Haile Selassie’s birthday by holding a binghi, a celebration that may include prayers, reggae music, dancing, drumming, chanting, and the sharing of food and cannabis, also known as marijuana.

They also wear red, green, and gold clothing or accessories, which are the colours of the Ethiopian flag and symbolise their African identity and heritage. Some Rastafarians also travel to Ethiopia to visit the birthplace of Haile Selassie or other sites associated with him.

One of the most memorable events in the history of Rastafari and Jamaica was the visit of Emperor Haile Selassie to the island on April 21, 1966. This date is now celebrated as Grounation Day, a holy day for Rastafarians. Haile Selassie was greeted by a huge crowd of over 100,000 Rastafarians and other Jamaicans who gathered at the Kingston airport to see the Ethiopian Emperor.

Picture: Antony Njuguna/REUTERS/November 5, 2000 – Mourners gather outside teh Holy Trinity Cathedral for the reburial of former Emperor Haile Selassis in Addis Ababa November 5, 2000. Selassie died 25 years ago but was reburied in a tomb in the cathedral in accordance with his wishes.

Achieving African Food Sovereignty

Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)/October 22, 2015 – South Africa’s Western Cape province is an important crop-producing region. Most of South Africa’s wheat is produced in the Western Cape.

On July 27-28, St Petersburg, Russia will host the second Russia-Africa Summit and Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum. The first events of the kind took place in the Russian city of Sochi in October 2019.

On July 27, the business program of the second Russia-Africa Summit and Economic and Humanitarian Forum on “Integrated Security and Sovereign Development” will begin with a panel discussion titled “Russia and Africa: Partnership for Food Sovereignty,” the Roscongress Foundation has stated.

CEOs and representatives of various Russian companies and state bodies connected to food production and distribution, including the Russian Association of Fertiliser Producers (RAFP), Rosselkhoznadzor, as well as Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) Benedict Ok Orama, will be speakers at the panel discussion.

According to the Roscongress Foundation, Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world in terms of food security, although agriculture employs more than 60 percent of the workforce there and agricultural products account for about a third of the Continent’s GDP.

Moreover, data shows that 20 percent of Africa’s population, some 278 million people, suffers from chronic hunger.

Only the achievement of food sovereignty can solve this problem, and this solution is possible, as the agricultural potential of the Continent is huge, the foundation stated. According to experts, 60 percent of the fertile land is not used in Africa.

According to a UN report dated back to May this year, more than 40 percent of people facing the world’s acute food shortages live in just five countries: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, parts of Nigeria and Yemen. In Ethiopia, 23.6 million people experience various forms of food insecurity.

Ethiopia, which is on the list of the poorest countries in the world according to statistics, intends to achieve self-sufficiency in food production, said the Prime Minister of the African country Abiy Ahmed.

He noted that Ethiopia faces insufficient access to raw materials and fertilisers, seeds and technologies. Prices for quality food have increased significantly, making a healthy diet inaccessible to the majority of the population, the politician said, speaking at the UN food meeting, which opened on Monday in Rome.

According to the country’s leader, Ethiopia is on its path to modify the food system.

In Ethiopia, he noted, work is under way to transform the food system in accordance with the country’s international and national commitments, programs and initiatives have been launched to ensure the immunity of the food systems to external factors and climate change. According to Abiy Ahmed, his government is making efforts to achieve self-sufficiency of Ethiopia’s food system. According to the prime minister, food is not only food, “it is home and life”.

In March this year, Ethiopia’s Minister of Planning and Development, Fitsum Assefa, said that the nation had achieved the status of an exporter of wheat this year, starting to grow it in sufficient volume for export.

Participants of the discussion “Russia and Africa: Partnership for Food Sovereignty” will share their opinions on what is needed to realise this potential and how Russia can help Africa develop agricultural infrastructure.

“Russia is a supplier of products that ensure food security: grain, fertilisers or their components. This topic is becoming more and more acute: according to the latest UN report, the number of hungry people in Africa is growing. But during the Second Russia-Africa Summit, we will also talk about setting up our own production on the Continent, and African countries would like to receive agricultural technologies and equipment from Russia. The topic also relates to food security, and it will be discussed within the framework of both a political summit and an economic and humanitarian forum,” Oleg Ozerov said.

The panel discussion will begin at 9am at Pavilion G, Conference Hall G6.

The Roscongress Foundation is one of the organisers of the second summit and the Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum.

These articles were published on Sputnik