Revered by African’s and Rastafarians alike, Haile Selassie I was the emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 until 1974 when he was overthrown. Often mentioned by the legendary Bob Marley, Selassie I was ahead of his time, seeking to modernize Ethiopia through introducing the Organisation of African Unity, now African Union and steering the country into mainstream African politics after World War 2. An interesting man, with an even more interesting life, here are 10 quick facts about Haile Selassie I:
1. Full name Ras Tafari Makonnen he was born on July 23, 1892.
2. He was the last emperor of Ethiopia with his reign spanning from 1930 to 1974. He had previously served as regent between 1916 and 1930.
3. Long before African countries got independence, he led Ethiopia in the 1940s to become a charter member of the United Nations – Ethiopia remains one of the few African countries that were not colonized.
4. Haile Selassie was a strong champion of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) hosting its first meeting in Addis Ababa in 1963.
5. His statue is the second to be erected at the premises of the AU. The first being that of Ghana’s first president Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
6. The statue was put together by Ethiopian sculptor, Bekele Mekonnen.
7. A quote under the statue reads: “Today, we look to the future calmly, ….and courage. We look to the vision of an Africa no merely free but united…. History teaches us that unity is strength.” – H.I.M. Haile Selassie I, May 25, 1963.
8. The former Emperor is referred to as the Lion of Judah and Messiah by the Rastafari. Rastafarianism is a religion based on a belief that Ras Tafari (Haile Selassie) is the Messiah and that Africa (especially Ethiopia) is the Promised Land.
9. He is credited with the idea of the United States of Africa in 1964, ex-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi years on championed the same cause.
10. He died aged 83 on August 27, 1975, after he had been overthrown and was held in detention. His burial took place in November 2000 at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa. He was given a burial by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church which he belonged to all his life.