Haile Selassie, born Ras Tafari Makkonen, was the regent of Ethiopia from 1916 to 1930 and emperor from 1930 to 1974. He was the last emperor of Ethiopia, having traced his lineage to Emperor Lebna Dengel via his Shewan Amhara royal ancestors as a great-grandson of king Sahle Selassie. That made him a member of the Solomonic dynasty.
He has been credited with the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor to the present African Union, in 1963. From 25 May 1963 – 17 July 1964 he was the Chairperson of the OAU, and he got another stint as chairperson from 5 November 1966 – 11 September 1967.
His fervent push for decolonization in Africa earned him international recognition and respect. At the League of Nations in 1936, the emperor condemned the use of chemical weapons by Italy against his people during the Second Italo–Ethiopian War.
His rule however was marred by human rights abuses, lack of liberalization and autocracy. Student protests were becoming a regular feature in the 1960s and 70s. Under his rule Ethiopia failed to modernize rapidly enough and people began to question "the rule of the king without the people's consent". During his rule the Harari people were ethnically cleansed from the Harari Region.
Haile Selassie is a revered figure among the Rastafarians, who view him as the returned messiah of the Bible, God incarnate. The Rastafarian movement originated in Jamaica in the 1930s and they hail Selassie as a messianic figure who will lead a future golden age of eternal peace, righteousness, and prosperity.
Throughout his life he was a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
He was removed from power through a coup in 1974 and was placed under house arrest.
With all this in mind, he was a pan-Africanist and sought for the liberation of the Africans from colonial rule.Below are ten memorable and worthwhile quotes from Haile Selassie:
1. We have decided to bring to an end the most unequal, most unjust, most barbarous war of our age, and have chosen the road to exile in order that our people will not be exterminated and in order to consecrate ourselves wholly and in peace to the preservation of our empire's independence … we now demand that the League of Nations should continue its efforts to secure respect for the covenant, and that it should decide not to recognize territorial extensions, or the exercise of an assumed sovereignty, resulting from the illegal recourse to armed force and to numerous other violations of international agreements.
(Telegram to the League of Nations on the Second Italo-Abyssinian War (10 May 1936), as quoted in Days of Emperor and Clown : The Italo-Ethiopian War, 1935-1936 (1973) by James Dugan and Laurence Davis Lafore, p. 204.)
2. Imagination, devotion, perseverance, together with divine grace, will assure your success.
(Address on the 18th anniversary of his coronation, 2 November 1948.)
3. Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph.
(Cited as from an address in Addis Ababa (1963) in Simpson's Contemporary Quotations, 1988.)
4. Democracy, republics: What do these words signify? What have they changed in the world? Have men become better, more loyal, kinder? Are the people happier? All goes on as before, as always. Illusions, illusions. Besides, one should consider the interest of a nation before subverting it with words. Democracy is necessary in some cases and We believe some African peoples might adopt it. But in other cases it is harmful, a mistake.
(Interview with Oriana Fallaci in The Chicago Tribune, 24 June 1973).
5. Education is a means of sharpening the mind of man both spiritually and intellectually. It is a two-edged sword that can be used either for the progress of mankind or for its destruction. That is why it has been Our constant desire and endeavor to develop our education for the benefit of mankind.
(University Graduation address (2 July 1963), published in Important Utterances of H. I. M. Emperor Haile Selassie I, 1963-1972)
6. The art of leadership is in the ability to make people want to work for you, while they are really under no obligation to do so. Leaders are people, who raise the standards by which they judge themselves and by which they are willing to be judged. The goal chosen, the objective selected, the requirements imposed, are not mainly for their followers alone.
(Speech on Leadership in Speeches Delivered on Various Occasions, May 1957-December 1959 (1960)
7. Apart from the Kingdom of the Lord there is not on this earth any nation that is superior to any other. Should it happen that a strong Government finds it may with impunity destroy a weak people, then the hour strikes for that weak people to appeal to the League of Nations to give its judgment in all freedom. God and history will remember your judgment.
(Address to the League of Nations in 1936)
8. The United Nations continues to sense as the forum where nations whose interests clash may lay their cases before world opinion. It still provides the essential escape valve without which the slow build-up of pressures would have long since resulted in catastrophic explosion.
(Address to the United Nations General Assembly in 1963)
9. The progress of science can be said to be harmful to religion only in so far as it is used for evil aims and not because it claims a priority over religion in its revelation to man. It is important that spiritual advancement must keep pace with material advancement.
(Interview in The Voice of Ethiopia (5 April 1948).
10. Conflicts between nations will continue to arise. The real issue is whether they are to be resolved by force, or by resort to peaceful methods and procedures, administered by impartial institutions. This very Organization itself is the greatest such institution, and it is in a more powerful United Nations that we seek, and it is here that we shall find, the assurance of a peaceful future.
(Address to the United Nations General Assembly in 1963).On the Rastafarian issue:
"I have heard of that idea [i.e., of Haile Selassie being the reincarnation of Jesus Christ]. I also met certain Rastafarians. I told them clearly that I am a man, that I am mortal, and that I would be replaced by the oncoming generation, and that they should never make a mistake in assuming or pretending that the human being is emanated from a deity."