Ethiopia's King of Kings finds no resting place

THEY should have buried the Emperor tomorrow, the 100th anniversary of his birth. Now he will have to wait until November before he is finally laid to rest.

Last February they dug up the bones of Haile Selassie, Elect of God, Lion of Judah and the 225th in the line of King of the Kings of Ethiopia. The remains were under the private lavatory of the dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, who overthrew the Emperor.

It was a demeaning end for a monarchy of 3,000 years, which traced its origins to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, a sad end for a monarch who had ruled a feudal empire for 40 years. He was overthrown in 1974 and kept in detention. In August the following year the government announced that he had died from 'circulatory failure'. Surviving members of his entourage and members of his family believe he was suffocated or poisoned.

Immediately Haile Selassie's body was dug up, his son announced that he would return home and a monarchist movement was launched. The son, Atse Amha Selassie I, has lived in exile since 1974, but was proclaimed Emperor in 1988 even though he is 76 years old and crippled by a stroke. The royal family announced that the funeral would take place on 23 July, but relations between the family and government soured and the request for a state funeral was turned down. At one stage the government appeared to agree to an official funeral - to which governments would have been invited to send representatives - but then backed off.

The prospect of a media circus perturbed the government, which is negotiating difficult political times at present. There was also concern about the thousands of Rastafarians who planned to descend on Ethiopia to celebrate the Emperor's birthday - the Rastafarians do not accept that their living God can die so they are ignoring the funeral. There is a community of Rastafarians, mostly from Jamaica, south of Addis Ababa on land given them by the Emperor in the 1950s.

The founders of Rastafarianism in the 1940s adopted Ras Tafari, as Haile Selassie was called before he was proclaimed Emperor, because he was the only black man ruling a black kingdom in Africa. Ethiopian culture, rooted in Coptic Christianity, is far removed from Rastafarianism, and Haile Selassie did not recognise their exorbitant claims on his person, although he tolerated their presence in Ethiopia.

The government said that anyone was welcome to attend ceremonies commemorating Haile Selassie, but there would be no state participation. The royal family postponed the burial until November. The reburial of several other members of the royal household who were murdered at the same time as Haile Selassie is still going ahead, but the government has banned a demonstration by the monarchist movement planned for today.

The overthrow of Mengistu last year and the takeover by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front brought a promise of democracy and self-determination for all the former empire's nations. But it appears to be resulting in the fragmentation of the country, with the Oromo Liberation Front, the movement which represents the country's largest ethnic group, withdrawing from the government.

The new Emperor has expressed a desire to return as a constitutional monarch, and he could provide the focus for Ethiopian unity, a powerful sentiment and possibly stronger in some quarters than the EPRDF's policy of democratisation.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future