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
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
news

Life and Style
Divers at Bouldnor Cliff underwater site in the Solent off the Isle of Wight, where the silt sample containing the einkorn DNA was found
life
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Ventilation Cleaning Operative

£15600 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower