African leaders unveil statue of Ethiopia's last emperor
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Haile Selassie I, 1892 – 1975, born Ras Tafari Makonnen. Ethiopia's regent from 1916 to 1930 and emperor from 1930 to 1974. Seen here watching his troops in Addis Ababa in 1935.
The statue is the second to be erected inside the continental body's offices in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, after one of Ghana's first leader, Kwame Nkrumah, who championed pan-Africanism.
Several African leaders at the current African Union summit and relatives of the emperor attended the statue unveiling ceremony.
Ethiopians have cheered the statue's erection, the first on Ethiopian soil since Haile Selassie was mysteriously killed at the age of 83 in 1975 when a military junta called the Derg overthrew the imperial dynasty that existed in Ethiopia for 3,000 years.
Emperor Haile Selassie is among the key African leaders who founded the Organization of African Unity, which became the African Union. He oversaw the maiden meeting of the continental body in 1963.
Being leader of a country that was never colonized, and a country whose victory over Italian colonialists in the 1886 Battle of Adowa inspired the anti-colonialist struggle across Africa, gave the emperor a stature that no other leader in Africa enjoyed.
He was immortalized by Jamaicans, who founded a quasi-religion known to this day as Rastafarianism.
Prince Beedemariam Makonnen, a grandson of Haile Selassie, told Anadolu Agency that the royal family is filled with joy and many of its members living abroad have come to be part of the grand occasion.
“It is really beyond words, we are mightily happy,” he said. “In our view, the monument represents the fact that Emperor Haile Selassie was a cornerstone of the Organization of African Unity, which has now morphed into the AU.
“It is also a pan-African recognition of the wisdom and diplomatic skills of Emperor Haile Selassie and those who joined hands with him in forming an institution to spearhead the anti-colonial struggle.
“The erection of the statue was delayed for years due to various reasons, and we were confident that this would come when a confident leader took over Ethiopia. It happened and will be grounds for national recognition.”