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Haile Selassie was born Tafari Makonnen in Ethiopia in 1892. He married Wayzaro Menen in 1911, daughter of Emperor Menelik II. By becoming prince (Ras), Tafari became the focus of the Christian majority`s approval over Menelik`s grandson, Lij Yasu, because of his progressive nature and the latter`s unreliable politics. He was named regent and heir to the throne in 1917, but had to wait until the death of the Empress Zauditu to assume full kingship. During the years of 1917-1928, Tafari traveled to such cities as Rome, Paris, and London to become the first Ethiopian ruler to ever go abroad. In November of 1930, Zaubitu died and Tafari was crowned emperor, the 111th emperor in the succession of King Solomon. Upon this occasion he took the name Haile Selassie, meaning "Might of the Trinity." This paper will focus on Selassie`s progressive politics and attempts to modernize Ethiopia through technological advances and membership in the world community. Relevant to these topics is Ethiopia`s struggle with Italy in World War II, Selassie`s embracing of the League of Nations, and his popularity and attention worldwide because of his efforts towards humanitarianism and Ethiopian sovereignty.

Within his country, Selassie favored political realism, and attempted to make peace with the many Ethiopian factions- ethnic, religious, and economic- through appeasement and compromise. Despite his growing international stature, however, his internal influence lacked major support which would, in the future, lead to problems in his stability as a ruler. The emperor attempted to further strengthen the national government by placing newly educated ministers with more specific powers, establishing a central judiciary and self-appointing its judges. He also proclaimed a new national constitution in 1955. The constitution was enforced by a new, younger, foreign-educated staff, who sympathized with Selassie`s reforms and were intellectually supportive of his claims. It was also heavily influenced by Selassie`s concern for international image, as many African countries were thriving under colonial support and Ethiopia was still laying its claim to Eritrea. (Prouty, 93) The new constitution emphasized Selassie`s religious right to power, and while it promised several inherently American rights (freedom of speech, assembly, and due process), the Ethiopian population lacked the literacy and independence from local nobility to really appreciate its declarations.

Selassie`s major changes in form of the Ethiopian government promised huge reforms, and when these were realized to be slowly obtained, a coup d`état occurred in Addis Ababa in December 1960, while Selassie was abroad on one of his frequent diplomatic missions. (Prouty, 40) While initially successful, the coup led by the Imperial Bodyguard, police chief, and intellectual radicals lacked the public support necessary, and fell upon the return of the emperor and his assertion of the loyalty of the army and air force, as well as the church. The coup`s failure did, however lead to the polarization of the traditional and progressive factions, and the public awareness of the need to improve the economic, social, and political position of the population.

After the coup, Selassie tried to calm his opponents mostly through land grants to officials, but with little social or political reform. In 1966, a plan to reform the tax system with intent to destroy the landowners grasp on the economy was drafted, but opposed vigorously by the parliament, who were all landowners. The years prior to 1974 were filled with rising inflation, corruption, and famine, as well as growing discontent by many of the organized urban groups and unions. Selassie had organized his military so that each branch opposed each other in class, benefits, or treatment in order to keep one from becoming so powerful as to threaten his power. It was perceived that the droughts and famines within the army and the public were intentional, and that civil freedoms were increasingly disappearing. Mutiny in the army branch of the military began on January 12, 1974, and was followed by several provincial takeovers in February. In early June, a group of about 120 military officers formed a group known as the Derg (committee) who represented the military and worked behind closed doors to gain power militarily. Although they claimed allegiance to the emperor, they began arresting aristocracy and parliament members who were associated with the old order. This group effectively removed Selassie`s means of governing, as they had complete military control. In July 1974, the Derg demanded a new constitution; when it was found to be unsatisfactory to their "Ethiopia First" ideology, they proceeded to undermine the emperor`s authority, and enjoyed much public support. (Tareke, 204-13)

The emperor`s estate and palace were nationalized and in August, Selassie was directly accused of covering up famine of the early 1970`s which killed hundreds of thousands of people. On September 12th, he was formally deposed and arrested and power was given to the Derg, formally renamed the Provisional Military Administrative Council. In August 1975, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie died under questionable circumstances under house arrest, and was secretly buried. (Prouty, 93) His early legacy of Ethiopian pride and sovereignty, had transformed itself to a major struggle of the old versus the new orders. The old order was effectively destroyed by 1977, and the Derg began its new agenda of socialism in the Ethiopian government.