|The Current Role of the Monarchy in Preserving Ethiopia’s Unity
|Presented to the Ethiopian National Congress by HIH Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie Haile-Selassie,
President of the Crown Council of Ethiopia, May 24, 1998
The Current Role of the Monarchy in Preserving Ethiopia’s Unity
True leadership is all about the inspiration of people to see the vision of what greatness is possible
within them and within their own broad communities, and then in causing the energies, talents and
willpower of those people to be focused toward achieving that greatness. Today, there are those
who call themselves leaders merely because they are at the helm of a ship of state, going where the
great masses take them. They find consensus in the whims of spontaneous political combustion;
they do not create consensus through the presentation of a well-conceived vision, which embraces
wisdom, planning and the demonstration of justice.
You have asked me here today to talk about the role of the Monarchy in preserving Ethiopia’s unity.
And I represent a monarchical line which stretches back for 3,000 years, longer than any other
ruling line or structure in history. But I am not here to bask in history, although I must refer to it for
lessons which we may not, must not, forget. I am here to plead for the future of Ethiopia; to tell you
that the future can be restored to the people of Ethiopia as Ethiopians as well as Tigreans, Oromo,
Amhara, Guraghe, and so on. Each time Ethiopia has prospered domestically and internationally it
has been because the country has been led by inspired men who placed the good of their people
above their own needs. It can be so again.
Today, many politicians are adept in securing the appearance of consensus for their policies,
through tactics of distraction, deception, and by creating doubts and divisions between peoples. It
is no coincidence that, because of the demands of modern media, politics today is very much akin
to the profession of traveling conjurer. For many politicians, it is believed that there is no time to
consider the broad and long-term public good when publics clamor for immediate and easy
solutions. To survive, politicians pander to the public’s demand rather than its needs; feeding
people a diet of blame, hatred, suspicion; in a word: distraction. The problems, they say, are all the
fault of their predecessors, our neighbors, “the great Satan”: anybody else. It is no wonder that we
are, in Ethiopia as well as the rest of the world, growing into a society which forgets the happiness
and pride of working toward the goal of common good and historic values, and instead believes
that each man must grab what little profit and relief he can before someone else will steal it.
Under such circumstances, can any member of society be expected to go out of his way to help his
neighbor? Can any individual be expected, ultimately, to put his family (in the broadest
interpretation of the word) ahead of himself; or to see himself as a functioning and important part
of a society which embraces differences in ethnicity, language, religion, and yet which still strives
toward a common goal?
Today, in Ethiopia, we see a policy being implemented by those in control of the administrative
apparatus of the country, of “divide and rule”. Pride in Ethiopianness is discouraged; the Empire is
nothing but a collection of self-interested small states working without regard to their neighbors.
Amharas are no longer expected to look out for the interests of the Oromo; the Oromo are not
expected to care about the fate of the Tigreans; the Gojjam are no longer expected to care about
the fate of their onetime brothers in Wollo; the Kaffa must forget the Sidamo. And so on.
Why is this? Is this “progress” disguised as “self-determination”? In a world increasingly
dominated by global languages, global economic trends, and seamlessly integrated
communications, can we expect that the life of a Guraghe-speaking child will be better because
someone said: “Your own language is the source of all pride, and all attempts at working with your
kinsmen across a nearby border are worthless”? Of course not.
Why is this happening? I will tell you. It is because politicians wish to retain power regardless of
the fact that they cannot inspire the many and richly-varied people of the great Ethiopian empire to
support a common dream. These politicians represent a fraction of six percent of the population of
Ethiopia. They did not come to power in the name of Ethiopia; they came to power in the name of
Tigré. And I do not disparage their belief that Tigré has rights; that Tigré is something special in
Ethiopia. But I do not agree that in order for a Tigréan group to govern Ethiopia they must do so by
merely dividing the country so that their minority rule cannot be challenged. This is not leadership.
This is the belief that if a big picture is good, then we would all be better off cutting that big picture
into little pieces and each scuttling off to our respective corners with a small piece of paint on
canvas, wondering eventually what it meant.
Let me harken to our history, for history is the one thing which a 3,000-year-old Ethiopian
monarchy knows well. The Monarchy has learned from history. And we would all do well to
continue to learn from history, so as to avoid repetition of its mistakes, and to see that we, the
monarchy, like all institutions, must adapt to reflect the societies we represent.
The Age of the Princes — Zemene Mesafint — from 1780 to 1855 saw Ethiopia agonize through an
era when our respective states struggled along, warring with each other, without the benefit of
cooperation, without the benefit of a united front to present to the world; indeed, without the
ability to even interact with the outside world. There was little or no progress. If there was no
great challenge, apart from the constant fear of attack, there was also no universal uplifting of
hope, no rising economic wellbeing. And Ethiopia slept while the world prospered and grew. We
had retrogressed from the glory of the Axumite period, to the point where we were little better off
than Dinqinesh, who walked with her fellows in the Rift Valley some three-million years ago.
It was Emperor Tewodoros II — Theodore II — who again embraced the concept of national unity
within the context of the Empire. Tewoderos ultimately moved to his disastrous confrontation with
Britain, and culminating with his — and Ethiopia’s — defeat at the Battle of Magdàla on April 13,
Tewoderos’ reign, which had been imposed by arbitrary, brutal and in many ways divisive policies,
was at least a step toward reviving the consensus that Ethiopia was and would always be a
structure which embraced the various states within an Empire, however unfashionable that word
is today. [As an aside, it is worth mentioning that under this same definition, the United States is
also an Empire of component states.] But Tewoderos’ reign was followed by a four-year
interregnum and reversion to internecine warfare with states each seeking their own fortunes.
Ethiopia, in such a fractured state, was ripe for foreign exploitation, in many ways as it is today:
weak, divided, and grasping for the currency of survival, which is being meted out on the terms of
the outside world.
It is no wonder that in the early 1870s, the European powers were already considering that
Ethiopia was a no-man’s land, ready for conquest. And it was this situation, this vacuum, which led
to the Treaty of Berlin a short time later granting Italy the “right” to annex Ethiopia. But that was
after a period of weakness had already allowed Italy to make incursions into Eritrea, on its own
terms, and had allowed Sudan’s Mahdist leadership to believe that war could successfully be
waged against the new Emperor of Ethiopia, Yohannes IV.
You are all familiar with this history, and how Emperor Yohannes came to power after the nation
had descended once again into internecine warfare. He inherited a state which was, and
increasingly became, beset by outside forces who rightly perceived the fact that this small
collection of dis-united states had no ability to act in their common good. Johannes was unable to
inspire a sense of Ethiopian unity, and Ethiopia was unready for the war against Mahdist Sudan.
Ultimate attempts to switch from support for the British against Sudan to create a common Sudan-
Ethiopia front against the Europeans were spurned by the Mahdists in 1888, and by 1889, the
Mahdists had killed Yohannes in battle; the last crowned head of a major state to die in combat.
But his death and life had been an attempt to overcome a legacy of disunity; and the goal of
Ethiopian unity as the only means of protecting the lifestyles of Ethiopia’s people was now clearly
established. It took Menelik, by now Negus of Shoa, to come to the Imperial Throne with the ability
to create unity, and thereby create wealth: enough wealth for the country to withstand foreign
pressures; enough wealth to start the process of real evolutionary societal and economic progress
So I ask you today: Can Ethiopia survive as a single nation-state if it lacks a leadership which will
inspire unity? And even if Ethiopia in the absence of unifying leadership is fortunate enough to
escape the physical depredations of further secession or irridentist actions or invasion, can it in
any event prosper? Will freedom be served? Will the interests of the people be served? And will we
as a people, historically given the gift of a union and a special identity for millennia, fail in our
destiny? Will we fail our children and our children’s children?
What, then, can the Crown of Ethiopia now do for its people after all of our suffering?
The Crown’s period of inactivity is over.
The Crown’s period of silence and retreat is over.
My Uncle, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Amha Selassie, is dead, but he carried the Crown and kept
it alive in the dreadful years after the death of his father and my grandfather, Emperor Haile
Selassie, of blessed memory. But Emperor Amha Selassie was ill even before the coup which
overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie. He remained in poor health until the end of his life, and had
little in the way of resources and physical capability to lead the counter-attack against those who
have destroyed much of our country.
The Crown wishes to offer no empty gestures. Henceforth, we work only toward meaningful
actions, under which the Crown begins again to offer protection and inspiration and hope to our
people. What the Crown can offer right now is this:
Firstly, it can offer an impartial symbol of national unity to all Ethiopians. The Crown is not the
crown of only one or two groups of Ethiopians. Although the Crown has long and traditional ties
with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, it is nonetheless the Crown of Ethiopians of all religions,
favoring none above another, nor one ethnic or national or linguistic group above another;
Secondly, the Crown offers the symbol of national dignity and respect. The actions of Emperors
Menelik and Haile Selassie brought international attention and acclaim to our nation in a most
positive way. The actions of Mengistu and others like him brought our international reputation
into distaste, and the perception of our leaders into the perspective of being self-serving, power-
hungry tyrants. We should remember that because of the actions of Menelik and Haile Selassie,
Ethiopia represents the best of all African aspirations. Today, although only acting as President of
the Crown Council, and a Crown Council in exile at that, I have been humbled and honored to have
been received warmly by more than a dozen heads of state and heads of government over the past
year, since my Uncle’s death. These leaders have expressed the hope that the Ethiopian Crown
remains a symbol for all Africans and those of African descent.
It is my hope that the Crown can provide a source of protection to Ethiopian refugees who have
been scattered around the world in a diaspora unprecedented in our history. We have already
secured attention and help for Ethiopian refugees in some African countries based on the fact that
the Crown’s representative has had access to and influence with the leaders of these host countries.
Thirdly, we wish to offer Ethiopians within our country the fact that the Crown, which first
introduced our society to modern advances during the Menelik and Haile Selassie eras, continues
to evolve with the times. And in this context we want to provide an umbrella under which true
multi-party democracy can function, with the Crown acting as the symbolic and effective guarantor
of the Constitution of the people’s choice. The Crown must be above day-to-day politics, and must
offer the long-term leadership which establishes the framework of society, the freedom for peoples
to accord each other respect and cooperation, and therefore progress. The Crown must ensure that
the forces of law and order are not subject to political mis-use.
Stalin who, unchecked, butchered 60-million of his own people and left his country open to
invasion by another monster, Adolf Hitler, once asked, when cautioned about the power of the
Church: “How many divisions does the Pope have?”
Today, it can be asked: “How many divisions are in the Army of the Crown?”
The Crown is Ethiopia, and its divisions, therefore, are all the people of Ethiopia. But these legions
do not serve the interests of the Crown. The interests of the Crown are the people of Ethiopia.
|H.I.H Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie Life Summary|
|Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie (born on 14 June 1960 in Addis Ababa) is the only son of Prince Sahle |
Selassie of Ethiopia and Princess Mahisente Habte Mariam. He is the grandson of Emperor Haile
Selassie of Ethiopia, and furthermore of DejazmachHabte Mariam Gebre-Igziabiher, the heir to the
former Welega kingdom of Leqa Naqamte, and later served as governor of Welega province.
Currently the prince is ninth in the line of succession to the vacant imperial throne.
Prince Ermias was educated in Ethiopia, Great Britain, and the United States. In England, he
received his education at Old Ride Preparatory School, and then at Haileybury College. He obtained
a BA degree in the social studies, with an emphasis in economics, from the University of California,
in Santa Barbara. He continued his education at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy between
1983 and 1985. Prince Ermias is fluent in Amharic, English and German.
Prince Ermias was first married on 9 June 1989 to Woizero Gelila Fesseha, daughter of Afe-Negus
Fesseha Gabre-Selassie, a former Lord Chief Justice of Ethiopia, and by her is the father of twin
Prince Sahle-Selassie Ermias (known as Christian). Born on 20 February 1992.
Prince Fesseha Zion Ermias (known as Rufael). Born on 20 February 1992.
Prince Ermias and his first wife later divorced in July 2004. On 25 February 2011, Prince Ermias
married Woizero Saba Kebede. The Prince and his wife live in the Metro Washington DC area.
Prince Ermias currently serves as the President of the Crown Council of Ethiopia in exile. The
Crown Council has pursued a mission devoted to the promoting a cultural and humanitarian role.
Prince Ermias is also patron of the Haile Selassie Fund for Children in Need which continues to
sponsor student scholarships, and the St. George of Lalibela Foundation.
On 16 September 2010, Prince Ermias delivered remarks at a briefing entitled "Traditional
Leadership in the Modern World: Humanitarianism, Culture and the Diaspora" in the Rayburn
House Office Building in Washington, D.C. This briefing was conducted by Representative Diane
Watson, who was a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and whose congressional
district in Los Angeles includes Little Ethiopia. Empaneled with visiting royalty from Cameroon and
the Kingdom of Swaziland (Princess Phindiwe Sangweni), Prince Ermias described the cultural
leadership exercised by deposed and exiled royalty among members of ethnic communities living
in either ancestral lands or diaspora in the United States and the United Kingdom.