|excerpts from the book...|
The Negro Heritage Library
Emerging African Nations and Their Leaders
edited by Lancelot Evans
|Ethiopia is situated in the northeastern portion of Africa and bounded on the north by the Red |
Sea, on the south by Kenya and a section of the Somali Republic, on the west by the Sudan
Republic and on the east by the Republic of Somali.
Ethiopia's national tongue is Amharic, with English as the second official language. Many other
languages are spoken, among which is Tigre, one of the world's most ancient languages.
In Ethiopia, Christianity is the sate religion, and has been since the 4th century A.D. From the
earliest days, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has been affiliated with the Egyptian Coptic
Church in Alexandria. It was the Patriarch of Alexandria who consecrated Frumentius, founder
of Christianity in Ethiopia, and bishop of the first church. Until 1948, the church of Egypt
maintained the right to appoint the archbishop of the Ethiopian church, but in that year, the
national church realized its long-sought aim of independent selection.
The oldest independent Christian nation in the world today, Ethiopia has existed for centuries,
in myth, in legend and in the objective past. Herodotus, the Greek historian of the 5th century
B.C., described Ethiopians in his writings as "the most just men," whereas even earlier, Homer
had characterized them as that "blameless race." The first reference to Ethiopia as a kingdom
occurs in the first millennium B.C. when it assumed the name of Aksum.
By tradition, the founder of the kingdom was the Queen of Sheba, who, after making a royal
visit to Jerusalem's King Solomon, bore him a child, Menelik I. The visit, recorded in the Old
Testament, helped at the time to maintain the nations reputation as a land of great wealth,
beautiful women and imperial splendor. The present ruling Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie
I, 255th monarch of his line, claims descent from the son of Solomon and the Sheban queen.
Christianity was introduced into the country in the 4th century, although its longevity in
northeastern Africa as a whole was seriously threatened by the Muslim conquests of the 7th
century. Ethiopia, however, was alone in meeting the challenge and thus regarded itself as a
Christian outpost in a Muslim stronghold.
In 1931, the Emperor gave the people its first Constitution which provided for a Senate and
Chamber of Deputies. Sovereignty, according to the Constitution, was vested in the person of
the Emperor, who alone had supreme authority and combined both the powers and duties of
chief of state and head of government.
The Constitution was revised in 1955, at which time membership in the Chamber of Deputies
hinged on a popular vote every four years. Members of the upper house remained appointees
of the Emperor, as stipulated in the 1931 Constitution.
Under the current political system, the Prime Minister and members of the Council of Ministers
are appointed by the Emperor and are directly responsible to him, not to parliament. The
functions usually performed by a cabinet are carried out by the Crown Council, a traditional
institution composed of the Crown Prince, the Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church,
the President of the Senate and other dignitaries designated by the Emperor.
The revised Constitution also provides for the succession to the throne of the oldest male child.
Ethiopia's economy is almost entirely agriculture. Coffee is Ethiopia's major product,
constituting over 50 percent of its export trade.
Perhaps the most significant event in African political affairs in the 20th century, the
Conference on African Unity, was held in Addis Ababa in May of 1963. Ethiopia was one of the
significant signees of the historic Charter of the Organization of African Unity.
Since his birth at Harar in 1892, Haile Selassie I (born Lij Tafari Makonnen) has been prepared
for the important role he plays in his country. Educated in Amharic and Coptic Christianity, his
talent was first recognized when he was summoned to the Imperial Court in 1906 both to
continue his studies and to train for provincial governorship. By 1910, he had already served
as governor of three provinces, including his own Harar Province, before being appointed as
Chief Adviser, Regent and Heir Apparent to the throne, then occupied by the daughter of the
late Menelik II, Princess Zaudita. During the regency, Ethiopia became a member of the League
of Nations and abolished the slave trade.
In meeting with other African leaders, the Emperor helped formulate suggestions for the scope
of African unity, notably in December 1960 when he and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana issued a
joint communique stressing the need for a combined African High Command.
|source: The Negro Heritage Library, Volume I, edited by Lancelot Evans, Negro Heritage Library, |
Yonkers, NY: American Book-Stratford Press, 1964, pp. 161-179)