7. Haile Selassie (1892 – 1975) – Leader of Ethiopia and symbol of African independence against colonialism. Born Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael, was Ethiopia’s regent from 1916 to 1930 and Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. He also served as Chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity from 25 May 1963 to 17 July 1964, and again from 5 November 1966 to 11 September 1967. He was a member of the Solomonic dynasty.
At the League of Nations in 1936, the Emperor condemned the use of chemical weapons by Italy against his people during the Second Italo–Ethiopian War. His internationalist views led to Ethiopia’s becoming a charter member of the United Nations, and his political thought and experience in promoting multilateralism and collective security have proved seminal and enduring. His suppression of rebellions among the landed aristocracy (the mesafint), which consistently opposed his reforms, as well as what some critics perceived to be Ethiopia’s failure to modernize rapidly enough, earned him criticism among some contemporaries and historians. His regime was also criticized by human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, as autocratic and illiberal.
Among the Rastafari movement, whose followers are estimated at between 2,000,000 and 4,000,000, Haile Selassie is revered as the returned messiah of the Bible, God incarnate. Beginning in Jamaica in the 1930s, the Rastafari movement perceives Haile Selassie as a messianic figure who will lead a future golden age of eternal peace, righteousness, and prosperity. Haile Selassie was an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian throughout his life. Haile Selassie is a defining figure in both Ethiopian and African history.
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