The African Union (AU) at the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU on Monday unveiled a commemorative monument of Emperor Haile Selassie I at her headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The honour is a recognition of his being instrumental to the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which later became the African Union and the immense contribution he made to the growth and development of the body.
He was a 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.
Emperor Selassie’s statue becomes the second to be erected after the unveiling of foremost Ghanaian Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah at the AU headquarters.
Many Africans across the continent and Ethiopians, in particular, echoed his contribution towards Pan-Africanism, recognized him as a foremost colonial resistance leader and a longer-standing supporter of African liberation deserving of such honour.
The deputy chairperson of the AU noted in a press release that “the commemorative statue of Emperor Haile Selassie is an important recognition of the Emperor’s contribution to Africa’s liberation and unity leading up to the founding of the Organization of African Unity in 1963.”
Born Lij Tafari Makonnen in Ethiopia on July 23rd 1892, he was the only surviving and legitimate son of Ras Makonnen, the governor of Harar. He traced his roots back to Menelik I, who was credited with being the child of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
Haile Selassie was crowned the 225th Emperor and the last in 1930 but exiled during World War II after leading the resistance to the Italian invasion. He was reinstated in 1941 and sought to modernize the country over the next few decades through social, economic and educational reforms. He ruled until 1974, when famine, unemployment and political opposition forced him from office and kept under house arrest in his palace until his death in 1975.
In 1992 Late Emperor Haile Selassie’s remains were discovered under the ground in the Imperial Palace and in November 2000 received a proper burial with his body laid to rest in Addis Ababa’s Trinity Cathedral
He was immortalized by Jamaicans, who founded a quasi-religion known to this day as Rastafarianism.
There were numerous profound quotes made by Emperor Selassie, however, one was made famous by the legendary Bob Marley who used it as a lyric for his song titled “War”:
“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war. And until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation, until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes. And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war. And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, the rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained… now everywhere is war.”