The Christian Science Monitor (US weekly magazine)
article by Francis Ofner
August 19, 1950
“HAILE SELASSIE: THREE PRIORITIES
EMPEROR STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF MORE EDUCATION, BETTER COMMUNICATIONS, AND FULL EMPLOYEMENT
Ethiopian peasants were standing at the roadside waiting for their Emperor to return from the inauguration of a bridge over the Blue Nile. My car followed closely that of Haile Selassie, and I saw simple, black farmers stop their ruler occasionally and hand him their written complaint and requests. The Emperor had no bodyguards, nor was his car protected by an armed escort.
This scene contained symbolically the main elements of Haile Selassie’s rule: development of the country, care for all the details of his administration, and popularity with his people. Few other rulers in the Middle East would or could have risked such a direct contact with their subjects.
‘I have three priorities in serving my country’, Haile Selassie said to me in an exclusive interview. ‘I first want to expand education. My second ambition is to develop communications. And the third – I wish to secure employment for all Ethiopians’. #QHS
These were no idle words. Ethiopia has been brought from its 1,600-year seclusion to active cooperation with the civilized nations of the world during the reign of Haile Selassie. He has established schools in areas where they never existed before. From less than 10 schools that were existing in Ethiopia when Haile Selassie, under the name of Ras Tafari, became Regent of Ethiopia 34 years ago, their number has increased to more than 400 with 55,000 pupils. In addition, the Emperor’s government is financing the studies of nearly 300 Ethiopian students in various foreign countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
Haile Selassie also introduced airplanes into his country where mules have been the main means of transport. He consolidated the loosely connected feudal confederation of regional princes and kings into a centralized empire and, above all, he is abolishing slavery in this heart of Africa.
‘To develop Ethiopia, the country needs a foreign loan’, the monarch said. ‘A mission of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is here to investigate the possibilities for granting such a loan. But I have not yet been informed of its recommendations.’ #QHS
‘My people are able to pay back’, Haile Selassie said, explaining that his country is rich in mineral resources. #QHS
The Emperor has a blueprint of an economic five-year plan prepared by his foreign experts. The $25,000,000 loan asked for from the International Bank is needed to start the financing of this plan.
The interview took place in the green drawing room of Haile Selassie’s French-styled palace in the heart of Addis Ababa. No lion cubs have been in the room, as was the custom at this court not so long ago. There was only the Emperor’s private secretary, in cutaway and striped trousers. Haile Selassie wears a British general’s uniform.
‘The United Nations will have to recognize that Eritrea, this former Italian colony, should be returned to Ethiopia’, said the Emperor, switching to foreign affairs. ‘Except for the period of Italy’s invasion of East Africa, which started at the turn of the last century, Eritrea has always formed a part of Ethiopia. It would be only just and fair to return this province to its homeland.’ #QHS
Referring to his bitter experience with the defunct League of Nations 15 years ago, when the Italians invaded his country, Haile Selassie exclaimed: ‘The Eritrean question gives an opportunity to the United Nations to show proof that they administer world affairs better than the old League’. #QHS
Haile Selassie is one of the few rulers in this part of the world who expresses sympathy for Israel. ‘Ethiopia and Israel have the same ancestors and claim the same origin’, the Emperor said. ‘We are glad that after so many centuries of persecution the sons of Israel have regained their freedom, and justice has been rendered to them.’ Haile Selassie at the same time expressed hope that Israel’s government will assist Ethiopia in the question of Eritrea. #QHS
The Emperor’s sympathy for Israel does not change the fact that Ethiopia refuses to recognize Israel and that Egyptian influence in this country is considerable. Ethiopia and Egypt raised their legations to the rank of embassies last spring. An Egyptian-Ethiopian air agreement has also been signed. A group of 13 Egyptian newspapermen visited Ethiopia earlier this year. The catching of Arab votes for the UN discussion on Eritrea and the possibility of constructing dams on Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, are both weighty reasons to keep Ethiopia close to Egypt.
Isolation has, for ages, been a brake on Ethiopia’s development and progress. Haile Selassie, determined to remove this arresting factor, brought his country to the world’s international arena long before Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia. As early as 1923, Ethiopia joined the League of Nations. It is a member of the United Nations. It has embassies in Washington, London, Paris, ministers accredited to the Soviet Union and nine other countries, and consular officials in nine more.
Haile Selassie is probably Ethiopia’s most hard-working man. He gets up regularly at 5 a.m., takes up state matters even before breakfast, which is at 8 a.m. From 9 a.m. till 1:15 p.m. he receives officials and visitors. At 4 p.m. he reenters his office and works until 8 p.m. After supper, the Emperor often works until late in the evening. He has two rest days weekly: Saturday and Sunday.
The 58-year-old Emperor speaks excellent French and good English. In 1916, under the name of Ras Tafari Makonnen, he was appointed by the Council of Great Chiefs of Mark to be ‘Regent to Empress Zauditu’. Following the passing of the Empress in 1930 he ascended the throne and adopted the name and title ‘Haile Selassie I, the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God, King of Kings, Emperor of Ethiopia’. Belonging to the Coptic Christian Church, he does not have a ‘harem’, but only one wife, with whom, contrary to customs in most Middle Eastern countries, he appears in public.
When I was invited to the Imperial Palace, I was told by the Emperor’s private secretary to wear formal clothes and to bow three times when entering Haile Selassie’s room. At the entrance of the drawing room, white-clad servants with white gloves were standing in two rows. I was warned not to address Haile Selassie otherwise than ‘Your Imperial Majesty’.
All this may appear to a critical westerner as too much of a protocol and overpompousness. However, one should remember that in spite of strict observance of rigid formalities Haile Selassie’s court is one of the few in the world where the interests of a neglected and backward people are being incessantly fostered by an enlightened and great reformer.”