The second volume of a trilogy on Emperor Haile-Selassie's life and times, this book opens with the reformist young Emperor on the Ethiopian throne in 1930. Although he had started his reforms as heir apparent to the throne, he had been opposed by conservative adversaries. Less constrained as Emperor, he was able to introduce the first written constitution, expand general education, reform public administration, and create a rudimentary army to secure the nation against the increasingly menacing threats from the European colonial powers; especially Italy. As feared, Italy embarked on a pretext to provoke a conflict. This was a frontier incident with Somalia. Mussolini, claimed that the Ethiopians had crossed the border and precipitated an incident. In reality, it was he who had done just that. He now proceeded to send troops, tanks, heavy artillery, and warplanes to defend Italian lands. Emperor Haile-Selassie requested the League of Nations to intervene. The League was indecisive. Italy invaded Ethiopia in the fall of 1936. The Emperor appeared before the League where he made his prophetic address that what had happened to Ethiopia, a member state, would soon spread and find new victims among its other members. He reminded the organization of its collective security mandate to come to Ethiopia's assistance and warned that, whatever it did or failed to do, God and history will remember your judgment. Zewde brings this fascinating story to life with new details preceding the Emperor's address and of how the address was put together, its delivery, the whistles and catcalls of Fascist journalists in an attempt to interrupt the address, and the Chairman's order that the savages be thrown out of the hall. Zewde later describes the Emperor's exile years in London, his continued efforts to secure global awareness for Ethiopia's cause and how, as he had warned, League inaction eventually emboldens Mussolini and Hitler to provoke a global war. A man whose presence in England had been regarded as an embarrassment is instantly transformed into an ally. Winston Churchill arranges for Emperor Haile-Selassie to be flown to the Sudan, a British colony, from where he would proceed to his country. Once inside, Haile-Selassie was joined by Ethiopian resistance and British forces entering the country from Kenya and the Sudan. The Italians are evicted and the Emperor reinstated. With admirable lucidity Zewde goes on to unveil the drama of how the British military and the colonial office quickly launched a plan to turn Ethiopia into a British protectorate. The Emperor responded with his own plan to reclaim authority. One aspect of this was to seek U.S. assistance. In a daring secret trip to Cairo, the Emperor met with President Roosevelt and laid the foundations for a relationship that would ultimately reduce Ethiopia's dependence on Britain. It took two full years, however, for Haile-Selassie's plan to bear fruit. Eventually he managed to get Churchill to restrain his overzealous military. Hardly anywhere does this strange episode of World War II come out in such captivating and authentic detail. With conservatives weakened by the effects of the war, Haile-Selassie could proceed vigorously with his reforms. In this he was assisted by men of modest social backgrounds who, unlike the conservative class, had fully embraced his reforms. His right hand man was Wolde-Giorgis, a personal aide who had been with him during his years of exile. Zewde describes the different political factions with unmatched authority, such was his proximity with one of the strong actors of the liberal class. Indeed, key portions of his material were obtained from this source. An experienced journalist and diplomat, Zewde offers us an account which is at once vivid, rich in detail, and entertaining.
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BIOGRAPHY: Zewde Retta was born on August 14, 1935 in Addis Ababa. He completed his primary and secondary education at the French Lycée Guebre-Mariam. He began his professional career at the Ministry of Information in 1952 and became the youngest news correspondent for Ethiopian radio as well as press correspondent to the Emperor's palace. He then spent four years at the school of journalism in Paris where he graduated in 1959. Soon after he became editor in chief for the newspaper The Voice of Ethiopia and for Menene magazine. Throughout the 50's and 60's he held numerous positions including deputy information minister, chief director of the Ethiopian news agency and President of the Pan African News Agency. In 1969 he was appointed to the foreign office and assigned as minister counselor to the Ethiopian Embassy in Paris. His diplomatic ability enabled him first to become deputy foreign minister and later ambassador of Ethiopia to Italy and Tunisia for the Emperor's government. Overall he had a twenty two years career in the government of Emperor Haile Selassie until the military takeover of Ethiopia by Mengistu. The change of government and the uncertainty about Ethiopia's future forced him to stay in exile in Italy where he joined the UN Agency IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development), headquartered in Rome, where he served as Chief of Protocol and Secretary for Member State Relations. Personal life: Ambassador Retta married his wife Galila Teferra in 1966 and has three children. Awards: The Emperor Menelik medal from Emperor Haile Selassie for outstanding service The star of Ethiopia award Numerous awards from Africa, Asia and Europe for his diplomatic skills and for outstanding service to his country. The author has written four plays in his early years before publishing the following books in Amharic on Ethiopian history: The Eritrean Affair During the Period of Emperor Haile Sellasie (1941-1963); Teferi Mekonnen: The Long Journey to Ultimate Power (1884-1922); The Government of the Emperor Haile Selassie, Part I (1930-1955).Review:
The Government of Haile Selassie I, by Zewde Retta Mr Zewde Retta, former Ethiopian Ambassador to Italy, has given us one more book on Ethiopia's modern history, entitled: The Government of Haile Selassie I. We have been anticipating this book's release ever since rumors began circulating that Mr. Retta was organizing his data and contemplating another work. As a journalist who had full access to the Palace, he had the foresight to collect important documents and to create contemporaneous records of events as they happened. As a result, he is uniquely positioned to address his subject with great distinction. His two prior works, the first about Eritrea and the second on Haile Selassie's early years, had already placed him among historians whose words we consider definitive. Readers of Mr. Retta's new book will find that it meets the same high standard, and will be amazed, as I am, to discover so much new information about an era in which we lived. --Professor Getatchew Haile
Ethiopian author and ambassador Zewde Retta, educated in Ethiopia and in France, has published the second volume of his trilogy on the life and times of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia for grateful readers. He honed his writing skills early on in his life as the palace reporter for the national paper and serving in different capacities in the Ethiopian government, including ambassadorial diplomatic services. It appears that destiny has determined author Zewde Retta to emerge as an accomplished narrator of his country's political history. The period of history covered in this hefty 811 page book, Emperor Haile Selassie's Government. The text deals with a most critical period of war and peace in the 20th century, in which Ethiopia and Emperor Haile Selassie were cast on the world stage. More than half the book is devoted to the Italian Fascist invasion of Ethiopia (1936-1941) and its aftermath. This well researched and well written book is also embellished with more than 150 photographs, many of which were unpublished hitherto. It has taken seven arduous years for the author to research and write this important and edifying volume. It is a book for the ages. --Negussay Ayele, Professor
Mr. Zewde Retta's recent book on the government of Emperor Haile Selassie I is a welcome and timely contribution to the limited literature of modern Ethiopian history. It comes at a time when present and young generations are eager to know what really happened during the reign of the Emperor. How he managed to introduce modern monarchical governance, including the opening-up of the country to the outside world. With what patience and determination he overcame the Italian aggression and the long period of continued machinations of the European colonial powers, in particular the British and the French. This book of over 800 pages is enriched with over 140 fascinating and engaging photographs. The reader would be rewarded just by studying the historic photographs, let alone the spicy personal and original incidents that are interspersed across the length and breadth of the book. The content of the book is presented in 8 parts: Part 1 : The transfer of power from Emperor Menilik and the rise to power of the young Teferi Makonen, who is eventually crowned as Emperor Haile Selassie I. Part 2 : The hanging of a Black Cloud; over the Ethiopian Bright Sunshine;. It presents the aspirations and motivations of Italy - spearheaded by Benito Mussolini - to avenge Italy's Adwa defeat some forty years earlier and the unjust support European powers and The League of Nations gave to Italy. Part 3 : The Italian invasion of Ethiopia and the Emperor's appeal to The League of Nations. Part 4 : The beginning of World War II in Europe and the alliance of Benito Mussolini with Adolf Hitler. Part 5 : The Liberation of Ethiopia Part 6 : The Era of the British and their aspirations over Ethiopia; The Emperor's wise and determined treatment of the British including his historic meeting with President Roosevelt on the Suez Canal and with Winston Churchill in Cairo, Egypt. Part 7 : The rise to power of the two enigmatic personalities within the Emperor's Cabinet: Makonen Habtewolde and Wolde Giorgis Part 8 : The decline and end of Wolde Giorgis's power. Readers with basic competence in Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia would enjoy this book, its comprehensive coverage, its judicious use of words and its style of writing. Once they begin reading it they would be compelled to finish it. Mr Retta has earlier published two equally powerful and useful books: the first dealing with the Eritrean Affair during the reign of the Emperor (1941- 1963) and the second about Teferi Makonen, the life history of the Emperor during his childhood and youth (1884-1922). Both books have been accepted and read widely, many are still requesting these books to be reprinted. The Government of Emperor Haile Selassie I by Mr Zewde Retta is a wonderful and useful book to read, very reasonably priced to give as a gift. I strongly invite younger generations to read it and become familiar with this period of Ethiopia's modern history. --Aklilu Habte Ph. D. Former President of Haile Selassie I University and Ex Director of Education and training at the World Bank and Unicef.
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