The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I


From the time of my marriage up to my appointment as crown-prince and regent plenipotentiary (1911-1916)

When I had been governor of Harar and its entire province for about a year, stabilizing without mishap the life of peasants and soldiers, of government and of all else necessary for administration, it was decided, by my wish and by that of my relations, that I should marry (I was in my twentieth year at the time) Wayzaro Manan (now Empress), the grand-daughter of Negus Mika'el. We were married by church ceremony on 23rd Hamle 1903 (= 31st July 1911).

Her character is such that, apart from goodness, there is no evil or malice in her. Ever since we were married we lived together, by virtue of her being fertile, in one family sharing joy as well as sadness.

In saying that we lived together sharing joy as well as sadness, I cannot omit writing about the first great sadness, as follows: We were informed at Harar of the death, in 1907 (= 1914/15) of Ras Hayla Maryam, Wayzaro Manan's younger brother. When their mother, Wayzaro Sehin, returned from Wallo to Addis Ababa, it was decided that, because of her brother's death, Wayzaro Manan should go up to Addis Ababa for the joint mourning. And consequently she set out from Harar on Monday, 30th Genbot (= 7th June 1915). Having accompanied her as far as Haramaya, we camped by the shore of Lake Haramaya, as We (i.e. Dej. Tafari) wished to return (to Harar).

In the past there was a boat in which the foreigners living at Harar and Dire Dawa used sometimes to enter Lake Haramaya for recreation; we therefore left the tent at 9 o'clock (= 3 p.m.) and went to the lake. There were ten people who boarded the boat with us to relax on the lake. After we had embarked we passed towards the centre and eventually crossed to the other side. Having stayed a little while on the opposite shore, we entered the boat once again to return to our camp. But the boat was rather old and, as we reached the middle of the lake, it was holed and water began to enter.

As the people in the boat scooped out the water with their hats, it did not diminish when they poured it out. Once we had become convinced of the fact that the boat was leaking, that it was impossible to cross with us inside it, and that we were all of us sinking with the boat, we began to swim with great difficulty. But as the lake was wide and it was impossible to cross it by swimming, the following seven men became exhausted and drowned: Abba Tasfa, Qagnazmatch Gabra Wald, Ato Ayala Seyum, Kidana Maryam Manyazawal, Asamre, Abba Samuel, Paulos. But I and Dejazmatch Hayla Sellasse were going under and coming up again. Dejatch Abreha's servant helped me. As the officers and men who were watching this standing by the shore of the lake became convinced of the shipwreck, all those able to swim threw themselves into the lake; and as they reached us we emerged, having only just escaped from death. As we got out, our soul had barely been prevented from getting separated from our body, but we were unable to recognize anyone or to speak.

It so happened that by chance Dr. Zervos, a Greek who had earlier been a physician, was there at that time and he treated me with medicines as far as possible; and little by little I was able to recognize people's outline.

On the morrow they carried me on a stretcher to Amaressa, and from Amaressa took me down to Harar; and on the twelfth day, being quite well again, I went up to the church of St Michael and gave thanks to God.

Wayzaro Manan, being shocked on account of my accident, abandoned her journey to Addis Ababa and returned to Harar.

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August 20, 2016