The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I

Chapter 11

About men who were an obstacle to the work of government by coming between Queen Zawditu and myself

There had existed between Queen Zawditu and my father, H.H. Ras Makonnen, a friendship of mutual confidence and considera­tion, over and above their relationship; and seeing me with my father’s eye, she showed for me almost a mother’s regard. Moreover, Ledj Iyasu had done us some sort of injustice intending to sadden and to offend both of us. He had forcibly evicted Queen Zawditu, lest she should dwell in her father’s capital, Addis Ababa, and sent her to Falle to stay there like a prisoner. Lest I should live in my father's city of Harar or in the capital, Addis Ababa, he had ordered me, by threat of force, to go to Kaffa, pretending it was by way of an appointment. But as God in his goodness had caused Ledj Iyasu to be deposed and us to be chosen, Queen Zawditu to Ethiopia’s crown and throne and me as Ethiopia’s Crown Prince and Regent Plenipotentiary, we marvelled at this and lived in amity and concord.

Previous to that, on 17th Maskaram 1909 (= 27th September 1916), the officers with the troops, the Archbishop and the Etchage with the priests, being assembled together and proffering advice, while choosing the Queen for crown and throne and me for the succession to the throne and the regency plenipotentiary, had defined for us the following allocation of duties for our establishment and our work:

(1) That the Queen should take the honour of Crown and Throne and be called Queen of Queens;
(2) That I, being called Crown Prince of Ethiopia, should beyond that take the regency plenipotentiary and carry out in full all the work of government;
(3) That I, selecting the officers of the army, should appoint and dismiss them;
(4) That I, sitting in Court, should judge all the civil and criminal appeals which the judges had handed down in the first instance;
(5) That I should conclude by negotiations any matters what­soever concerning relations with foreign governments.

After we had carried on, for about a year, undertaking in accord the work that had been assigned and given to us, some men who were seeking their own profit alone came between us and set about attempting to destroy our unity and to estrange us from each other. What they told the Queen as principal proof of their contention was that, if appointments and dismissals and all the other aspects of government remained in the hands of the Crown Prince, there would be no-one who would fear and respect the Queen, for it was necessary that the authority of the Queen should enter in the appointment of army officers and ministers, in the balancing of provincial governorships and the establishment of hereditary land-rights, in the allocation of money and in all similar matters. They sought to establish that judicial decisions which those who acted as judges had handed down should not, after they had come before me on appeal, be upset against them; they, therefore, told the Queen that it would be good if she sat in Court, pretending that it was for the sake of the Queen’s honour. The object of all this was to see that old habits should not be changed and education not be developed.

Apart from this, everything I was doing I intended to be for the dignity of the realm and for the prosperity and welfare of the people—yet they were talking to the Queen by interpreting all this in a bad way and by dissimulating to her.

For example:
(1) When I granted a contract to a French company called Bayard, thinking that it would be of great advantage to govern­ment and people if the minerals existing in Ethiopia were extrac­ted by it from where they lie buried, they spread the rumour as if we had by this inflicted damage upon our country;
(2) If aeroplanes were introduced into our country, then it might be with the object of scaring off and frightening some idlers who were disturbing the country’s security. When, therefore, I arranged for an aeroplane to arrive that had been purchased from France with the intention that it should expedite the turn-round of postal services and transport of people in each province, they spread it about that this was to destroy by ’plane the entire Queen’s party and to deprive her by force of crown and throne. Moreover, I encountered great trouble in setting free the slaves.

As to these men who were speaking to the Queen under false pretences and coming between us, at times she would follow their counsel without examining its uselessness to the government— yet useful to themselves; hence I had great trouble in carrying out the work of government according to my plans. Nevertheless, some great noblemen, notably Ras Kassa, would speak to the Queen, as they were saddened at the work of government being frustrated by the fraudulent advice of a few men and at our remaining behind in civilization; they convinced her of the usefulness for us in carrying out the work of government accord­ing to the assignment we had been given when the Queen and I were first chosen; she therefore disregarded most of the advice tendered to her by others.

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October 1, 2016