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Haile Selassie; Rastafarian 'God' To Get African Union Statue   
 
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10-Feb-2019  
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A statue of Ethiopia's last emperor is to be unveiled outside the African Union's headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The likeness of Haile Selassie is being given pride of place outside the $200m (£154m) building in recognition for his role in establishing its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

 
But that might not be the first thing that springs to mind on hearing the name Haile Selassie. The name is perhaps more easily connected with Jamaican singer Bob Marley and Rastafarians.

So who exactly is Haile Selassie, and how did he come to be worshipped as a god by people living thousands of miles away?


First things first: why is he getting a statue?

Haile Selassie was more than 30 years into his reign when he helped establish the OAU. Its first meeting, in May 1963, was held in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia - which has never been colonised although it was subjected to a five-year military occupation by Mussolini's Italy - had served as a symbol of African independence throughout the colonial period.

Now other countries were finally gaining independence, and this was a chance to bring nations together to fight against colonisation and white minority rule while also co-ordinating efforts to raise living standards and defend their sovereignty.

"May this convention of union last 1,000 years," Selassie, who spent a year preparing the city for the meeting, told the gathered delegates.

As it happened, the OAU ceased to exist in its original form in 2002, replaced by the African Union (AU).

But his role in establishing the union has not been forgotten, and the statue is a way for the AU to recognise Selassie's contribution.

So, how exactly did he come to be seen as a god?

It all comes down to his coronation in 1930, and a "prophecy" made by a Jamaican black rights campaigner, Marcus Garvey, a decade earlier.

 
Garvey had told his followers in 1920 they should "look to Africa, when a black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is at hand".

Rastafarians believe Haile Selassie was the messiah

 
So, when a black man called Ras Tafari was crowned in Ethiopia, many saw that as a sign the prophecy had come true.

In East Africa, Ras Tafari ("chief" Tafari) became Haile Selassie ("power of the trinity"). Almost 8,000 miles away in the West Indies, Haile Selassie became God (or Jah) incarnate - the redeeming messiah - and Ethiopia, the promised land.

In short, the Rastafari movement was born.

Did Selassie believe it himself? Well, he certainly didn't try to dispel the belief when he visited Jamaica in 1966. The emperor was greeted by thousands, desperate to get a glimpse of their god. Among the devotees was the wife of a young Reggae musician, Bob Marley, who was away in the US.

Rita Marley would later describe how she saw nail marks on Selassie's palm as he waved at her. It was a moment of religious awakening, and when her husband returned, they embraced the belief.

Three years earlier, Rastafarians had begun to move to Ethiopia and a piece of land Selassie had put aside for black people from the West in 1948. After the visit, the numbers grew larger. Today, the community numbers about 300 people.

But followers were presented with a conundrum after Selassie died in 1975, a year after he was deposed in a Marxist revolution. After all, gods cannot die.

This was resolved after it was argued Selassie's body was just his earthly body.

Also, it should be noted, Garvey was never a believer. In fact, he was a critic of Selassie.
 
 
Source: BBC
 
 

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