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The emperor's clothes

a personal viewpoint on politics and administration in the imperial Ethiopian government, 1941-1974

Gaitachew Bekele

Publication Year: 1993

 . . . An engaging personal account of a public service career n the period leading to the 1974 revolution. It ...persuades and provides real insight into the genuine noblesse oblige of the first generation of technocrats drawn from the social elite of the post- war period.
-James McCann, Boston University

Published by: Michigan State University Press

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pp. 1-4

It has been said that clothes make a man. While such an over-simplification cannot be wholly true, the clothes which a man chooses to wear can sometimes be a clue to his inner-thinking, how he perceives himself and those around him. I remember when I first went to London, I visited Madame Tussaud's Waxworks and felt enormously proud to find a statue of His Imperial Majesty ...

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1. Family Background

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pp. 5-22

My grandfather Zewdu was born in 1863 in Bulga/Tedla-Mariam. His father, Wolde-Hawaryat, was a native of that area, a middle class farmer married to the daughter of a prominent highland (Terra) family of the soldier-farmer class. Zewdu and his younger brother Wolde-Selassie were their children. As a young boy, Zewdu did not show much interest in the farming activities in which his ...

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2. Italian Invasion (1936-1941)

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pp. 23-42

When the Italian army invaded my country in 1936, I was nine years old, having just completed the first course of the church school. Unless one intended to go into the service of the church, there was no need to continue completing the reading of the whole of the psalms. In those last months of my church school, I had noticed that the women were very busy in the house. It was not ...

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3. Studies

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pp. 43-50

In 1942, Teferi Mekonnen School was the first government school to be reopened after the return of the emperor to his capital in May 1941. To be enrolled there, I obtained a letter from Ras Abebe testifying that I was in the resistance movement and therefore entitled to free education. With that letter, I left Wolayta for Addis Ababa with my adopted brother Habte Mikael Bekele. ...

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4. Early Career

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pp. 51-64

After completing my studies in Leicester in July 1951, I went straight to London to arrange for the return journey. The education attache at the Ethiopian embassy in London, Mrs. Holland, was able to arrange for me to receive a cash payment equivalent to the airfare which enabled me to travel home overland via Geneva, Lugano, Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Athens, Cairo, and ...

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5. Department of Marine, Addis Ababa (March 1954-1957)

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pp. 65-78

You will remember that I had arrived in Addis Ababa on the night of 18 March 1954 by road. I had no close relatives well-established in Addis Ababa, except my younger sister Ayelech who was newly married and my younger brother Melaku, an officer in the Imperial Body Guard living in camp. My parents lived in Wolliso, 120 kilometers southwest of Addis Ababa, so I took a ...

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6. Assistant Minister (November 1957-December 1960)

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pp. 79-100

I had left Addis Ababa in May 1957 via Yugoslavia for Germany for six months of practical training in the administration, development, and operation of port services. When I returned to Addis Ababa at the end of October 1957, the assistant minister in the Department of Marine, Lij Mikael Imru, had been transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture as vice minister and the contract for ...

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7. Attempted Coup D'Etat

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pp. 101-124

By 1960, every thinking man in Ethiopia was ready for the removal of the emperor. He had lost the confidence of the people when he fled the country during the Italian invasion. He had alienated the natural leaders of the various provinces and also those of the patriotic movement by ignoring them and appointing his own henchmen about him. He had lost the confidence of young ...

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8. Governor of Bahr-Dar

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pp. 125-142

Bahr-Dar means "by the edge of the sea" and is a small town on the southern tip of Lake Tana, the capital of the district which has taken its name. It is one of the seven districts in Gojam province bordering Begemdir 611 kilometers northwest of Addis Ababa. Bahr-Dar's importance stems from its history, the lake, and the Blue Nile waterfall, Tiss Isat, 35 kilometers outside of the ...

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9. Ambassador (1963-1969)

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pp. 143-160

My appointment as governor of Bahr-Dar subprovince was a demotion in rank from assistant minister, due to my involvement in the December 1960 abortive coup and the fact that I was given any position at all was intended to mollify me. It was also a calculated move on the part of His Majesty. The attempt to have me hanged had failed as did the attempt to ruin my morale by banishing ...

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10. Ministry of Posts, Telecommunication, and Transport

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pp. 161-170

I left with my family in the last week of May 1969 to return home, after two years and ten months as Ethiopian ambassador in Mexico. On my way home, I stayed in New York for three days with my friend, Lij Endalkatchew Mekonnen, who was the permanent representative of Ethiopia at the United Nations. We discussed what I was planning to do back home and I told him of ...

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11. Cabinet Resigns (February 1974)

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pp. 171-190

February 1974 marked the end of the last emperor and with him the ordained social order. Haile Selassie had been feared but not loved, accorded the outward forms of dignity but not respected, because all his actions were based on self-interest and foreign values. Many people are mystified even today that a dynasty which had stood the test of time, 3,000 years, could have ...

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12. Epilogue

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pp. 191-196

Rereading these personal recollections, I can see that an outsider might find it difficult to understand how, in a generation and a half, a civilization which had stood the test of thousands of years could be destroyed by an anarchistic military regime without a drop of blood being spilled [all bloodshed came after the Derg took power peacefully]. Looking back, not one of us was prepared for either a civilian or a military ...


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pp. 197-206

E-ISBN-13: 9780870138928
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870133251

Page Count: 125
Publication Year: 1993