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The Haile Sellassie I Prize Trust* Berhanu Abebe Addis Ababa University The objective of the Haile Sellassie Prize Trust as defined in the original Charter of 1963, consisted of the promotion of excellence in such diverse fields as African and Ethiopian Studies, Amharic Literature, the Fine Arts, Industry, Agriculture and Humanitarian Activities. The revised Charter of 1969 added Education as a new field of merit.1 The structure of the Prize Trust was highly hierarchical. It could not be otherwise, given the very status of the personalities to whom various tasks were entrusted within the institution: a)The board of trustees appointed by the emperor to direct the policy of the Prize Trust under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Aklilu Habte-Wold comprises Ato Yilma Deressa, minister of finance; Commodore Iskander Desta, head of the Imperial Navy and grandson of the emperor; Lij Kassa WoldeMariam , president of the Haile Sellassie University, and Ato Wondwossen Mangasha, deputy governor of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia.2 b)The executive council made up of the last two trustees above, and three other members: Dr. Seyum Haregot, minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office3; Ato Abebe Kebede, manager general of the Haile Sellassie Foundation; and Mr. W J. Pile from the Ministry of Finance. *This paper was presented at the 12th annual International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Michigan State University, September 5-10, 1994.┬źNortheast African Studies (ISSN 0740-9133) Vol. 2, No. 3 (New Series) 1995, pp. 53-66 53 54 Berhanu Abebe c)Selection committees for each of the Awards enumerated above, the members of which were recruited among educators, experts , and other highly qualified professionals in their respective fields. One-third of the membership of the committees initially appointed by the executive council was replaced every two years, with the new members being chosen by the remaining two-thirds. A significant feature of this practice was that the outgoing members were the oldest in age and length of service. d)The director was designated by the executive council and presented for official appointment to the emperor by the president of the board of trustees. He was responsible for the management of the Prize Trust and, more importantly, was the permanent secretary of each of the selection committees, with the right to vote only in case of a tie. The process of selection was subject to a number of strict procedures which should be noted here: None of the criteria for eligibility or selection took into consideration the favor or acquiescence of the Emperor. At the end of the selection process, the names of the winners were communicated both to the Trustees and to the Emperor at a date so close to the actual Award Ceremony that any possibility for the Trustees to propose alternative candidates^ or for the Committees to go back on their decisions, was virtually precluded. That is to say that the Committees took precautions of such a "technical " nature as would protect their decisions and preempt any possibility of interference. Even then, matters did not, of course, always go smoothly. It would indeed have been unnatural if the Prize Trust had not shown the imperfections inherent in any such institution. I will limit myself to just three instances to illustrate this. The Haile Sellassie I Prize Trust 55 The first case relates to that of Ato Kebede Mikael. The latter refused to accept the Award for Ethiopian Literature believing, quite wrongly as it happened, that he had been nominated by the Trustees. "The likes of Aklilu and Company cannot sit in judgment over my work," was his scornful objection.5 The other party responded in like manner when they had an article published on the pages of Addis Zemen in which the author questioned whether the Award for Literature should be given to a mere translator. In strict truth, Kebede was the least contentious of the recipients of 1964, as he had to his credit four major works on the theme of Civilization and Modernity in addition to his other distinguished writings. It took the personal intervention of the Emperor to convince Kebede that, contrary to his belief, he had been nominated by a Committee working...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-6574
Print ISSN
0740-9133
Pages
pp. 53-66
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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