BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Africa
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Roger Harding
"Ethiopia's last emperor has at last been given the send off he always planned for himself"
 real 56k

Mulugata Aserate Kassa, cousin to Haile Selassie
"He was the greatest reformer of all the kings we had"
 real 56k

Sunday, 5 November, 2000, 17:17 GMT
Haile Selassie laid to rest
Haile Selassie's coffin
Final farewell to the Rastafarians' 'living god'
Ethiopia's last emperor, Haile Selassie, has finally been laid to rest in Addis Ababa's Trinity Cathedral, more than 25 years after his mysterious death.

Although they killed you and threw your body in an unmarked grave, they could not tarnish your image

Orthodox priest
Priests in lavish robes, elderly warriors with lions' manes on their heads and dread-locked Rastafarians joined the funeral procession for the man some believe to be a living god.

But the crowds were much smaller than expected, several thousand-strong, not the hundreds of thousands predicted by the organisers, the Emperor Haile Selassie I Foundation.

The government had refused to allow the occasion the status of a state burial, having recently accused the former emperor of oppression and brutality during his 45-year rule.

Haile Selassie's portrait during his funeral procession
The last ruling descendant of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
But the procession was still intensely emotional, with many people weeping openly as the haunting chant of Orthodox prayers rang out over the city.

"He was one of the world's most brilliant leaders, next to King Solomon of Israel," said Feyesa Wolde Emanuel, an 87-year-old former officer dressed in his old uniform. "He loved his people."

"This is as if I were being reborn," said another former imperial officer, Sergeant Abera Gebremariam, 62.

The funeral cortege left Ba'ata Mariam Geda Church at dawn and followed a 10km (six mile) route to the Trinity Cathedral, via the main Meskal Square in Addis Ababa.

Haile Selassie's remains had been kept at the church since they were discovered under a palace toilet in 1992.

His body has now been laid to rest at the cathedral where other members of the Ethiopian Imperial family have been buried.

Funeral procession of Haile Selassie
The funeral procession was intensely emotional

After prayers attended by members of the former royal family, the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Paulos, paid tribute to the emperor, stressing his "remarkable contribution to Ethiopia, the church, Africa and the entire world."

"Although they killed you and threw your body in an unmarked grave, they could not tarnish your image," said an Orthodox priest during the mass.


Haile Selassie ruled Ethiopia for 45 years before he was overthrown by the Marxist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1974.

Haile Selassie
1892: Born near Harar
1928: Ascends to throne of Shoa
1930: Ascends to imperial throne
1936: Exiled after Italian invasion
1941: Returns to Addis Ababa
1974: Deposed by Mengistu
1975: Dies while in custody
The 81-year-old emperor was detained in his palace by Mengistu's soldiers.

He died a year later, many believe murdered by his captors. His remains were found in 1992, buried under a toilet in the Imperial Palace.

More than 25 years have passed since his death, but his legacy still lives on. Haile Selassie is one of the founding fathers of the OAU and is viewed by many as the figurehead of African independence, for his defiance against the Italian colonial invasion in the 1930s.

He is also revered by the million-strong Rastafarian community, who believe that the Ethiopian emperor either remains alive and well, or ascended bodily into heaven.
Rita Marley
Reggae singer Bob Marley's wife Rita was among the mourners

When Haile Selassie was enthroned in 1930, he became not only emperor of Ethiopia, but also god to the fledgling Rastafarian movement in Jamaica.

While most Rastafarians have condemned the funeral, a few hundred have arrived in Addis Ababa for the burial, insisting they are here to "merely observe, rather than to participate."

Ras Lumumba, a Sudanese Rastafarian who came to settle in Ethiopia three years ago, says the Emperor is their Messiah or Jah.

"Haile Selassie is King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and the conquering lion of the Tribe of Judah. He is everything to us Rastafarians and we will never accept that he is dead."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Africa stories