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The BBC's Andrew Harding
"He lived in style and now he is being buried in style"
 real 56k

Sunday, 5 November, 2000, 12:18 GMT
Controversial burial for Haile Selassie
Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa
The last resting place of an emperor
Ethiopia's last emperor, Haile Selassie, is being taken to his final resting place in Addis Ababa's Trinity Cathedral, more than 25 years after his mysterious death.

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.

Haile Selassie
Haile Selassie: Despot or deity?
But the crowds were much smaller than expected, some 2,000-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.

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.


A family affair, rather than a state occasion

Ethiopian Government
His body is being laid to rest at the cathedral where other members of the Ethiopian Imperial family have been buried.

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."

'Despot'

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.

Former ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam
Mengistu: His soldiers have been accused of killing the emperor
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.

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."

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28 Dec 99 | Africa
Mengistu defends 'Red Terror'
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