The Emperor's Clothes

The Emperor's Clothes: A Personal Viewpoint of Politics and Administration in the Imperial Ethiopian Government, 1941-1974

Gaitachew Bekele
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 125
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  • Book Info
    The Emperor's Clothes
    Book Description:

    . . . 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

    eISBN: 978-0-87013-892-8
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (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 Haile Selassie dressed in the traditional costume of Ethiopia.

    It is my contention that tradition and culture are vitally important elements in the identity of a nation. Especially one which can allow its people...

  4. 1 Family Background
    (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 family was engaged. He was not keen to go out into the field with the other boys to tend the livestock. On the occasions when he did, he usually lured the other boys away to play games and...

  5. 2 Italian Invasion (1936-1941)
    (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 quite clear to us children why they were busy, day in and day out, making Enjera (bread), drying it in the sun, and pounding it in a...

  6. 3 Studies
    (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. We went to see the Minister of Education, Ato Mekonnen Desta, in his office in the Imperial compound. We were with a friend, Haile Breqneh, who knew him, and we were warmly received by...

  7. 4 Early Career
    (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 finally Addis Ababa. When I arrived in Addis Ababa and compared it with Cairo, which I had left a few hours before, I was shocked by the contrast.Addis Ababa in comparison seemed like a burnt-out town with...

  8. 5 Department of Marine, Addis Ababa (March 1954-1957)
    (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 room and board in the Shewa Hotel for Eth$150 per month. After a week, I moved out into a rented two-bedroom house. I soon worked out that for what it cost me to...

  9. 6 Assistant Minister (November 1957 - December 1960)
    (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 the construction of Assab Port had been signed with the Yugoslavian firm Pomgrad of Split. I returned to find the Department of Marine without a head, which was not a very pleasant feeling, and started...

  10. 7 Attempted Coup D’Etat
    (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 progressive men in his administration because of the corruption he allowed to flourish. He was a weak leader kept in power only by the Imperial Guard. It would be thought that if the Imperial...

  11. 8 Governor of Bahr-Dar
    (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 town. The varied bird life includes silvery checked hombills, herons, hoopoes, ospreys, and weavers. The lake, besides being home to many kinds of fish, is the habitat of crocodiles and hippos. The...

  12. 9 Ambassador (1963-1969)
    (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 me into a remote province. The governor general, who was supposed to make life miserable because I was one who was disgraced and banished by the emperor, became a...

  13. 10 Ministry of Posts, Telecommunication, and Transport
    (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 my intention to leave government service to go into farming. He made no comment.

    Four or five months later Endalkatchew was called back home and appointed minister of post, telecommunication...

  14. 11 Cabinet Resigns (February 1974)
    (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 collapsed without a shot being fired.

    Why did the empire not collapse when Emperor Tewodros ended his life in Mekedal after he realized he had been defeated by a foreign power? Why did the institution of...

  15. 12 Epilogue
    (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 takeover, particularly by such destructive elements. We had completely failed to appreciate the potentially disastrous effects of the negative developments which took place during the reign of...

  16. Index
    (pp. 197-206)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 207-207)