I’ve mentioned Emperor Haile Selassie in previous posts. I’ve met him, liked him and thought that he did a lot to help his country advance. He created an elected government with partial power. I think basically as an advisory body; he gave up a palace to open the country’s first University; he was very cooperative with foreigners in the country, who were there to help with education and health etc.
He was put under house arrest when the Derg arrested him and took over power. A bit later he had prostatic surgery and was doing well. He was seen on the day before his death by the Professor of Medicine (who had looked after me when I had heart problems) and was declared fit and progressing well. The next day the Professor was ordered to sign a death certificate. I presume he requested a post-mortem, because of his good health the day before, which was denied, and within a couple of days the Professor was dead, and nobody knew where the Royal remains were.
Years later, after the Derg was overthrown, the truth came out. He had been suffocated with a pillow and buried five metres under Mengistu HaileMariam’s desk. Mengistu was the Derg leader. His remains were dug up and buried with much pomp and ceremony in the church where his Majesty had regularly worshipped.
I could say a lot more very interesting stuff about him but I came across a slide in my present cataloging mania. The background to it is interesting, or at least it is to me.
The emperor, in his care for the very poor, had a hospital (Kidus Paulos, St Paul’s) built for the free treatment of the very poor. In the the foyer there was a beautiful mural painted in his honour. With his overthrow his followers felt that the Derg would certainly destroy the mural. So they rapidly but carefully had a false wall built to cover it. The wall wasn’t discovered by the Derg.
After the overthrow of the Derg, when I returned to Ethiopia, I was appointed to Kidus Paulos and was there when the false wall was pulled down. Hence the picture below.
There are some very interesting things about the mural.
- He was a short man but he is the tallest in the picture. There is a foreigner in the line up of dignitaries and the medical advisor to his government was a Scandinavian.
- The hospital building looked just like it is painted in the mural.
- The angel has its wings painted in the Ethiopian flag colours, but interesting in that the order is reversed. Usually the green is on top. In times of war they are reversed so that red is on the top.
- It was the sunrise of a new era of caring for the poor and the crowd is obviously ecstatic.