Imru Haile Selassie

Imru Haile Selassie
Leul Ras
Governor of Gojjam
Reign 1932–1936
Predecessor Hailu Tekle Haymanot
Successor none
Regent of Ethiopia
Reign 1935–1936
Regent for Haile Selassie I
Born 23 November 1892
Shire, Ethiopian Empire
Died 15 August 1980(1980-08-15) (aged 87)
Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
Burial Holy Trinity Cathedral
Spouse Leult Tsige Mariam
Issue Lij Mikael Imru and seven daughters
House Solomonic Dynasty
Father Dejazmatch Haile Selassie Abayne
Mother Woizero Mazlekia Ayala Worq
Religion Ethiopian Orthodox
Occupation Military leader, diplomat

Leul Ras Imru Haile Selassie, CBE (Amharic: ዕምሩ፡ኃይለ፡ሥላሴ; 23 November 1892 – 15 August 1980) was an Ethiopian noble, soldier, and diplomat. He was also the cousin of Emperor Haile Selassie.

He was acting Prime Minister for three days in 1960 during a coup d'état and assassination of Prime Minister Abebe Aregai.


Tafari Belew, Lij Tafari Makonnen, Beru, Imru Haile Sellassie

Born in Shewa Province, Imru was the childhood friend of his first cousin once removed Haile Selassie I (Imru's mother, Mazlekia Ayala Worq, was Haile Selassie's first cousin); both were tutored together under Abba Samuel Wolde Kahin, and were raised by Imru's father Haile Selassie Abayne, whom Harold Marcus describes as the Emperor's "real father", asserting that "Makonnen's son recalled the surrogate with affection, whereas he invariably referred to his father with formality and deference."[1] Both Imru and his father accompanied the future ruler to his first governorship in Sidamo.[2] In 1916/17 Imru, by then a Dejazmach, was appointed Shum (Governor) of Harar province by his cousin.[3] In 1928, Imru was appointed Shum of Wollo province when Gugsa Welle failed to end a smoldering rebellion there.

In 1932, Imru was promoted to Ras and made ruler of Gojjam province. Imru replaced Ras Hailu Tekle Haymanot, who had been convicted of treason for allegedly helping the deposed Lij Iyasu escape, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Upon arriving in Gojjam, Imru was immediately faced with a revolt by Fitawrari Admassu, a natural son of the imprisoned Ras, who on 30 September briefly held Debre Marqos; not long afterwards Admassu ended his revolt, sending messengers to the Emperor to ask for pardon. Nevertheless, despite numerous reforms and efforts to modernize the province, which enriched both the producers and traders, Imru found few friends in Gojjam and "was invariably viewed as an outsider, the emperor's agent, and, unable to rule by consensus, he governed by force."[4]

From October 1935, Imru led his provincial army and commanded the Army of the Left in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. His early offensive deep into the Italian rear threatened the Italian advance. Ultimately Imru was stopped and his army was destroyed by the use of poison gas dropped from the air.[5]

In May 1936, Haile Selassie appointed his cousin as Prince Regent in his absence, departing Ethiopia with his family to present the case of Ethiopia to the League of Nations at Geneva.[6] Ras Imru fell back to Gore in southern Ethiopia to reorganize and continue to resist the Italians.

For this to have worked, he needed the revenue of the gold mines of Asosa, but the loyal Sheikh Hojali was driven out in July 1936 by rebellious Welega Oromo, who also made Ras Imru's position in Gore untenable, and he retreated to the southeast. The Italians followed him, and pinned him down on the north bank of the Gojeb River, where he surrendered December 19, 1936.[7] He was flown to Italy and imprisoned on the Island of Ponza until freed after the formal surrender of Italy in September 1943.

After the war Ras Imru was appointed a Crown Councilor and served as Ambassador to India, the United States, and the Soviet Union. Always a man of modernist and reformist views, as well as deeply religious Ras Imru increasingly began to lean towards a left of center political stance that would probably have had him classified as a socialist in the western European sense.

Both he and his son Mikael Imru became advocates for land reform, and he went as far as distributing his own extensive estates to his tenant farmers. Due to these political views, Ras Imru was nicknamed "the Red Ras" by many contemporaries.

Regardless of his leftist sympathies, Ras Imru remained a confidant of the Emperor and a monarchist. However, when the Derg deposed Emperor Haile Selassie in September 1974, they asked Ras Imru to accompany them to the Emperor's palace in order to witness the act.

Eyewitness accounts relate that the Ras was visibly distressed as the members of the Derg announced to the Emperor that he was deposed and that they required him to accompany them to his place of detention. The Emperor and Ras Imru had a whispered conversation after which the Emperor agreed to go peacefully.

The Ras then asked to be allowed to accompany the Emperor to wherever the soldiers were taking him, and became distraught when permission was refused. The members then assured the Prince that he could come to see the Emperor later in the day. It is believed that the Derg did not want to subject Ras Imru to the insults and humiliation that were directed at the Emperor by Derg sympathisers as he was driven away from the palace.

After his death in August 1980, Ras Imru became the only member of the Imperial dynasty to be given a state funeral by the Derg. Television and radio announcements of his death accorded him his full titles of Prince, Ras, and the dignity of "His Highness" even though the Derg had abolished all Imperial titles in 1974.

He was publicly and officially eulogized as a former Prince Regent, a distinguished diplomat, an early progressive, and a leader of the resistance against the Italian occupation. No mention was made of his blood ties to the Imperial family or his lifelong close association with the late Emperor.


See also


  1. Harold Marcus, Haile Selassie I: The Formative Years, 1892-1936 (Lawrenceville: Red Sea, 1996), p. 3
  2. Marcus, The Formative Years, p. 10
  3. Marcus, The Formative Years, p. 28
  4. Marcus, The Formative Years, p. 125
  5. Anthony Mockler, Haile Selassie's War (New York: Olive Branch, 2003), p. 81
  6. Mockler, Haile Selassie, p. 136
  7. Mockler, Haile Selassie, pp. 163-168
  8. Royal Ark
  9. Royal Ark

External links

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