Ras Makonnen


Ras Makonnen

Ras Mäkonnen Wäldä-Mika'él, KCMG (May 8, 1852–March 21, 1906) was a general and the governor of Harar province in Ethiopia, and the father of Tafari Mäkonnen, later known as the Emperor Haile Selassie I. His father was Fitawrari Woldemikael Guddessa. Makonnen was a grandson of King Sahle Selassie of Shewa through his mother, Princess Tenagnework Sahle Selassie. As such, he was a first cousin of Emperor Menelik II, and a member of the Solomonic dynasty.

He was born at Derefo Maryam, near Ankober and at the age of 14 his father took him to the court of Menelik, then ruler of Shewa, and became a special companion of Menelik. [Haile Selassie I, "My Life and Ethiopia's Progress: The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I", translated from Amharic by Edward Ullendorff. (New York: Frontline Books, 1999), vol. 1 p. 13] married a woman of mixed Oromo and Gurage ethnicity, Yeshimebet Ali. Following her death, he was briefly married to a niece of Empress Taitu Betul, Woizero Mentewab, but the marriage was never consummated, and was later annulled. He was given the governorship of Harar after it was incorporated into the Ethiopian Empire by his cousin, the Emperor. Other posts Ras Makonnen served included temporary governor of Tigray after the removal of the rebellious Ras Mengesha Yohannes, as a general during various military campaigns including during the First Italo–Ethiopian War, including a leading role at the Battle of Adowa where Ethiopian forces routed the Italians, and as a diplomat and "de facto" foreign minister.

In the 1890s, as Governor of Harar, Ras Mäkonnen became a close friend of Arthur Rimbaud, who was then living and doing business in Harar. [Nicholl, Charles. "Somebody Else: Arthur Rimbaud in Africa 1880-91". 1999, page 231.]

In 1902, Ras Mäkonnen attended the coronation of King Edward VII in England, and paid visits to Italy, France, Turkey, and Germany. He received the following decorations: Badge & Star of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (Knight Commander), Star of the Russian Order of St. Anne, Star of the French "Legion d'Honneur" (Third Republic), Star of the Order of the Crown of Italy, Star of the Ottoman Order of Osmania.

Ras Makonnen also had a son previous to his marriage to Wayzero Yeshimabet, Dejazmach Yilma Makonnen, who succeeded him as governor of Harar in 1906, and who was in turn succeeded by the future Emperor, Haile Selassie I.

While travelling from Harar to Addis Ababa, Ras Makonnen came down with typhus. His officers brought him to Kulubi, where he died as daylight broke after having given his son Tafari a whispered benediction. [Harold G. Marcus, "The Life and Times of Menelik II: Ethiopia 1844-1913" (Lawrenceville: Red Sea Press, 1995), p. 6]

References


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