25 Years on, the Death of Haile Selassie Remains a Mystery

Published November 3rd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

The death of deposed Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie on August 27, 1975, remains shrouded in mystery 25 years on as plans go ahead for his remains to be buried in a state funeral on Sunday. 

Overthrown by the army in September 1974, then left with just one servant at his Addis Ababa palace after his entire entourage was arrested, Ethiopia's last emperor died at the age of 83 of "circulatory failure" according to the state news agency. 

No autopsy was performed on the monarch, said to be the 225th descendant of the Solomon dynasty. 

His personal doctor, Asrat Woldeyes, was not called to the palace in time to observe the death. 

"The day his death was announced, I received a phone call from the (ruling junta) Dergue office asking me to go to the office of (military ruler) Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam," Woldeyes testified during the so-called "Red Terror" trials covering crimes against humanity committed under Mengistu. 

Mengistu's Marxist regime executed and abducted tens of thousands of mainly young Ethiopians, and is accused of assassinating Haile Selassie. 

Woldeyes added: "I saw that Colonel Mengistu seemed angry, and 40 minutes later, we were informed that there would be no interview and we could leave." 

The doctor, who died in May 1999, did not believe the deposed emperor had died naturally. He testified: "Despite an operation on the prostate a few months before his death, his majesty was in excellent health." 

Several investigations over the years have pointed to Mengistu's Dergue, which he led with an iron hand from 1977 until his overthrow in 1991. 

Mengistu is presently in exile in Zimbabwe. 

The Haile Selassie Memorial Foundation's spokesman Dedjazmatch Woldesemayat blames the Dergue for his death, as does Norwegian journalist Einar Lunde, who wrote in his book "Paradise Road" that the former emperor's execution was decided by a vote in the Dergue. 

Lunde cites a former officer in the junta, Major Negash Tesfatsion, who allegedly took part in the vote on the fate of the "Old Abyssinian Lion." 

He said the old man was anesthetized with an ether-soaked pillow before being smothered. 

Next, according to palace guards quoted by the Red Terror prosecutor, Haile Selassie was buried in a ditch three meters (10 feet) deep in the old Guebi, part of the palace. 

In the following days the ditch was cemented over and Mengistu's aide de camp, Mengistu Gemetchu, made his office over it. 

In 1992, the remains were exhumed and taken to the Taeka Negest Baata Mariam Gueda church, where they have rested ever since beside those of emperor Menelik II. 

On Sunday, the remains are to be transferred to the Trinity church in a state funeral ceremony starting at noon (0900 GMT) -- ADDIS ABABA (AFP)  

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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