Haile Selassie: The Prewar Period, 1930-36
Although Empress Zawditu died in April 1930, it was not
until November that Negus Tafari was crowned Haile Selassie
I, "Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God, and
King of Kings of Ethiopia." As emperor, Haile Selassie
continued to push reforms aimed at modernizing the country
and breaking the nobility's authority. Henceforth, the great
rases were forced either to obey the emperor or to engage in
treasonable opposition to him.
In July 1931, the emperor granted a constitution that
asserted his own status, reserved imperial succession to the
line of Haile Selassie, and declared that "the person of the
Emperor is sacred, his dignity inviolable, and his power
indisputable." All power over central and local government,
the legislature, the judiciary, and the military remained
with the emperor. The constitution was essentially an effort
to provide a legal basis for replacing the traditional
provincial rulers with appointees loyal to the emperor.
The new strength of the imperial government was
demonstrated in 1932 when a revolt led by Ras Hailu Balaw of
Gojam in support of Lij Iyasu was quickly suppressed and a
new nontraditional governor put in Hailu's place. By 1934
reliable provincial rulers had been established throughout
the traditional Amhara territories of Shewa, Gojam, and
Begemdir, as well as in Kefa and Sidamo--well outside the
core Amhara area. The only traditional leader capable of
overtly challenging central rule at this point was the ras
of Tigray. Other peoples, although in no position to
confront the emperor, remained almost entirely outside the
control of the imperial government.
Although Haile Selassie placed administrators of his own
choosing wherever he could and thus sought to limit the
power of the rases and other nobles with regional power
bases, he did not directly attack the systems of land tenure
that were linked to the traditional political order.
Abolition of the pattern of gult rights in the Amhara-Tigray
highlands and the system of land allocation in the south
would have amounted to a social and economic revolution that
Haile Selassie was not prepared to undertake.
The emperor took nonmilitary measures to promote loyalty to
the throne and to the state. He established new elementary
and secondary schools in Addis Ababa, and some 150
university-age students studied abroad. The government
enacted a penal code in 1930, imported printing presses to
provide nationally oriented newspapers, increased the
availability of electricity and telephone services, and
promoted public health. The Bank of Ethiopia, founded in
1931, commenced issuing Ethiopian currency.
Data as of 1991