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7:43 pm - Monday September 20, 2021

Today marks the 177th birthday of Emperor Menelik II, King of Kings of Ethiopia. (Solomon Kibriye)

Today marks the 177th birthday of Emperor Menelik II,  King of Kings of Ethiopia.
Solomon Kibriye

177 years ago in the town of Angolalla in Northern Shewa, a son was born to Abeto Beshah Wered (later Negus Haile Melekot) and Woizero Idjigayehu Lemma.  The child would be baptized as Sahle Mariam, but his grandfather Negus Sahle Selassie, king of Shewa, renamed him Menelik.
The baby born on August 17, 1844 would eventually mount the Imperial throne as Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia.  He would successfully consolidate the authority of the central government over peripheral areas, and restored the sovereignty of the Ethiopian Crown over the various vassal kingdoms and sultanates who had functioned with autonomy since the Zemene Mesafint (“Era of the Princes”, a time of strife and disorder) or the earlier Gragn Wars.  He would successfully defend his realm against Italian colonialism, decisively defeating the largest European army assembled in Africa until that time at the Battle of Adwa in 1896.  He started his country on the road to modernity, setting up the foundations for development.
Menelik II was the type of leader who suspended the collection of taxes when a rinderpest outbreak killed off most cattle including ploughing oxen, leading to a devastating famine.  He led by example going out to personally break the earth with a hoe, to encourage cattle-less farmers to do the same, stressing that there was no dishonor in working with one’s hands.  Easily moved by the plight of others, compassionate and merciful, he earned the nickname Imiye Menelik እምዬ ምኒልክ (Mother Menelik) because he was seen to be more like an indulgent and affectionate mother figure, than the typical stern father figure image of traditional Emperors.  Tolerant in matters of religion, firmly believing that everyone had the right to practice their religion unmolested, he nevertheless was personally a devout member of the Orthodox Church and devoted to the Virgin Mary.   He had the ability to turn enemies into friends, but was firm when firmness was needed.
In recent years, shameless revisionists have tried to turn Emperor Menelik II into a monster.  It is an insidious effort to undermine the Ethiopianism he stood for.  However, truth and history cannot remain buried or be corrupted forever.  The truth will prevail.
May the memory of Menelik II, King of Kings of Ethiopia, be eternal.
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