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Remembering Emperor Haile Selassie: 10 profound quotes

The African Union (AU) honoured Emperor Haile Selassie I with a commemorative statue at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Selassie played a key role towards the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Here’s our selection of 10 excerpts from Selassie’s speeches.

The African Union (AU) honoured Emperor Haile Selassie with a commemorative statue at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The statue was unveiled at the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU, and becomes the second statue to be erected after the unveiling of a statue of Ghanaian Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Selassie played a key role towards the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), later replaced by the African Union (AU), and the statue is a way for the AU to recognise Selassie’s contribution.

The recognition has been welcomed by many Africans across the continent and Ethiopians in particular who advocated for Selassie to be honoured for his contribution towards Pan-Africanism; His supporters argued that Selassie was a famous colonial resistance leader and a longer-standing supporter of African liberation and deserve the honour. The deputy chairperson of the AU noted in the organisation’s press release that “the commemorative statue of Emperor Haile Selassie is an important recognition of the Emperor’s contribution to Africa’s liberation and unity leading up to the founding of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963.”

Here’s our selection of 10 excerpts from Selassie’s speeches.

1. “Today, we look to the future calmly, confidently, and courageously. We look to the vision of an Africa not merely free but united. In facing this new challenge, we can take comfort and encouragement from the lessons of the past. We know that there are differences among us. Africans enjoy different cultures, distinctive values, special attributes. But we also know that unity can be and has been attained among men of the most disparate origins, that differences of race, of religion, of culture, of tradition, are no insuperable obstacle to the coming together of peoples. History teaches us that unity is strength”. —Words of H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie in Addis Ababa May 25, 1963, Speech, “Towards African Unity”

On leadership

2. “Leadership does not mean domination. The world is always well supplied with people who wish to rule and dominate others. The true leader is a different sort; he seeks effective activity which has a truly beneficient purpose. He inspires others to follow in his wake, and holding aloft the torch of wisdom, leads the way for society to realize its genuinely great aspirations”. —Speech on Leadership in Speeches Delivered on Various Occasions.

On science and religion

3. “The progress of science can be said to be harmful to religion only in so far as it is used for evil aims and not because it claims a priority over religion in its revelation to man. It is important that spiritual advancement must keep pace with material advancement”. — Interview in The Voice of Ethiopia (5 April 1948).

Views on education

4. “Education is a means of sharpening the mind of man both spiritually and intellectually. It is a two-edged sword that can be used either for the progress of mankind or for its destruction. That is why it has been Our constant desire and endeavor to develop our education for the benefit of mankind”.

5. “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph”. — Cited as from an address in Addis Ababa (1963).

On the question of racial discrimination

6. “That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; That until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained”.

7. “And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil”. – Haile Selassie I.

8. “Men on other parts of this earth occupied themselves with their own concerns and, in their conceit, proclaimed that the world began and ended at their horizons. All unknown to them, Africa developed in its own pattern, growing in its own life and, in the nineteenth century, finally re-emerged into the world’s consciousness”.

On colonialism, nuclear testing

9. “We demand an end to colonialism because domination of one people by another is wrong. We demand an end to nuclear testing and the arms race because these activities, which pose such dreadful threats to man’s existence, and waste and squander humanity’s material heritage, are wrong. We demand an end to racial segregation as an affront to man’s dignity which is wrong. We act in these matters in the right, as a matter of high principle. We act out of the integrity and conviction of our most deep-founded beliefs”. —Speech, “Towards African Unity” 1963.

10. “It is no less important that we know whence we came. An awareness of our past is essential to the establishment of our personality and our identity as Africans”. —Speech, “Towards African Unity”

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