Emperor Haile Selassie Exile in 1936: A Tragic Turn of Events

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Haile Selassie, born Tafari Makonnen, was the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 until his overthrow in 1974. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential leaders in Ethiopian history, known for his efforts to modernize the country and his resistance against Italian aggression. However, his reign was not without its challenges, and one of the most significant events was Haile Selassie Exile in 1936.

Emperor Haile Selassie Efforts to Modernize Ethiopia

Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia​, a bearded man in a hat, gazes off to the side in this image.

Despite the imminent threat posed by Italy, Haile Selassie remained committed to his vision of modernizing Ethiopia. He believed that by improving infrastructure, education, and governance, he could strengthen Ethiopia’s position and protect it from external threats.

One of Haile Selassie’s key initiatives was infrastructure development. He invested heavily in building roads, bridges, and railways to connect different parts of the country and facilitate trade and communication. These infrastructure projects not only improved transportation within Ethiopia but also helped to integrate the country into the global economy.

In addition to infrastructure development, Haile Selassie also focused on education reforms. He believed that education was crucial for the development of a modern society and worked to expand access to education for all Ethiopians. Schools were built across the country, and efforts were made to improve literacy rates and provide vocational training.

These modernization efforts were crucial in the face of Italian aggression. By strengthening Ethiopia’s infrastructure and education system, Haile Selassie hoped to build a strong and resilient nation that could withstand external threats.

The Italian Invasion and Haile Selassie Exile

Fascist Italy, under the leadership of Benito Mussolini, rose to power in 1922. Mussolini’s regime was characterized by authoritarian rule, nationalism, and aggressive expansionism. Italy sought to establish an empire that would rival those of other European powers, and Africa was seen as a key target for colonization.

In 1936, Italy launched a full-scale invasion of Ethiopia, marking the beginning of a brutal conflict that would have far-reaching consequences. Haile Selassie faced immense challenges as he sought to defend his country and protect his people.

Despite the Ethiopian army’s valiant resistance, they were ultimately overwhelmed by the superior firepower of the Italian forces. Haile Selassie realized that further resistance would only lead to more bloodshed and decided to go into exile in order to rally support for Ethiopia.

Haile Selassie’s escape from Ethiopia was a perilous journey. He disguised himself as a common soldier and fled to British-controlled Sudan. From there, he traveled to Jerusalem, where he sought refuge in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s compound.

During his time in exile, Haile Selassie worked tirelessly to rally support for Ethiopia. He traveled to various countries in Europe, meeting with leaders and addressing international organizations. His goal was to gain allies who would help him in his fight against Italian aggression.

Haile Selassie’s Exile in Europe

A photo of haile silasse in the ligue of nation for to understand Why Did Haile Selassie Leave Ethiopia?

Haile Selassie spent several years in exile in Europe, where he continued his diplomatic efforts to secure support for Ethiopia. He traveled to various countries, including Britain, France, and the United States, meeting with leaders and addressing international organizations.

During his time in Europe, Haile Selassie became a symbol of resistance against colonialism and oppression. He was widely respected for his leadership and determination, and his presence drew attention to the plight of Ethiopia.

Haile Selassie also worked to mobilize the Ethiopian diaspora in Europe. He established organizations and networks to coordinate efforts and raise funds for the resistance movement. These efforts helped to keep the spirit of resistance alive and provided much-needed support for Ethiopia.

Haile Selassie’s Diplomatic Efforts to Secure Allies

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at the royal wedding of the Queen's nephew, the Duke of Edinburgh, to the Princess of Wales, June 12, 1981, with Haile Selassie.

In the face of Italian aggression, Haile Selassie recognized the importance of securing allies in order to defend Ethiopia’s sovereignty. He embarked on a diplomatic campaign to rally support from other nations and international organizations.

One of Haile Selassie’s most famous diplomatic efforts was his speech to the League of Nations in 1936. In this speech, he passionately appealed for help and condemned Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia. He argued that the invasion violated international law and called on member states to take action to protect Ethiopia.

Haile Selassie’s speech received widespread international attention and sympathy, but unfortunately, it did not lead to concrete action by the League of Nations. Despite his efforts, Italy continued its aggression, and Ethiopia was left to fend for itself.

However, Haile Selassie’s diplomatic efforts were not in vain. His speeches and appeals helped to raise awareness about the plight of Ethiopia and garnered support from individuals and organizations around the world. His efforts also laid the groundwork for future diplomatic initiatives and set a precedent for international condemnation of aggression and colonization.

The League of Nations’ Response to the Invasion

The League of Nations, an international organization established after World War I to promote peace and prevent future conflicts, was widely criticized for its response to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Despite Haile Selassie’s impassioned appeals for help, the League failed to take decisive action to stop the aggression.

The League of Nations imposed economic sanctions on Italy in an attempt to pressure them into withdrawing from Ethiopia. However, these sanctions were largely ineffective and did little to deter Italy’s aggression. The League’s failure to take stronger action was seen as a betrayal by many Ethiopians and undermined its credibility as an international organization.

Haile Selassie’s experience with the League of Nations highlighted the limitations of international diplomacy in the face of aggression. It also underscored the need for African nations to rely on their own resources and strength in order to defend their sovereignty.

Haile Selassie’s Return in 1941 to Ethiopia and Restoration of Power 

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After several years in exile, Haile Selassie returned to Ethiopia in 1941 following the defeat of Italian forces by Allied troops during World War

However, Haile Selassie faced significant challenges in rebuilding Ethiopia after the invasion. The country had suffered immense damage during the conflict, and its infrastructure and economy were in ruins. Haile Selassie embarked on a program of reconstruction and development, focusing on rebuilding infrastructure, revitalizing agriculture, and improving education and healthcare.

Despite these challenges, Haile Selassie was able to restore stability and rebuild Ethiopia into a modern nation. His leadership and vision played a crucial role in Ethiopia’s recovery and helped to lay the foundation for its future development.


The exile of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1936, amid the harrowing backdrop of Italian aggression, stands as a poignant chapter in Ethiopian history, encapsulating the resilience of a nation and its leader. Despite facing overwhelming odds, Haile Selassie’s unyielding commitment to Ethiopia’s sovereignty and modernization—underscored by his relentless diplomatic efforts and the rallying of international support—illuminates his legacy as a symbol of resistance against colonialism. His eventual return and the subsequent rebuilding of Ethiopia not only reaffirm his enduring dedication to his country’s advancement but also highlight the spirit of perseverance that defines the Ethiopian people. This episode, rich in lessons of determination and the quest for justice, continues to inspire and shape narratives of freedom and self-determination worldwide.

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