The Untold Story: Why Did Haile Selassie Leave Ethiopia?

In the annals of Ethiopian history, few figures stand as prominently as Haile Selassie, the last reigning Emperor of Ethiopia. His reign, marked by both progress and tumult, came to a critical juncture in 1936, prompting a question that resonates through history: Why did Haile Selassie leave Ethiopia? This departure, steeped in a complex web of international politics, war, and personal conviction, was a turning point not only for Selassie but also for Ethiopia. As we unravel the events that led to this significant moment, we gain insight into the intricate tapestry of Ethiopian history and the enduring legacy of a leader who faced unprecedented challenges in a time of global upheaval. Join us as we delve into the story behind Haile Selassie’s departure, exploring the factors that compelled an emperor to leave his homeland.

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.

Why did Haile Selassie leave Ethiopia?

In 1936, amidst the escalating tensions of the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, Emperor Haile Selassie was faced with a dire situation. The invasion by Fascist Italy under Benito Mussolini had plunged Ethiopia into a state of crisis. Despite fierce resistance by the Ethiopian army, the advanced weaponry and chemical warfare tactics of the Italians led to significant Ethiopian losses. Faced with this overwhelming military force, and with the safety and future of his nation at stake, Haile Selassie made the difficult decision to flee Ethiopia. His departure was not an act of surrender, but rather a strategic move to seek international support against the Italian aggression, particularly from the League of Nations.

When did Haile Selassie leave Ethiopia?

Emperor Haile Selassie left Ethiopia in May 1936. Following the fall of the capital, Addis Ababa, to Italian forces, Selassie realized that his presence in the country was no longer tenable. He embarked on a journey that led him to Jerusalem, and eventually to Bath, England, where he spent his years in exile. During this time, Selassie became a symbol of resistance against Fascist aggression, garnering international support for his cause and keeping the plight of Ethiopia in the global spotlight.

The return of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1941

The year 1941 marked a significant turning point in Ethiopian history and in the life of Haile Selassie. With the aid of the British forces during World War II, Selassie made a triumphant return to Ethiopia in January 1941. This return signaled the end of Italian occupation and a major victory for Ethiopian sovereignty. Haile Selassie’s return was met with jubilation by the Ethiopian people, solidifying his status as a national hero and a key figure in the anti-colonial struggle in Africa. His leadership in the subsequent years played a crucial role in rebuilding and modernizing Ethiopia.

Who overthrew Haile Selassie of Ethiopia?

The reign of Haile Selassie, which had seen both the triumphs of resistance and the challenges of modernization, came to an end in 1974. He was overthrown by a coup d’état led by the Derg, a Marxist-Leninist military junta. The overthrow was a result of a combination of factors, including famine, dissatisfaction among the population, and political unrest. Mengistu Haile Mariam emerged as a leading figure in the Derg regime. The deposition of Haile Selassie marked the end of the Solomonic dynasty’s rule, which had claimed lineage back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and ushered in a period of political turmoil and change in Ethiopia.


In retracing the journey of Emperor Haile Selassie, from his strategic departure from Ethiopia in 1936 to his triumphant return in 1941, and ultimately to his overthrow in 1974, we uncover a nuanced chapter in Ethiopian history. Selassie’s exile, driven by the need to garner international support against Italian invasion, and his eventual return, symbolizes not just the resilience of a leader but also the enduring spirit of Ethiopia in the face of colonial aggression. His overthrow by the Derg regime marks a significant shift in Ethiopia’s political landscape, bringing an end to centuries-old monarchical rule. This journey of Haile Selassie, steeped in both triumph and tribulation, offers a profound glimpse into the complexities of Ethiopian history and the broader context of African struggles against colonialism and for self-determination. As we reflect on these pivotal events, Haile Selassie’s legacy remains a subject of contemplation and debate, highlighting the intricate tapestry of Ethiopia’s past and its impact on the nation’s identity and future.

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