“Ethiopians help make Australia an even greater country” – Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie

Australia has had more than one royal prince visit in this past month and no, this one is not named Harry. With a grandfather known as the Rastafarian messiah, the exiled Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie of Ethiopia has a huge following around the world. He spoke to SBS Amharic during his recent tour of Australia, saying that the two countries have a surprising amount in common. “For me, my first scent of Australia was a scent of home.”

By  Kassahun Negewo

4 JUL 2017 – 3:09 PM  UPDATED 6 MINS AGO

Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie’s Australian tour has seen him retrace the steps of his grandfather, Emperor Haile Selassie who visited nearly 50 years earlier.

The Australian and Ethiopian relationship dates back to the late 19th century when Emperor Menelik II imported and planted the eucalyptus in the capital city of Addis Ababa. Since then for Ethiopians, the scent of eucalypts is a reminder of home. It prompted the Prince to say that, “So for me, my first scent of Australia was a scent of home.”

The exiled Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie Haile Selassie is President of the Crown Council of Ethiopia and during his recent tour around Australia from 18 June– 1 July, 2017, he met members of the Ethiopian community in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, and Perth.

Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie

Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie meets with members of the Ethiopian community during his visit to Australia

His message was focused mainly on Ethiopian heritage, unity and pride, and its contributions to Australia and to the world.

“Remember, even as you become Australians, that your Ethiopian heritage and qualities mean that you have great things to give to society, to the world,” Prince Ermias told the crowds in his speech.

“Your Ethiopianness sets you apart and gives you pride and duty; your Ethiopianness will help make Australia an even greater country.”

Below: Listen to Prince Ermias’ Remarks to the Ethiopian Community of Victoria in an address given at Melbourne’s Langham Hotel

Prince Ermias’s recent Royal commemorative visit to Australia, traces its journey back to 1965 and Prime Minister Robert Menzies cricket diplomacy  and the state visit to Australia of the last Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile-Selassie I, Prince Ermias’s grandfather in 1968.

Emperor Haile Selassie in Australia

Emperor Haile Selassie on his 1968 visit to Australia (Images courtesy National Archive of Australia and the Crown Council of Ethiopia)

Fans of reggae music may be familiar with the name Selassie, as followers of the Rastafari movement, primarily based in Jamaica, regard Emperor Haile-Selassie as a messiah-like figure. Selassie himself though was an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian throughout his life.

Rastafarian Bunny Wailer smokes marijuana

Jamaica 2014:Reggae legend, Rastafarian rights and marijuana legalization advocate, Bunny Wailer smokes a pipe in in front of pictures of Emperor Haile Selassie

During the Second World War both Prime Minister Menzies and Australia’s Governor-General, Lord Casey, were well aware of the Emperor’s role in the defence of his country’s sovereignty and his influence in the region.

Based on his understanding of Ethiopia’s history and the interests of the Emperor, Menzies sent a team of New South Wales schoolboys under the leadership of a great test cricketer, Bert Oldfield to play cricket in Ethiopia.

Oldfield presented a cricket bat to the Emperor in the name of Prime Minister Robert Menzies. The Emperor was impressed by this gesture from the Menzies government.

Cricket diplomacy paved the way for the Emperor’s state visit to Australia in 1968 hosted by the new Prime Minister of Australia John Gorton. Being a keen horseman, the Emperor fell in love with Australian breeds of horses, especially the Waler horses.  Later on, the Australian Waler horse breeds have served in the Ethiopian Imperial Guard Regiment.

Prince Ermias highlighted the historical connection of the Imperial Guard Regiment and the Australian Light Horsemen in his speech to the New South Wales Parliament, “At least in that light, we see the ANZAC spirit still at the gallop in Ethiopia’s beautiful terrain.”

Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie addresses the Ethiopian Community of Victoria

Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie addresses the Ethiopian Community of Victoria at Melbourne’s Langham Hotel during his recent tour of Australia

Something that Prince Ermias sought to highlight on his recent visit was that Australia’s and Ethiopia’s relationship is not only strengthened by the eucalyptus, cricket diplomacy, and Waler horses –  it is also bound by one of their unwavering principles of collective security.

Australian and Ethiopian soldiers fought side-by-side during the Korean War 1950-1953 as allies under the umbrella of the United Nations.

In memory of shared sacrifices and in the unbroken Australian-Ethiopian bond Prince Ermias laid a wreath at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on June 22, 2017.

During his Canberra visit the Prince received Parliamentary receptions at the highest ministerial levels and met with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The former Governor-General Michael Jeffery and Mrs. Jeffery hosted the prince at a dinner in his honour. The Prince also met the Ethiopian Ambassador in Canberra.

During his visit to Melbourne, the Prince planted a tree at the Royal Botanic Garden near the tree planted on May 16, 1968 by his grandfather and the last Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie I using the same engraved spade the Emperor had used.

Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie

Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie plants a tree at the Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens near the tree planted in 1968 by his grandfather

Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie's tree planting ceremony

Pictures from Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie’s tree planting ceremony in Melbroune – including the same spade used by his grandfather 50 years earlier

Prince Ermias, like his Grandfather and the last Emperor of Ethiopia tells SBS Amharic, he believes in “identity security” as the ultimate drive of national confidence and successful governance of any people.

“The Solomonic identity and the great saga of the Kebre Negast – the Glory of Kings – was part of what defined the Ethiopian people,” he says. “In the same way that ANZAC defines Australian and New Zealand Peoples.”

Prince Ermias unveiled his plan to build the Emperor Haile Selassie I Library and Conference Centre in Addis Ababa to promote the rebirth of national understanding of Ethiopian identity.

The exiled Prince’s commemorative visit to Australia ended on June 29. He is now back in his adopted country the United States.

Will he be able to see the establishment of constitutional monarchy in Ethiopia in his or his sons’ lifetimes?

As the Prince describe it “Crowns change, as societies change.”


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