Seyoum Mengesha

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Seyum Mangasha (also transliterated Seyoum Mengesha) KBE (Amharic: ሥዩም መንገሻ ; 21 June 1887 – 15 December 1960) was an army commander and a member of the Royal family of the Ethiopian Empire.


Leul[nb 1] Seyum Mangasha was the son of Ras[nb 2] Mangasha Yohannes and grandson of Nəgusä Nägäst[nb 3] Yohannes IV of Ethiopia. Mangasha Yohannes was the "natural" son the Johannes IV. Because of his descent, Seyum Mangasha was a rival to Emperor Menelik II, who had risen from rule of Shewa Province to become the Emperor on Yohannes' death.[1]

Ras Seyum wed Woizero[nb 4] Tewabech. Tewabech was the daughter of Ras Mikael of Wollo and the sister of Lij[nb 5] Iyasu. Mikael was later honored with the title of Negus[nb 6] and Iyasu was the uncrowned Emperor of Ethiopia.

Ras Seyum was the father of three daughters. With Woizero Tewabech he had Leult[nb 7] Wolete Israel Seyum who herself married the Crown Prince, Asfaw Wossen. By a previous marriage he had Woizero-Hoy[nb 8] Kebbedech Seyum. By a subsequent marriage he had Leul Mangasha Seyum. Later, Ras Seyum was married to Leult Astede, a member of the Shewan branch of the Imperial family.

From 1910 to 1935, Seyum Mangasha was the Shum[nb 9] of western Tigray Province. Traditionally the governors of the provinces commanded the provincial Sefari[nb 10] in battle.

In the spring of 1924, Ras Seyum Mangasha, Ras Hailu Tekle Haymanot of Gojjam Province, Ras Mulugeta Yeggazu of Illubabor Province, Ras Makonnen Endelkachew, and Blattengeta Heruy Welde Sellase accompanied Ras Tafari Makonnen of Shewa Province on his European tour. Tafari Makonnen was the Crown Prince and Enderase[nb 11] of Ethiopia and was not yet crowned as Emperor Haile Selassie I. The group of Ethiopian royalty visited Jerusalem, Cairo, Alexandria, Brussels, Amsterdam, Stockholm, London, Geneva, and Athens. With them they took six lions which were presented to various zoos and dignataries.[2] In the same year, Seyum Mangasha was awarded the Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE).

Commander of the Army of Tigre[edit]

From October 1935 to February 1936, as Ras[nb 12] during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, Seyum Mangasha commanded the Army of Tigre. When General Emilio De Bono initially invaded Ethiopia, he was ordered to stay a day's march away from the advancing Italians. Ras Seyum and forces under his command played significant roles in the Ethiopian Christmas Offensive, the First Battle of Tembien, and the Second Battle of Tembien. On March 31, after his Army of the Tigre had already been anhilated, he stood with Emperor Haile Selassie at the Battle of Maychew.

Italian occupation of Ethiopia. He spent much of his time under "house arrest" in Addis Ababa. But Ras Seyum Mangasha also played a small part in the liberation of Ethiopia during World War II. He was technically on the side of the Italians when the East African Campaign started. However, on April 18, 1940, Ras Seyum Mangasha approached Emperor Haile Selassie to change sides and the two were able to reconcile. Ras Seyum Mangasha was able to retain his position as Shum of western Tigre Province. Emperor Haile Selassie held Ras Seyum in very deep regard, and depended on him as a senior advisor. He was a member of the Crown Council from 1945 until his death.

Woyane Rebellion[edit]

In 1943, the "Woyane Rebellion" broke out in southern and eastern Tigre Province and Ras Seyum was suspected of supporting the rebels. As a consequence, he was recalled to Addis Ababa and replaced by Fitawrari[nb 13] Kifle Dadi and Dejazmach[nb 14] Fikre Selassie Ketema as well as General Tedla Mekeonen and General Isayas Gebre Selassie as the Commander of the Army in Tigray.

In 1947, Ras Seyum Mangasha was made Shum of eastern Tigray as well as western Tigray. This was because of the treason of the son of the late Ras Gugsa Araya Selassie, Dejazmach Haile Selassie Gugsa. In 1935, Haile Selassie Gugsa had defected to the Italians during the early days of the war. The Italians had made much propaganda use out of the fact that Haile Selassie Gugsa was the husband of Leult Zenebework Haile Selassie and therefore Haile Selassie's son-in-law. As a result, Ras Seyum Mangasha was Shum of all Tigray Province, which he held until 1960.[3]


In December 1960, the Imperial Guard (Kebur Zabangna) launched a coup d'état and seized power in Ethiopia while the Emperor was on a visit to Brazil. The coup leaders compelled the Crown Prince to read a prepared radio statement. In the statement, he accepted the crown in his father's place and announced a government of reform. However, the regular Army and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church both refused to accept the new government. The leader of the church, Patriarch Abuna Basilios, issued an anathema against all those who cooperated with the coup leaders. The Emperor returned to Ethiopia and the Army stormed the palace where members of the government were being held prisoner by the Imperial Guards. The Guards fled, but not before killing many members of the government and the nobility that had been held prisoner in the Green Salon of the palace. Ras Seyum was among those who were machine gunned to death. He was buried at Axum.


Ras Mangasha Seyum, the son of the late Ras Seyum Mangasha, is the heir and hereditary Leul of Tigray for the abolished Ethiopian crown. Mangasha is married to one of Haile Selassie's granddaughters, Aida Desta.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roughly equivalent to Prince.
  2. ^ Roughly equivalent to Duke.
  3. ^ Usually translated as King of Kings or Emperor.
  4. ^ Roughly equivalent to Lady.
  5. ^ Roughly equivalent to Child.
  6. ^ Roughly equivalent to King.
  7. ^ Roughly equivalent to Princess.
  8. ^ Roughly equivalent to Great Dame.
  9. ^ Roughly equivalent to Governor.
  10. ^ Roughly equivalent to Armed Forces.
  11. ^ Roughly equivalent to Regent.
  12. ^ Roughly equivalent to Commander of the Army.
  13. ^ Roughly equivalent to Commander of the Vanguard.
  14. ^ Roughly equivalent to Commander if the Gate.
  1. ^ Mockler, Haile Sellassie's War, p. 396
  2. ^ Mockler, Haile Sellassie's War, p. 3
  3. ^ Mockler, Haile Sellassie's War, p. 396


  • Marcus, Harold G. (1994). A History of Ethiopia. London: University of California Press. p. 316. ISBN 0-520-22479-5. 
  • Mockler, Anthony (2002). Haile Sellassie's War. New York: Olive Branch Press. ISBN 978-1-56656-473-1.