Tekle Hawariat Tekle Mariyam

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Tekle Hawariat Tekle Mariyam (Amharic: ተክለ ሐዋርዓት ተክለ ማርያም; June 1884 – April 1977[1]) was an Ethiopian politician and intellectual of the Japanizer school. He was the primary author of Ethiopia's July 16, 1931 constitution, which was influenced by the Japanese Meiji Constitution.


Bahru Zewde includes Tekle Hawariat in the first generation of Ethiopians sent abroad for his education. Born in Shewa, after the initial stages of a traditional Ethiopian education at a local church Tekle Hawariat moved to Harar at the age of nine to live with a relative who was a retainer of Ras Makonnen Woldemikael. He accompanied the Ras against the Italians in 1895-6. It was during the First Italo-Ethiopian War that his mentor Ras Makonnen entrusted him to a member of the Russian Red Cross, Count Nikolai Leontieff, to take him back to Russia and have him educated.[2] He arrived to Saint Petersburg in 1901, where he studied artillery at the Saint Petersburg military academy, achieving the rank of colonel. He was befriended by a number of prominent Russian liberals of the day, including Princess Volkonsky, daughter of the famous Decembrist revolutionary Sergei Volkonsky, and spent altogether 17 years in Russia.[3] Once he returned to Ethiopia, however, Tekle Hawariat became famous as provincial governor, agronomist, and for his part in writing Ethiopia's first constitution.[4] Tekle Hawariat was an important government official during the reign of Iyasu V, although he played a part in Iyasu's depostion of 27 September 1916. Despite his support for the new ruler, Empress Zauditu, during her reign he wrote and produced a play, "Fabula: Yawreoch Commedia", which used animal characters to criticize the corruption and backwardness of the Ethiopian court. As a result the Empress banned all further theatre in Ethiopia, an order that was later lifted by Emperor Haile Selassie in 1930.[5]

Under the patronage of Haile Selassie (then the regent Ras Tafari), Tekle Hawariat first was made governor of Jijiga in 1917, and his efforts at this post gave him "a reputation for enlightened administration," according to Bahru Zewde, who goes on to note that "much of the credit for the transformation of Jijjiga from a garrison town to a modern urban centre goes to Takla-Hawaryat".[6] Despite this good work, Tekle Hawariat either quit or was removed from this post: Tekle Hawariat in his unpublished autobiography claims Ras Tafari kept reappointing people he had dismissed for inefficiency.[7] After a few years of idleness, Tekle Hawariat was appointed to another governorship, to the province of Charchar, one of the provinces Tafari was developing as a model of progressive or modern government; however, although he displayed enterprise and a dedication to duty, Tekle Hawariat had an independent character that led him to conflict with the Regent, and despite the demonstration of his skill at governor of Chercher province, because of his early Russian connections due to a Bolshevik panic that had gripped the capital, in 1928 Tekle Hawariat, was arrested and kept in jail for some time.[8]

After becoming Emperor, Haile Selassie found another use for Tekle Hawariat: he was given the duty of drafting the first Constitution of Ethiopia. Bahru Zewde comments that Tekle Hawariat "could be said to have been waiting almost all his life for just an occasion"; however, his draft was subjected to close scrutiny by the Emperor and his associates Ras Kasa and Heruy Welde Sellase, who modified Tekle Hawariat's text "to meet imperial needs." Changes included the legislative powers granted to the parliament were reduced, and instead of Tekle Hawariat's proposal that the deputies be elected the final draft made them appointed.[9]

Three months after the promulgation of the constitution, Tekle Hawariat was made Minister of Finance, but he lasted in that office barely more than a year. Bahru Zewde believes the reason for this brief tenure was due to his efforts to make the office efficient and responsible, which led to inevitable conflicts not only with traditional-minded ministers, but with the Emperor himself who did not care to make a distinction between the public purse and the private accounts of the emperor. "Given the acrimonious relations with the palace," notes Bahru Zewde, "it is not much of a surprise that Takla-Hawaryat next found himself posted as Ethiopian minister to London, Paris, and Geneva."[10]

Tekle Hawariat had been part of the group who accompanied Haile Selassie to Europe in 1924, so although he could have been chosen for these duties because of his qualifications, Bahru Zewde insists "the evidence is too strong for this being more a case of removing from centre stage a character who was too independent and self-willed for the emperor's taste."[10] His most important posting was representing Ethiopia at the League of Nations for many years, most notably at the sessions during the Walwal Incident. However, the uncooperative attitudes of not only the British and French delegates frustrated him so much he asked Emperor Haile Selassie to be relieved so he could return to Ethiopia where he could be of better use using his military training to organize his country's defenses against the unavoidable conflict.[11]

Tekle Hawariat crossed paths with his Emperor one last time, while the other was leaving Ethiopia to make a personal appeal to the League of Nations. When Haile Selassie and his entourage reached Mieso, he was there with his troops; Tekle Hawariat boarded the train. As John Spencer tersely states, "The encounter must have been a bitter one."[12] Spencer happened to be aboard the train five days later which stopped at Afdem, where Tekle Hawariat boarded train and entered Spencer's compartment. "Although I must have been for him an almost complete stranger, he lost no time unburdening himself to me of his thoughts about Haile Selassie, whom he denounced as a traitor to Ethiopia, a coward, and one unworthy to bear the title of Emperor after his flight into exile."[13]

Once he reached Djibouti, he sought an agricultural concession, but the local authorities politely refused him.[14] Tekle Hawariat then moved to Aden, where in September 1937 he petitioned the colonial government in Kenya to resettle there. The authorities refused his request, concerned that his presence would encourage unrest against the Italians.[15] According to Bahru Zewde, Haile Selassie's victorious return to Ethiopia found his one-time ambassador in Madagascar where he prolonged his exile until 1955/56, and upon returning to Ethiopia Tekle Hawariat "retired to the obscurity of a gentleman-farmer's life in Hirna, Hararge."[16] Tekle Hawariat and the Emperor were late in the former's life.

Further details[edit]

Paul Henze credits Tekle Hawariat with introducing to Haile Selassie to the three Habtewold brothers -- Makonnen Habte-Wold, Aklilu Habte-Wold, and Akalework Habte-Wold—who became prominent in Ethiopian political life.[17]

The sons of Tekle Hawariat include Germachew Tekle-Hawariat (died 1987). Educated in Switzerland, Germachew served as a diplomat after Haile Selassie's restoration in 1941, as well as being a noted author, whose works include the novel Araya and a play based on the life of the 19th century Ethiopian emperor Tewodros I.[18]

Princess Elena Volkonsky raised Tekle Hawariat, because he was adopted by her oldest son Colonel Manchanov, who never married. Tekle Hawariat considered her his grandmother and has stated this in his biography. Tekle Hawariat loved Russia and his Russian family. He kept in touch with them even after the Russian Revolution. One of his aunts took refuge in Ethiopia and stayed with the Tekle Hawariat family in Hirna, where he was Governor of Chercher. All this information is in his biography that was published in Amahric.[citation needed] Also in this autobiography is the only published eyewitness account of the death of Emperor Haile Selassie's mother, Woizero Yeshimebet Ali, in childbirth.

Tekle Hawariat's biography has been published in Amahric by the University of Addis Ababa.


  1. ^ These are the dates Bahru Zewde offers in his Pioneers of Change in Ethiopia (Oxford: James Currey, 2002), pp. 57, 64; the date of his birth is based on Tekle Hawariat's own computations from his unpublished autobiography, while the date of his death is provided by his son Germachew Tekle Hawariat.
  2. ^ Bahru Zewde, Pioneers of Change, p. 57
  3. ^ Richard Pankhurst, "Education Abroad - and At Home - in Menilek's Day" at the Wayback Machine (archived September 30, 2000), Addis Tribune 29 September 1998 (accessed 31 December 2008)
  4. ^ Bahru Zewde, A History of Modern Ethiopia, second edition (Oxford: James Currey, 2001), p. 106
  5. ^ Tekle Hawariat's play, "Fabula," creates ban on dramatic performances in Ethiopia FileRoom.org
  6. ^ Bahru Zewde, Pioneers of Change, p. 60
  7. ^ Bahru Zewde, Pioneers of Change, pp. 60f
  8. ^ Bahru Zewde, Pioneers of Change, p. 62
  9. ^ Bahru Zewde, Pioneers of Change, p. 182
  10. ^ a b Bahru Zewde, Pioneers of Change, p. 63
  11. ^ John Spencer, Ethiopia at Bay: A personal account of the Haile Selassie years (Algonac: Reference Publications, 1984), p. 37n
  12. ^ Spencer, Ethiopia at Bay, p. 64
  13. ^ Spencer, Ethiopia at Bay, p. 68
  14. ^ Bahru Zewde, Pioneers of Change, p. 64
  15. ^ Question in Commons concerning Mr Tecle Hawariat Hansards Online (accessed 23 August 2008)
  16. ^ Bahru Zewde, "The Ethiopian Intelligentsia and the Italo-Ethiopian War, 1935-1941", International Journal of African Historical Studies, 26 (1993), p. 294
  17. ^ Henze, Layers of Time (New York: Palgrave, 2000), p. 204
  18. ^ Bahru Zewde, Pioneers of Change, p. 84