The Missing Sovereign: the Fallouts of LEJ IYASSU’s Demise, 1916-1974


  • Assefa Balcha Wollo University


Asfa Wossän; Dessie; Haile Selassie; Iyassu; Mänän; Mikael; Sägällé; Šäwa; Täfäri; Wallo


Based on the personal recollections of local oral informants and the available written records, the study attempts to deconstruct and reinterpret the conventional narratives on the circumstances surrounding the overthrow of Lej Iyassu, the legitimately designated successor of Emperor Menilik II, and the political conditions that prevailed in Wällo following the unsuccessful military endeavors of Negus Mikael to reinstate his son on the imperial throne. The main object of this article is to rekindle a historically informed debate on why the Imperial regime under Haile Selassie would want to get rid of Iyassu without a trace, after keeping him in custody for about a decade and a half. It has been widely accepted that Iyassu's removal from power had nothing to do with his alleged conversion to Islam, rather his vigorous efforts to introduce a new set of domestic and foreign policies, exposed the young sovereign to a very stiff opposition from Menilik's notable officials who, antagonizing the new policies switched their support to the then Ras Täfäri, the son of Menilik's cousin, a major instigator and the nemesis of Iyassu. By bringing fresh findings and insights, the study emphasizes the need for a focused and reasoned effort in resolving the baffling questions of Iyassu's death and his final resting place. The suppression of information on this unsolved mystery was possible because it was a sophisticated crime, a crime that may be considered reprehensible, if not wholly irreparable, as a historical blunder in Ethiopian power politics.