Abebe Retta, the Reformist in the Imperial Haile Silassie I’s Government: A Political Biography


  • Abraha Weldu Hailemariam Mekele University


biography, foreign diplomacy, bilateral contacts, minster, ambassador.


This paper gives for the first time a brief examination of the political and cultural career of Abebe Retta, 1908–1974. Abebe was one of the court officials and diplomats who joined the absolutist monarchial state in the post-1941 period and one of the figures that have not recently been the subject of individual biographies. Thus far, Abebe has been a little-noticed figure in Ethiopian historical narrative and documentation. Born in Hareqo, Tigray, from a rural-farming family, Abebe eventually succeeded in occupying middle positions in the restored Imperial Government, thereby highlighting some of the integrative approach of the absolute monarchy. In this respect, Abebe did not only manage to occupy the center stage of Ethiopian politics, particularly in the late 1950s and 1960s, but he also succeeded in winning Emperor Haile Silassie’s favor and respect. Abebe was successively chosen for ambassadorial and ministerial posts. He was assigned to attend and participate in various supranational and Pan-African conferences, such as the Accra Conference and the conferences of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and was designated to chair the Ethiopian delegation at the UN at different times and capacities. It appears to have been his lot to be assigned to morbid ministerial positions, which he tried to transform into vibrant institutions through his vision and industry. By using oral and archival sources, largely collected from government offices and private collections, this study presents archetypal accounts of Abebe’s political and cultural views vis-à-vis the nature of the twentieth-century Ethiopian government.