Yohannes Iyasu (1915-1974) was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1959 until his assassination in 1974. His reign was characterized by a strengthening of Ethiopia's role in world politics, his support of anti-colonial efforts in Africa, and a growing rift between the Western World and Africa. Ethiopia expanded in the extreme during Yohannes's reign, gaining territories in the Congo, Sudan, and Hejaz; taking advantage of revolts and conflicts that were taking place in Africa and nearby territories. His reign was also noted for the efforts to industrialize and modernize the country; following up on his father Iyasu V's work. As the seventies wore on, the modernization and expansion caught up with the country, and a growing democracy movement combined with those opposed to Ethiopian expansion in Tswana led to revolts rocking the nation. At the start of 1974, these conflicts came to a head and resulted in the January assassination of Yohannes, abruptly ending his reign and starting a civil war that would consume the country for two years. He was suceeded by his eldest son Sahle Yohannes.
A thin, tall character, Yohannes adopted western mannerisms and styles. He typically kept his hair short and his face clean shaven. He has a bony face and his hair was starting to go grey in the later part of his life.
Before Being EmperorEdit
Yohannes was born in 1915, a year before the Battle of Segale and his father, Iyasu V's, rise to the throne of Emperor. His childhood was largely spent in the walls of the Imperial court in Addis, his family under heavy guard due to the conflict surrounding the nation as the Great War and connected Civil War. Yohannes was the first Ethiopian king to be raised as a practicing Muslim from birth, though he became increasingly less devout as he aged. The Great War ended when Yohannes was ten years old, and in 1927 when he turned 12, Yohannes went to a German boys school.
Yohannes attended a boys school for six years, from 1927 until 1933. When he turned eighteen, he went to the University of Berlin where he attained a Bachelors Degree in Sociology in 1937 at the age of 22. While at university, Yohannes met and befriended Ernst von Dresner, a German noble whos uncle was the governor of German South Africa. After school, both of them toured German South Africa under the protection of the governor.
Touring German South AfricaEdit
Yohannes had became westernized during his decade in Germany, taking on European tastes and preferences that would stay with him for the rest of his life. Despite this, his political concious was changed signifigantly during his time in German South Africa. German South Africa was a signifigantly stratified society, with the native black population suffering in squalor while Germans thrived in the business interests. Despite famine and disease being a common problem, Germans living in South Africa continued to live enjoyable lives. This stuck out to the young Yohannes, who was moved by the events he saw. One of the most memorable of these events was when he seen a West African woman starve to death within yards of a dinner party held by a German Merchant in Bagamoyo. After his visit to German South Africa, he became a proponent for the end of European colonization, adopting anti-western political concepts.
Return to EthiopiaEdit
After two years in German South Africa, Yohannes returned to his homeland in Ethiopia in 1939 to take up the position of Aboto-hoy; or Crown Prince. He was given governorship of Wollo, making his residence in the governors palace at Dessie. In 1944, he married Elani Aman; a noble woman whom he had taken interest in, and their first child, Sahle, was born later in 1946, followed by their daughter Taytu in 1951 and their youngest son Yaqob in 1953.
In the early fifties, a return of the old nobles and their relatives led to a revolt that was centered primarily in Wollo. Yohannes coordinated with the military and brought down the rebellion after a skirmish at Lalibela. The leaders of the rebellion were caught in the monestary of Debre Damo and executed.
In 1955, the commander of the guard detail guarding Yohannes was changed and given to Hassan Yusuf al-Soomaaliyeed, a military veteran whom would become a trusted confidante of Yohannes, and later would be given the honorific title of Ras and command of the Ethiopian military.
In 1959, Emperor Iyasu V died of heart failure at age 64. The 44 year old Yohannes quickly ascended the throne amidst fears that the rebellions that had been so common during Iyasu V's reign might return with his death. In the early years of his reign, his government focused on continuing the industrialization and modernization work of his father.
Throughout the sixties, Emperor Yohannes's governmet secretly funneled money and weapons to rebel movements throughout the European colonies in Africa. This support caused a large increase in rebel activities throughout Colonial Africa, especially in the Belgian held Congo where authorities had lost control of all but a few major cities. A revolt led by Joseph-Désiré Mobutu in the Congo was funded heavily by Yohannes, and by the end of the sixties, the Belgians had been cornered in their capitol at Leopoldstadt (later to be called Kinshasha). Though it wouldn't be until the 1970's that Ethiopia would publically back other African Independence movements, in the 60's this was primarily accomplished through an underground weapons trade.
The Congo and SudanEdit
In early 1970, Yohannes gathered a meeting of representatives from most of the major independence movements from all over Africa. There, he made a surpising announcement to this meeting; he expected all rebellions he funded to join the Ethiopian Empire. The reasoning, for him, came from his vision of Africa as a unified confederacy, though in practice it would quickly evolve into another form of Imperialism. In the late summer of 1970, Leopoldstadt fell to the Congolese rebels, leading to the independence of the Congo. Fearing European retribution and dependent on Ethiopian support, the Congo became a protectorate of the Ethiopian Empire; more then doubling the size of the nation.
In mid 1970, the Ottoman Empire invaded Egypt under the guise of a religious Jihad; their real intentions being control over the Suez Canal. Ethiopia, fresh from it's recent aquisition of the Congo, joined the Ottoman Empire in exchange for the Egyptian controlled Sudanese territory. Sudan had been a battleground during the Great War, where Ethiopian forces fought British forces. Though Britain retained the territory after the war, it ceded independence to it and Egypt as one entity.
Ethiopian forces quickly took control of Sudan, meeting the Turkish forces at the accepted point of divide, signalling the end of the war.
With Sudan now in Ethiopian, Ethiopia looked to ease the strain of their new territories by putting in effect the "Pan-Africa Constitution", which put more administrative power in the hands of local governments.
Continuing the modernization of the country with it's new territories, a trans-continental railroad was put under construction, starting in 1970. The plan was to link the west congo coast with the east Ethiopian coast. Early work concentrated on completing existing rail links in Ethiopia and the Congo, with work to link the two rail systems continuing into the reigns of his sons in the mid 70's.
Factories slowly began to sprout up around the major cities of the empire, with some weapons factories put to work constructing lighter models of German guns to be sold to rebels in South Africa.
Ethiopia too modernized in social affairs, making strides in workers rights on a continent that had spent the last century nearly enslaved.
Ethiopias traditional connections with Germany and Austria became strained as Ethiopia continued to become the public face of African independence. This became apparents as German and British South Africa began to see their own independence movements. Ethiopia secretly funded an attempt to effect a rebellion in East German South Africa, but the movement ultimately fizzled and never produced anything. British South Africa quickly became a hotbed of violence, however, with independence movements growing in South Africa and Tswana. Ethiopia would lend air support to both rebels, though it never officially went to war with Britain.
Ethiopia's first major entrance onto the world stage would be during the end of the First North American War. Looking for an opportunity to show the world Africa's new found stability, a humanitarian airlift mission was sent to North America to evacuate African American citizens out of the country. Though the number of people who left North America during this airlift was negligble, it stood as a great source of pride and triump for the Iyasuan government.
Hejaz and TswanaEdit
Ethiopia was part of a joint invasion of Arabia with Persia. Persia declared the conflict as a means to quence out social instability as a part of the Saudi's extreme Sunni views, such things which threatened to destablize the entire region in sectarian conflict. Ethiopia was invited to give a strategic ally and to divert Arabian forced to two fronts. For Ethiopia this allowed the gains of strategic ground giving the empire command over much of the Red Sea, putting valuable ports in a defensive gauntlet, and gaining control of the holy city of Mecca. In the last week of 1970, Arab forces were defeated by Ethiopian forces at the Battle of Taif, and Hejaz quickly surrendered.
Fresh from Hejaz, Ethiopia was quick to get involved in the Tswanan rebellion in British South Africa. Their initial bombing campaign against British forces helped the Tswanans secure their freedom, but the refusal of the Tswana to join the Pan African Constitution nations left a sour taste in the mouth of the Ethiopian government. Ras Hassan, then Commander of the Ethiopian military, secretly and without Imperial knowledge murdered the Tswanan government, giving Ethiopia an excuse to invade the country.
China and FinlandEdit
At the start of the Tswanan war, Yohannes gave a speech publically condemning European colonial powers. The fallout of this speech was noticable from hyper-conservative Spain, whose media rhetoric sparked fears of European invasion in Ethiopia. The Chinese, interested in gaining an edge over their European competitors, pursued political ties with Ethiopia, which the Ethiopians accepted gladly, looking for protection from Spain and the rest of Europe.
European interests quickly moved north, however, when a communist revolt in Finland overthrew the Boyar Finnish government and drew the ire of anti-communist Europeans. A new war broke on in Finland when European forces invaded Communist Finlandand were countered by Chinese naval involvement. Yohannes, afraid of the implications of war between his neighbor and his potential ally, called a summit in Addis Ababa. The summit produced the Treaty of Addis Ababa, which split Finland down the middle, giving South Finland to the Boyars and North Finland to the Communists.
Early trade talks between China ultimately led to trade agreements; a first for the isolationist Chinese government. Yohannes youngest son, Yaqob, was sent to Chinese military school as a gesture of good will between the two countries.
Unrest and WarEdit
Despite the successes of Yohannes rule, unrest developed in the nation due to the rapid expansion and modernization of the nation. Much of the land on the frontier outside of adminstrative centers remained lawless, with tribal conflict and crime running rampant in the Congo and Sudan. Financial troubles started as the economy became spread too thin.
The Tswanan War would be the final straw. The Tswanan occupation continue to drag on despite constant failure in its goals. The people became tired and rioting spread as calls for greater public involvement in government grew. The last few years of Yohannes reign were spent attempting to quell domestic problems.
Death and LegacyEdit
In January of 1974, Yohannes was gunned down and died on the spot of his wounds. His son, Sahle Yohannes, was quickly crowned Emperor, though he fled to Europe shortly thereafter. The following years would see the nation consumed by Civil War that would pit Sahle against his younger brother Yaqob. In the end, Yaqob would succeed
Though his reign was brought down by strife created by problems in his governing style, Yohannes managed to bring Ethiopia into the modern world, able to compete to some extend with other nations. He also was responsible for the signifigant growth that Ethiopia endured for just a few short years. Yohannes is seen as ultimately being an emperor on the precipice of the modern world; a product of the old world helping to deliver his nation into the new one.