The Most Famous

POLITICIANS from Ethiopia

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This page contains a list of the greatest Ethiopian Politicians. The pantheon dataset contains 15,710 Politicians, 24 of which were born in Ethiopia. This makes Ethiopia the birth place of the 84th most number of Politicians behind Guatemala and Cambodia.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Ethiopian Politicians of all time. This list of famous Ethiopian Politicians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Ethiopian Politicians.

Photo of Haile Selassie

1. Haile Selassie (1892 - 1975)

With an HPI of 81.12, Haile Selassie is the most famous Ethiopian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 93 different languages on wikipedia.

Haile Selassie I (Ge'ez: ቀዳማዊ ኀይለ ሥላሴ, romanized: Qädamawi Häylä Səllasé, Amharic pronunciation: [ˈhaɪlə sɨlˈlase] (listen); born Ras Tafari Makonnen; 23 July 1892 – 27 August 1975) was the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. Prior to his coronation, he had been the Regent Plenipotentiary of Ethiopia from 1916. He is a defining figure in modern Ethiopian history. He was a member of the Solomonic dynasty who traced his lineage to Emperor Menelik I. Selassie attempted to modernize the country through a series of political and social reforms, including the introduction of Ethiopia's first written constitution and the abolition of slavery. He led the failed efforts to defend Ethiopia during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War and spent the period of Italian occupation in exile in England. He returned to lead Ethiopia in 1941 after the British Empire defeated the Italian occupiers in the East African campaign. He dissolved the Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea, which was established by the UN General Assembly in 1950, and integrated Eritrea as a province of Ethiopia while fighting to prevent their secession.His internationalist views led to Ethiopia becoming a charter member of the United Nations. In 1963, he presided over the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor of the African Union, and served as its first chairman. He was overthrown in a 1974 military coup by a Marxist-Leninist junta, the Derg. Selassie was murdered by the junta on 27 August 1975.Among some members of the Rastafari movement, Haile Selassie is referred to as the returned messiah of the Bible, God incarnate. This distinction notwithstanding, Haile Selassie was a Christian and adhered to the tenets and liturgy of the Ethiopian Orthodox church. The Rastafari movement was founded in Jamaica sometime around 1930 and its followers are estimated at between 700,000 and one million as of 2012.He has been criticized by some historians for his suppression of rebellions among the landed aristocracy (the mesafint), which consistently opposed his reforms; some critics have also criticized Ethiopia's failure to modernize rapidly enough. During his rule the Harari people were persecuted and many left the Harari Region. His regime was also criticized by human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, as autocratic and illiberal. Although some sources state that under the Haile Selassie regime the Oromo language was legally banned from education, public speaking and use in administration there was never any Imperial Ethiopian law on record that legally banned certain languages; Article fourteen of His Majesty's 1944 Regulations for Establishment of Missions specifically allowed for the use of local languages for instance. The Amhara culture dominated throughout the eras of military and monarchic rule. Both the Haile Selassie and the Derg government relocated numerous Amharas into southern Ethiopia where they served in government administration, courts, church and even in school, where Oromo texts were eliminated and replaced by Amharic. Once literacy rates increased in Ethiopia the Emperor included constitutional recognition of every minority language in Article four of the 1974 Draft Constitution which the Derg outright rejected. Following the death of Hachalu Hundessa in June 2020, the Statue of Haile Selassie in Wimbledon Park, London was destroyed by Oromo protesters, and his father's equestrian monument in Harar was removed.

Photo of Zewditu

2. Zewditu (1876 - 1930)

With an HPI of 75.59, Zewditu is the 2nd most famous Ethiopian Politician.  Her biography has been translated into 38 different languages.

Zewditu (Ge'ez: ዘውዲቱ Zäwditu), also spelled Zeoditu or Zawditu or Zauditu; born Askala Maryam (29 April 1876 – 2 April 1930) was Empress of Ethiopia from 1916 to 1930. The first female head of an internationally recognized country in Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the first empress regnant of the Ethiopian Empire, her reign was noted for the reforms of her Regent and designated heir Ras Tafari Makonnen (who succeeded her as Emperor Haile Selassie I), about which she was at best ambivalent and often stridently opposed, due to her staunch conservatism and strong religious devotion. As of 2020 she is the most recent empress regnant in history, and until the 2018 election of Sahle-Work Zewde as president, was the most recent female head of state of Ethiopia.

Photo of Mengistu Haile Mariam

3. Mengistu Haile Mariam (1937 - )

With an HPI of 74.73, Mengistu Haile Mariam is the 3rd most famous Ethiopian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 58 different languages.

Mengistu Haile Mariam (Amharic: መንግሥቱ ኀይለ ማርያም, pronunciation: [mənɡɨstu haɪlə marjam]; born 21 May 1937) is an Ethiopian soldier and politician who was the president of Ethiopia from 1977 to 1991 and General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Ethiopia from 1984 to 1991. He was the chairman of the Derg, the socialist military junta that governed Ethiopia, from 1977 to 1987, and the President of the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (PDRE) from 1987 to 1991. The Derg took power in the Ethiopian Revolution following the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1974, marking the end of the Solomonic dynasty which had ruled Ethiopia since the 13th century. Mengistu purged rivals for power from the Derg and made himself Ethiopia's dictator, attempting to modernize Ethiopia's feudal economy through Marxist-Leninist-inspired policies such as nationalization and land redistribution. His bloody consolidation of power in 1977–78 is known as the Ethiopian Red Terror, a brutal crackdown on opposition groups and civilians following a failed assassination attempt by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party (EPRP) in September 1976, after it had ignored the Derg's invitation to join the union of socialist parties. The death toll is unknown, but is often estimated as between 30,000 and 750,000. Internal rebellion and government repression characterized Mengistu's presidency, the Red Terror period being a battle for dominance between the Derg, the EPRP and their rivals the All-Ethiopia Socialist Movement, who had initially aligned themselves with the Derg. While this internal conflict was being fought Ethiopia was threatened by both Somali invasion and the guerilla campaign of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front who demanded independence for Eritrea, then a province of Ethiopia. The Ogaden War of 1977–78 over a disputed border region with Somalia was notable for the prominent role of Mengistu's Soviet and Cuban allies in securing an Ethiopian victory. The catastrophic famine of 1983–85, is what brought his government the most international attention. Mengistu fled to Zimbabwe in May 1991 after the PDRE National Assembly dissolved itself and called for a transitional government. His departure brought an abrupt end to the Ethiopian Civil War. Mengistu Haile Mariam still lives in Harare, Zimbabwe, despite an Ethiopian court verdict which found him guilty of genocide in absentia.Mengistu's government is estimated to be responsible for the deaths of 500,000 to 2,000,000 Ethiopians. This includes Tafari Benti, a founding member of the Derg.

Photo of Menelik II

4. Menelik II (1844 - 1913)

With an HPI of 74.11, Menelik II is the 4th most famous Ethiopian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 45 different languages.

Menelik II (Ge'ez: ዳግማዊ ምኒልክ dagmawi mənilək ); baptised as Sahle Maryam (Ge’ez: ሣህለ ማርያም sahlä maryam) (17 August 1844 – 12 December 1913) was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1889 to his death in 1913 and King of Shewa from 1866 to 1889. At the height of his internal power and external prestige, the process of territorial expansion and creation of the modern empire-state was completed by 1898. He is widely honored by many Ethiopians and commemorated during the celebration of the Battle of Adwa, which is celebrated on March 1 or 2 across Ethiopia and in the diaspora. Many Pan-Africans regard him as an advocate for African independence against European powers during the Scramble for Africa.The Ethiopian Empire was transformed under Emperor Menelik: the major signposts of modernisation with the help of key ministerial advisors, such as Gäbre-Heywät Baykädañ, were put in place. Externally, Menelik led Ethiopian troops against Italian invaders in the First Italo-Ethiopian War; following a decisive victory at the Battle of Adwa, recognition of Ethiopia's independence by external powers was expressed in terms of diplomatic representation at his court and delineation of Ethiopia's boundaries with the adjacent colonies. Menelik expanded his kingdom to the south and east, into Kaffa, Sidama, Wolayta and other kingdoms. He is widely called "Emiye Menelik" in Ethiopia. Later in his reign, Menelik established the first Cabinet of Ministers to help in the administration of the Empire, appointing trusted and widely respected nobles and retainers to the first Ministries. These ministers would remain in place long after his death, serving in their posts through the brief reign of Lij Iyasu and into the reign of Empress Zewditu. They also played a key role in deposing Lij Iyasu.

Photo of Lij Iyasu of Ethiopia

5. Lij Iyasu of Ethiopia (1895 - 1935)

With an HPI of 71.10, Lij Iyasu of Ethiopia is the 5th most famous Ethiopian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.

Lij Iyasu (Ge'ez: ልጅ ኢያሱ), sometimes misinterpreted as Iyasu V (Ge'ez: አምሳዊ ኢያሱ) (4 February 1895 – 25 November 1935), was the designated Emperor of Ethiopia from 1913 to 1916. His baptismal name was Kifle Yaqob (Ge’ez: ክፍለ ያዕቆብ kəflä y’aqob). Ethiopian emperors traditionally chose their regnal name on the day they were crowned, and since he was never crowned, he is usually referred to as Lij Iyasu, "Lij" meaning child, especially one born of royal blood.

Photo of Menelik I

6. Menelik I (-1000 - -1000)

With an HPI of 70.71, Menelik I is the 6th most famous Ethiopian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 23 different languages.

Menelik I, or Menilek (Ge`ez: ምኒልክ Mənilək) was the first Solomonic Emperor of Ethiopia. According to Kebra Nagast, a 12th-century record, in the 10th century BC he is said to have inaugurated the Solomonic dynasty of Ethiopia, so named because Menelik I was the son of the biblical King Solomon of ancient Israel and of Makeda, the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba.

Photo of Girma Wolde-Giorgis

7. Girma Wolde-Giorgis (1924 - 2018)

With an HPI of 69.17, Girma Wolde-Giorgis is the 7th most famous Ethiopian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 47 different languages.

Girma Wolde-Giorgis (Ge'ez: ግርማ ወልደ ጊዮርጊስ; 28 December 1924 – 15 December 2018) was an Ethiopian politician who was the 3rd President of Ethiopia from 2001 to 2013. He was the second person to hold the office of President since the founding of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in 1995.

Photo of Ismaïl Omar Guelleh

8. Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (1946 - )

With an HPI of 69.06, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh is the 8th most famous Ethiopian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 50 different languages.

Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (Somali: Ismaaciil Cumar Geelle; Arabic: إسماعيل عمر جليه‎) (born 27 November 1947) is the current president of Djibouti, in office since 1999. He is often referred to in the region by his initials, IOG. Guelleh was first elected as President in 1999 as the handpicked successor to his uncle, Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who had ruled Djibouti since independence in 1977. Guelleh was re-elected in 2005, 2011, 2016 and in 2021; the 2011 election was largely boycotted by the opposition amid complaints over widespread irregularities. Guelleh has been characterized as a dictator, and his rule has been criticized by some human rights groups.He was awarded with the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award on 25 January 2019 for his role in the safe evacuation of Indian citizens from Yemen.

Photo of Tewodros II

9. Tewodros II (1818 - 1868)

With an HPI of 68.76, Tewodros II is the 9th most famous Ethiopian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.

Tewodros II (Ge'ez: ቴዎድሮስ, baptized as Sahle Dingil; 14 January 1818 – 14 April 1868) was the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1855 until his death in 1868. He was born Kassa Haile Giorgis (Ge'ez: ካሳ ኀይለ ጊዮርጊስ; English: "Restitution" and "Power of [St.] George"). He was described as a 'romantic adventurer', a skillful and dauntless warrior, lion-like and an unselfish visionary. He had grown up fighting Ottoman-Egyptian invaders and was a Robin Hood figure; while a bandit or Shifta against the tyrannical royals, he would steal from the rich and give to the poor. His rule is often placed as the beginning of modern Ethiopia and brought an end to the decentralized Zemene Mesafint (Era of the Princes).Tewodros II's origins were in the Era of the Princes, but his ambitions were not those of the regional nobility. He sought to re-establish a cohesive Ethiopian state and to reform its administration and church. He sought to restore Solomonic hegemony, and he considered himself the Elect of God.Tewodros II's first task after having reunited the other provinces was to bring Shewa under his control. During the Era of the Princes, Shewa was, even more than most provinces, an independent entity, its ruler even styling himself Negus (Neguece), the title for King. In the course of subduing the Shewans, Tewodros took with him a Shewan prince, Menelik II who he brought up as his own son, who would later become Emperor (or Atse) himself. Despite his success against Shewa, Tewodros faced constant rebellions by stiffnecked Nobles in other regions not understanding the benefits of modernization. He ultimately committed suicide at the Battle of Magdala, during the British Expedition to Abyssinia. In the first six years of his reign, the new ruler managed to put down these rebellions, and the empire was relatively peaceful from about 1861 to 1863, but the energy, wealth, and manpower necessary to deal with regional opposition limited the scope of Tewodros's other activities. Tewodros II never realized his dream of restoring a strong monarchy, although he took many important initial steps. He sought to establish the principle that governors and judges must be salaried appointees. He also established a professional standing army, rather than depending on local lords to provide soldiers for his expeditions. He introduced the collection of books in the form of a library, tax codes, as well as a centralized political system with respective administrative districts. He also intended to reform the church but he was confronted by strong opposition when he tried to impose a tax on church lands to help finance government activities. His confiscation of these lands gained him enemies in the church and little support elsewhere. Essentially, Tewodros was a talented military campaigner.

Photo of Sahle-Work Zewde

10. Sahle-Work Zewde (1950 - )

With an HPI of 67.92, Sahle-Work Zewde is the 10th most famous Ethiopian Politician.  Her biography has been translated into 55 different languages.

Sahle-Work Zewde (Amharic: ሣህለወርቅ ዘውዴ; born 21 February 1950) is an Ethiopian politician and the current President of Ethiopia, being the first woman to hold the office. A career diplomat, she was elected president unanimously by members of the Federal Parliamentary Assembly on 25 October 2018.Sahle-Work was previously Special Representative of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union at the level of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.American business magazine Forbes, on its annual edition of the Forbes list of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women, listed Sahle-Work as the 96th most powerful woman in the world, and the highest-ranking African woman on the list.

Pantheon has 24 people classified as politicians born between 1000 BC and 1976. Of these 24, 7 (29.17%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Mengistu Haile Mariam, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, and Sahle-Work Zewde. The most famous deceased politicians include Haile Selassie, Zewditu, and Menelik II. As of October 2020, 1 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Tafari Benti.

Living Politicians

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Deceased Politicians

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Newly Added Politicians (2020)

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Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 11 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.