On October 4, 1963, following the founding of the Organization of African Unity in Addis Ababa a few weeks earlier in the presence of almost every African head of state, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie the First spoke at the United Nations' General Assembly in New York City. In the fast changing world of the sixties, as many African nations were struggling for independence, Selassie's historic utterance carried the full weight of the OAU he had just founded in a masterful diplomatic operation, of panafricanism on the rise and, more generally, of all the oppressed people throughout the world, in the name of whom everyone felt he spoke.
Baptized Tafari Makonen, then given the rank of a Ras (equivalent of a Duke), he belonged to the oldest dynasty in the world, which, according to the ancient and sacred Ethiopian book the Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings), was in power at least as far back as Menelik the First, son of Solomon, King of Israel, and Makeda, Queen of Sheba. The Ras Tafari's coronation/sacrament in 1930 as Haile Selassie I ("Power of the Trinity") was seen by a small community of Jamaican Christians as the fullfilment of a Biblical prophecy that Marcus Garvey, who was struggling for Black emancipation, used frequently in his speeches.
These Christians recognized Selassie as the Divine leader refered to in the prophecy and henceforth later began calling themselves Rastafarians, as in Jah (one of many Hebrew names for God) Rastafari. This syncretic faith has since grown to millions of followers, from Blacks to half-castes, like Bob Marley, to people of all colours. As Selassie himself said at the United Nations, "until the colour of a man's skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes", righteous Rastafarians will be struggling for equal rights and justice throughout the world. In his 45 years of reign, the mighty Lord of Lords sought to pull Ethiopia out of its feudal past and towards democracy. Many think of Selassie as the Nelson Mandela of his time. The Negus was also a key figure in the founding of the United Nations, where the utterance heard on this record was spoken in Amharic, the Ethiopian language.
Part of this legendary peace speech by Selassie, then at the zenith of his reign, was turned into the song War by Bob Marley who recorded it for his fine 1976 Rastaman Vibration album. Thus Rastafarians, and above all Bob Marley, are showing the way for mankind to finally recognize one of the most overlooked civilizations in history -that of Ethiopia. It is in this spirit that Bruno Blum produced this new version of War with surviving members of Marley's extraordinary band, the Wailers, who can also be heard on the original recording of the song. Haile Selassie's voice was then overdubbed on it, as if he was posthumously "singing" this Bob Marley song. For the first time, the sound of Jah's own voice can be heard on a reggae record, and Bob Marley's voice was also added in the mix.
English translation as published in the 1972 book Important Utterances Of H.I.M. by the Imperial Ethiopian Ministry Of Information, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:
"On the question of racial discrimination, the Addis Ababa summit conference taught, to those who will learn, this further lesson :
that until the philosophy which holds one race superior
and another inferior is finally and permanently dicredited and abandoned;
And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in sub-human bondage have been toppled and destroyed; until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; until that day, the African continent will not know peace.
We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil.
The basis of racial discrimination and colonialism has been economic, and it is with economic weapons that these evils have been and can be overcome. In pursuance of resolutions adopted at the Addis Ababa summit conference, African states have undertaken certain measures in the economic field which, if adopted by all member states of the United Nations, would soon reduce intransigeance to reason.
I ask, today, for adherence to these measures by every
nation represented here which is truly devoted to the principles enunciated
in the charter.
This then, is the ultimate challenge. Where are we to look for our survival, for the answers to the questions which have never before been posed? We must look, first, to the Almighty God, Who has raised man above the animals and endowed him with intelligence and reason. We must put our faith in Him, that He will not desert us or permit us to destroy humanity which He created in His image.
And we must look into ourselves, into the depth of
our souls. We must become something we have never been and for which
our education and experience and environment have ill-prepared us.
Haile Selassie I