Desta Damtew

From Kaiserreich


Ras Desta Damtew (born in Maskan, Abyssinia, in 1898) is an Ethiopian noble and the current Commander-in-Chief of the Ethiopian Army.



Early Life

Ras Desta Damtew was born in Maskan, Abyssinia, in 1898 from the prominent aristocratic Addisge clan; his father Fitawrari Damtew Ketena, a military commander in the Abyssinian Army, died before his birth. In his twenties he run away from home to become a monk at the monastery of Debre Libanos, near Addis-Ababa; however, he soon returned and embarked on a political career.

Political Career

Damtew was seen as an eccentric man by the other Abyssinian nobles who regarded him as a stubborn liberal who didn't care enough about his ancient lineage, but preferred to spend his time on useless tasks. In reality, he was a kind person who cared about his people, as shown by his attempt to improve the life of his fellow countrymen. For example, he built his own reservoir of water to sell water for a nominal price, sometimes giving it for free to those whom he thought deserved it.

Damtew embarked in many projects to help his country, but the opposition of the conservative faction usually prevented him from carrying them out. However, he was appreciated by the people for his efforts and praised by the liberals for his intelligence and competence. He became a close friend of the heir to the throne, Tafari Makonnen, and married his daughter in 1924. Because of his popularity he was appointed by Empress Zauditu Governor-General of Kaffa and Limu in a move to appease the liberal faction of the government.

In 1930, upon ascending to the throne, Emperor Haile Selassie I appointed Damtew governor of Sidamo (the same province he once was governor of) and then in 1932 governor of Borena. During his governorship he was assisted by Fitawrai Adama as administrator and by Nagadras Sahle as director general of customs. He always supported the Emperor's struggle to modernize the country; in 1932, thanks to German economic support, he was able to inaugurate the Ras Desta Damtew Hospital in Addis-Ababa. In 1933, the Emperor appointed him Commander-in-Chief of the Ethiopian Army, with the intention to speed up the modernization of the army.

Personal Life

Damtew married the oldest daughter of Haile Selassie I and his wife Empress Menem, Princess Tenagnework, on November 16 1924 in Addis-Ababa. They had four daughters and two sons:

  • Aida Desta (born on April 8 1927)
  • Lij Amha Desta (born on August 21 1928)
  • Hiruta Desta (born on April 20 1930)
  • Sabla Wangel Desta (born on August 29 1931)
  • Sofya Desta (born on January 1 1933)
  • Lij Iskander Desta (born on August 6 1934)
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