Desta Damtew
Ethiopian noble and army commander
Desta Damtew
Ras Desta Damtew was an Ethiopian noble, an army commander, and a son-in-law of Emperor Haile Selassie I.
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  • 1937
    Died in 1937.
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  • 1936
    In January 1936, he was defeated by the Italian General Rodolfo Graziani at the Battle of Ganale Dorya.
    More Details Hide Details Desta retreated back to his administrative center at Irgalem, where with the help of Dejazmach Gabremariam, he reorganized his survivors to resist the Italian advance. Desta continued to resist the Italians after the Emperor left the country. In 1936, after the end of the rainy season, Italian General Carlo Geloso, who had been appointed governor of the Italian province of Galla-Sidamo, advanced from the north to dislodge Ras Desta and Dejazmach Gabremariam. However by the end of October, Geloso had not advanced very far or effectively. It was not until a month later when a second Italian column advanced from the south through the Wadara Forest that Ras Desta at last left Irgalem, which was occupied 1 December. With Dejazmach Gabremariam, Dejazmach Beyene Merid (Shum of Bale Province), and a dwindling number of soldiers, for the next few months Ras Desta eluded the Italians until they were trapped near Lake Shala in the Battle of Gogetti and annihilated. Wounded, Ras Desta managed to escape, only to be caught and executed near his birthplace.
  • 1935
    In 1935, Ras Desta commanded troops along the southern border of Ethiopia during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.
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  • 1933
    In 1933, Ras Desta Damtew traveled to America to return the visit of the United States representative to the coronation of Haile Selassie.
    More Details Hide Details It was his only journey outside Ethiopia. He arrived in New York and was greeted with royal honours, later lunching with President Roosevelt.
  • 1932
    In 1932, Emperor Haile Selassie I appointed Desta Damtew as a Ras.
    More Details Hide Details In the same year, he was appointed Shum of Sidamo Province and of Borena Province. He succeeded Birru Wolde Gabriel in Sidamo.
  • 1928
    By 1928, Negus Tafari Makonnen appointed his son-in-law Desta Damtew as Dejazmach and as Shum of Kefa Province.
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  • 1924
    In 1924, Desta Damtew married Tafari Makonnen's daughter Leult Tenagnework Haile Selassie.
    More Details Hide Details They had four daughters and two sons. Anthony Mockler describes Desta Damtew as "something of an eccentric among Ethiopian nobles", who had run away in his twenties to become a monk at Debre Libanos, as well as having a reputation "as an entrepreneur and an enfant terrible." Mockler continues that Ras Desta "had as little taste as the young progressives of inferior birth for the traditional amusements of the Amhara aristocracy, the feasting, the horsemanship, the boasting and the drunkenness." According to his obituary in The Times he was "a tall and princelike figure, ascetically handsome in face and reserved in manner. He had the soft, almost inaudible voice of the aristocratic Amhara. Although a modernizer on the Imperial pattern, he was perfectly frank about his distrust of foreigners. "The less foreigners visit Ethiopia, the better," was a remark he once made at a European gathering at the British Legation."
  • 1920
    In 1920, Desta Damtew was in the party that captured Lij Iyasu.
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  • 1916
    In 1916, Desta Damtew supported Tafari Makonnen against Lij Iyasu.
    More Details Hide Details Tafari Makonnen was the future Emperor Haile Selassie I. Lij Iyasu was deposed but escaped.
  • 1896
    Born at the village of Maskan (in the contemporary Gurage Zone), Desta Damtew was the second son of Fitawrari Damtew Ketena. His older brother was Abebe Damtew. In 1896, Fitawrari Damtew Ketena was killed at the Battle of Adwa.
    More Details Hide Details As boys, Lij Desta Damtew and his brother Lij Abebe Damtew served at the Imperial Palace in Addis Ababa as pages to Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taitu Bitul. Desta Damtew went on to serve in the Dowager Empress Taitu's household at the Palace on Mt. Entoto after the death of Menelik II.
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