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“If by killing us you could redeem Ethiopia from poverty, we then accept your action as a blessing,” were the last words of the former Ethiopian Prime Minister T’sehafi T’ezaz Aklilu Habtewold before being executed on November 24, 1974 with sixty other officials of the Haile Selassie I regime. His final words were recounted by the late former Trade and Industry Minister Ketema Yifru, who was Aklilu’s prison mate.
Aklilu Habtewold was appointed Prime Minister on Friday March 29, 1961 the same day Lieutenant General Mengistu Neway was hanged at Tekle Haimanot square as per the decision of the Imperial High Court first criminal bench on March 27, 1961. Mengistu was the leader of the unsuccessful coup in December 1960. Whether the appointment of the new Prime minister and the killing of Mengistu Neway took place by coincidence or deliberate, we could not confirm.
Born from his father Aleqa Habtewold Kabteneh and his mother Yadegdigu Felfelu on March 12, 1912, he completed the traditional religious studies at Saint Raguel Church. He then went to Menelik II School in Addis Ababa for three years and then was sent to Lycee (French Grammar School) in Alexandria, Egypt in 1925 for further studies. After studying from 1925 to 1931 he received his BA degree from Alexandria. He then joined Sorbonne University in France to study Law and courses in advanced Commercial studies and Political studies from 1931 to 1936.
Aklilu didn’t return to Ethiopia after he completed his studies in France as he was expected because the country was invaded by Italian forces. Due to this, he stayed in Paris and continued to be an Officer-in-Charge of the Ethiopian Embassy in France. The Embassy issued passports to all Ethiopian refugees besides giving other consular services during the occupation period.
When the country regained its independence after five years of occupation in May 1941 Aklilu was appointed Vice Minister of Pen and was transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a ministerial portfolio at the age of 29.
After serving for 13 years, Aklilu resigned from his post as Prime Minister on February 27, 1974 following the start of students’ uprising against the regime.
Aklilu Habtewold during his tenure had done numerous notable actions representing Ethiopia on international gatherings.
As Aklilu’s centennial birthday was marked on March 12, 2012 Capital in a bid to pay tribute to the late premier on his would be 100th birthday will give you a brief overview of his works and his personal life stories gathered from people who knew him personally.