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Tessema Nadew

Tessema Nadew

The basics
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Gender male
The details

Ras Bitwoded Tessema Nadew (died 10 April 1911) was an Ethiopian military commander and official who on 28 October 1909 was proclaimed as Ethiopia's future Balemulu Enderase (Regent Plenipotentiary) to Lij Iyasu, upon the latter's appointment as heir to the throne by Emperor Menelik II. He died in 1911, predeceasing Menelik and thus never assuming that office. He previously served as governor of Illubabor Province, the campaign of re-conquest for which he had led, and fought in the Battle of Adwa.

Military and administrative career

Ras Tessema Nadew led the re-conquest of the southern province of Illubabor in 1889. He was opposed by the local Oromo Moti, or ruler, Fatansa Illu, who appealed in vain to Kumsa Mereda of Leqa Nekemte and Abba Jifar II of Jimma (who both by that time had accepted Ethiopian suzerainty over their lands) for assistance, as his forces' shields and spears were no match for the imperial army, which was well armed with modern firearms. He was subsequently charged with administering the new province by the Emperor, and thus appointed as Shum, or governor, of Illubabor.

He fought in the Battle of Adwa in 1896, commanding troops levied from the local population in Illubabor. As Shum he was credited with doing well in his position, enough so that when he was appointed regent, his son Dejazmach Kebede Tessema succeeded him as Shum of Illubabor.


The new regent-designate found his authority undermined not only by the still living but paralyzed Emperor Menelik, but also by the Empress. For example, she insisted that questions from the foreign legations in Addis Ababa be directed to her, not to Tessema. Furthermore, Tessema himself suffered from an illness, which left him appearing helpless and apathetic and would take his life within a year. It took a coup d'├ętat engineered by a group of aristocrats and the head of the Imperial Bodyguard to convince Ras Tesemma and Habte Giyorgis to decisively limit the influence of the Empress. Despite these developments, the imperial government continued to falter: administrators were unwilling to make decisions because Tessema himself might be overthrown, and foreign affairs likewise suffered. Despite this, Harold Marcus notes that the presence of Tessema "did curb ministerial dissensions and intrigues and was a reminder of the existence of central authority."

With Tessema, Iyasu continued Menelik's program of modernization, including the establishment of the first police force in Addis Ababa.


On 10 April 1911, Tessema Nadew died and, when the council met to appoint a successor as Enderase, Lij Iyasu demanded a role in the process. When asked whom he desired in the position, he is reported to have replied, "Myself!" On 11 May, the seal of Iyasu replaced that of his grandfather, although not with the style of Emperor.

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