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Balahu: The Tragic Story of Ethiopia’s Tallest Man Executed by Italy


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In the history of Ethiopia, the story of Balahu is a heartbreaking reminder of the difficult times during the Italian era in the country.

Balahu, a remarkably tall man standing at 7 feet and 5 inches, had a special role as the umbrella bearer and drum major for Emperor Haile Selassie.

However, his life took a tragic turn when he encountered Italian soldiers in Addis Ababa. This article explores the extraordinary story of Balahu, shedding light on his unfortunate encounter and the historical backdrop of Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign.

Emperor Haile Selassie, also known as the “Lion of Judah,” played a crucial role in Ethiopian history. Born as Tafari Makonnen, he became the emperor in 1930, leading Ethiopia through a period of significant changes.

Haile Selassie was not only a respected ruler but also a visionary leader who worked tirelessly to modernize the country, introduce social reforms, and fight for Ethiopian independence on the global stage.

His charisma and unwavering dedication to his people earned him widespread admiration both at home and abroad.

Within the emperor’s entourage, Balahu held a prestigious position as the umbrella carrier, symbolizing honor and protection.

His towering height and commanding presence made him a symbolic figure during official ceremonies and processions. However, the invasion of Ethiopia by the Italians in 1936 was an era that marked the end of Balahu’s life.

Italian soldiers unjustly accused Balahu of spying and armed robbery, known as brigandage. These charges were part of the Italian forces’ attempt to suppress Ethiopian resistance and assert their dominance. It is important to note that Balahu was innocent and these accusations were false.

Balahu’s execution by an Italian firing squad in Addis Ababa remains a haunting reminder of the brutality and injustice suffered by the Ethiopian people during the Italian occupation.

His tragic end symbolizes the sacrifices made by countless Ethiopians who bravely resisted the foreign invaders and fought for their independence.

The story of Balahu, Ethiopia’s tallest man executed by Italy, captures the resilience and sacrifice of the Ethiopian people during one of their darkest periods.

As Emperor Haile Selassie’s umbrella bearer and drum major, Balahu represented the pride and dignity of his nation.

His unjust execution serves as a powerful reminder of the atrocities committed during the Italian occupation and stands as a testament to the unwavering spirit of the Ethiopian people.

This article delves into the intricacies of Balahu’s life and explores the historical context of Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign, shedding light on a poignant chapter in Ethiopian history.

The early life of Balahu

Balahu, the towering figure who would later become renowned as the umbrella bearer and drum major for Emperor Haile Selassie, had a humble beginning that shaped his extraordinary journey.

Born into a modest family in Ethiopia, little is known about Balahu’s early life, as historical records are scarce. However, it is believed that he grew up in a small village in Ethiopia’s rural countryside.

Like many young Ethiopians of his time, Balahu likely experienced the challenges and hardships that came with a life in a predominantly rural area.

Ethiopia, known for its diverse ethnic groups and cultural traditions, was a land of rich heritage and traditions. It was within this cultural tapestry that Balahu’s unique path began to unfold.

As a child, Balahu exhibited remarkable physical attributes, especially his towering height. Even at a young age, he stood head and shoulders above his peers, earning him admiration and curiosity from those around him. This physical prowess would later play a significant role in shaping his destiny.

Little did Balahu know that his extraordinary stature would bring him closer to the center of power in Ethiopia. His exceptional height caught the attention of Emperor Haile Selassie, who saw in him not only a loyal servant but also a symbol of strength and dignity.

Emperor Haile Selassie, known for his keen eye for talent, recognized Balahu’s unique qualities and invited him to join his entourage.

Balahu’s role as the umbrella bearer and drum-major would make him a prominent figure during official ceremonies and processions, representing the grandeur and authority of the emperor.

Balahu’s journey from a humble village to the imperial court was a testament to his character and the opportunities that arose from his exceptional physical attributes.

He embraced his role with dedication and loyalty, serving Emperor Haile Selassie with unwavering commitment.

While his early life may have been marked by simplicity and anonymity, Balahu’s association with Emperor Haile Selassie would thrust him into the spotlight and shape his legacy.

Little did he know that his path would be fraught with challenges and tragic events that would forever leave a mark on Ethiopian history.

In the subsequent years, as Ethiopia faced the Italian occupation and the struggles for independence, Balahu’s life took a tragic turn.

His loyal service to the emperor would be marred by false accusations and unjust treatment, ultimately leading to his untimely demise.

The early life of Balahu serves as a reminder that extraordinary destinies can emerge from the most humble beginnings.

His journey from a small village to the imperial court reflects the complex tapestry of Ethiopian history, where individuals from all walks of life play their part in shaping the nation’s destiny.

Balahu’s story stands as a testament to the resilience and spirit of the Ethiopian people, who continue to honor his memory and the sacrifices made during those turbulent times.

The invading of Italian soldiers

In 1935, the Italian army, led by Benito Mussolini, invaded Ethiopia. Emperor Haile Selassie, also known as The Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, had to flee the country and seek refuge in French Somaliland, leaving behind Balahu.

Balahu, filled with loyalty and determination, decided to stay in the city and join the resistance against the Italian occupation.

He fought alongside his fellow Ethiopians, risking his life for the freedom and independence of his country. Unfortunately, his bravery came to an end when he was captured by the Italian forces.

He was imprisoned and later found guilty of charges of “espionage and brigandage” by an Italian military tribunal.

He was sentenced to death and executed by a firing squad in 1936. This tragic event marked a dark moment in Ethiopian history, highlighting the brutality of the Italian invasion and occupation.

During the invasion, Mussolini’s forces aimed to colonize Ethiopia and expand the Italian empire. The Ethiopian people suffered greatly under this occupation, facing hardships and challenges to their sovereignty and independence.

Emperor Haile Selassie, a symbol of Ethiopian resistance, sought international support and continued the fight against the Italians from exile.

The invasion and occupation lasted from 1935 to 1937, resulting in a significant loss of life and casualties on both sides. There were reports of war crimes committed by both the Italian forces and the Ethiopian resistance.

Balahu’s story represents the resilience and unwavering loyalty of the Ethiopian people in the face of adversity. His sacrifice and the suffering endured by the Ethiopian people remain a testament to their determination to defend their homeland.


In conclusion, Balahu’s story is a powerful reminder of the hardships faced by the Ethiopian people during the Italian invasion.

His loyalty and determination to protect his country exemplify the strength and resilience of the Ethiopian people. Unfortunately, Balahu’s journey took a tragic turn when he was captured and executed by the Italian forces. His fate symbolizes the brutality and oppression suffered by the Ethiopian people during that difficult time.

The invasion of Ethiopia caused great suffering and loss for both sides, with many lives lost and war crimes committed. However, the Ethiopian people showed incredible bravery and resilience, refusing to be defeated.

Balahu’s legacy serves as an inspiration, reminding us of the ongoing struggle for freedom and justice. His sacrifice, along with others, teaches us the importance of honoring and preserving our history.

As we reflect on Balahu’s story, let us never forget the courage and strength of those who have fought for their nations. Their stories inspire us to stand up against injustice and to value the resilience of the human spirit.





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