His Imperial Highness Prince Joel David Makonnen Ethiopia Royal Family Solomonic Dynasty
Prince Joel is the great-grandson of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. Under the 1955 Ethiopian Constitution, which officially conserves the traditional rights of primogeniture, Prince Joel is 5th in the line of succession to the Imperial throne. His lineal ancestors are said to trace far back three millennia into Biblical history; all the way back to King Solomon "the Wise", son and successor to King David of ancient Israel.
Indeed, according to Ethiopian traditional history - from Ethiopian Orthodox monasteries' records and the Kebra Negest (accounts of the genealogy and bloodline of every Ethiopian ruler of all time) - HIM Emperor Haile Selassie I is a descendant of Emperor Menelik I, the first Emperor of Ethiopia. Emperor Menelik the first was the son of Makeda, Queen of Sheba, and King Solomon of Israel, conceived of their passions during the Queen's visit to Solomon's palace in Jerusalem.
Emperor Haile Selassie married Empress Menen Asfaw, and they had 6 children. Prince Makonnen, Joel's grandfather was their 2nd son, and 5th child. Prince Makonnen married Princess Sara Gizaw, and they had 5 children, 5 boys. Prince David Makonnen, also known as "Makonnen Makonnen" for his close resemblance in likeness and personality to his father, was their 3rd son. Prince David Makonnen married Princess Adey Imru, the daughter of imperial minister and ambassador Lij Imru Zelleke.
Joel was born in Rome, Italy, in 1982, while his parents, Prince David Makonnen and Princess Adey Imru Makonnen, were in exile from Ethiopia. He is the youngest of two sons, with his elder brother Prince Yokshan Makonnen.
Joel's family was in exile and not able to return to their country without the risk of being imprisoned, or worse. In fact, Ethiopia was in a civil war caused by a military coup which had taken place less than a decade earlier (1974). A foot soldier in the Army, Mengistu Hailemariam, conspired with others in his Brigade to sow discord within their ranks with complaints about food and living conditions in the military camps. Ethiopia was experiencing a severe drought that created major food shortages and famine in rural areas of the country. Similar mutinies started springing up around different camps in the countryside, in addition to growing discontent with the state of affairs by students in universities. Student groups began protesting in the streets of the major cities, and eventually a widespread uprising took off.
In due time, a full on popular revolution was on its way and it culminated in the coup-d'état against the monarchy by a group of military officers. They arrested and deposed Emperor Haile Selassie I, and then murdered him shortly thereafter. Lastly, the military contingent declared the imperial rule in Ethiopia to be abolished. However, internal contentions and rivalries among the military leaders began to appear and threaten to rupture the yet unformed party. So Mengistu - determined to rise as the single supreme leader - executed his numerous opponents, and gained undisputed leadership. He installed himself as chairman of "the Derg," a communist regime embracing Marxist-Leninist ideology for government -- but essentially an authoritarian dictatorship in all but name. The Red Terror ensued - a long wave of violence, arbitrary incarcerations, torture, summary executions, and mass killings - in the streets of the capital Addis Ababa, and all around the country, leaving hundreds of thousands of civilians dead (conservative estimates: 500,000~750,000 people, by Amnesty International).
During their exile in Europe, Joel's father, Prince David, made repeated attempts to seek assistance from the international community in helping reinstate peace and security in Ethiopia. During that time, the family had to move around Europe because attempts on Prince David's life were made by covert Derg operatives who wanted to silence him and shut down his campaign; but thankfully they were unsuccessful. Primarily, Prince David was seeking the release of his surviving family members who were imprisoned with no formal charges or legitimate reason - other than being related to the imperial family. Second, he sought justice for his family and countrymen who were being violently murdered, and accountability on the perpetrators for their horrific crimes against humanity. Prince David, who was an Imperial Guard Major, and had been Lieutenant-Colonel in the Army, was so appalled and disheartened by the acts of his fellow military men.
Terribly concerned for the well being of his mother, Princess Sara Gizaw, his brothers, and many other relatives who were in jail in Ethiopia, Prince David reached out to his friends in the West for help, and for them to put pressure on their governments. He also did interviews on French TV and in the UK, pleading to longtime allies of Ethiopia and the Emperor, including France, Great Britain and the British Crown, and the United States, to intervene, and deploy their military even, if it came to that. Eventually, the US - itself involved in the Cold War against Soviet Russia - did take interest in removing this communist regime in Africa, which was friendly with, and sponsored by the US's own enemies: the USSR and Cuba. The CIA began making covert plans to conduct military operations to overpower the Derg, remove them, and re-install the Ethiopian monarchy with a new succeeding King after the ouster.
It would not be until the late 1980s that a successful overthrow of the military regime took place, led by Ethiopia's 'Tigrayan People's Liberation Front' (TPLF) fighters and patriots on the ground, who freed Ethiopia from the communist dictatorship with assistance from the US. In 1990, members of the royal family - those who had survived - were finally released after enduring a 16 year ordeal in prison.
Unfortunately, Prince David would not be there to witness his family's release from prison, he passed away from health complications in 1989 in Switzerland.
Prince Joel attended the international school Collège du Léman in Geneva, Switzerland.
He later went to boarding school in the French Alps in Haute Savoie, and completed the French middle and high school curriculum until the final Baccalauréat exam.
In 1999, Prince Joel moved back to Ethiopia with his mother when she took a post with the UNHCR in Addis Ababa. Joel attended the International Community School (ICS - American school) until his graduation in May 2001.
Subsequently, Joel accepted an offer to attend the Euro-American Institute of Technology (EAI Tech - now called SKEMA Business School) and thus moved back to France in September 2001. The EAI Tech is a university located in the south of France in Sophia Antipolis (called the "French Silicon Valley"), next to cities of Cannes and Nice on the French Riviera.
In 2003, Joel transferred to The American University in Washington DC where he completed his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at the Kogod School of Business, with a major in International Business. He also simultaneously received a Bachelor in High-Technology and Business from EAI Tech (as a dual degree with American University).
Finally - committed to pursue his lifelong goal of becoming a lawyer - Joel obtained his Juris Doctor in 2015 from Howard University School of Law.
Now, combining his international background with his business and law degrees, Joel practices law as a corporate attorney in the Washington DC metro area.
Currently, Joel is living in Washington DC where he is admitted to practice law, and pursuing his career within the in-house legal department at a major multinational company. He is engaged to Ms. Ariana Austin, and their wedding is set for September 2017.
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