When Haile Selassie I was crowned Emperor, the King of England, who at that time was regarded by many as the most powerful man in the world because of the size of the British Empire, was unable to attend. However, he sent the Duke of Gloucester to represent him.
The emperor's pleas for international support did take root in the United States, particularly among African-American organizations sympathetic to the Ethiopian cause. In 1937, Haile Selassie was to give a Christmas Day radio address to the American people to thank his supporters when his taxi was involved in a traffic accident, leaving him with a fractured knee. Rather than canceling the radio appearance, he proceeded in much pain to complete the address, in which he linked Christianity and goodwill with the , and asserted that "War is not the only means to stop war":
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Haile Selassie's activity in this period was focused on countering Italian propaganda as to the state of Ethiopian resistance and the legality of the occupation. He spoke out against the desecration of houses of worship and historical artifacts (including the theft of a 1,600-year-old imperial obelisk), and condemned the atrocities suffered by the Ethiopian civilian population. He continued to plead for League intervention and to voice his certainty that "God's judgment will eventually visit the weak and the mighty alike", though his attempts to gain support for the struggle against Italy were largely unsuccessful until Italy entered World War II on the German side in June 1940.
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Human rights in Ethiopia under Selassie's regime were poor. Civil liberties and political rights were low with giving Ethiopia a "Not Free" score for both civil liberties and political rights in the last years of Selassie's rule. Common human right abuses included imprisonment and torture of political prisoners and very poor prison conditions. The Ethiopian army also carried out a number of these atrocities while fighting the Eritrean separatists. This was due to a policy of destroying Eritrean villages that supported the rebels. There were a number of of hundreds of civilians during the war in the late 60s and early 70s.
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Outside of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie continued to enjoy enormous prestige and respect. As the longest-serving head of state in power, he was often given precedence over other leaders at state events, such as the of and , the summits of the , and the of the 2,500 years of the . In 1970 he visited Italy as a guest of President , and in he met , President of Italian Savings Banks Association. He visited China in October 1971, and was the first foreign head of state to meet following the death of Mao's designated successor in a plane crash in Mongolia.
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—mostly in Wollo, north-eastern Ethiopia, as well as in some parts of Tigray—is estimated to have killed 40,000 to 80,000 Ethiopians between 1972 and 1974. A BBC News report has cited a 1973 estimate that 200,000 deaths occurred, based on a contemporaneous estimate from the Ethiopian Nutrition Institute. While this figure is still repeated in some texts and media sources, it was an estimate that was later found to be "over-pessimistic". Although the region is infamous for recurrent crop failures and continuous and starvation risk, this episode was remarkably severe. A 1973 production of the programme by . relied on the unverified estimate of 200,000 dead, stimulating a massive influx of aid while at the same time destabilizing Haile Selassie's regime. Against that background, a group of dissident army officers instigated a creeping coup against the emperor's faltering regime. To guard against a public backlash in favour of Haile Selassie (who was still widely revered), they contrived to obtain a copy of which they intercut with images of Africa's grand old man presiding at a wedding feast in the grounds of his palace. Retitled , this film noir was shown round the clock on Ethiopian television to coincide with the day that they finally summoned the nerve to seize the Emperor himself.
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Student unrest became a regular feature of Ethiopian life in the 1960s and 1970s. took root in large segments of the Ethiopian intelligentsia, particularly among those who had studied abroad and had thus been exposed to radical and left-wing sentiments that were becoming popular in other parts of the globe. Resistance by conservative elements at the Imperial Court and Parliament, and by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, made Haile Selassie's land reform proposals difficult to implement, and also damaged the standing of the government, costing Haile Selassie much of the goodwill he had once enjoyed. This bred resentment among the peasant population. Efforts to weaken unions also hurt his image. As these issues began to pile up, Haile Selassie left much of domestic governance to his Prime Minister, , and concentrated more on foreign affairs.