Asrate Kassa

Leul Ras (Prince) Aserate Kasa (also Aserate Kassa, Asrate Kassa and Aserate-Medhin Kassa) GCVO (30 April 1922 – 23 November 1974) was a Viceroy of the Province of Eritrea and a member of the nobility of the Ethiopian Empire. He was the fourth son of Ras Kassa Haile Darge, and his wife Princess (Le'ilt) Tsige Mariam Beshah. Prince Aserate Kassa was married to (Le'ilt) Zuriashwork Gebre-Igziabiher, daughter of Jantirar Gebre-Igziabiher, and granddaughter of Empress Menen Asfaw, consort of Emperor Haile Selassie I. Prince Aserate Kassa was the head of the Selalle sub-branch of the Shewan branch of Ethiopia's Imperial Solomonic Dynasty.

Asrate Kassa
Aserate Kassa 1966 (cropped).jpg
SpouseLe'ult Zuriashwork Gebregziabher
IssueAsfa-Wossen Asserate
Mulugeta Asrate
DynastySolomonic Dynasty (Selale branch)
FatherKassa Haile Darge
MotherTsigemariam Beshah
President of the Crown Council
In office
29 July 1971 – 12 September 1974
MonarchHaile Selassie I
Succeeded byoffice abolished
Viceroy of Eritrea
In office
3 July 1964 – 4 December 1970
MonarchHaile Selassie I
Prime MinisterAklilu Habtewold
Preceded byAbiye Abebe
Succeeded byDebebe Hailemariam


Over the years Haile Selassie I ruled Ethiopia, Aserate held several positions including Governor of Arsi, and of Shewa. In 1964, he was appointed Viceroy of Eritrea. His chief rival was Prime Minister Aklilu Habte-Wold. The rivalry between the two prominent figures was caused by the suspicions between the conservative court faction made up largely but not exclusively of the nobility and church hierarchy, and led by Prince Aserate, and the faction of reformers led by the commoner technocrats led by the Prime Minister and officials largely of humble birth that owed their education and appointment to positions of power to the Emperor.

In 1966, Aserate Kassa was raised from Dejazmach to Ras.[1] His elevation followed the death of his father Leul Ras Kassa, and his assumption of the headship of the Selalle line of the dynasty.

Ras Aserate struggled with the growing unrest in Eritrea. One part of his response was to create two armed groups under his direct control and funding: a commando force made primarily of Christian Eritreans and trained by the Israelis, and an Eritrean security force. The other part was to engage in discrete negotiations in hope of reconciling most of the populace based on appeals to shared highland Christian heritage. However, growing violence by the rebels enabled Aklilu Habte-Wold to undercut his authority and encourage the army to take harsher measures. By 1968 the rebels were fighting pitched battles against Ethiopian military forces. Israeli advisors failed to effectively control the tendency of Ethiopian commanders to use brutal tactics, which drove civilians to seek protection from the rebels. Only with difficulty did Ras Asrate dissuade Emperor Haile Selassie from listening to Aklilu and his generals and declare martial law in Eritrea in early 1970. Nevertheless, the Emperor authorized major military campaigns which not only failed to defeat the insurgents but the death of the commanding general. Aklilu's faction was able to convince the Emperor to recall Ras Aserate, declare martial law in Eritrea, and appoint General Debebe Haile Mariam military governor.[2]

Despite this loss of prestige, Haile Selassie selected Ras Aserate in July 1971 as President of the Crown Council, to rejuvenate that body and oversee an orderly transfer of power on Haile Selassie's death to his designated successor, Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen.[3] When the Emperor was deposed and the Derg took power, Aserate Kassa was imprisoned and later executed along with sixty other imperial officials on 23 November 1974. His widow Princess Zuriashwork endured 14 years of harsh imprisonment before being released with the other women of the Imperial dynasty. His son Asfa-Wossen Asserate is a political analyst and consultant for African and Middle-Eastern Affairs in Germany.


Ethiopian honours
Foreign honours


  1. ^ Paul B. Henze, Layers of Time (New York: Palgrave, 2000), p. 276
  2. ^ Henze, Layers of Time, pp. 277-9
  3. ^ Henze, Layers of Time, p. 282
  4. ^ Boletín Oficial del Estado

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