ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Nov. 5 -- The last Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, was on Sunday buried in his final resting place in the capital, Addis Ababa.
The solemn ceremony that began at dawn saw a procession joined by members of the late emperor's family and senior officials of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church march through the city's streets.
The cortege departed from the Ba'ata Mariam Geda Church and walked along a 10 kilometer (6.2 miles) route to the historic Trinity Cathedral, via the main Meskal Square. All previous members of Ethiopia's royal family are buried at the Trinity Church.
The late emperor's casket was draped in the red, yellow and green imperial flag of Ethiopia, emblazoned with the royal arms and the Jewish Star of David.
Christianity is the official religion Ethiopia, the only one of Africa's 53 countries never to have experienced colonial rule or slavery in any form. Liberia, although never formally colonized, was founded by former American slaves in the late 19th century.
Selassie's burial came more than 25 years after his death following his overthrow in August 1974 in a military coup led by the Marxist soldier Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam.
Mengistu, who presided over a brutal regime was himself overthrown by the current government of Executive Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in May 1991.
One of the emperor's grandsons, Beide Marian Mekonen Haile Selassie, thanked the 3,000 people who had turned out for the funeral. Speaking in the Trinity Cathedral, the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abouna Paulos praised the "remarkable contribution to Ethiopia, the church, Africa and the entire world" by the late emperor.
On Nov. 1, Zenawi's government issued a stinging rebuke of the late emperor, accusing him of squandering Ethiopia's wealth and subjecting its people to abject poverty.
But on Saturday, the government gave in to requests for a reburial from the exiled royal family, but refused to recognize the ceremony as a "state occasion". No government representative spoke at the church service.
Haile Selassie, born Ras Tafari in 1892, was crowned king of Ethiopia in 1928 and crowned emperor in 1930. He is revered by the million-strong Rastafarian movement worldwide as a living god, a symbol of Africa's strength and past glory. Most Rastafarians condemned Sunday's re-burial of Selassie's remains, contending that he was never killed by the military junta in 1975 as is widely believed, but was taken up directly to heaven.
In 1975, it was announced that Selassie had died at the age of 83 of circulation problems, but most sources believe he was strangled in his bed on Aug. 27, 1975, by soldiers, on the orders of the military junta.
Selassie was the 225th member of the line of Menelik, son of the Biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, who journeyed from Ethiopia to the court of King Solomon in ancient Israel to learn from him the ways of wisdom.
In 1975, the Rabbinate in Israel formally recognized the claims by a group of Ethiopians known as Falashas to direct descent from Solomon and Sheba. They were subsequently recognized as Jews.