OBSERVANCE OF THE LAW 11 In the mid-1920s


, the powerful warlords of Ethiopia were coming to the realization that a young man of the nobility named Haile Selassie, also
known as Ras Tafari, was outcompeting them all and nearing the point
where he could prodaim hirnself their leader, unifying the country for the
first time in decades. Most of his rivals could not understand how this
wispy, , quiet, mild-mannered man had been able to take control. 

Yet in
LAW 3 25
26 LAW 3
1927, Selassie was able to summon the warlords, one at a time, to come to
Addis Ababa to declare their loyalty and recognize bim as leader.
Some hurried, some hesitated, but only one, Dejazmach Balcha of
Sidamo, dared defy Selassie totally. A blustery man, Balcha was a great
warrior, and he considered the new leader weak and unworthy. He pointedly stayed away from the capital. Finally Selassie, in his gentle but stern
way, commanded Balcha to come. The warlord decided to obey, but in
doing so he would turn the tables on this pretender to the Ethiopian
throne: He would come to Addis Ababa at his own speed, and with an
army of 10,000 men, a force large enough to defend hirnself, perhaps even
start a civil war. Stationing this formidable force in a valley three rniles
from the capital, he waited, as a king would. Selassie would have to come
to bim.
Selassie did indeed send emissaries, asking Balcha to attend an afternoon banquet in his honor. But Balcha, no fool, knew history-he knew
that previous kings and lords of Ethiopia had used banquets as a trap.
Once he was there and full of drink, Selassie would have hirn arrested or

To signal his understanding of the situation, he agreed to come
to the banquet, but only if he could bring his personal bodyguard-600 of
bis best soldiers, all armed and ready to defend hirn and themselves. To
Balcha's surprise, Selassie answered with the utmost politeness that he
would be honored to play host to such warriors.
On the way to the banquet, Balcha warned his soldiers not to get
drunk and to be on their guard. When they arrived at the palace, Selassie
was his charrning best. He deferred to Balcha, treated hirn as if he desperately needed his approval and cooperation. But Balcha refused to be
charmed, and he warned Selassie that if he did not return to his camp by
nightfall, his army had orders to attack the capital. Selassie reacted as if
hurt by his mistrust. Over the meal, when it came time for the traditional
singing of songs in honor of Ethiopia's leaders, he made a point of allowing
only songs honoring the warlord of Sidamo. It seemed to Balcha that Selassie was scared, intimidated by this great warrior who could not be outwitted. Sensing the change,

 Balcha believed that he would be the one to
call the shots in the days to come.
At the end of the afternoon, Balcha and his soldiers began their march
back to camp arnidst cheers and gun salutes. Looking back to the capital
over his shoulder, he planned his strategy-how his own soldiers would
march through the capital in triumph within weeks, and Selassie would be
put in his place, his place being either prison or death. When Balcha came
in sight of bis camp, however, he saw that something was terribly wrong.
Where before there had been colorful tents stretching as far as the eye
could see, now there was nothing, only smoke from doused fires. What
devil's magie was this?
A witness told Balcha what had happened. During the banquet, a large
army, commanded by an ally of Selassie's, had stolen up on Balcha's encampment by a side route he had not seen. This army had not come to
fight, however: Knowing that Balcha would}lave heard a noisy battle and
hurried back with his 600-man bodyguard, Selassie had ,armed his own
troops with baskets of gold and cash. They had sUITounded Balcha's army
and proceeded to purchase every last one of their weapons. Those who refused were easily intimidated. Within a few hours, Balcha's entire force had
been disarmed and scattered in all directions.
Realizing his danger, Balcha decided to march south with his 600 soldiers to regroup, but the same army that had disarmed his soldiers blocked
his way. The other way out was to march on the capital, but Selas sie had set
a large army to defend it. Like a chess player, he had predicted Balcha's
moves, and had checkrnated hirn. For the first time in his life, Balcha surrendered. To repent his sins of pride and ambition, he agreed to enter a

Throughout Selassie's long reign, no one could quite figure hirn out.
Ethiopians like their leaders fierce, but Selassie, who wore the front of a
gentle, peace-loving man, lasted longer than any of them. Never angry or
impatient, he lured his victims with sweet smiles, lulling them with charm
and obsequiousness before he attacked. In the case of Balcha, Selassie
played on the man's wariness, his suspicion that the banquet was a trap-­
which in fact it was, but not the one he expected. Selassie's way of allaying
Balcha's fears-letting him bring his bodyguard to the banquet, giving hirn
top billing there, making him feel in control--created a thick smoke screen,
concealing the real action three miles away.
Remember: The paranoid and wary are often the easiest to deceive. 

Win their trust in one area and you have a smoke screen that blinds their
view in another, letting you creep up and level them with a devastating
blow. A helpful or apparently honest ge sture, or one that implies the other
person's superiority-these are perfect diversionary devices.
Properly set up, the smoke screen is a weapon of great power. It enabled the gentle Selassie to totally destroy his enemy, without firing a single
Do not underestimate the power of Tafari. He creeps
like a mouse hut he has jaws like a lion.
B([ll'!t([ ur Sidaillu 's last wards bejiJre entering the rnanastery

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