7

According to Kapuściński's informant W.A.-N., in the former's book about Haile Selassie, The Emperor:

It is true that some excesses were committed. For instance, a great Palace was constructed in the heart of the Ogaden Desert and maintained for years, fully staffed with servants and its pantry kept full, and His Indefatigable Majesty spent only one day there. But what if His Distinguished Majesty's itinerary were such that at some point he had to spend a night in the heart of the Desert? Wouldn't the Palace then prove itself indispensable? Unfortunately, our unenlightened people will never understand the Higher Reason that governs the actions of monarchs.

The Ogaden seems an unlikely spot for decadence. I did a little searching without finding another reference to this palace. Where and when was it built, and is any photograph available?

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    I've googled this one out. Like you, I can't find anything at all other than the passage being cited almost verbatim in a John Updike book. Curious...good question. – Lars Bosteen Nov 3 at 6:49
  • To me these two look like an "atypical compound" for that area: 5°56'06.47" N 43°32'42.74" E & 5°55'08.08" N 43°33'51.49" E What would you say? – LаngLаngС Nov 3 at 16:01
  • Hmm, I hadn't thought to look for it until I saw those coordinates. Check out the giant lot of the "Shebelle Guest House", on the river side of the old part of town. The main structure is rotated 45 degrees and looks out over a major intersection towards the city center. – Aaron Brick Nov 4 at 18:27
  • It seems that the occupant at the time of von Rosen's death is still alive in Sweden. Since it was later used aa as a cotton farm, the fields nearby the lot directly SW of the runway are my best guess now. I'd think it more near the river than in downtown Gode? – LаngLаngС Nov 5 at 11:23
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    Looks like the business archive of the contractor that built this thing is now located at naringslivshistoria.se But using their services seems a bit costly. Anyone reading this and coming by in Stockholm also at sok.riksarkivet.se may have another shot at this? – LаngLаngС Nov 6 at 17:44
6

It was probably the one in Gode. More properly called a villa than a palace. But the locals referred to it as "palace" as it was still the biggest building for hundreds of kilometers around. Although some even did called that building Selassie's "Winter palace".

On 13 July 1977 Carl Gustaf von Rosen died in this 'palace' when the WSLF under Abdullahi attacked the city:

In Gode, the capital of a district of about 70,000 people, there is still a villa of the emperor Haue Selassie, reverently called palace by the population, because the emperor's house is the only modern residential building within a radius of hundreds of kilometres. The fate of the Swedish warhorse Count von Rosen, who once made a name for himself with his Biafra flights, was also completed here.

Von Rosen and an Ethiopian delegation spent the evening of 13 July in the Kaiser Villa. It was the day on which the Liberation Front launched the general attack on Gode.

"One detachment," said WSLF commander Abdullahi, "also attacked the palace." Von Rosen stayed in a room on the ground floor and fired from the window. "He was very brave," Abdullahi said, "but of course he did not succeed in taking the life of a Somali. But we were unfortunately forced to kill him."

–– „Kapitalismo ha-dhao“, Der Spiegel, 29.08.1977

Or

According to Shimelis, he was killed by an attack from Somali fighters who broke into the imperial palace in Gode, Ethiopia in 1977 along with an Ethiopian Somali official.

As we can see the expenses there were indeed substantial for an otherwise neglected backwater province, only slightly more expensive than the local school and half of what a hospital took:

enter image description here
–– United States. Joint Publications Research Service: Translations on Sub-Saharan Africa, Issues 564-585, 1967. (p 10)

As such, the more typical dwellings in that region looked apparently more like this:

enter image description here
–– "Somali region facing food and water crisis", The New Humanitarian, 2006

It seems doubtful that "in the desert" should mean "one single building and nothing but rocks and sand around". This Gode villa/palace would qualify for "in the desert" as Gode not only still small but it also remote and destitute:

Unfortunately, fertiliser is twice as expensive in Gode as in the capital, Addis Ababa. So is the fuel needed to pump water out of the river. The reason is that Gode is in the middle of nowhere and has no tarred roads. Its remoteness also depresses the price its people can get for their surplus crops in good years: they cannot afford to truck their produce to city markets.
–– "Will they ever have enough food?", Reuters/Economist, 2001.

Some tiny and quite peripheral information describing the palace might also be found in von Rosen's biography:

Not really in the town of Gode itself, but some distance away. Built by Swedish Skanska in 1966, having thick walls, a veranda, at the time of the attack occupied by the local administrator Bellete Ergetie.
–– Heli von Rosen: "Carl Gustaf von Rosen: An Airborne Knight-errant", Books on Demand, 2017 (p319–320)

It looks as if the settlement is quite a young one regarding 'proper city' features:

Gode was established in 1965 by Emperor Haile Selassie, who ordered construction of military base, well, mosque and church and laid a runway in this easternmost strip of Ethiopia.
–– Michal Przedlacki: "Story of Gode, artwork", 2010.

It stands to reason that Selassie was present when "Gode Airport" was inaugurated 10 June 1966 and that he stayed overnight.

A slightly more exact location is implied in a retelling of the attack on Gode:

The Somali troops fired relentlessly at the military headquarters and the air force on their way to the palace. They killed all on their way to the ultimate goal: to capture Gode, conquer the palace and kill Adam. (Adam is the nickname of the then local governor Bellete Ergetie, LLC)
–– Barbro Ergetie: "Imperial Ethiopian Air Force – IEAF – In Memoriam", Tenaestelin, Medlemsblad För Svensk-Etiopiska Föreningen, Årgång 47 Nr 2 Oktober 2006, p 28. (PDF)

Another newspaper report:

enter image description here Stockholm (TT) Swedish flight captain Carl Gustaf von Rosen has died in Ethiopia. According to a message to the Swedish Foreign Ministry, von Rosen was killed during a guerrilla attack near the city of Gode in southeastern Ethiopia on Wednesday. Von Rosen had flown to Gode with a Swedish-registered Cessna belonging to the Swedish Journal's Ulandshjelp along with some officials from an Ethiopian relief organisation. They would meet with local administrators on a nomad resettlement project on the Wabe Shebelle River northwest of Gode.

Attack on housing.

During the attack, which seems to have concentrated on the local administrator's residence, where the group spent the night, several people were killed. In addition, several people were injured, some deadly. Among the dead are the Chief Administrator of Harari Province. The local administrator of Gode, Bellete Ergetie, reportedly survived and is unharmed. He is married to a Swedish.

–– "kläder till södra Afrika/ von Rosen död i Etiopien", Bygdeband – lokalhistoria pâ webben

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    This looks like it. Nice job! – Lars Bosteen Nov 3 at 23:10
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    Cheers, nice work! Extra interesting to learn that an oil company paid for the "palace" and the rest of the public buildings in town, and about the battle that happened there. – Aaron Brick Nov 4 at 18:18
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    I'm curious as to why this answer has been downvoted. Downvotes on properly sourced answers undermine this site. I know this isn't my answer, but it still annoys me to see this kind of unexplained downvoting. – Lars Bosteen Nov 5 at 1:41
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    Fascinating stuff. NB, Harari != Harare. – Aaron Brick Nov 5 at 15:17

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