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The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I



CHAPTER 18

About Our journey from Paris to Rome



We left Paris on 9th Sane (= 16th June) and reached Rome on the 11th (= 18th June). The King of Italy, H.M. Victor Emmanuel, and the leader of the government, Signor Mussolini, with a guard of army officers, received Us with honour at the railway station, thus causing much pleasure. It was in the Quirinale, previously the Pope’s palace, in which His Majesty lived that accommodation had been prepared for Us; and We proceeded there.

When We appeared together with the King standing on the upper balcony to salute the people, all the crowd assembled in the square began shouting with one voice joyfully: ‘Long live Italy! Long live Ethiopia! Long live H.H. Crown Prince Tafari!' (When they think of this today, how extraordinary must this appear to them?!).

At the banquet H.M. the King of Italy delivered the following speech:

‘Your Highness!

It has given me great pleasure to welcome Your Highness to the city of Rome with sentiments of amity. Your arrival today recalls to me the visit, a long time ago, of your father, H.H. Ras Makonnen. It is my sincere wish that the government, which God by his desire has given in your hands, may continue to prosper.

Your Highness’ prudence has already done a great deal for the country’s prosperity and expansion. Your visit to Italy now will, I believe, progressively strengthen the friendship and mutual benefit between the two governments.

The deeds of kindness which you did for Italy during the Great War will never be forgotten. We on our part have greatly assisted Ethiopia to enter the League of Nations. Therefore the friendship which exists between the two governments will be of mutual benefit.’

He then concluded by saying: ‘I pray that God’s blessing may descend upon Ethiopia.' I then delivered the following speech:

‘Your Majesty!

Having come all the way from Ethiopia, my joy is abundant in seeing Your Majesty, your beautiful country, and your beloved people. I am indeed fortunate in coming to Rome to bind to­gether the ties of friendship between the two governments which were established a long time ago. I am very pleased about your recalling the name of my father, H.H. Ras Makonnen. All the people who heard my father tell of the glorious welcome given to him when he came to Italy during the reign of King Umberto, your father, were greatly impressed. And now that I have arrived here I am very pleased about the marvellous reception which Your Majesty has extended to me. Henceforth it is my entire intention to have our affection strengthened and our friendship extended, and I believe that Your Majesty’s intention is likewise.’

We Ethiopians consider the speech of the king of a great country to be like a pledge given under oath, and the words spoken by H.M. the King of Italy (as cited here above) seemed to Us to augur a stable peace and amity between the two govern­ments; and it did not appear to Us a matter of deceit.

On 12th Sane (= 19th June) We paid a visit to the leader of the government, Signor Mussolini, having requested an appointment to discuss, in a friendly manner, a number of matters. The subject which We planned to discuss was concerned with the amicable granting to Ethiopia of a gateway to the northern parts of the country from the port of Assab which had originally been under Ethiopian rule and was now an Italian colony.

After we had met at the appointed hour, I said to him that it would give Us pleasure if he were willing to discuss the amicable cession to us by the Italian government of a part of the port of Assab as a free zone.

After Signor Mussolini had listened attentively to this request, he said that he was willing to discuss the matter and that, after conversations with the Director of Political Affairs, Contarini, the latter would let me know the answer. Contarini having been summoned immediately, we were introduced to each other.

After We had had meetings and lengthy discussions with him (Contarini), he told me that he would report to Signor Mussolini everything that we had spoken about and that the reply would reach me tomorrow by the hands of Conte Colli; we then parted.

On the morrow, Conte Colli, the Italian Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in Ethiopia, came and submitted to Us a draft treaty, explaining that this was his government’s proposal concerning my request as regards the port of Assab. The following is the text of the draft treaty:

First: Since it is the determined wish of the Italian Government to strengthen progressively the ties of friendship that exist between the Italian and Ethiopian governments, and for the financial and political benefit and prosperity of Ethiopia, the Italian Government consigns to the Ethiopian Government, for a period of 99 years, an access point to the sea at Assab and a place suitable for a railway from the sea up to the Ethiopian frontier, as well as all the localities and houses which are the property of the Italian Government and are situated within the town which hitherto had been in the hands of the Italian Government. Until the period of this treaty expires, the Ethiopian Government has full sovereignty over the access point to the sea at Assab and over the road to the frontier which it has received from the Italian Government.

Second: Experts whom the Italian and Ethiopian governments will choose are to determine the boundaries in the surroundings of the sea-port of Assab, including the houses that have been built, and the ground required for the construction of the railway from the access point at Assab up to the Ethiopian frontier; and they shall determine the boundary, in situ, having regard to what is needed for access to the sea and for the trade of Assab.

Third: The Ethiopian Government, being very desirous to strengthen progressively the ties of friendship which exist between Italy and Ethiopia, will not give economic or political benefit to the citizens of any other government—except to Italian citizens— in the seaport and localities mentioned, as has been agreed in the treaty. All things being equal, precedence shall be accorded to Italian citizens. But the Ethiopian Government, if it wishes to employ people in the area, can do what it likes.

Fourth: If the Italian Government requires a place at which to deposit goods at the gateway to the sea at Assab, the Ethiopian Government will let it have a demarcated area.

Fifth: When Italian merchants cause merchandise to pass through the Assab free zone they shall pay customs duty at the same rate at which Ethiopian merchants have to pay.

Sixth: The Ethiopian Government shall assign the construction of the free maritime zone and of the railway from Assab to the Ethiopian frontier to Ethiopian and Italian companies. When these companies are established, the Ethiopians shall pay two parts of the money, and the Italians one part. But if the Ethiopians are unable to raise two thirds of the money, then the two parties alone, without bringing in any foreigners, may form a company and pay the money half and half.

Seventh: If the Ethiopian Government in future concludes a maritime access treaty with another government, and if it finds a location or part thereof that is a free zone at whatever other maritime access point, and if it obtains there genuine advantages, then the Italian Government agrees, by redrawing this maritime access treaty, to extend the advantages for Ethiopia.

Assuming the Ethiopian Government concludes a maritime access treaty with another government and if that other govern­ment obtains advantages by the treaty, then the Italian Govern­ment may well derive benefit from redrawing this maritime access treaty.

Eighth: With regard to the entire question of frontier treaties previously concluded by the Ethiopian and Italian governments, the two parties agree that border problems be finally settled as soon as experts have been selected from both sides. Furthermore, the Ethiopian Government undertakes to assist to the utmost extent possible those Italian companies who had accepted the previous treaty obligations as regards agriculture, commerce, public works, and minerals, lest they should encounter difficulties.

Ninth: As regards the waters of the Juba and Webi Shebeli rivers, the Ethiopian Government enters into a contractual agreement not to shut off completely those waters preventing them from flowing to Italian Somaliland by offering their benefit to foreign interests—notwithstanding anything required for Ethiopia’s own benefit.

Tenth: The Italian Government enters into treaty obligations not to demand any money from the Ethiopian Government for granting it a maritime access point at Assab and adequate ground for the construction of a railway to the Ethiopian frontier— together with all the houses and ground at Assab.

After We had studied this draft treaty, We became convinced of the need to inform the Council upon Our return to Addis Ababa; We therefore told Conte Colli to inform Signor Mussolini of this Our intention. But for a variety of reasons the draft treaty never came into force.

On 14th Sane (= 21st June) We had been given an appoint­ment to visit the Pope of Rome, Pius XI, and at the appointed hour We met at the Vatican Palace. The Pope spoke expressing his pleasure at the fact that Catholic missions were now residing in Ethiopia in peace and security and that religious freedom was now permitted in Ethiopia, contrary to earlier practice. When we came to take leave of each other, he pronounced a prayer: ‘May God bless the land of Ethiopia, its kings and its people.'

When We emerged from there, We entered the church of St. Peter and paid homage at the sepulchre; after We had seen the beauty of the church, We went to inspect the near-by monastery of St. Stephen which had been given to the Ethiopian monks. From the earliest times Ethiopian monks possessed a strong desire to see and to pay homage at Our Lord’s sepulchre at Golgotha and the sepulchre of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome; but when they came to Rome from Ethiopia, they had difficulty in finding lodgings, and it is said that when the Pope who reigned in 1464 saw their plight he gave them this monastery saying: ‘This monastery of St. Stephen shall be a resting place for Ethiopian monks.'

As We toured every corner of the church in this monastery, We saw the hewn stones on which the names of the seven Ethiopian monks had been incised. When We were seated in one of the rooms in the monastery, the seven Ethiopians who had come here to study approached and expressed their joy to Us by referring to the antiquity of Ethiopia and the strength of her kings and by rendering thanks to Us.

The following are some of the recollections that have remained in Our heart of what We saw at Rome and in the provinces during Our stay there: the Quirinale Palace, the mausoleum of the kings, the motor-cycle races, the Rome Municipality, the Vatican and the church of St. Peter, the convent of St. Stephen where Ethiopian boys are studying, the church of St. Paul and St. John, the church of Our Lady Mary and of Jesus, the palace of the ancient Caesars, the theatre in which the ancient Caesars made Christians fight with wild beasts and slaves fight each other, the Victor Emmanuel II Monument, the military parade at Centocelle, the Rome museums, the cannon-firing at Bracciano, the military hospital called Celio, the ships at Spezia, the city of Turin, the Fiat car factory, and the royal mausoleum at Turin.

When the days of the official visit were over, We thanked H.M. King Victor Emmanuel for the friendly reception he had arranged for Us, took Our leave, and returned to Paris on 25th Sane (= 2nd July).


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November 19, 2016