The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I
The decision, on advice, to go abroad
On Thursday, 22nd Miyazya (= 30th April), after We had re-entered Our capital city, Addis Ababa, the ministers and nobles and all the great men assembled in Our palace, and an important council was held. At the council it was decided, on the basis of advice proffered, that it would be well for the Emperor to go to Europe and to inform the League of Nations, by his own voice, of all the violence Italy had perpetrated against us. Hence it was only necessary for Us to choose one of two courses of action and to take a decision.
The first was to cease fighting and to go to Geneva to alert the League of Nations, as had been resolved by the council; the second was to go on fighting with the few soldiers available in the city, irrespective of the death of the aged and of women and children or indeed of the burning of the capital.
While We were still pondering this difficult thought, the news that reached Us hourly was to the effect that the Italians were to set the city on fire with bombs, taking the Emperor’s re-entry into Addis Ababa as a pretext.
Furthermore, lest We should fail to believe that the Italians would destroy the city of Addis Ababa with bombs, it ought to be mentioned that We had heard that they had hit with bombs the town of Harar, in which there was no army and no defence equipment, and that they had caused much damage to Mons. Andreas Jarosseau who lived greatly honoured within the walled city.
As it was in this city of Harar that We had spent most of Our time since Our childhood, the fact of its being hit by bombs and set on fire saddened Our heart very specially. Hence We were convinced that there was nothing at all that would prevent an enemy who had set the city of Harar on fire doing the same to Addis Ababa. Moreover, meaning to make quite sure about this, they had dropped from aeroplanes printed pronouncements, together with black flags, that they would destroy the city. In particular, when We were contemplating fighting at Addis Ababa, there appeared, depicted before Our eyes, Our soldiers on the northern front, numbering many thousands, who were grievously injured and were dying, burnt by poison gas on the mountains and in the plains; and in addition there was the suffering of the country people, women and children, who had perished being burnt with poison gas; it was thus an extremely hard thing for Us to decide whether on Our account an attack of similarly grievous affliction would be made on Addis Ababa. The men who attended the council loved their country and were loyal to Us and thus spoke to Us as follows: ‘We now know that we are unable to win fighting with the Italians either at Addis Ababa or outside. For what purpose do we exterminate our peaceful people and have its capital burnt by bombs? Hence, as previously planned, let the government move to Gore and let Bitwaddad Walda Tsadeq stay there acting as Regent. But it would be better if the Emperor, accompanied by the necessary assistants, presented his appeal.’ Since they had resolved thus, We accepted their advice.
We subsequently issued orders that Bitwaddad Walda Tsadeq should conduct all government business from Gore. We also gave instructions that the Kantiba, in command of the municipal guards, should have security safeguarded; and when the Italians reached the outskirts of Addis Ababa, he was to receive them peacefully with the customary white flag.
Afterwards We boarded the train and went down to Dire Dawa during the night of Friday to Saturday. When We reached Dire Dawa in the evening of Saturday, 24th Miyazya (= 2nd May), We heard that panic had broken out at Addis Ababa, that many people had died, that much property had been looted, and that many houses had been set on fire.
As to the cause of the rioting that had occurred, We learnt from the newspapers, after passing through Jibuti, that the Italians had spread the exceedingly shameful and despicable falsehood that it was the departing Emperor who had given instructions that the city be set on fire and property be looted. While We were thinking only of preventing the death at the hands of the enemy of those who were Our people, how could We contemplate that by Our own advice they should exterminate and plunder each other? Furthermore, if We had had such a thought, how could We have gone away leaving to the Italians the new palace which We had built at great expense without setting it on fire?
When We set out on this Our journey, We took down Ras Haylu as far as Dire Dawa; he had been found guilty and was under arrest ever since he had attempted, earlier on in 1924 (= 1932), to create unrest in Ethiopia by deceitfully conspiring with the enemy who had now come to destroy our independence; evidence had been given against him and he was condemned to imprisonment for life. Although he deserved to die for betraying Ethiopia, his country, We released him and set him free, thinking that God should mete out to him what was due for his betrayal.
He himself had confessed all the wrongdoing he had committed in the past and had given his word on oath to safeguard Ethiopia’s freedom working for it in future to the utmost extent possible; he then returned to Addis Ababa. We set out from Dire Dawa by train and reached Jibuti on Sunday, 25th Miyazya (= 3rd May), at 4.30 in the morning (= 10.30 a.m.). We shall never forget the welcome of friendship which the governor of the colony, other French government authorities, and the whole population accorded to Us. It was at Government House that preparations for resting had been made for Us, and We went there together with Our family.
When at this hour filled with sorrow We saw the friendly reception given to Us, without anything missing, exactly as on several previous occasions when We had gone down to Jibuti, We can only say that Our heart was greatly encouraged.
Electronic edition created and published online by members of the
June 10, 2017