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The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I - Volume 2



CHAPTER II

A PRESS CONFERENCE HELD AT BATH-THE BROADCAST WE MADE ON RADIO TO THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD-OUR CONVERSATION WITH THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY



More than the war, it was actually Fascist propaganda that subdued the conscience of Europeans. Designed to misinform the public, it alleged that Ethiopia had accepted the enemy's overlordship-an assertion which We consistently refuted. In the month of July of the same year [1936], We granted a press conference to Sylvia Pankhurst. We used the occasion to counter the allegation mentioned earlier and to explain the real situation in the country. To listeners and to all those who follow developments in Ethiopia, We reported the following:

If I had no trust in the League of Nations, but above all, if I was not faithful to my country, I would have found it expedient to accept whatever [Italy] offered me. I had no wish to betray the confidence entrusted to me by the Ethiopian people, nor did I want to jeopardize their well-being. I rejected whatever gifts, material benefits or political positions that were offered to me to enhance my personal well-being. My faith lies in the justness and power of the Almighty God.

I have had twenty years of experience with which to realize what it means to be a leader of a nation and commander of an army. On the basis of such knowledge and experience, the man I personally appointed to lead the country is Ras Imru. Now, at a time when I am not inside the country, I consider his presence in Ethiopia as my own presence I came [to Europe] with a mission... [which] has not yet been fulfilled. I have the duty to take back with me to Ethiopia something tangible. By returning to Ethiopia empty handed, and without the necessary assistance for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country, I would shatter the hopes and aspirations of my people.

Without arms and ammunition it is impossible to conduct a patriotic, or any other type, of war. A general or anybody who has been in a position of leadership should accept this as fact.

The difficulty that derived from being technically backward is [also] a problem to reckon with. In addition, the mountainous nature of the country's topography has created communication problems. Such a situation has made the availability of radio stations absolutely essential for the prosecution of the war.

* * *

Fascist propaganda misinformed and confused world opinion We, on Our part, therefore left no stone unturned and spared no effort from presenting Ethiopia's true position and wishes. On Pagume 3, 1928, i.e., on Tuesday, September 8, 1936, We made the following address to the international community from Our Legation in London:

It is evident that world public opinion has been in part duped by fascism's boastful claims [of] complete control over Ethiopia and that its followers and adherents [there] are continuously increasing. Anyone can see that there is nothing to the claim. It is baseless propaganda. On the basis of factual information that came from Ethiopia, it can be asserted that two-thirds of the country is outside [of] Italian military control. Even that part of the country that the Italian army occupies can only be defended by the air force and by the expanded use of... mustard gas...

In addition to destroying human life with its aerial bombing, Italy also distributes leaflets from the air, warning that mass death and destruction will follow... it claims that the Imperial Ethiopian government does not exist and presents me to the public as if I have abandoned my responsibilities and mission. By means of such sinister acts, it consistently strives to mislead and misinform the people.

As has been explained to the League of Nations, the provisional Ethiopian government functions [and], as is well known, controls western Ethiopia entirely. Even if the government faces numerous problems because of the lack of funds, it continues to operate under the leadership of Ras Imru and Bitwoded Wolde Tsadik and enjoys the support of many individuals. This fact has been affirmed. Our membership in the League of Nations and the relations We have with other countries are still maintained.

What Ethiopia seeks now is untrammeled justice as well as peace. On Our part, We continue to remind all those nations, which have an obligation to maintain Ethiopia's sovereignty, not to abandon their responsibility. Truth cannot be effaced or hidden. Those who try to conceal the sufferings being visited on my people by vicious and self-serving propaganda, should know that they will never win. When I appealed to the peoples of the world, I did so with firm faith and conviction, believing that they would translate their emotion of truth and justice into practice and help the Ethiopian people free itself from the yoke of the invader.

* * *

When We paid a courtesy call to the Archbishop of Canterbury, after exchanging greetings, We appealed to Him to use His good offices with the [British] government and help Us in every way he could. The following is what transpired.

The Archbishop: "I am sorry that I have not been able to do anything. Nevertheless, it is a great honor for me to receive Your Majesty. A while ago, I was looking at a photograph taken when you visited this country as Ras Tafari. Your present fate, compared to the hope we had then for Ethiopia, upsets us deeply. The faith we had in the Ras Tafari of those years, when considered in terms of the admirable things that Your Majesty achieved, reveals that our hope was not unjustified. Who knows, the hope we cherished in the past, may once again be rekindled...."

On Our part, we said: "If you continue to have the good will you had for Ras Tafari, you have it also for Emperor Haile Sellassie, and as you still have the photographs of Ras Tafari, permit me to send you Emperor Haile Sellassie's photograph as well."

His Grace replied: "That will, indeed, make me happy It will remind me of the times of hope I had. I would like to reiterate this to you once again. The good will I had for Ethiopians in the past has not changed I am totally convinced that the Italians attained victory by cruel and heinous methods."

We remarked: "Since Your Grace has raised the subject, let me say that it is precisely the purpose of my visit. The reason for leaving Our country and the crimes being committed daily against Our people even after Our exile, are not, I trust, unknown to you. We seek God's guidance in Our search for true justice... In this task, We beg you not to forget Us in your prayers."

He said: "Up to now I have not forgotten, and I will not forget in the future. But nevertheless, have you received documentary proof that attests to what the Italians are doing to the people?"

Our reply was: "We have plenty. But We cannot reveal the names of those who report to Us. We have given them Our word. We know that the Italians are out to exterminate Our race. We also know that they are fighting us through the use of poison gas. Your Grace has no representative in Ethiopia But nevertheless, all those governments that have representatives in Ethiopia can attest to that."

He said: "If you have such proof would it not be better to present it to the League of Nations?"

To which We responded: "We have not slackened in continuously presenting Our case to the League of Nations. But no one listens to Us. We have submitted to the League of Nations what Ras Imru reported to Us from Gore. God will not simply overlook the blood that has been shed."

Having said that, We also brought to [the archbishop's] attention the fact that even prisoners of war had not been spared by the Italians.

He said... "I intend to secure an appointment to see [Mr. Eden] in order to bring this situation to his attention. I will do so, not only because Your Majesty raised it with me, but also because it pricks my conscience. I am going to inform him of the Italian objective to exterminate your race and after having investigated the truth about the use of poison gas, I will suggest that he raise the matter with the Italian government's representative."

"After We had requested this audience with you," I said, "we heard that the Pope of Rome had declared [the war's] legitimacy and recognized the Italian occupation of Ethiopia. This has been reported by the press."

The reaction of the Archbishop was as follows: "With regard to the church in Rome, there is one thing that should not be forgotten, that is all power is in the hands of Signor Mussolini. The truth has eluded the Pope because of intense propaganda activities by the regime.

"I have also been thinking about the refugees. I know that the Abyssinian Refugee Fund has been established. I also know that this organization has been created with a view to identify and to help the truly needy refugees. Were there any who approached Your Majesty seeking advice and requesting that the organization function under your name?"

My reply was as follows: "There are people who approached Us and asked to name the organization after Us. Nevertheless, We have not seen anything tangible that they have done up to now. The condition of Our refugees continues to be a matter of deep concern to Us. I raised this problem earlier with Mr. Eden. He promised me that he would discuss it with the Colonial Office. Finally, I brought to his attention the fact that We received an unpleasant response from the Foreign Office."

The Archbishop asked: "Perhaps the Foreign Office is afraid that if the refugees live nearby the country that is now under Italian control, they will carry out agitational activities. However, and if necessary, could you not have promised that they would not conduct such activities?"

To this, I answered: "Even if they want to, since all the roads are blocked, they cannot do it. Let alone carry out agitational activities, they cannot even conduct normal correspondence with family members. We chose Kenya and Uganda [as havens for Ethiopian refugees] because their climates are similar to [Ethiopia's], If there are no places [for our people] in these countries, We would be highly gratified if they could be permitted to live in other British colonies."

The Archbishop wanted to know the type of work [the refugees] were engaged in previously. I informed him that they included high government officials, elderly people, farmers, soldiers, school children, who could eventually support themselves, and so on. Furthermore, I said, "We can provide you with more information in regard to this issue and that of the refugees. We could also send you the details of the reply We got from the Foreign Office. We request you to help Us identify the genuine organizations in which We might put Our trust."

He suggested: "Send me all the necessary documents. I will appeal to Mr. Eden that the Foreign Office look into the matter once again."

After this, We begged him not to forget Us through his prayers.

"It appears," he said, "that the wish of all the big powers is to see to it that Ethiopia's case is forgotten. On my part, while I have no political influence, I have the means of communicating with our officials. Hence, I will constantly remind them not to forget Your Majesty's case. So much injustice and evil have been irrefutably committed. Yet, the fact that it has not been possible to do something about it is a fact that will continue to pain me for the rest of my life."

By so saying, he expressed his deep regrets to Us.

I responded to him: "For the last 3,000 years Ethiopia has been struggling against paganism. Yet, it is a sad commentary that today it is denied its own freedom by another Christian people."

No sooner had I said this, than he said before We took leave, "This is a question which has deeply affected my conscience. I beg you not to rub salt into it."


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August 6, 2017