Selected Speeches Of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I
SECOND AFRICA CONFERENCE
In 1958, at the inaugural Session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa here in Addis Ababa, We took great pleasure in welcoming the many distinguished delegates, the majority of whom rightly represented African States. Meeting as We do today, at a moment of crisis in the relations of the Great Powers of the world, We have special reason to extend on behalf of Ourselves and Our beloved people, to all of you distinguished delegates, Our warmest greetings at this Conference of the African States.
The breakdown of the Summit Conference is certainly a matter of great concern to all of us; for Africans, like the rest of humanity, are anxious to have the danger of nuclear and thermonuclear war removed from the world. Peace is indivisible and is essential to prosperity and orderly progress towards a higher standard of living on our continent. It is, therefore, Our sincere wish that efforts will continue so as to bring about a negotiated settlement in disarmament and other matters that are a source of danger to world peace. When, in the discussion of such matters, the peace, indeed, survival of the numerous small as well as the few large nations, is at stake, it is important that the many small Powers should be heard and afforded equal opportunity for consultation and deliberation.
At the First Session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, We noted that the political growth of the peoples of Africa was a development of the most striking and extraordinary evolution in the recorded history of man. The continuation of that struggle in the ensuing months has won achievements beyond expectation in the rapid emergence of a large number of new States and in the advances achieved by African peoples towards independence. Such accomplishments stand as a vivid testimony to that development and, indeed, to the wholesome vitality of the peoples of this great continent. We would be faithless to the will of the Almighty who has offered us the possibility of unity, were we to allow this ideal to become a mere dream.
Today we take great pleasure in welcoming the Congo, Cameroons, Togoland, Nigeria and Somalia to full participation in our deliberations. It is our conviction, as We noted before, that the political growth of the African peoples will not reach its culmination until the ultimate goal, which is independence and complete freedom for every African people.
This impressive and inexorable advance towards the complete emancipation of our continent has not been without obstacles. The bloodshed and sufferings that we have witnessed during the past year in various parts of this continent are too vivid in our memory to require recital of the facts; they are tragic and we must see to it that they will not recur. We must devise ways and means to arrest the senseless destruction of African lives. Africans have committed no sin, unless the pursuit of independence and freedom from colonial oppression is considered to be one. Therefore, it is our duty to see that that yearning attain its goal by giving it appropriate expression in our decisions here at the Conference. To this end, we must resolutely unite as fearless and determined advocates for our South African brothers. It was with the consciousness of this duty in mind towards our brothers that We granted financial assistance and scholarships to the orphans of those who fell as victims in South Africa. The task that remains to be accomplished in the political field is certainly a considerable one, but We trust that, united in our determination to see the complete independence of every African people, we shall succeed in our endeavours.
However, this achievement cannot redound to the credit of African peoples if independence attained is one in name only. In such a situation, the emergence from colonialism is but illusory, and the use of the word “independence” would constitute not only a distortion, but also a disservice to the cause of African freedom by erecting a screen behind which those same foreign influences which hitherto were revealed to the world as colonialist interests, could, in disguise, continue to operate.
In other words, those who seek independence, must be prepared to struggle for it rather than accept it; and, having won it, to stand on their own feet without dependence, and without favours. They must be prepared to assert their ability to maintain independence without exchanging it for financial support or for subsidies.
Independence cannot be a simple word devoid of meaning; it must remain a principle admitting of no compromise or suspicion, a principle demanding respect for self and at the same time equal respect for the rights of others.
Hence, while we co-operate fully with all States and International Organizations, we must be most careful lest we accept formulae that perpetuate colonial regimes or sow the seeds of divisions among our countries by spurious methods, all-too-reminiscent of its ideal of the days of colonial eras.
The strongest foundation of our independence is the development of our economic resources. It is heartening to note that all our peoples are devoted to this central idea and that the leaders of our continent—fulfilling the wish of their peoples—are directing their energies to this accomplishment. Our continent is rich and the efforts devoted to it so far, demonstrate that our lot can be abundance in material prosperity.
This ideal can be made to come to fruition more rapidly by closer collaboration among ourselves. Therefore, we must make bold decisions for intra-African co-operation. We must link our roads; we must connect and associate our airlines and indeed think in terms of merging our international services. We would, in fact, propose the establishment, through subscription of share participation, of an African Development Bank for promoting the expansion of our trade, commerce, communications and international services; we must exchange agricultural and technical information, we must, in all fields of human endeavour, attain highly developed relations. If we achieve these ends, then our dependence on foreign markets with all their adverse effects, can be relieved and our freedom immeasurably strengthened, without in any manner becoming isolationists or following narrow nationalistic economic policies.
Already since five years ago, the Afro-Asian Conference at Bandung, had urged the adoption of these basic principles. It is time that a second and similar Conference should be convened again to press forward these broad and fructifying economic policies.
Socially and culturally, we must develop those natural bonds of our peoples to each other that have been stretched and weakened through the fragmentation of our continent by the colonial practices of divide and rule. Even today tribal and other differences, vestiges of that regrettable era, are being exploited for the same deplorable ends. We must see to it that the history of each of our peoples is known to the others and appreciated throughout the continent. Our independence and freedom are meaningless unless they are tied to the hearts of our peoples. To that end, we must spare no effort to expand our scholarship and other cultural exchanges with a view to sharing the historical heritage of our continent.
These are some of the problems that need our dedicated endeavours. Each specific problem and the general wellbeing of our peoples require unity of thought and action. Be it here at the Conference of Independent African States, at the United Nations, or at any international forum, our unity is truly our strength. We must give support to the struggle of the peoples of our continent by giving prompt expression to unity in our common cause.
In the past, due to the subjugation of our lands and peoples by colonial Powers, such a conference of our own was not possible. Today, it is not only possible to meet, but also to evolve united action in all matters of common interest by the process of consultation such as the present one.
The fate of our continent is no longer decided by non-Africans. The traditions of Berlin and Algeciras, the entire system of colonialism are being wiped out from the continent. We now have our destiny in our own hands, but we must never slacken in our determination never to allow new forms of colonialism, whatever their guise may be, to take hold of any of us, in threat to the hard-won independence and, indeed to the stability and peace of the world. African leaders must, in self-abnegation, press forward the economic, political and spiritual welfare of their peoples in the interest, not merely of national gain but of that transcendent continental unity which alone can bring to a close the era of colonialism and Balkanization.
The development of this process of consultation to its highest refinement is, therefore, in our own interests. It will not only bring governments to closer collaboration and understanding of each other, but it will also be a concrete evidence of our determination to direct our thinking to the common affairs of our continent. Consequently the decisions and deliberations of this Conference are of the highest importance, not only to our continent, but also to the world at large.
We pray, therefore, that the deliberations and decisions of this Conference may not only stand the test of time and serve as an inspiration to the peoples of the continent, but that they may also enable us to attain, by common effort a peaceful, free and abundant life on our continent.
June 15, 1960.
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February 8, 2017