Selected Speeches Of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I
TO THE LAGOS SUMMIT MEETING
It is a great pleasure for Us to be here today and to address this Conference, the holding of which is a most satisfying and significant event for Africa. Of the twenty-eight African States which, in 1962, stand proudly independent, sovereign nations, the great majority are represented here by their Heads of State. This assembly is further enriched by the presence of observers from a number of other African territories, several of which will attain their freedom in the near future. To all of them, states and territories alike, and to all Africans, We extend Our greetings.
At the same time, We must express Our regret that representatives of the Algerian Provisional Government are not numbered in our midst, and that their absence has caused a number of other nations whose representatives should be seated in these halls to decline invitations extended to them. At the Belgrade Conference of Non-Aligned States, We deplored the absence of certain African States which Ethiopia felt should be among those present. Today, again, We cannot help feeling that our tasks are made more difficult because several African nations are unrepresented in these halls. But however strongly We may feel on this issue, We feel even more strongly that no African can escape the circumstances which have brought us together in Lagos or evade his solemn duty to work with his fellow-Africans for the cause of this great continent, and We pledge Ourself to labour unstintingly in the discharge of this obligation during the days ahead.
We wish to thank the sponsors of this Conference, the Government of the Federation of Nigeria, a young nation itself only recently emerged from the shadow of colonial rule which has already, by virtue of its manifest human and material resources as well as the maturity and judgment demonstrated by those who direct its government, taken its place among the leaders of Africa. We personally are deeply grateful to the gracious people of Lagos who have touched Our heart with the spontaneous and warm welcome which they have extended to Us.
We meet today at the Summit Conference of Africa. Never before have so many Heads of African States assembled in one spot to consider together common problems. Let us demonstrate to those who watch us that in Lagos, in January of 1962, we meet at the right time and place and on the right subject. We should all welcome this event; we should seek to employ it to the maximum for our own good and for the good of all mankind. It is vital to the future of the world and to the growth of understanding and sympathy among men of good will that contacts at all levels of the political structure be maintained, that world leaders meet face to face, that those who carry the heavy burden of leading their peoples in the path of progress and enlightenment leave no avenue unexplored in the discharge of their God-given duties. This is the challenge which we, as responsible African statesmen, face today.
We Africans are still in the process of becoming acquainted with one another. Only three short years ago, there was no opportunity for more than a handful of African leaders to come together, to exchange views, to explore common problems and to seek accomodations and solutions to them. The destinies of the vast majority of Africans then were still shaped and controlled by others. But freedom has come to this continent, and with it an ever-increasing influence for the free African nations. African States are playing an ever larger role in international affairs. Our presence in the United Nations has placed our views and problems squarely before world observers. Our future is in our own hands and we are meeting here now to consider what that future is to be.
Certain developments have occurred in Africa since the irresistible tide of independence swept over this continent which upon superficial examination, have been the cause of concern for the future. We are told that Africa has been split into competing groups, thus inhibiting cooperation among the African States and severely retarding African progress. One hears of the Casablanca Group and the Monrovia Group, of the Conakry and Dakar Declarations, and we are warned that the views and policies of these so-called groups are so antithetical as to make it impossible for them to work together as partners in an enterprise to which all are mutually devoted.
But do such hard and fast groupings really exist? And if certain nations sharing similar views have taken measures to co-ordinate their policies, does this mean that, between these nations and others, there is no possibility of free and mutually beneficial co-operation? Is Africa really fragmented, and has independence been achieved on this great continent only to see the African nations themselves transform differences into divisions? And are such divisions as already exist, imposed upon us by history and circumstance, to be widened and deepened by our own efforts?
Let Us say, first of all, that Ethiopia considers herself a member of one group only—the African group. We will join in any deliberations, we will consider any plan, we will debate any proposal anywhere, and at any time, provided that it contributes to the maintenance of world peace, the development of Africa’s human and material resources, and the protection of this continent’s legitimate interests. When we Africans have been misled into pigeonholing one another, into attributing rigid and inflexible views to states which were present at one conference but not at another, then we shall, without reason or justification, have limited our own freedom of action and rendered immeasurably more difficult the task of joint efforts, in harmony and brotherhood, in the common cause of Africa.
Let Us say, further, that We do not regard the absence of nations from the so-called Casablanca Group as evidence of any fundamental and irreparable rift between them and the twenty-two nations gathered in these halls. We have already stated that We regret their absence, but We are persuaded that they would agree with much, if not all, of what we shall say here, and that they will join in spirit and in future co-operate with the decisions we shall take during this Conference.
We contend, accordingly, that no wide and unbridgeable gulf exists between the various groupings which have been created. It is Our belief, to the contrary, that a close and careful analysis of the policies adopted by the African nations today on a wide range of questions emphasizes, not the differences among them, but the large number of views which they share in common. When laid side by side, the Conakry and Dakar resolutions resemble one another in many more respects than they differ. They reveal a fundamental agreement of principle upon certain basic economic measures to be taken in specific fields. The importance of improving rail, road and air communications, of stimulating commerce, of eliminating customs and trade barriers, of emphasizing and co-ordinating development planning and economic research—these are common objectives espoused by all. We Ourself are pleased that agreement in principle has been reached on the establishment of an African Development Bank, a step which We urged in Our address to the Conference of Independent African States in Addis Ababa in June of 1960.
We have already attained, then, a remarkable coincidence of thinking and planning in the highly important economic sphere. This is in itself a major achievement. It would be remarkable indeed did twenty-eight nations, in their policies and programmes, reveal no divergences of opinion. We may take satisfaction and encouragement from the fact that such a large measure of identity of approach and attitude already exists.
We urge that this Conference use this as its starting point, that we emphasize and lay stress on the areas of similarity and agreement rather than upon whatever disagreements and differences may exist among us. It is a sound tactic of military strategy to attack where your opponent’s defence is weakest. It is surely sound strategy for all of us to move ahead where such movement is unobstructed and unimpeded.
It had been Our intention to propose that the decisions taken at both Conakry and Dakar, insofar as they involve the technical aspects of economic planning and co-ordination, be referred to a committee of specialists representing all African opinion to review them and report to the forthcoming Conference of Independent African States convening in three months in Tunisia. As we are all only too aware, the nations most vitally concerned in the Conakry decisions are unrepresented here. Nonetheless, We ask that this same step be taken, and that the States not present here today be asked and urged, in the name of Africa and African unity, to send members to participate in the work of this committee.
We would suggest that this same committee simultaneously study the implications and effects which the European Common Market will have on the economies of the African States and on our efforts to work out a co-ordinated programme of African economic development, and recommend measures designed to minimize the adverse effects of this impact. The European Common Market constitutes both a great challenge and a grave danger to Africa. We have witnessed the remarkable achievements which the abolition of customs barriers and the co-ordination of economic development have brought to pass in Western Europe, and we are encouraged to press for the taking of similar steps on our own continent. At the same time, we cannot ignore the dangers inherent in the further strengthening of an already gigantic economic unit which looms to the north and casts an ever longer shadow in our direction.
Turning from the economic to the political field, we find, again, large areas of agreement, although there are basic differences in approach which require careful consideration. We must recognize at the outset that certain political problems have been created by the rapidity with which African States have achieved their independence. We do not for a moment suggest that independence came too quickly or was too easily won; no one here would turn back the clock to the day when he was other than a free man. But there are some hard facts which cannot be ignored.
Today, on the African continent, there are twenty-eight independent nations, with the possibility of many more being added in the not-too-distant future. The population of these nations ranges from upward of 35 million for the Federation of Nigeria to fewer than 1 million in the case of several of the smallest States. The economic potential of some African nations promises future growth and development into richness and plenty; other States find themselves in financial difficulties, and budgetary subsidies from one source or another will be required for many years to maintain their economic existence. We must never forget that the boundaries of many African nations were arbitrarily created by the colonialist powers at the time of the scramble for Africa; nonetheless, all African nations are pledged to respect them and to support the territorial integrity of the existing African nations. During the period of colonialist rule, contact among Africans was stifled, such barriers to intercourse and communication as already existed were perpetuated and new barriers were erected where none had earlier been found.
We must, then, face the fact that history has bequeathed to Africa a host of problems. While not of our own making, we cannot, by pretending that they do not exist, wish them away. The dangers which they constitute should be apparent to all, and it requires no great measure of astuteness or wisdom to recognize that, unless we act, the defects to which, willy-nilly, we have fallen heir will be exploited to our detriment. We have seen in the Congo the tragic consequences which follow when, within the confines of a single State, men who have been deprived of the concept of “nation”, whose horizons have been limited to the confines of their family relationships, are stirred up one against the other. Exploitation is indeed possible, and influences abound which will not hesitate to divide us, to pit us one against the other and to stir up disharmony and suspicion where only brotherhood and confidence should be found.
To escape exploitation, and to overcome the political deficiencies which beset us, Ethiopia urges that while we press ahead with all urgency and speed in those economic areas in which rapid advances can be achieved, parallel steps should simultaneously be taken to explore the possibilities of achieving increasing future political unity among African States—indeed, We believe that we all are, and that we differ only in our assessment of the speed with which this most desirable goal can be attained. The task now is to devise the means whereby this basic agreement may be most rapidly advanced.
One step has already been proposed which We feel can contribute largely to this goal. At the 16th Session of the United Nations General Assembly which convened in New York last September, Our Delegation called for the creation, under Article 52 of the United Nations Charter, of an Organization of African States. Implementation of this proposal can pave the way for an expanded degree of political co-operation in Africa, and, as events and circumstances so permit, of increasing future political unity as well. This Organization should have a permanent structure and secretariat, with specialized permanent institutions charged with continuing study of particular problem areas of vital concern to Africans. In this form, it would serve as an institutional clearing-house wherein Africans might consider a vast variety of political and economic problems, and, in particular, the furtherance of the concept of African political unity.
This step, in Our view, would bridge whatever chasm may now exist in Africa. This Organization would enable Africans to speak with a single, collective voice and would thereby maximize the contribution of the free nations of this continent to the solution of the problems of our time. There already exists, in the Conference of Independent African States, the bare bones of the institution which We envisage, although organized on a loose and impermanent basis. Let us employ this already-existing nucleus, let us perfect it and render it permanent.
Ethiopia retains an open mind as to the precise form which the structure of such an organization should take. Precedents exist in the Arab League, in the Organization of American States and in other regional institutions. However, we are not bound slavishly to adhere to precedent nor blindly to adopt any particular formula. We only urge, and We trust that this suggestion will receive the unanimous support of all States represented here, that a Special Committee be created to elaborate specific proposals looking to the speedy creation of an Organization of African States. This Committee should conclude its work and report to the forthcoming meeting of the Conference of Independent African States in Tunisia.
The Cold War
The furtherance of political unity, then, would be a fundamental objective of the Organization of African States. We should not, however, ignore a second and equally important aspect of its establishment. Africa has come of age. With this independence has come not only the right, but the duty, to deal with our own problems ourselves. So long as we either cannot or will not deal directly and forcefully with our own problems, the way is open for unilateral interference in this continent’s internal affairs by other nations which care less for Africa and more for themselves. In today’s world, this is equivalent to the importation into Africa of the cold war struggle, a development which Ethiopia has steadfastly and doggedly opposed and one to which our total combined resistance cannot be too great. Africa is still too weak, her available resources too few and her energies too limited for them or any part of them to be dissipated in a world struggle which cannot add but only detract from African growth and development. If we permit the tensions of the cold war to become the tensions of Africa, valuable time will be lost and precious energy will be wasted, all without any fulfilment of our solemn duty to secure the advancement of the African peoples in liberty and wellbeing. We Africans desire only to live in peace and friendship with all men, without regard to race, creed or other persuasion, and are prepared to co-operate with all who sincerely and honestly desire our well-being and advancement. We cannot, nonetheless, needlessly expose ourselves to the perils which the world power struggle carries in its wake.
The creation of an Organization of African States will provide the medium whereby intra-African disputes—and these will arise, for we are human and not angels—may be settled peacefully. It will serve as the mechanism through which sound and constructive measures for increasing co-operation among the nations of Africa will be originated, articulated and implemented. It will contribute to the creation and development of the atmosphere and spirit of mutual trust and confidence so essential to the coordinated and simultaneous advance of the African States along the path to liberty and prosperity. It will stand as a bulwark against the interference by one African State in the internal affairs of another and a safeguard against the involvement of non-African nations in the affairs of this continent as a whole. If our progress is to be rapid and effective, we must free ourselves of conflict, of fear, of the suspicion that other than African hands are shaping events and developments in our continent.
Ethiopia, impelled by these same considerations, has urged on various occasions that ever-increasing proportions of the foreign assistance which is being directed to this continent be channelled through the United Nations Organization. We have supported such concrete proposals as have been put forward to this end. Aid must be without strings. The assessment of the need for assistance and the decision to provide it—these are questions which should be divorced from cold war politics, from the conflicts between East and West. It is possible to influence positions and oblige adherence to this or that policy by economic pressure, but only at the expense of the pride and dignity of those who thus renounce their birthright as free men, and the bill of sale carries the caveat: “revocable at will”. If the great nations of the world desire our sympathy and support, they should assist us to become economically strong and morally independent, for only then will our alliance with them be meaningful.
We shall consider during this Conference certain matters which touch and affect us most profoundly and deeply. We are all equally dedicated in our opposition to the vicious principle of racial discrimination embodied in the legal and social structure of the Republic of South Africa. We are all equally determined to take whatever measures are required to obliterate from this earth this disgrace to humanity and insult to mankind. We have all made this known on various occasions in the past. The time is past when condemnation of this policy was enough; we must now formulate and implement the measures which will give concrete effect to our collective determination.
Similarly, ways and means must be found of speeding the day when our oppressed fellow-Africans will join us in these halls as free men, for so long as one African lives in subjugation none of us is more than half free. The events of the past three years give us cause for rejoicing and renewing our strength and courage. Let us not leave the job half done. Kenya, Uganda and Ruanda-Urundi, whose observers are seated in this assemblage, will soon be with us. Let them not be the last to join our ranks.
In the Congo, to which We have already referred, we have witnessed the sorry spectacle of special interests flouting the decisions of the United Nations and resisting, at the risk of civil war and at the cost of innocent lives and the destruction of valuable property, sane and reasoned efforts to restore peace and order to the Congolese people. Foreign mercenaries have reinforced these interests, and arms and ammunition have found their way, seemingly by sorcery, into rebellious hands. We call for a halt to these activities; We insist that the illicit traffic in munitions which has delayed and obstructed a peaceful resolution of the Congo situation be ended, and that all measures to this end be taken by all concerned.
Ethiopia is justifiably proud of the role which we have played and continue to play in the Congo, a role wholly consistent with the staunch support which Our nation has unfailingly given to international organizations dedicated to the cause of peace and collective security throughout past decades. If history is to judge Us, We would ask only that it judge on the basis of Ethiopia’s record of resistance to colonialism, oppression and aggression, from the date when Ethiopian patriots repulsed the Italian invaders at Adoua in 1896 and then in 1935 and thereafter. We have responded to the appeals of the United Nations for assistance in the Congo, and We have supported the United Nations Congo policies because experience, reason and instinct have all combined to persuade us beyond peradventure that only in this way can a peaceful and permanent solution to the vexatious problems which exist there be settled. A successful conclusion of the Congo difficulties through the intermediary of the United Nations will immeasurably strengthen that institution and enlarge and maximize its usefulness as a force for the preservation of peace, the liberation of the still subjugated peoples of the world, and the advancement of mankind. Today, We believe that the end of the Congo’s troubles is in sight. We welcome to this Conference the representative of the Central Congo Government, Mr. Cyrille Adoula. We urge that the efforts of all Africans be redoubled in order that the territorial integrity of the Congo may be preserved and guaranteed and that moderate leadership in the Congo may be enabled to lead the Congolese people forward in peace and prosperity.
Disarmament and the banning of nuclear tests remain as problems affecting all of mankind, Africans not excepted. The means to directly secure these objectives are not in our hands, but this in no way lessens our duty to our fellow- men and to posterity to labour without stint that they may be achieved during our lifetime. Ethiopia has, as a matter of principle and not of partisanship, condemned the resumption of nuclear testing. We have, as a matter of principle and not of partisanship, called for a permanent ban of nuclear tests. We have done so in the conviction that no nation today, no matter how large or powerful, no matter how persuasive its arguments, can justify the employment of measures which threaten to visit such calamitous consequences alike upon the guilty and innocent, the young, the old, and the unborn. In March, the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee will convene in Geneva. Let us marshal our influence, and by all means at our disposal seek to assure that this meeting does not end in failure and frustration, in disaster and despair, as have too many held before it.
We must also refer to Algeria, where blood continued to flow as a few extremists, heedless of the sorrow and suffering which they cause, and in reckless disregard of the truism that force and violence beget only force and violence, continue to thwart the determined efforts of more moderate and rational men to grope their way to the peaceful attainment of the precious gift of liberty by the Algerian people. Our deliberations here must be directed to speeding the day when men and women may walk in freedom and tranquillity in Algeria.
These last few years have been glorious ones for Africa. In a short span in history, the yearnings and hopes of virtually an entire continent have been realized. Celebration has followed celebration as Africans rejoiced in their new-found and hard-won freedom.
Now this task is nearly completed. Ahead of us lie the hard, the difficult years, years when we must grapple with new sets of problems and face new hardships. There will be little festivity and few celebrations in these years. Our task is now to prove ourselves worthy of the lot which we have claimed as our own, capable of employing our talents and resources in the cause of Africa and the African peoples. The way will be perilous, sacrifices will be demanded of us, our labours may go unobserved and our triumphs unnoticed except to ourselves. And, in the ultimate sense, this is wholly as it should be, for we are men, and this is man’s lot. Let us work together, arm in arm as brothers, that our progeny may live in peace and well-being, that posterity will honour our names and our achievements. This will suffice. This will be our victory. May Almighty God grant it to us.
January 26, 1962.
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February 22, 2017