Selected Speeches Of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I
PUBLIC OFFICIALS CALLED TO RESPONSIBILITIES
We ask you today, you ministers and officials of the Imperial Ethiopian Government, to cast yourselves back in time to that day, over thirty years ago, when the Crown of the Empire of Ethiopia was placed upon Our head and We assumed the sacred duty of guiding Our beloved country along the path of progress and enlightenment and of amalgamating Ethiopia’s traditions and customs with the demands of the modern world. What was Ethiopia at that time? A country still largely isolated from the outside world in spite of her glorious past and ancient civilization, a country subjected to colonialist and imperialist pressures, a country without a modern system of government, a country without significant external trade.
For a moment, compare what existed then with what exists today, and you will find that the achievements themselves bear witness to the changes that have occurred during these years. Ask yourselves, then, how have these changes occurred? What problems have they brought with them? How can we deal with the problems of 1961, what measures must be taken to meet and cope with them?
It is axiomatic that development in any country must proceed simultaneously in all areas of its life. As a country advances economically, equivalent progress must be made in the creation of more highly developed social and political institutions as well. Any attempt to retard advancement in any single area will inevitably retard the development of the whole, and will create serious distortions in the overall fabric of the nation. This principle We have always recognized, and in Our actions We have been guided by it. The emphasis which We have given to education in Our country has stemmed from Our determination to eliminate ignorance and to prepare Our people for the changes which Ethiopia’s emergence into the modern world would bring upon them.
Change Begets Change
It is also axiomatic that change begets change, that each step forward leads logically and inexorably to the next, and the next. Once unleashed, the forces of history cannot be contained or restrained, and he is naive indeed who says “thus far will I go and no farther.” This principle, too, We have recognized and followed.
Ethiopia, for long centuries, remained isolated in her mountain fastnesses from the outside world. Emerging from this isolation at the height of the colonialist struggle for power in Africa, the task which has faced this nation in preserving its independence and in overcoming the difficulties posed by the transition from the ancient to the modern have been multiplied many-fold. While We led Ethiopia’s struggle for the preservation of her liberty, We at the same time have assumed as Our primary task the education and training in public service of those We have called upon for assistance in the administration of Our Government. In Our labours to gain these twin objectives, We have had, in addition, to struggle against the objections of those who would cling to the ancient and the out-moded. The Ethiopian people, who have benefited from these labours, know that Our entire life has been sacrificed to the ceaseless struggle to achieve these ends, and We believe that they have amply demonstrated their gratitude and their affection for Us.
How, then, has Ethiopia travelled the long path stretching from 1917 to 1961?
In 1930, recognizing that the programme of development which We envisaged for Ethiopia required a radical departure from the political system of our ancestors, We gave to Our people Ethiopia’s first Constitution, of Our own free will, and against the strenuous objection of many who were close to Us and who did not hesitate to shed blood in opposing this step. For the first time, Ethiopia's Government acquired a crystallized and defined form. As had been stated by Us when We gave the first Constitution, that “... the Ethiopian people must share the burden of responsibility which in the past was borne by their monarch ...,” by this act We sought to disperse responsibility and authority among Our people, that they might exercise it, together with Ourself, in securing the advancement and the unity of the Ethiopian nation. In this manner We sought to lay the groundwork for the orderly and natural growth of those political and social institutions which are essential to the development of a dynamic yet stable society.
Our plans were abruptly halted by the invasion of 1935, but following Ethiopia’s liberation, We resumed Our work and carried it yet further. In 1943, We caused to be published Order No.1.; Which defined the duties and responsibilities of Our Government and vested them with all power requisite to discharging them. At this same time, We promulgated a law which provided for the creation of an organized system of courts where Our subjects might go to seek redress for wrongs done to them and enforce the rights which the laws and the Constitution guaranteed to them.
These steps, again, We took voluntarily—not in response to any demand or pressure, but in full recognition of the principles of life which We enunciated but a moment ago and out of Our desire to facilitate and stimulate the further progress of Our nation, in fulfilment of the solemn vow which We took to Our people when We ascended the throne of Our Empire.
As a complement to these measures, We created by special charter a number of autonomous institutions possessed of full power to act in the domains given over to their jurisdiction: the State Bank of Ethiopia, the Development Bank of Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Electric Light and Power Authority, the Imperial Board of Telecommunications, of Ethiopian Air Lines, the Imperial Highway Authority—these and many others We charged with the responsibility of securing Ethiopia’s advancement in the areas confided to their care.
As Our Empire grew and flourished, it became apparent that the Constitution of 1930 no longer responded adequately to the needs of Our people. Accordingly, in 1955, again in the face of objections and opposition, We promulgated the Revised Constitution with which you are all familiar. In it, provision was made for Our people to enjoy direct representation and participation in the business of government. The division of power among Us, Our Ministers acting collectively and individually, and Our Parliament, was solidified and acquired permanent institutional form. Subsequently, We caused to be prepared a series of legal codes covering all aspects of the life of Our citizens and setting forth, in a precise yet detailed manner, the principles which were to guide them in their relationships with others and with the State. And in order that the growth of Ethiopia’s economy proceed in a planned and co-ordinated fashion, We ordered the preparation of a Five-Year Plan which was designed to provide the overall pattern which Our nation’s development was to follow. We have obtained loans and credits from friendly countries to help us in financing the projects to be completed within the Five-Year Plan and We are confident of the results of this endeavour.
In all that We did, We believed that We were taking those measures essential to Ethiopia’s development. As programmes became more numerous and technically more complex, as the nation’s budget increased from Eth. $11 million in 1942 to Eth. $279 million in 1960, it became essential that the decision-making functions be increasingly dispersed among the responsible officials of the Government. Who, today, can be an expert in all fields: Who, today, can single-handedly take all the decisions necessary to the administration of a Government’s programmes? These questions require no answer.
But We know that man’s desires rarely attain full achievement or perfection. And so it was here. What more was required to create a system of truly responsible government? What was yet lacking? The institutional framework existed. A modern Constitution guaranteed to each element of this structure its proper duties and the authority and the right to fulfil its tasks. Our Ministers were vested with attributions no less substantial than those given to Ministers in any nation of the world, irrespective of political coloration or orientation. Our Parliament was given powers to legislate comparable to those granted in any parliamentary system of government. The legal framework governing the dealings of the Ethiopian people with each other and with the State had been fully articulated.
You all realize that it is necessary to have a sufficient number of men who would courageously and honestly accept responsibility and act under it, and, not counting the cost, discharge their duties to the Ethiopian nation. We have always held Ourself at the disposal of Our people and Our Ministers. And so Our Ministers came to Us with their problems and questions. Always We said: “But the power has been given to you to do this yourself.” Frequently, Our words went unheeded. Responsibility was shirked, decisions were avoided and thrust back upon Us.
As a result, some programmes remained unimplemented, and other questions of major importance were left unanswered. The Government has been overwhelmed and benumbed by details. Among those who stand before Us, many have devoted years of service to the Imperial Ethiopian Government. You know the truth of what We say.
Today, we say to you, no longer shall it be thus. No longer shall you shirk your duties. No longer shall We accept your responsibilities, when We have given the power to you. This power shall not be abused for selfish and for personal ends when it has been given as a sacred trust to be exercised for the benefit of the Ethiopian people and nation.
Henceforth, you shall work in your Ministries and Departments and administer your own programmes there. Each year, in accordance with the Constitution, and within the broad framework of the Five-Year Plan which has been adopted, you shall prepare your programmes for the coming twelve months. When the programme has been approved by Our Council of Ministers and by Us, you shall work in accordance with it. If you plan and execute it well, you shall be congratulated. If you prove yourself incapable or incompetent, you shall be removed and replaced by another. If major policy questions arise, We are always here. If you encounter difficulties, We have appointed Our Prime Minister to aid you. His primary function is to co-ordinate work among the Ministries and see that the execution of Government programmes is facilitated. If questions of policy arise, he, too, is directed to bring them to Us. If amendment in the attributions which have been given to you are required, these shall be forthcoming.
Your programmes and your implementation of them will be subject to free and open comments. In the ultimate sense, it is to the people of Ethiopia that you are responsible, and it is to them that you must answer for your stewardship. That is why you are constitutionally responsible to Us and to Parliament. During Our lifetime, We have unfailingly done what We have felt, before Almighty God, to be Our duty to Our people and Our nation, no matter what the cost to Ourself. You must do likewise.
Throughout the long years of Our ceaseless efforts to achieve the advancement and well-being of Our nation, We have always anticipated that the stage would be reached at which Our ministers and officials, whom we have trained by education and through long years of service in government administration, could, once their duties and tasks are defined, assume by themselves full responsibility and discharge it properly, thus permitting Us to devote more of Our time to major political decisions and matters of utmost importance to the future of Ethiopia which necessitates Our attention.
We are persuaded that this stage has now been reached, and you must realize that the trust given to you entails a sacrifice on your part, that you may be worthy of it. You should be ever mindful that the supreme test of your worthiness of this trust will be manifested not only by the confidence We have reposed in you, but also by your achievements in the implementation of the programmes We have laid down for the Ethiopian people.
Your office shall be where you belong. Technical experts and advisors have been provided to aid you in your work. Your Departments and Ministries can function well only if the choice of your staff is dictated, not by ties of friendship and personal relationship, but by evidence of competence and ability. You shall work on your own responsibility, making your own mistakes, achieving your own successes. We shall reserve for each of you a certain period each week when We shall ask you to report on the progress you have made in your programmes and on the difficulties which you have encountered. But time shall not be used to ask or obtain from Us decisions which are rightfully yours to make.
Ethiopians are proud of the three thousand years of their recorded history, as well they may be. We are proud of what has been achieved during Our reign, and we thank God for it. We are content to let History judge the wisdom of Our actions. But while we cannot escape the consciousness of each day’s immediacy and the urgency of the problems which each day presents, we must nonetheless be ever mindful that just as our nation’s history stretches far back in time, so does an unlimited future lie before us, especially in this nuclear and space era. We must all act and take our decisions mindful of the far-reaching implications and consequences of each of them. What We have said to you today, We know, carries with it implications for generation upon generation of future Ethiopians. We are persuaded that what We have said will, in the long term, redound to the everlasting benefit of those who will follow us. Man is mortal; each one of us here will, one day, face his Maker and answer for his actions. Those of us to whom the grave responsibility of governing have been given bear a heavy burden before the people and before Almighty God for the proper discharge of our duties. Let us all labour in this sense, that the people of Ethiopia may ever live in happiness and prosperity.
Apil 14, 1961.
Electronic edition created and published online by members of the
April 26, 2017