The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I - Volume 2



As if the blood they spilled in Ethiopia was not enough, the Italians were working to get Ethiopia expelled from the League of Nations.... Knowing that the issue would be raised at the Geneva assembly of Meskerem 1929 [September 1936], We left London for Geneva on Monday, Meskerem 12, 1929 [September 20, 1936], accompanied by Ras Kassa, Ato Wolde Giorgis Wolde Yohannes, Ato Taddesse Meshesha, Dr. [Jacovus] Zervos, and Abba Hanna. Azaj Workineh had left earlier with the report to be presented at the assembly, and spent the week working on it with Ato Lorenzo Taezaz.

First of all, on Meskerem 13 [Sept. 23, 1936] the assembly decided that the Credentials Committee should study the controversial matter as to whether or not Ethiopia had the right to be in the assembly. On the same day, a sub­committee comprised of six countries was composed and started its deliberations.

Italy was not at the assembly. The French lawyer whom we had assigned to discuss Ethiopia's membership on our behalf had been prohibited by... [his] government from attending the meeting and was absent. On our part we prepared and presented a document to the committee explaining that we had transferred our government to Gore... [from where it] was being directed... on Our behalf in accordance with instructions... received from Us by telegrams and letters.

Italy and her supporters put forward a suggestion that no country should retain its membership after its capital city had been occupied. On the other hand they presented a forged document which purported that the people of Ethiopia had contentedly accepted Italy's governorship.

The committee, after a long discussion based on the evidence submitted by both sides, resolved to accept Ethiopia's envoys and presented its decision to assembly [which] accepted the decision and forwarded it for a vote; out of forty-nine envoys, thirty-nine supported Ethiopia, four objected, and six abstained; and, as a result, a decision was made... [permitting Us] to send envoys to the assembly.

The countries which opposed Ethiopia were Austria, Hungary, Albania, and Ecuador. The six countries which abstained were Bulgaria, Panama, Portugal, Siam, Switzerland and Venezuela. The main points presented by the Credentials Committee to the assembly were the following:

1st. By a previous authority, Ethiopia's representatives had the right to be at the assembly meeting.

2nd. Thereafter conditions changed. It was now difficult to ascertain whether or not the previous recognition applied to the present administration... [in Gore], or whether or not the emperor could effectively exercise his authority.

3rd. No member of the committee questioned the legality of Ethiopia's membership and its conformity with the regulations. Rather, there was some discussion within the committee concerning the question of its acceptability.

4th. The committee cancelled as useless the motion that the case be presented to the Hague court, since its decision would not be ready for the present meeting.

5th. The committee unanimously agreed on the adequacy of Ethiopia's credentials and that its delegates should attend the meeting.

6th. The committee's recommendations concerned the present meeting and did not hold for future ones.

Our friends, who were happy at this decision, came over to the hotel where we were staying to congratulate Us and express their heart-felt love to Us and Our envoys. We also felt that We had surmounted one big hurdle in retaining Our membership seat in the League, although Our initial objective of acquiring military equipment and a loan of money had failed.

* * *

We returned to London and continued to live in Bath. There we heard the death of Our faithful servant Dejazmatch Nasibu Zamanuel on Tikimt 6, 1929 [Oct. 16, 1936] in Davos... Switzerland while undergoing treatment, and stayed at home to mourn him. Immediately We sent Our Foreign Minister Blatengeta Herui Wolde Sellassie to Switzerland to attend the funeral.

Our friends expressed their sympathy to Us by holding a public gathering in the Chesterfield salon on Tuesday, Tikimt 10 [Oct. 20], praying in commemoration, standing for a moment of silence and making speeches of condolence. Among them were people such as Professor [Herbert Stanley] Jevons and Sir George Paish, the founders of the Abyssinia Association.

* * *

Because the letters and telegram messages of Our patriots were not reaching Us in a timely way, we found it very difficult to make known the situation in Ethiopia in order to win the favor of world public opinion. However, We continued to receive some written documents that assisted in Our struggle, directly or indirectly. At a time when fascist propaganda flooded the whole world, We received a telegram from Bitwoded Wolde Sadik and Ras Imru [which] We passed on to the Secretary General of the League of Nations. The words of the telegram were as follows:

To His Excellency Monsieur Joseph Avenol,
General Secretary of the League of Nations,

In reference to the correspondence we made regarding the acceptance of the delegates of Ethiopia at the assembly, We ask you to communicate the following words to all member countries.

Those whom We authorized to administer Our imperial territory in Our absence have sent Us the following appeal to be forwarded to the League of Nations.

Haile Sellassie

Gambela, October 16, 1936

We have received Your Majesty's telegram of October 4th [Meskerem 26th]. Having confidence in the League, the imperial government has been accomplishing its duties peacefully and diligently, and, indeed, it does have Western Ethiopia under its control. Meanwhile, we have learnt that the invading Italians, without having any compassion, have sworn to terrorize and literally annihilate the Ethiopian people by using planes and to destroy the government resident in Western Ethiopia. A huge military force has started its way towards here. Without adequate money and armament, we cannot resist the power of the enemy. Should the peaceful and freedom loving people who have fully trusted the League be left to total destruction at the hands of the atrocious invader? The blood of our suffering people is crying out for justice to the Almighty God and to the League of Nations. We believe that our lamentations will be heard. We beg Your Majesty to request the League to view the struggle of Ethiopia with a clear conscience and extend its help. We earnestly request Your Majes­ty once again to appeal to the League.

Bitwoded Wolde Tsadik
Ras Imru

The Italians occupied Gore in the middle of Hidar 1929 [Nov. 1936], and continued to be successful both politically and militarily. The province of Gore was very close to the Sudanese border, and it was an opportune moment for Italy to make her presence felt and to threaten British authorities.

Italy's political advantage appeared to block the chances We had to present Our case at the League, since Our claim was that We had moved the seat of Our government to Gore and continued to administer from there through Our representatives. Besides this, some of Our officials lost hope and submitted to the Italians. Our top military leaders were killed, and Ras Imru was captured.

Politicians in Rome tended to believe that the occupation of Gore would tempt London, Paris and Geneva [to] speed up the recognition of Italy's suzerainty over Ethiopia. Their predictions came true... and many countries gradually ratified Italy's overlordship. Germany and Italy were in the vanguard to do so.

When Italy recognized the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, Japan in turn recognized Italy's occupation of Ethiopia. Thus the two vanguard invaders, Japan in China and Italy in Ethiopia, became mutual supporters.

Speaking of these diplomatic maneuvers, Italian politicians confirmed that Japan had been motivated to convert its legation in Addis Abeba to a consulate and to recognize Italy's government of Ethiopia, above all, to expand its trade to... Africa. Likewise, they indicated that Rome's decision to locate a consulate-general in the Manchurian capital was the culmination of Italian interest in the "Far East," the development of which she had been keenly following for some time.

Italy had hoped that the fate of Japan would be resolved in conjunction with the situation in Europe. Rome and Tokyo were always at loggerheads, as if giving truth to the myth that yellow and white people would never get along. Later, however, finding a common ground in the issue we mentioned above, they were able to put aside their mutual suspicions.

Following a conference in Vienna between Italy, Austria and Bulgaria, We heard in November 1936, that Austria and Hungary had repudiated Ethiopia's independence and recognized Italy's occupation. Objecting to this hasty measure taken against Us, we sent the following message to the League of Nations through the Secretary General Mr. Avenol:

Peace be with you. I sincerely plead with you to make the following known to members of the League. In October 1935, when the government of Italy began invading the land of Ethiopia, the League of Nations and its council announced that a member of the League had been invaded and issued a communique referring to article 10 of the charter which reads 'to respect and safeguard the boundaries of members of the League in an event of external assault'. In July 1936, the general assembly stated that it would not recognize any kind of occupation effected through the use of force.

Now, in violation of the Covenant and the decision of the League of Nations, Austria and Hungary have announced their recogni­tion of the aggressor as the imperial government of Ethiopia. I denounce the governments of Austria and Hungary for violating laws of international relations and committing a crime. Once again, I reassert that Ethiopia has an irrevocable right to membership in the League of Nations. I also state that my people and government are fully confident that they [will] regain our country's integrity and political independence. I await God's judgement that the rule of force will perish as a result of its own destructive actions. I would like to remind each member of the League that, according to article 10 of the League's charter, each member has promised to live in harmony and mutual respect, and that each member has the responsibility to abide by its promise. No principle would relieve an invader of the responsibility it has once entered into.

In a time when, due to the Italian invasion, the relationship between countries based on international law and mutual trust has vanished, the hope hinging on certain principles and leadership in Europe has faded, [and] war appears to be the logical consequence, each member of the League has to be obliged not to surrender to force nor recognize the countries occupied by force. Above all, what should be clear about Ethiopia is that the country was occupied brutally by looting, killing and terrorizing the people.

Haile Sellassie I
Herui Wolde Sellassie
Minister of Foreign Affairs

While the struggle in the political front was going on as such, We heard that the King of Belgium, the Queen of the Netherlands, the Kings of Sweden and Denmark as well as the Duke of Luxembourg and the President of Finland, were almost ready to recognize Italy's occupation, and sent each one of them the following telegram:

I was aggrieved to learn that the signatories of the Oslo agreement... are considering recognizing Italy's occupation.

Although the League of Nations was not able to stop the aggressor, it is beyond all doubt that its refusal to recognize the conquest and the claims of the invader has contributed in some ways to peace.

The people of Ethiopia are still struggling against an alien government. On behalf of my people I would like to remind your government to abide by the international laws which it has always respected.

The signatories of the Oslo Agreement failed to agree on a proposal sponsored by the Netherlands government which called for a meeting with France and Britain in order to discuss and eventually to recognize Italy's claim to Ethiopia. In reply to Our telegram and in reference to this, the King of Norway His Majesty Haakon notified Us that he had not complied with the Dutch government's proposal. Also, the Queen of Holland, Her Majesty Wilhelmina, sent Us a telegram expressing that her country maintains diplomatic relations with Italy because, in principle, it has an interest in association with powerful governments and seeks cooperation with its neighbors. She claimed, however, to have no intention of recognizing Italy's claim over Ethiopia. Nevertheless, after a little while all [the Oslo signatories] had entered into an obligation gradually to recognize Italy's claim over Ethiopia.

Those countries who refused to recognize Italy's occupation [and] respected Ethiopian independence and the legitimacy of Our authority were:
1st, the government of the United States of America;
2nd, the government of the Republic of Mexico;
3rd, the government of the Soviet Union;
4th, the government of the New Zealand Union;
5th, the government of the Republic of China.

Apart from these, all of the European and Asian countries one after the other recognized Italy's occupation.

* * *

The Swiss government, which was host to the League of Nations, rejected Our request to reside in Switzerland.... We did not want to magnify the issue because We thought that was the result of the current crisis. However, when it seemed that the situation had reached a stage where Ethiopia's independence would be destroyed by approving Italy's suzerainty, in a letter written on Tir 12, 1929 [Jan. 20, 1937], We made known to the League that the same Swiss government which willingly permitted the League to make its headquarters in Geneva, now used a heavy rod to strike people suffering from the agony of martyrdom.

Believing that it would be convenient to pursue Our case at the League if we resided in Switzerland, We submitted Our request to the Swiss government. Through its Minister in Paris, it was communicated to Us that the Swiss government had rejected Our request, because the government needed to foster good neighborliness and peaceful coexistence, avoiding conflict. Moreover, the foreign minister Monsieur [Guiseppe] Motta, who was ethnically Italian and had been in the position for no less than twenty years, believed that a great crisis would be created if We resided in Switzerland. This person had often expressed in every possible way his friendly attitude towards Italy.

Subsequently, the Federal Council of the Republic of Helvetia, breaking all international agreements, decided to recognize Italy's suzerainty over Ethiopia. As if the Ethiopian Consulate based in Bern had never existed before, a letter signed by Monsieur Motta effectively blocked its functions.

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