The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I - Volume 2



After staying in Debre Marcos for some twenty-five days, We began Our journey to Shewa on Miazia 21 [April 29, 1941]. In order to prevent the Ethiopian patriots from pursuing them while they retreated, the Italians had demolished bridges and mined roads. They had also destroyed the bridge over the Abay river, and the debris in the water made it difficult for Us to cross. Thus, We spent the night of Miazia 21 [April 29] on the [right] bank of the river. Nevertheless, since We had surmounted the biggest difficulty, the destruction of the Abay bridge could in no way prevent Us from continuing Our journey. A group of Ethiopian and Sudanese soldiers utilized old oil barrels and flattened a steel plank some twenty yards long, and thus we were able to cross the river and spend the night of Miazia 22 [April 30] in Goha Zion. We continued the march the next day, Miazia 23 [May 1], and entered Fiche.

From there, We went to the church at Debre Libanos and expressed to Our Creator Our heartfelt gratitude and immediately received Our soldiers and a few clergy. The monastery of Debre Libanos had been burned down by the fascists, the clergy exterminated at the hands of the enemy, its treasures looted, and the entire vicinity abandoned and neglected. When We saw all this, We were extremely saddened and deeply moved.

We returned from Debre Libanos and assembled in Fiche. From there, We went to the place where Dejazmatch Aberra Kassa and others had been shot and buried. Seeing that scene, We were touched greatly. One of the reasons why We had wanted to spend one day and one night in Fiche was because it had already been decided that We would enter Addis Abeba on Miazia 27 [5 May]. The second reason was that the people of Selale had made extensive preparations to welcome Us, and so We wanted to share the joy of meeting Our compatriots who were anxiously waiting for Us.

When We were in Fiche, We made it a point to see some of those who had been actively collaborating with the Italians. Among those who were brought to Us were Ras Getachew Abate, Dejazmatch Abba Wukaw, Blatta Tessema Debalke, Ato Seifu Mikail, Kenyazmatch Tekle Marcos and others. Since We had heard that the Italians had provided each of them with weapons and a three-month salary, We were interested to find out the truth of the story, and to the question We posed to them, they replied that they were supplied weapons for self-defence purposes and that the three-month salaries were also given to them. Subsequently, We saw to it that they were taken back to Entoto, to be kept in ankle cuffs along with their prison mates.

Miazia 27 [May 5, 1941], the day that Our people had eagerly anticipated, arrived. Travelling from Fiche, We reached Entoto early in the morning. When We saw the abject condition of Our people and witnessed their affection for Us, We could not control Our tears and deep emotion. As St. Paul once said: "The word of God cannot be imprisoned," [and] all Our people who struggled for freedom and national sovereignty, be it through exile or imprisonment, began to assemble around Us.

As soon as the welcoming ceremony was over at Entoto Mariam Church, We took a car and began to move, flanked on the left and right by Our patriots, in the direction of Our capital city. Starting from the steep road of Entoto, first came the South African motorcade and the South African tanks that served in the vanguard. This was the section of the army that smashed the Italian army at Juba, Mogadishu, Harer, Addis Abeba and Dese. Next came Colonel Wingate riding a white horse. He was the commander of Our Gojam front of the British army. Following him was the Second Ethiopian Battalion, victorious at Bure and Dembecha. It was partly composed of Our Imperial Bodyguard that lived in exile in the Sudan and Kenya. Then We appeared in an open automobile surrounded by cavalry officers as a guard of honor. The cavalry used to be part of the Addis Abeba police force.

Behind Us appeared the Ethiopian army. Then followed the Sudan soldiers who were fighting the enemy with Us. They were the ones who routed the Italian army in Keren-the unit known as the Savoy Grenadiers.

We had arrived at Entoto followed by Our army. Many camels had died on the way, and We arrived with fifty camels that had managed to survive to complete their jobs. They were all killed at the gates of Our city by the English soldiers. In so doing, the soldiers may have been guided by military discipline and regulations. On Our part, We were simply horrified to watch this incredible cruelty.

The entrance ceremony starting from Entoto was beautifully arranged and was full of visible decorations. The compound of the Church of Entoto Mariam was full of jubilation, and We were welcomed by priests dancing to the tunes of religious hymns. Ras Abebe Aragai welcomed Us by parading his soldiers. We entered the church to express Our gratitude to Our Creator, and stayed there until services were over.

One could see the people flooding en masse to Entoto mountain. One could also read on their faces the ordeal that they had undergone-a people who had been tested by the cruel administrative yoke of the enemy. An estimated 100,000 Ethiopians could be seen on the streets [of Addis Abeba] anxiously waiting to welcome Us. Order and discipline was maintained by the patriots and soldiers... who loved their country, who had never handed over their guns to the Italians, and who had terrorized the enemy for five years. The streets were bedecked with flowers and the national flag. The condition of the people as well as the town had changed considerably. In their deep eagerness to welcome Us, the people kissed the ground and shed tears mixed with sorrow and delight.

Driving in front of the parade, members of the international press, photographers and radio reporters were recording and registering the proceedings and events of this historic day. It was under such circumstances of honor that We travelled and arrived at Our Grand Palace at mid-day. A British Imperial guard of honor stood on the right and left from the gates to the palace. The cheers of Our people could be heard far and wide in the town. Drums were beaten. The former Supreme Commander of the British army in East Africa, Lieutenant General Cunningham, received Us with great honor.

After that, when We were raising the Ethiopian flag, there was a twenty-one gun salvo. In 1928 [1936], on the same day, [General Pietro] Badoglio had raised the Italian flag on this very spot. Subsequently, We walked to the podium and delivered the following speech to Our people.

No human lips can express the gratitude which I feel to the merciful God who has enabled me to stand in your midst on this day, of which the angels in heaven and creatures on earth could neither have thought of nor known about. Before everything else, I want to tell you and to make you understand that this... is a day on which a fresh chapter of the history of the New Ethiopia begins. In this new era, new work is commencing, which is the duty of all of us to perform.

As We remember the affliction which befell Ethiopia during the past years, We speak only of her recent history. When Ethiopia, which had preserved her independence for many thousand years, was attacked in 1888 E.C. [1895-96] by Italy, which had harbored aggressive designs against her for many years and intended to destroy her freedom, her brave sons fought at Adwa and she retained her independence. The Treaty of Wuchale was not the only cause of the battle that was fought at Adwa. It was only a pretext for the ongoing aim that Italy had of ruling Ethiopia. Although the Great European War interrupted her plans for a time, notwithstanding her outward pretentions of friendship, Italy made preparations to invade Ethiopia.... Since her defeat at Adwa, she had been irate that justice prevailed against her.

When Italy began to wage a war of aggression against Ethiopia, although We knew We were not so well armed as she was, We countered with what strength We could muster, because it was Our duty to resist an enemy that had come to seize Our country. But as it was apparent that she was bent on exterminating Our people with poison gas, the use of which was prohibited by international law, We went to appeal to the League of Nations and claim justice. As it was feared that the hostility started by Italy might spread all over the world, and as it was a period when all those who were charged with the responsibility of government were trying to save the world from the catastrophe which has since befallen it, the [leaders] worked to bring about understanding in the world to prevent the spread of the conflagration. At the time Our true friend, Great Britain, received Us with sympathy. I remained there working, but in spirit was constantly with my countrymen, whose blood was pointlessly and ruthlessly shed at the hands of the Italians; with the monasteries and churches that were being burned down; with those forced to take refuge in foreign lands; and with those suffering and being afflicted in the wilderness, in the caves, and in the forests of their native land.

How many are the young men, the women, the priests and monks whom the Italians pitilessly massacred during these years? You know that in Addis Abeba alone many thousands perished during the three days following St. Michael's day on Yekatit 12, 1929 [Feb. 19, 1937]. The blood and bones of those who were killed with spades and pickaxes, of those who were split with axes and hammered to death, pierced with bayonets, clubbed and stoned, of those who were burned alive in their homes with their little children, of those who perished of hunger and thirst in prison, have been crying for justice. Everybody knows that this act of barbarism and cruelty was not perpetrated in Addis Abeba alone, but in the provinces of Ethiopia. There is hardly anyone who has not been caught and beaten, kicked out and imprisoned.

Now We shall pass on to the new history that is before Us. Five years ago on this day the fascist forces entered Our capital city. Then Mussolini announced to the world that he had established a Roman Empire in Our country, Ethiopia. He believed that the land he declared conquered would forever be in his hands. The gallantry of the Ethiopian people is recorded in history. But as We had no ports through which to import armaments necessary for people, we were unable to obtain them. Fifty-two nations condemned Mussolini for his actions. But he boasted of his violent deeds and took no heed of their condemnation. The past five years have been years of darkness for you my people. But you never lost hope, and in the Ethiopian hills you gradually grew. The enemy never ventured to come near the mountains on which you were, because, enduring every hardship and affliction, you, the warriors of Ethiopia, safeguarded your freedom during the past five years. But in spite of the fact that he could not conquer the country, he spent many thousands of millions of lire, saying that he was civilizing what he could hold. He spent all that money not because he desired to improve the conditions of the oppressed Ethiopian people or to mitigate the injustice he had done. It was because he wanted to plant a fascist colony in Our sacred land of Ethiopia and to impose on her the rule of oppression which he had planned. He tried to exterminate the Ethiopian race and did not even entertain the idea of giving her the administration of either a mandate or a protectorate, which, in any case, would have been considered a heavy yoke for Our people. But all the money that could be counted by the thousands of millions and all the prepared armaments served a purpose which Mussolini never intended. At the time when Italy revealed her intentions of entering the war in order to be able to snatch from a defeated France as much as she could, the number of soldiers, the amount of money and the armaments she had sent to Ethiopia were enormous. The regular troops she deployed were not less than 250,000; she also had amassed provisions to last many years in case she was encircled. Trusting in, and bragging of, the invincibility of this military force, the fascist government proceeded with emplanting dictatorial rule in Our country. But something happened which the fascist government did not take into account-the fighting morale, essential in modern war, demonstrated by you.

You were able to destroy the enemy who were superior to you in numbers and equipment, because you are a people of bravery and mercy, and because you cooperated and knew the strategy of war. The British troops, who were fighting for human rights on other fronts... needed time to get ready to come to the assistance of Ethiopia and free her. But you, warriors of Ethiopia, harassed the enemy by cutting his communications, by restricting him to his fortifications. In spite of the great numbers of troops in which he put his trust, he realized that the Ethiopian people from one end to the other hated him and his rule. He understood also that it was impossible for him to live in such a country and in the midst of such a people. Even by using poison gas and bombs and by atrocities, he could no longer hope to enjoy overlordship in a country where he was terribly undermined. He realized that the soldiers who surrounded him were adversaries more powerful than he was. He spent his daring and money... to meet his adversaries. Then he looked around, if perchance he could find somewhere where he could take shelter in Ethiopia, but he could not find even one place.

When the time came, Our great ally, the British Government prepared to launch a proper attack against Our enemy. As soon as I knew this, I left for the distant land of the Sudan, which borders us in the west, and entered central Gojam. In Gojam Our enemy had strong fortified positions, powerful troops, airplanes, and artillery. On comparing the number of Our soldiers with those of the enemy, We found that We had one soldier for every 20 of his. Moreover, We had no artillery or aircraft at Our disposal. The fact that I was found in the midst of my warriors at once attracted many thousands of men. And the fear and anxiety of Our enemy increased. While my soldiers were harassing and cutting off the enemy's communications and, after having driven his troops across the Abay river, were pursuing them towards Shewa and Begemdir, I heard the good news that British Imperial troops had, with incomparable speed, retaken Our capital city and were pushing towards Dese in the north and Jima in the south. In the same way, the troops who started from the Sudan destroyed the fortress at Keren with brilliant force and utterly defeated the enemy. And as the time came for my return to my capital, I mustered my soldiers who were scattered in every direction in pursuit of the enemy... I am exceedingly happy that I have been able to arrive here at the head of my soldiers, the enemy who was found on my path having been defeated, and to break the power of the common foe. I am deeply thankful to Almighty God that I stand today in your midst in my Palace, from which the fascist government has fled.

People of my country, Ethiopia!

Today is a day in which Ethiopia is stretching her hands to God in joy and thanksgiving and revealing her happiness to her children.

This day, on which the people of Ethiopia are freed from the oppressive foreign yoke and eternal servitude and on which I am enabled to rejoin my people, whom I love and have yearned for, will be honored as a holiday to be commemorated annually as a Great Ethiopian Anniversary. On this day we shall remember those heroic warriors who, determined not to surrender the great charge passed on to them by their fathers, became martyrs, shedding their blood and breaking their bones for the freedom of the land they loved and for the honor of the Emperor and their flag. Their heroic deeds will remain recorded in Ethiopian history.

The tribulations and afflictions, which befell us during the past five years and which cannot be recounted and enumerated in detail will be a great lesson to us all and, with industry, unity, cooperation and love engraved in your hearts, will be a great incentive to you to be my helpers in the construction of the Ethiopia which I have in mind. In the New Ethiopia I want you to be a people undivided and endowed with freedom and equality before the law.

You will have to join me in my efforts for the prosperity of the country, for the riches of the people, for the development of agriculture, commerce, education, learning, for the protection of the life and resources of Our people, and for the perfection, on modern lines, of the country's administration.

It is my firm wish and purpose to merit the blessing with which God in His mercy has visited on Us, first, by showing Our gratitude to Our allies, the British, by the release of the Imperial troops to fight the common enemy on other fronts, and by supplying them with troops whenever they may be needed; secondly, to do work beneficial to the people and the country by establishing in Our Ethiopia a government which will protect Our nation and make it respectable by guaranteeing the liberty of the people and freedom of conscience.

What I would finally announce to you, my people, is that today is a day of rejoicing for us all. Today is the day on which we defeated our enemy. Therefore, when We say let us rejoice with our hearts, let not our rejoicing be in any other way but in the spirit of Christ. Do not return evil for evil. Do not indulge in the atrocities which the enemy has been practicing in his usual way, even to the last.

Take care not to spoil the good name of Ethiopia by acts which are worthy of the enemy. We shall see that our enemies are disarmed and sent out the same way they came. As St. George who killed the dragon is the Patron Saint of our army as well as of our allies, let us unite with our allies in everlasting friendship and amity in order to be able to stand against the godless and cruel dragon which has newly risen and which is oppressing mankind. I charge you to consider [our allies] as brothers and friends [and] show them kindness and consideration.

After this, surrounded by the populace, We went to the Guenet Leul Palace. The next day, on Miazia 28 [May 6], the Ethiopian patriots led by Ras Abebe Aregai were on parade at the compound of the Genet Leul palace. While Ras Abebe led the parade, the rest of the patriot chiefs of the patriots marched with their individual units. Each one of them spoke of their wartime experiences and achievements in a manner that was both enjoyable and enviable. Their appearance and condition, their sense of dedication and loyalty, were most pleasing. Ethiopian War heroes express their deeds to their emperor or commanders whenever they are victorious. It should be noted here that what they did was in keeping with their ancient traditions. After the parade was over, Ras Abebe introduced Us to each of the main resistance leaders.

There were many journalists who had come from different parts of the world to cover the occasion. Since they had asked Us about the country's future and the type of administrative system We would be creating, on the following day [May 7], we spoke to them:

In the struggle We waged to liberate Our country, the support provided to Us by the British government has been quite remarkable.

We would like to remind the rest of the world that in the future, Britain's enemies will be Ethiopia's enemies, and, to the best of Our capacity, We will provide Britain with moral and material support. Moreover, as the Belgians trained my Palace Guards, We wish that British military officers train our army. The adminstration will begin with modern plans and ideas. It is Our wish to expand education into every neighborhood. It will be hard to find educated Ethiopians. For the time being, We intend to choose and appoint some individuals who can serve as ministers.

We have sent telegrams to the kings and presidents of friendly countries informing them of Our entry into Our capital city. They have replied by sending telegrams congratulating Us.... Among those who sent Us congratulatory telegrams were: His Majesty King George VI of England; His Majesty King George II of Greece; Her Majesty Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands, H. E. Mr. F. D. Roosevelt, the President of the United State of America, H. E. Mr. Mackenzie King, the Prime Minister of Canada, H. E. General Smuts, the Prime Minister of South Africa, the Patriarch of Alexandria, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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December 31, 2017