Selected Speeches Of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I


Nearly a quarter of a century ago We were pleased to grant to Our beloved people the first Constitution in the history of this three-thousand-year-old Empire. Today, on the Jubilee Anniversary of Our Coronation, We are pleased to proclaim a Revised Constitution consolidating the progress achieved, and preparing the way for future advances.

On that day, 24 years ago, We laid the basis of the modern Government of Ethiopia. That we had reflected well upon the particular needs of the Empire, and upon the future courses of its development, and that We had produced, at that time, a work capable of surviving the vicissitudes and the severe trials compressed into these 25 years of Our Reign, is attested by the force and vigour of the Government and of that same Constitution, following the occupation and subsequently glorious liberation of Our Empire. The Constitution which We proclaimed 24 years ago has, therefore, demonstrated its worth and its viability.

However, the enormous progress achieved during these 25 years requires that We adapt this same Constitution to the progress attained in order that the Empire may spring for­ward to yet further progress and development. Many of Our loyal subjects here present recall vividly the circumstances existing at the time of Our Coronation, and are in position to evaluate for themselves and to establish a comparison between the conditions existing at that time and today. Since Our first and foremost objective is the welfare and prosperity of Our people, it has been and still is Our constant purpose to strengthen the economic and educational foundations of Our country as well as to improve the standard of Our people.

It is in consequence of this programme that the population of the Empire has increased during the period under review, as well as the foreign inhabitants who, with Our subjects, are jointly participating in growing commercial and industrial enterprises.

Public Health Service

This increase has been due, in part, to the introduction not only of the latest techniques in the sciences of medicine and of public health, but also of facilities which did not exist here 25 years ago. For instance, the number of hospitals and clinics which existed then did not exceed 48, whereas today there are 240 hospitals and clinics throughout the Empire. The consequence of these measures has been an increase in the span of life of the inhabitants of Ethiopia, a reduction of infant mortality, and an overall increase in the national population.

As a result of this increase in population, and of the introduction of modern public utilities, our capital city has, within the last ten years, more than doubled in size. These modern and public facilities are not limited to the capital only, but are being extended to all throughout the Empire.


Those of you who were present 25 years ago, can compare well the present and the past, and will recall educational problems and difficulties which confronted you then. Today there are 35 times as many schools as existed 25 years ago.

Before the war the number of students pursuing their studies abroad was limited to a few score. Today, however, large numbers of our youth are pursuing higher studies abroad. Some of these have completed their studies and are already back home rendering services to their country in various capacities.

We have just mentioned the introduction, under Our guidance, of many modern public utilities in Our cities. We now have a national network of telephone and radio communications. Today, there are more improved roads in Ethiopia than at any other point on the East Coast of Africa. To these achievements must be added the outstandingly successful Airlines, the establishment of which was due entirely to Our initiative. As a result, Ethiopia is not weeks, but hours, from all the world capitals, and foreign nationals are at present able, without any difficulty to visit Our country.

Commerce and Industry

Similarly, reflect upon the conditions of commerce, industry and finance as they existed 25 years ago and today. Not only have the resourcefulness, the initiative, and the enterprise of Ethiopian subjects during this period resulted in the introduction and establishment of new industries, but also foreign capital has, in recent years, been coming to Ethiopia in ever increasing amounts, although not to the extent of Our expectations. You have but to look about yourselves to note the full measure of that development. The face, even of our cities and of our countryside is being transformed through the construction of imposing industrial establish­ments, mining and extractive installations, and mechanical agricultural projects. Plans have now reached the stage of execution for an ambitious national programme of hydro­electric development and of irrigation.

With regard to foreign trade, Ethiopia has won for her various products, a place in the world markets which greatly exceeds Our expectations. Moreover, through improved communications with the rest of the world, Ethiopia has been able to meet the needs of other countries as well as her own.

Ethiopian Products

Ethiopia has entered these markets with entirely new products, and on a scale exceeding the most optimistic predictions of 25 years ago. For example, Ethiopia's exports of fresh vegetables, meats and other fresh foodstuffs, in one year alone, exceed the entire exports in one year before the war, of coffee, or hides. As for coffee, the value of the annual crop exported has increased over ten times in the 25 year period under review. As for exports generally, they have increased nearly in the same amount. Even in the much shorter period of the last nine years, exports have quadrupled, as have imports, the former passing from $37,000,000 in 1946 to $169,000,000 in 1954 and the latter from $36,000,000 to $137,000,000.

Similarly, and as a concomitant development, the financial picture has been completely transformed during the past 25 years and that, notwithstanding the incredible hardships and sacrifices imposed by the occupation and the subsequent bleak years following liberation. Whereas, before the war the national budget of Ethiopia did not exceed $5,000,000, today it exceeds $100,000,000. The money in circulation has increased from $80,000,000 in 1946 to over $220,000,000 in 1954. In that same period, our holdings of gold have increased approximately 20 times over. It is obvious that, from this point of view also, Ethiopia, and indeed the Government itself, have burst forth from the limits necessarily traced by a constitution promulgated under vastly different conditions.

Supervision and Control

However, this same progress calls for increasing govern­mental supervision and control, as is evidenced by the ever-augmenting number of laws governing the protection of pro­perty, of national and foreign investments, the legislation governing limited liability corporations, the guarantees for monetary stability, etc. This development is also reflected in the marked growth of the judicial system. During the last 12 years, leaving aside the Meketel Wareda courts, the courts of Our Empire, including Moslem or Sharia courts, have grown in numbers from 182 to 593.

In other words, this great material development, required a simultaneous and concomitant development not only of the judiciary, but also of the other branches of government charged with the responsibility of fostering and protecting this thriving plant of national economy.

Ethiopia Ministries

In yet other ways have the developments of the past 25 years called for an ever increasing expansion of the governmental framework. Many of you will recall the state of the organization which existed, 25 years ago, as regards the ministries of Our Empire. These were not only few in num­ber, but greatly understaffed. Today, although much remains to be accomplished, no less than 14 ministries, housed under far more adequate conditions and with an ever growing and increasingly trained staff of civil servants, is valiantly seeking to cope with the ever-widening perspective of national development.

Similarly, the organized army of 25 years ago, although valiant, was inadequately armed and lacked adequate numbers of officer cadres and training. Today, that situation has been vastly improved, to the extent even that Ethiopia has been able to send a contingent to participate in the United Nations effort in Korea. This development has, however, required an ever-increasing expenditure and heavy sacrifices, but We will resolutely pursue to completion, and regardless of costs and obstacles, this programme for the modernization of Our Armed Forces.


The growth in size and responsibilities of the Government has necessitated the strengthening of the processes of centralization. All regions of the Empire are now closely knit together under a single unified direction capable of guiding them all along parallel lines of progress and integrating all into a common national endeavour.

In addition, all vestiges of feudalistic and other classes of personal privileges have been wiped out, so that all Our beloved subjects may live together as equals and brothers in the same family.

International Horizons Expanded

On the other hand, under our reign, Ethiopia's international horizons have been enormously expanded. Twenty-five years ago Ethiopia was still a little known corner of the dark continent of Africa. Through her courageous resistance against aggression and through Our appeal to the world founded on respect for international morality and collective security, Ethiopia has achieved imperishable fame. The world has come to recognize the moral stature and greatness of the Ethiopian people. In consequence, We have been able to rectify certain of the crying injustices perpetrated against Our beloved country during the iniquitous period of imperialism against which Ethiopia, under Our leadership, had to fight alone. No longer is Ethiopia a land-locked country. Two ports on the Red Sea are being developed to handle the rapidly expanding foreign trade of Ethiopia to which We have just referred. With the rectification of sixty years of injustice, and with the return of Our devoted Eritrean subjects, Ethiopia has known, once again, that national unity and coherence which she has enjoyed since before the time of Christ.

However, here again, the increase in population, territory and national responsibilities, has called for a broader concept of governmental organization. For example, problems connected with a maritime frontier, the development of ports, of naval forces and of a merchant marine, did not exist until recently. Today, the Government must be remodelled to take these developments into consideration. Engineering skills and administrative supervision of high order are involved, as well as the establishment of a Naval Academy, a Coast Guard Academy and Marine and Fisheries Administrations. In sum, the hurried pace of progress which Ethiopia has known during Our Reign now imperatively calls from all of us for our most intelligent efforts to profit by those favours which the Almighty has bestowed upon Us. It is Our hope to have the assistance of friendly countries in these efforts.

In other words, the past twenty-five years have been characterized by material, including commercial, industrial and financial progress, a steeply ascending curve of cultural and political development, an expanded population and national territory, and ever-widening national horizons. Ethiopia, under Our guidance, must consolidate this progress. She must do more. She must advance yet further. To assure the progressive welfare of Our beloved people is Our sole goal of life. There can be no justification for any government, whatever be its form, except that of ensuring and promoting the welfare of its subjects.

Revised Constitution

Obviously, the structure of the Government itself must grow in size and in power. To do so We must broaden and strengthen the bases of all three of the traditional branches of government, the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The Revised Constitution which We promulgate today reflects these preoccupations and enlarges and consolidates the Government.

In this Revised Constitution, We have not only sought to provide the essential conditions for effective work by ministers and Government officials, but We have, at the same time, provided that Our ministers shall be responsible to Us and to the State for the proper fulfilment of their highly responsible functions. Close collaboration between the executive and legislative branches of all modern governments has become an ineluctable necessity as regards the legislative process. In order to work intelligently in the drafting of laws, Parliament must be acquainted with problems as viewed by the Executive. Consequently, We have provided that ministers, on their own initiative, or at the request of Parliament, may appear before it to explain these matters. It is Our hope that this procedure will serve as a precious tool for the co-ordination of the executive and legislative processes and that, with the explanations which Our ministers may, from time to time, furnish to Parliament, this latter body will be able, more intelligently and in a fuller knowledge of the facts and circumstances involved, to devise legislation more responsive to the exigencies of the present hour and to the needs of the future.

We have mentioned the rapid expansion of legislation in social and economic fields. New industries, the accumulation of wealth, the acquisition of a maritime frontier and of ports, the existence of new fields of social endeavour, and, finally, problems of international import including treaties, and other international commitments, have all served to broaden the responsibilities of Parliament and to call from the members thereof for greater social, economic, national and, indeed, international vision. To respond to these problems, We have sought in two ways to strengthen the legislative branch of the Government, first by organizational improvements and secondly by a broadening of the Parliamentary functions.

Houses of Parliament

We have provided for a substantial increase in size of both Houses of Parliament. What is, however, perhaps even more important, is that, for the Chamber of Deputies, We have provided for direct elections, by secret ballot, throughout the Empire upon the basis of universal suffrage. Moreover, in order that these provisions for elections should be promptly translated into reality, We have prepared for consideration and approval by Parliament a national electoral law. The Constitution contains provisions to the end that all parts of the Empire shall receive their due representation in Parliament, and that there shall be no discrimination whatsoever amongst racial or religious groups. Furthermore, as We will have occasion shortly to indicate in detail, We have provided that there shall be no discrimination among Ethiopian subjects with respect to the enjoyment of all civil rights or citizenship. It is Our steadfast aim that all citizens of the Empire shall live together as brothers, in one large family.

In order that every member of Parliament shall feel himself free to carry out his responsibilities to the Nation, "without fear or favour" We have provided in greater detail for the traditional system of Parliamentary immunities as consecrated by the original Constitution and by the practice in other countries of the world.

Finally, by detailed provisions, We have established means for resolving differences of opinion between the two Houses of Parliament. In this matter, We have followed time-honoured precedents from the Parliamentary systems of other countries using bicameral legislatures. It is essential that the two Houses work together in harmony for the national interest. They should not constitute warring or antagonistic elements. Those elected by the people must also benefit by the sage advice of those to whom long years of experience in government administration and positions of responsibility have given wisdom and insight.

Such are, then, the concepts which We have adopted in respect of the reorganization of Parliament. There is, however, as We have just mentioned, yet another aspect of this problem of strengthening the bases and enhancing the importance of Parliament. By that We refer to the role which Parliament itself, as so reorganized, will be called upon to play in the legislative process. We have envisaged and, in consequence provided for, a broadened role of parliament in respect of the law-making functions.

Legislative Activity

We have broadened the fields of legislative activity. For example by detailed provisions in the Revised Constitution, We have provided for further legislative responsibilities in respect of finances. Furthermore, We have provided that every proposal of law involving an increase in governmental expenditure by a new or increased tax shall first come before the Chamber of Deputies.

We have mentioned the international responsibilities of Parliament in the legislative process. For example, in the Revised Constitution, it is provided that, before entering into force, the advance approval of both Houses of Parliament shall be required in respect of all treaties and international agreements laying a burden on Ethiopian subjects personally, or modifying legislation in existence, or requiring expenditures of State funds or involving loans or monopolies, or a modification of the territory of the Empire, or of sovereignty or jurisdiction over any part of such territory, and in respect of all treaties of peace.

Human Rights

Although the original Constitution already contained provisions on Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties, this Chapter in the Revised Constitution contains provisions adopted in the most advanced countries of the world for the protection of Human Rights.

Each provision in this Chapter has a precedent, either in Ethiopian traditions, or in well-established constitutional precedents abroad. No less than 29 articles have been inserted in the Constitution to provide for the protection of the essential liberties and rights of the people. Thus, We have provided that "no one shall be denied the equal protection of the laws"; that "there shall be no discrimination amongst Ethiopian subjects with respect to the enjoyment of all civil rights"; that "there shall be no interference with the exercise in accordance with the law of the rites of any religion or creed by residents of the Empire"; that "freedom of speech and of the press is guaranteed throughout the Empire, in accordance with the law"; that "correspondence shall be subject to no censorship except in time of declared national emergency." We have, further confirmed our practice that every person accused of a crime shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty and that no one shall be imprisoned for debt, except in case of legally proved fraud.

Unlike many countries of the world, We have provided the right to any resident of the Empire to bring suit against the Government or any ministry, department, agency or instrumentality thereof, for wrongful acts resulting in substantial damage. Likewise, everyone in the Empire shall have the right to present petitions to Us.

So important have We considered these guarantees of Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties that, in the Revised Constitution, We have stipulated that not only the courts but, in particular, Ourselves, shall at all times assure and protect these Human Rights. They constitute principles which no branch of the Government, be it the Executive, Legislative or Judiciary, can transgress and which, in consequence, must be placed under the particular protection of the Sovereign Himself. We Ourselves will always be ready to act positively to ensure respect for these rights by all branches and every official of the Government. Thus, the lowliest subject of the Empire, the poorest as well as the richest, even the convict in prison, has always the assurance that the Sovereign is at all times vigilant in the protection of his rights and fundamental liberties.


Similar considerations have been borne in mind in drawing up the provisions concerning the third branch of the Government, the Judiciary. Thus, the welfare of Our beloved people is the supreme consideration which has dictated the deliberations out of which the Revised constitution was conceived and elaborated. We have given long and searching thought to this problem and the fruit of Our reflections and deliberations during the past six years is therefore no superficial achievement. It represents solid and patient studies for many months by Ourselves, with the assistance of specialists and many commissions. It was, thereafter, submitted to Parliament for its approval before receiving Our final authorization. Thus it is that today, We have been able to promulgate this Revised Constitution.

In Our preoccupation with the problem, We have been alive to the realization that no single document, however profound and however comprehensive can, of itself, bring about far-reaching and fundamental traditions, customs, habits, predilections, as well as the legal concepts of the society upon which it is based. The great liberal regimes of France and the Anglo-Saxon countries and the great contributions which they have been able to make toward the development of political thought, have been based certainly not only on strictly constitutional concepts, but also on the broader and all-pervading philosophy of civil and penal law, a philosophy based on the sacredness of the individual.

Codification of Laws

Conscious of the broader implications of constitutional reform and of the necessity of providing means by which it may take root, We have called upon the services of the most enlightened jurists of the Continent of Europe to codify, under Our direct and constant supervision, and in the light of Ethiopia's age-old traditions and of her present day and future needs, the civil, penal, commercial and maritime laws of the Empire. The work undertaken and already accomplished under Our supervision and constant encouragement, has been gigantic, and We expect shortly to receive the final fruits of all these labours for the benefit of Our beloved people.

The Constitution which We promulgated twenty-four years ago has amply proved its worth and We trust that Our beloved subjects will benefit from the Revised Constitution which has adapted the earlier one to the changed conditions of today. We pray the Almighty to grant Us wisdom and strength to guide Our people to ever-greater destinies. We express to Him Our gratitude for having spared Us to celebrate the twenty-fifth Anniversary of Our Coronation.

November 3, 1955.

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