25TH ANNIVERSARY OF LIBERATION,
5TH MAY, 1966
We thank Almighty God that We have been spared to witness the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the victory over Fascism. In the words of David: “The Lord heard my voice; He sent his angel from on high, and He delivered me from my enemies.”
We thank Almighty God that We are reunited today with so many of the noble and courageous men who fought at Our side in that glorious campaign.
We thank Almighty God for the triumph of right and justice and liberty over aggression and oppression.
Today, twenty-five years are but a brief moment in the span of history. The memories come crowding upon Us, as we re-live those hours of unbounded rejoicing, as We are buffeted again by the profound emotions which swept Our mind and spirit then. Surrounded today by familiar faces, by old friends and comrades, Our heart is full.
May 5th, 1941 will live as one of the greatest days in the long annals of Ethiopian history. It was, at the same time, a great turning point in world history. For a brief period, Ethiopia alone had carried on the struggle against fascist tyranny. Our appeals were unheeded. Our warnings ignored. But at last those who had turned their backs on Us at the League of Nations were themselves driven into turmoil and suffering and to the very brink of destruction. At last they came to recognize their common responsibility to oppose the inhuman and degrading doctrine which had brought devastation and destruction to Our innocent nation. The victory over fascism in Ethiopia and for Africa was but the first inspiring landmark for the allied nations on the long road back to the re-establishment of liberty and justice for themselves.
A century ago, Ethiopia possessed virtually no modern weapons, no defence against the power of technology. Swords and spears and raw courage were her weapons. She had no standing army, no trained and disciplined officers and ranks. She depended for her safety upon the patriotic instincts in the heart of every Ethiopian and upon the inspiration of her leaders.
But these resources, even then, were not lightly to be dismissed. Just seventy years ago, Ethiopian armies formed almost as if by magic and hurled themselves upon a grasping invader to gain the immortal triumph of Adowa.
The victory of Adowa has long been hailed as one of the major events of the nineteenth century in Africa. Its effects upon Ethiopia and her relations with the colonial powers were far-reaching. Certainly it preserved the nation’s age-old independence from the greedy incursions then being made elsewhere against our brethren on this continent. Thus, although denied her rightful access to the sea and isolated from the influences of modern technological learning, Ethiopia nonetheless maintained her independence and stood as a source of inspiration and hope to her fellow Africans.
But the legacy of Adowa was perhaps misleading, for soon, courage and valour would not be enough. The industrialized nations applied the weight of modern science to the development of ever more fearful engines of war. Recognizing the danger, We early attempted to alter the nature of the nation’s military base. At our insistence, a small modern military unit was in fact, organized and trained by experienced soldiers. Airplanes were purchased and young men were sent abroad for advanced instruction.
First of all, however, We placed Our faith in the principle of collective security and the seemingly indisputable might of the League of Nations. The story of the betrayal of that faith is one of the acknowledged tragedies of our times. The arms and supplies which Ethiopia could not produce herself were denied her, while the enemy continued to build and fuel with its own resources its great war machine. The most futile sanctions were half-heartedly called for, and less than half-heartedly enforced. Ethiopia’s warriors and patriots fought with all the valour and desperation for which they and their ancestors had so often been called upon before, but they were powerless against the bombs and poison gas which the enemy so mercilessly and savagely employed against soldiers and innocent civilians alike. The brutality of those infamous days will forever haunt the memory of those who lived through them.
The lessons of experience are rarely easy. It was through bloodshed and sorrow that Ethiopia learned the awesome power of modern arms and organized military might. From the ashes of the war Ethiopians began to reconstruct a new and more powerful nation. We vowed in sorrow that Ethiopia would never again through weakness suffer such outrages as had been wrought upon her.
In the years since 1941, Ethiopia’s military power has grown far beyond the meager and ill-equipped forces which struggled through the mountains to Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is ready today, as in the past, to defend her integrity to the last limit of her resources. But she disposes now of the trained military forces, the modern equipment which will protect her rights and interests against the onslaughts of any misguided aggressor. Never again will she be taken unaware.
From the day of Our return We set about building a military apparatus which would be equal to the task of guarding Our homeland and people against attack from any source. Over the years the quality and strength of the nation’s forces have grown rapidly. Today Ethiopia possesses compact and well equipped ground, naval and air forces. She has trained substantial numbers of soldiers, sailors and airmen in the modern techniques of engineering and weaponry. These have long since proved in battle their capacity to stand man for man against the soldiery of any nation in the world. Acting with the help and guidance of other friendly nations we have established on Ethiopian soil the most modern army, navy and air training institutions. Skilled officers possessing the highest technical qualifications now comprise the imposing cadres of Ethiopia’s military leaders. Other African nations have sent the finest of their young men to study in our military institutions both in recognition of the quality of education provided there and in open expression of the trust and confidence which we repose in one another.
Yet even beyond the vast improvements in the Ethiopian military machine, there stands in defence of peace the great bulwark of the United Nations, erected with willing and eager hands out of the torment, destruction and misery of the last war. Even as the guns were falling silent the representatives of millions of men and women, Ethiopians among them, pledged themselves to uphold the Charter of the United Nations so that no such holocaust would ever again ravage and darken the earth. The United Nations was conceived as a means of real and positive action in the face of aggression. Ethiopia evinced her continuing faith in collective security as she enrolled herself among the charter members of the organization. In accordance with decisions of the United Nations, Ethiopia has shown her willingness to give substance to principle, to fight and sacrifice for others as for herself – in Korea, in the Congo, and elsewhere – in order to uphold and defend the rule of justice and reason in human affairs.
We have gathered today to pay tribute to the noble fighting men of Ethiopia and of many other nations who struggled here and gave their blood to this land. We salute the heroes, both living and dead, men like the late General Wingate, Ethiopian and foreigner alike, who enabled Our people once again to walk freely with heads unbowed upon the soil of their fathers.
Present on this occasion are a few of the valiant British officers who twenty-five years ago travelled the long and arduous path to victory. We recall with deep pride the magnificent accomplishments of the many brave men like Brigadier Sandford who joined in that glorious and triumphant march.
We are also honoured today with the presence of military representatives of many of the other nations whose troops fought on our soil in the common cause. Their names recall an honour roll of bravery and selfless sacrifice. We are proud that our friendship with them continues strong.
We are proud too that in testimony to the unity and present readiness of this entire continent, military representatives of the member states of the Organization of African Unity are present at these commemorative ceremonies. High among the principles enshrined in the Charter of that Organization is the commitment of its member states to co-ordinate and harmonize their policies with respect to co-operation for mutual defence and security. The growing might of this continent’s military forces must make any aggressor wary indeed.
Finally, representatives of the armed forces of both the United States and the Soviet Union have joined this assemblage at Our invitation. These two immensely powerful nations dispose today of destructive power which defies the comprehension of ordinary men. Both are here represented as friends of Our nation; both refused to extend recognition of the Fascists in Ethiopia; both have contributed to the building of the modern Ethiopian state. The American and Soviet governments have been entrusted by fate with awesome responsibilities for the maintenance of world peace. We are hopeful that in consultation with Ethiopia and all other nations of the world they will both continue to devote their utmost efforts to the search for effective means to halt the arms race and bring about meaningful disarmament.
For twenty-five years now, Ethiopia has lived quietly and her people have enjoyed the blessings of peace. Our country’s economy has flourished, and foreigners, in collaboration with Ethiopians, have been encouraged to invest in this stable African state.
But throughout all this time the flames of war have not for a moment ceased to flicker from point to point across the world. It is important that this assembly, gathered in recognition of a great triumph of arms, should recall that the victory which was won in Ethiopia was a victory for peace. The military might of which the nations here represented today dispose can be justified only to preserve peace and freedom. There is enough hunger and misery in the world without further war and suffering. The vast sums swallowed by modern arsenals capable of infinite destruction could be employed in providing food for hungry mouths, in eradicating poverty, illiteracy and disease, in building for a united world the better way of life which man’s genius has made possible.
Let us vow to be strong today only that we may in our strength advance the time when it will be possible to beat our swords into plowshares and when nation shall not make war upon nation. Let us pledge together that this time will not be long. Let us work for trust among men, for disarmament, for peace.
Selected Speeches of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie – page 347 –