ADDRESS TO THE U.S. CONGRESS
I count it a privilege to address what is one of the greatest Parliaments in the world today – where the forces that make great one of the most powerful of nations have been and are being brought to bear and where issues of world-wide importance have been decided.
The extent of that power and influence and the rapidity with which you have reached such a summit of importance for the rest of the world are unparalleled in world history and surpass all conceivable comparisons. Two hundred years ago today, as I am speaking, General George Washington won the battle of Fort Necessity, a victory in the gradual forging together of the United States.
What a phenomenal progress has been made in that interval of two hundred years, an interval which – you may pardon me as representative of one the most ancient nations in the world – is surely but a surprisingly short passage of time.
So great are your power and wealth that the budget of a single American city often equals that of an entire nation.
As in the case of other countries, you gave us lend-lease assistance during the war and, at present both mutual security and technical assistance. Yet, so vast are your power and resources that even after deducting all expenses of the Federal Government, you have met the costs of this assistance in one-quarter of an hour – fifteen minutes – of your annual production.
Of what interest is it to you then, you may well ask, that I, the head of what must be for you a small and remote country, should appear before you in the midst of your deliberations? I do not take it upon myself to point out why Ethiopia is important to the United States – that you can best judge for yourselves, but rather, to explain to you with brevity, the circumstances which make Ethiopia a significant factor in world politics. Since so much of world politics is today, influenced by the decisions which you, Members of Congress, reach, here in these halls, it is perhaps, not unimportant that I set out these considerations for you.
A moment ago, I remarked that, for you, Ethiopia must appear to be a small and remote country. Both of these terms are purely relative. In fact, so far as size is concerned, Ethiopia has exactly the area and population of your entire Pacific Far-West consisting of the states of California Oregon, Washington and also Idaho. We are remote, perhaps, only in the sense that We enjoy a secure position on the high plateau of East Africa protected by the Red Sea and Our mountain fastness. However, by the numerous airlines that link us with the rest of the world, it is possible to arrive in Washington from Addis Ababa in less than two days.
By one of those strange parallels of history, Ethiopia and a certain well-known country of the Far East who both enjoy highly defensible and strategic positions in their respective areas of the world, both, for similar reasons, simul-taneously, at the beginning of the seventeenth century came out of their period of isolation. As in the case of the other country, that isolation came to an end in the latter half of the nineteenth century, with this difference that, upon abandon-ing her policy of isolation she was immediately called upon to defend against tremendous odds, her thousand-year-old independence. Indeed so bitter has been this struggle against foreign aggrandizement that were it not for our persistence and for the enormous social, economic and material advance Ethiopia has made in the interval and particularly since the last war, Ethiopia might very well have returned to her policy of isolation.
In consequence, in many respects, and particularly since the last World War, Ethiopia has become a new frontier of widely expanding opportunities, notwithstanding the tremendous set-back which we suffered in the unprovoked invasion of Our country nineteen years ago and the long years of unaided struggle against an infinitely stronger enemy. The last seven years have seen the quadrupling of Our foreign trade, currency and foreign exchange holdings. Holdings of American dollars have increased ten times over. The Ethiopian dollar has become the only U.S. dollar-based currency in the Middle East today. The assets of Our national bank of issue have increased one thousand percent. Blessed with what is perhaps the most fertile soil in Africa, well-watered, and with a wide variety of climates ranging from the temperate on the plateau, to the tropical in the valleys, Ethiopia can grow throughout the year crops, normally raised only in widely separated areas of the earth’s surface.
Since the war, Ethiopia has become the granary of the Middle East, as well as the only exporter of meat, cereals and vegetables. Whereas at the end of the war, every educational facility had been destroyed, today, schools are spring-ing up throughout the land, the enrolment has quadrupled and, as in the pioneer days in the United States, and indeed, I presume, as in the lives of many of the distinguished members of Congress here present, school-children, in their zeal for education, take all sorts of work in order to earn money to purchase text books and to pursue their education.
Sea Access Regained
Finally, through the return in 1952, of its historical ports on the Red Sea and of the long-lost territory of Eritrea, Ethiopia has not only regained access to the sea, but has been one of the few states in the post-war world to have regained a lost territory pursuant to post-war treaties and in application of peaceful methods.
We have thus become a land of expanding opportunities where the American pioneering spirit, ingenuity, and technical abilities have been and will continue to be welcomed.
A thousand-year-old history of struggles to defend the territorial integrity of Our country, the long fight for liberation two decades ago and the recent campaign in Korea have given Our army an esprit de corps and a fighting spirit that, I believe, can stand, without misgiving, for comparison.
Today, Our fighting forces are among the largest and best trained in the Middle East.
Unlike many other countries, Ethiopia has long been a nation of small, rather than of large land-owners. Moreover, a profoundly democratic tradition has assured in the past, as it assures today, the rise to the highest post of responsibility in the government, of men of the humblest of origins.
It is but natural, therefore, that as a state which has existed for three thousand years, which has regained its independence by the blood of its patriots, which commands the allegiance and loyalty of even its most lowly subjects, and which enjoys an unusually sound economy, should have a regime of marked stability in that area of the world where stability is so frequently absent today.
Factor In World Politics
Such is the state of Ethiopia today about which I am speaking. It is against this background that I wish to talk to you of Ethiopia as a factor in world politics. Her geographic location is of great significance, with her long shore-line and its archipelago of hundreds of islands. Ethiopia occupies a unique position on the most constricted but important of strategic lines of communications in the world, that which passes through the Red Sea. She also lies on the other most strategic line of communication in the world, namely the world band of telecommunications which, because of natural phenomena, circles the world at the equator.
However, in yet perhaps a broader sense is Ethiopia’s geographical position of significance. Through her location on the shores of the Red Sea and in the horn of East Africa, Ethiopia has profound historical ties with the rest of the Middle East as well as with Africa.
In this respect she stands in a completely unique position. Her culture and social structure were founded in the mingling of her original culture and civilization with the Hamitic and Semitic migrations into Africa from the Arabian peninsula, and, in fact, today, our language, Amharic, is a member of that large family of Hamitic and Semitic tongues and. therefore, intimately related to Hebrew and Arabic.
Indeed, at one time Ethiopia extended to both sides of the Red Sea as well as north to Upper Egypt. It was, therefore, not without reason that, during the Middle Ages, the Emperor was known as “he who maintains order between the Christians and the Moslems.” A profound comprehension of and sympathy with the other states of the Middle East naturally inspires Ethiopian national policies.
On the other hand, three thousand years of history make of Ethiopia a profoundly African state in all that that term implies. In the United Nations, she has been to the forefront in the defense of Africa’s racial, economic and social interests.
Finally, both culturally and geographically, Ethiopia serves to a unique degree as the link between the Middle East and Africa. Situated in the horn of Africa, and along the shores of the Red Sea, with the desert area of Africa to the north and west, it is but natural that Ethiopia should be the filter known as “he who maintains order between the Christians and the Moslems.” A profound comprehension of and sympathy with the other states of the Middle East naturally inspires Ethiopian national policies, through which the ideas and influences of the continent of Africa should pass to the East and vice versa.
Thus, our social and political outlook and orientation became important not only in terms of Middle Eastern and African, but also in terms of world politics – and this leads me to point to a factor which I consider to be of unique significance. We have a profound orientation towards the West. One consideration alone, although there are others, would suffice to explain this result. The two Americas and the continent of Europe together constitute exactly one-third of the land masses of the world. It is in this one-third that are concentrated the peoples of the Christian Faith. With but rare exceptions Christianity does not extend beyond the confines of the Mediterranean. Here, I find it significant that, in point of fact, in this remaining two-thirds of the earth’s surface, Ethiopia is the state having the largest Christian population and is by far the largest Christian state in the Middle East. In fact, Ethiopia is unique among the nations of the world in that it is, today, the one remaining Christian state that can trace her history unbroken as a Christian polity from the days when the Roman Empire itself was still a vigorous reality.
The strength of the Christian tradition has been of vital significance in Our national history, and as a force for the unification of the Empire of Ethiopia. It is this force which gives us, among the other countries of the Middle East, a profound orientation towards the West. We read the same bible. We speak a common spiritual language.
It is this heritage of ideals and principles, that has excluded from our conscious, indeed, from our unconscious processes, the possibility of compromising with those principles which We hold sacred. We have sought to remain faithful to the principles of respect for the rights of others, and the right of each people to an independent existence. We, like you, are profoundly opposed to the un-Christian use of force and are, as you, attached to a concept of the pacific settlement of disputes.
Our lone struggle before the outbreak of the last world catastrophe as, indeed, our recent participation in the combined efforts and the glorious comradeship in arms in Korea have marked us, like you, in giving more than lip service to these ideals. It is your deep comprehension of our ideals and struggles in which it has been my privilege to lead, at times not without heartbreak, My beloved people, and Our common comradeship in arms that have laid a very sure and lasting basis for friendship between a great and a small country.
Last year, we concluded with you a new treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation designed to assure to American business enterprises expanded opportunities in Ethiopia. Our dollar-based currency is also there to assure the ready return to the United States of the profits of their investments. We have entrusted to American enterprises the development of our civil aviation which has surpassed all expectations. To American enterprise we have confided the exploitation of our oil resources as well as of our gold deposits. Although my country is 8,000 miles removed from the eastern seaboard of the United States, United States exports to Ethiopia, have, notwithstanding this heavy handicap, pushed forward to the forefront in Ethiopia.
Conversely, the United States stands in first rank of countries to whom we export. Ethiopia has, from the province of Kaffa, given the world the name and product of coffee. The coffee which you drink attains its unique and pleasant American flavour in part at least through the added mixture of Ethiopian coffee. American shoes are made, in part at least, from Ethiopian goatskins which are principally exported to the United States.
On the other hand, you have given us valuable support, not only in lend-lease assistance during the war, and today through mutual security and technical assistance agreements, but you have also powerfully aided us in obtaining rectification of long-standing injustices. If, today, the brother territory of Eritrea stands finally united under the Crown and if Ethiopia has regained her shore-lines on the Red Sea, it has been due, in no small measure to the contribution of the United States of America. I am happy to take this occasion to express to you, the Congress which has approved this assistance, the sincere and lasting appreciation of my people.
This collaboration with the West and with the United States in particular has taken yet broader forms. There is our military collaboration based on the mutual security programme. If we leave out the Atlantic group, Ethiopia has been the only state of the Middle East to follow the example of the United States in sending forces to Korea for the defence of collective security.
In so doing, Ethiopia has been inspired by a vision which is broader than her pre-occupation with regional policies or advantages. Nearly two decades ago, I personally assumed before history the responsibility of placing the fate of My beloved people on the issue of collective security, for surely, at that time and for the first time in world history, that issue was posed in all its clarity. My searching of conscience convinced me of the rightness of my course and if, after untold suffering, and, indeed, unaided resistance at the time of the aggression we now see that final vindication of that principle in our joint action in Korea, I can only be thankful that God gave me strength to persist in our faith until the moment of its recent glorious vindication.
We do not view this principle as an extenuation for failing to defend our homeland to the last drop of one’s blood, and indeed, our own struggles during the last two decades bear testimony to our conviction that in matters of collective security as of Providence, “God helps him who helps himself.”
However, We feel that nowhere can the call for aid against aggression be refused by any state large or small. It is rather a universal principle or it is no principle at all. It cannot admit of regional application or be of regional responsibility. That is why We, like you, have sent troops half way around the world to Korea. We must face that responsibility for its application wherever it may arise in these troubled hours of world history. Faithful to the sacred memory of her patriots who fell in Ethiopia and in Korea in defence of that principle, Ethiopia cannot do otherwise.
The world has ceaselessly sought for and has striven to apply some system for assuring the peace of the world. Many solutions have been proposed and many have failed. Today the system which we have advocated and with which the name of Ethiopia is inseparably associated has, after her sacrifices of two decades ago, and her recent sacrifices with the United States and others in Korea, finally demonstrated its worth. However, no system, not even that of collective security, can succeed unless there is not only a firm determination to apply it universally both in space and time, but also whatever be the cost. Having successfully applied the system of collective security in Korea, we must now, wherever in the world the peace is threatened, pursue its application more resolutely than ever and with courageous acceptance of its burdens. We have the sacred duty to our children to spare them the sacrifices which we have known. I call upon the world for determination fearlessly to apply and to accept as you and We have accepted them – the sacrifices of collective security.
It is here that Our common Christian heritage unites two peoples across the globe in a community of ideals and endeavour. Ethiopia seeks only to affirm and broaden that co-operation between peace-loving nations.
May 26, 1954.
Selected Speeches of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie – page 109 –