PRESS CONFERENCE: 74TH BIRTHDAY
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press,
Today I called this press conference in order, first of all, to convey some of my thoughts about recent happenings and in the second place, to provide you with an opportunity to ask questions on any subject you might desire.
First I would like to say a few words on the recent decision of the International Court of Justice on the legal action that was brought by Ethiopia and Liberia against South Africa concerning South West Africa. As everybody knows by now, all mankind is concerned about the situation in South West Africa, and what the policy of the South African Government implies to the rest of the world.
The International Court at the Hague has discussed the South West African question for several years now. Ethiopia, Liberia and many other African states as well as men of good-will everywhere have done their best to see that justice is rendered in this case so that the people in that unfortunate country are freed from the status of oppression to which they are subjected at the present. Justice is the essence of civilized existence. Unfortunately the decision of the Court has been influenced more by political than by legal considerations.
I know of the great hope that was placed upon the Court when it was established. At the very outset, I know the Court made useful decisions in certain cases but the tendency of the Court, if we take the recent decision as an example of what we may expect in the future, does not inspire confidence, and because of this we feel that there will be a lesser tendency to resort to judicial settlement of disputes.
The plaintiffs before the Court were Ethiopia and Liberia, but in a sense, one can say all peace-loving peoples were somehow concerned about and were anxiously awaiting the result which was expected to be in accordance with the demands of justice. It is quite true that judges are free in their task of decision-making but the decisions must be in accordance with the law. However we must also point out that humanity has the right to require that certain fundamental institutions and thoughts of value which are common to all society and are indispensable to peace be incorporated as part of the principles of international law upon which the International Court of Justice should base itself. The Statute of the Court does make adequate provisions for that.
I must point out that this judgment is contrary to the interests of mankind and more particularly, contrary to the interests of the African peoples. I say the decision was affected more by political than legal considerations. However we are not at the end of the road. I believe we are going to continue to struggle for the removal of the system of apartheid and oppression in South West Africa, and I am confident that this struggle will bring about a satisfactory solution to the problem.
Your Imperial Majesty, Your long life has been one of eventful years of accomplishments of many things. Many events have transpired in the world, too. Which ones does Your Imperial Majesty find the most significant?
Longevity A Divine Gift
I thank God for giving me such a long life. This is a matter which can be only considered as a gift from the Almighty. In my long life I have seen and experienced many things. Ever since I was 18 years old, I saw many things happening both in my own country and abroad. It is difficult to point out the most important events during that long period which comprises many decades. The two events that stand out, and which affected and influenced the course of events throughout the world, have of course been World War I and World War II; the bloodshed during the two world wars, why they were fought, how they were concluded and the aftermath of those wars. In particular, speaking of these world wars, I recollect of the influence leaders exerted on the course of events. The history of World War I, of World War II and the aftermath will always stand out in the annals of history. We know those who were responsible for those wars – the men with evil purpose and evil mind – who took the leadership in certain parts of the world and the events that followed. Anybody who has lived through these two great wars and the bloodshed must recognize the need for effective safeguards to maintain international peace.
I also know that certain institutions in certain states were responsible for the outbreak of the world wars. Since then democratic institutions and procedures have been strengthened throughout the world, and I am confident that as a result of this experience of the last decades we are in a better position to maintain world peace.
Of course, the Second World War had affected Ethiopia. It is a well-known fact that our country fell victim to the aggressive forces of Fascism. I had the privilege of pleading the case before the League of Nations in Geneva but the League's collective security system had not been strengthened and there were no standard procedures to which there was universal adherence for the settlement of international disputes. The system failed. Ethiopia suffered from the failure of that system but the concept of collective security was more firmly established after the war.
I know that men of goodwill everywhere sympathized with Ethiopia. We continued the struggle to free our people from the rule of aliens and finally we were able to overcome the enemy. We returned to our capital city and began extensive programmes for the progress of our country.
Furthermore, we witnessed the emergence of the new independent African states, the laying of the foundation here in Addis Ababa for a greater unity among the African peoples. These are some of the events I recollect and to which I attach great significance.
Your Imperial Majesty, do You see any relationship between the League of Nations' failure to take action on the situation Ethiopia faced in 1935-36 and the failure of the Court to take action on the South West African case in 1966?
There is a material difference between the failure of the League's collective security system in 1935 and 1936 and failure of the International Court of Justice to consider the merits of the South West African case.
The collective security system arrangement that we thought, and everybody thought, was secured under the Covenant of the League of Nations collapsed completely. The failure of the International Court of Justice now to consider the merits of the South West African case means that legal procedures for the settlement of the dispute are no longer open to us and that we are to approach the problem from another angle, perhaps by insisting to invoke the collective security measures under the Charter of the United Nations. So that in the two cases I see this important difference: while the League of Nations collapsed completely, in the case of the International Court of Justice, it was one particular organ of the collective security system that failed to respond to the demands of justice in South West Africa.
Your Imperial Majesty, has the situation in Rhodesia and the struggle that was taken in relation to that question tended to weaken the Organization of African Unity?
Needless to say, all the African peoples were disheartened by events in Rhodesia and by the failure of the efforts of many states and individuals to restore the legitimate rights to the African majority in Southern Rhodesia.
There are of course many ways to solve a problem; there are many methods of peaceful settlement and there is also the question of the use of force, but I believe that before we resort to measures such as the use of force, we must exhaust all reasonable peaceful methods. So far, the African states had jointly taken some action but they had put greater faith on the British Government to crush the illegal regime there. However, we are sad to say that such measures on the part of the British Government have not been successful and they have not been adequate.
The African states in the Organization of African Unity have no difference so far as the Rhodesian question is concerned. Certain differences about the approaches to the problem existed in the past but we are confident that in our future actions we will be more united than ever for a just settlement of the Rhodesian question.
I am sure that when the African heads of state reconvene their regular summit here the Rhodesian question will be prominent on their agenda.
Your Imperial Majesty, You have been the leader of our people for the last 49 years. What are Your Majesty's views concerning the progress that the country has achieved in the last 49 years?
We have witnessed many accomplishments in the last 49 years – and all these achievements have given sustained benefits to the Ethiopian people. If I were to be asked to name just a few, I would say the outstanding achievement has been in the constitutional changes of our country. We have made it possible for the participation of all our people in the work of the government. We have instituted systems by which the rights of our people are protected. In the economic field, we have instituted systems by which the Ethiopian people can help themselves and their government also. We see that the efforts we have invested on the improvement of our national life are at present giving forth good results to our people. Although I will be the first to say that what has been achieved has not been fully satisfactory, the country is moving ahead, progress is being attained by the people and the future is full of hope and promise.
Your Imperial Majesty, General de Gaulle will pay a state visit to Ethiopia in the near future. Do you expect special agreements to be signed between Ethiopia and France as a result of the visit?
We have enjoyed a relation of friendship with France for many years. The economic, cultural and other relations our people maintained with the French people are well-known. When General de Gaulle arrives here we shall have the opportunity to discuss ways and means by which we can strengthen further this good relation between our two countries. I am confident that when General de Gaulle visits Ethiopia we shall have the opportunity to work out concrete agreements of mutual co-operation. I am glad he accepted our invitation to visit Ethiopia. I am sure the result will be satisfactory to both our peoples.
What have been the main achievements by Ethiopia in the last few decades?
The answer to this question can be very long. I have already pointed out the achievements that were attained in the constitutional and economic fields. Now I wish to add the progress we have made and we intend to make in the future in the field of education.
Education is not new in Ethiopia. Although we did not have any modem universities, for centuries we had enjoyed our own system of education – a system that brought great benefit to our people. However, more recently we embarked on a modem system of education and a great deal has been achieved. I am confident that in the future we will work even harder and get even more satisfactory results. It is because I considered education indispensable to the needs of Ethiopia that I personally assumed for a number of years the portfolio of the Minister of Education.
Your Imperial Majesty, what do you think about the invitation to Your Imperial Majesty by Mr. Podgorny, the President of the Soviet Union to visit the USSR?
Yes, the Soviet Government has extended an invitation to me to pay an official visit to the Soviet Union. I was glad to receive the invitation. When I visit the Soviet Union I hope I will have an opportunity to discuss with the responsible officials of the Soviet Government matters of mutual interest between our two countries and also matters which I hope will help to strengthen peace.
I said I was glad to accept the invitation but the precise date of my visit is still under consideration. There are certain matters to be discussed at a certain level in this connection.
July 30, 1966.
Selected Speeches of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie – page 676 –