THE PAFMECA CONFERENCE
It is a privilege for us Ethiopians to welcome in Our midst such a distinguished gathering of African nationalist leaders and freedom fighters of this region on the occasion of the opening of the Conference of the Pan-African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa here in our Capital city of Addis Ababa. This is not the first time that Addis Ababa has acted as a host to African leaders, and the results achieved during past Conferences give cause for pride and a sense of accomplishment on the part of those who took part in them. We are equally certain that this Conference, which convenes today, will contribute significantly to the goals of African Independence and Unity.
We specially welcome the Delegations of the newly independent sister African State of Tanganyika, whose leader Mr. Julius Nyerere has played such a prominent role in the initiation and promotion of the ideals of P.A.F.M.E.C.A. We are also happy to note that P.A.F.M.E.C.A. is drawing into its folds, for the first time since its inception, several Independent African States namely, Tanganyika, the Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia. This will no doubt be a strong factor to accelerate the freedom movement of Our region. The fact that new nations are recognizing the importance of this movement and the impact which it can have in shaping the future region should be a source of satisfaction and encouragement to us all.
This Conference meets at a critical juncture in the historical development of the countries of East and Central Africa. While We rejoice at the recent accession to independence of several African Countries, We are full of hope and confidence that the remaining dependent territories, who find themselves under colonial rule, will soon find themselves amidst us as members of a community of free nations.
Ethiopia, as the oldest independent African State, has had bitter experiences in maintaining the continuity of that Independence down throughout the centuries. The bitter struggle our country had to pass through in the 19th and 20th centuries, when our own very survival as a sovereign and independent African State was threatened, is well known. This struggle reached its climax when one of the then principal colonial powers launched unprovoked aggressions against Ethiopia in 1896 and in 1935. But the bravery and gallantry of the Ethiopian nationalist forces which were amply displayed in those years not only saved our country but also contributed to a substantial degree to the liberation of Africa. In her struggles, Ethiopia fought not only for herself but for all Africa, and the triumph of this Continent over the forces of imperialism and colonialism is in some small measure a vindication and a record for the hardships and perils of years past.
Source of Inspiration
It is a historical fact that Ethiopia’s struggle against colonialism and imperialism has been a source of inspiration to all the coloured peoples of the world. This struggle of Ethiopia had earned her the active opposition of all the colonial powers who had systematically followed a policy of containing and isolating Ethiopia from the rest of Africa. This was accompanied by a continuous barrage of hostile propaganda misrepresenting Ethiopian reality to the outside world and particularly Africa. However, this policy was frustrated and Ethiopia continued to exist as a sovereign and independent country though the threat had never been removed. During this period the relentless struggle of our people to maintain the independence of their country had won the sympathy and moral support of the entire world and gave meaning and form to the present Pan-African Movement. At this point it would be fitting to pay tribute to such distinguished personalities as Mr. Jomo Kenyatta, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Dr. W. E. Du Bois, and others who had completely identified themselves with our struggle against colonialism and imperialism in trying years.
It is common knowledge that after the close of the second World War the African Liberation Movement had gathered momentum and penetrated the length and breadth of the entire continent of Africa. In the period since the war We have seen the birth of over twenty-six independent African States, who have gained full membership in the U. N. and this number will undoubtedly go on increasing as each year sees the emergence of still more new states to independence. Ethiopia is justly proud of the role she has played in this development.
New African Nations
Next October We will be happy to welcome Uganda into the community of Independent African States. We are confident that after the next constitutional conference which is due to take place in two weeks time, Kenya’s independence too as a unified State will not be unnecessarily delayed.
Despite the recent unfortunate events that have taken place in Ruanda-Urundi and the setback the African nationalists have suffered in the loss of their dedicated nationalist leader, the late Prince Rwagasore, We have to hope that Ruanda-Urundi will attain its cherished goal of independence in March 1962 in accordance with the United Nations resolutions.
However, when We turn our attention to the Rhodesias and the Portuguese Colonies of Angola and Mozambique and others We find the prospects rather gloomy. The recent banning of the National Democratic Party led by Mr. Joshua Nkomo in Southern Rhodesia, and the arrest and imprisonment of many of its leading members did not pass without arousing the indignation of all freedom loving peoples.
The situation in Northern Rhodesia is equally grave. There too We find the United National Independent Party, which has the support of the African majority of that country led by the distinguished nationalist leader Mr. Kenneth Kaunda, banned and suppressed in some parts of the country. We deplore the measures taken by the colonialist regime to frustrate legitimate African aspirations for justice, freedom and independence. We are sure that ultimately our African brothers there will emerge victorious and attain the goal they have set for themselves.
Compared with these two territories the prospects in Nyasaland look somewhat brighter. But even there We are aware that much still remains to be done. We extend, therefore, our wholehearted support and encouragement to our distinguished brother, the honourable Dr. Hastings Banda, in his endeavour to assure African majority rule in his country.
The situation in Zanzibar too merits our full attention. It is of paramount importance in our view that the African majority of that island nation be allowed to play the leading role in shaping the destiny of their country unhindered by outside interference and intrigue.
As regards the tragic situation obtaining in Angola, Mozambique and the others, We deplore Portugal’s policy of suppression of unarmed and defenceless peaceful African inhabitants who have no other fault than demanding their right of self-determination and independence. In our view, the Portuguese colonies are non-self-governing territories and all the good that Portugal can do in the interest of peace is to co-operate with the United Nations and comply with its resolutions and negotiate with the nationalist leaders with a view to working out the programme and time-table of its colonies’ accession to independence.
With respect to the question of the future status of Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland, We are disturbed by the slow pace of political, constitutional, economic and social progress of our fellow Africans in these territories. It is incumbent upon Great Britain to apply the same wisdom it had applied to its former colonies in Africa and Asia and likewise to speed up the political and constitutional advance of the African inhabitants of these territories so as to assure their early accession to independence.
The apartheid policy of the racist government of the white minority in South Africa continues to subject our African brothers, who constitute the overwhelming majority in that country, to untold humiliation and oppression.
So much has been said in the past about sanctions and measures to be taken against South Africa, but unfortunately little has been done to force the Union Government to change its policy. It is therefore imperative that all those who have the interest of the Africans at heart should start thinking in new lines than hitherto undertaken in order to effectively assist our African brothers to deliver them out of the bondage under which they find themselves at present in that unhappy country.
The unfortunate condition in which our African brothers find themselves in South-West Africa under the notorious and deplorable policy of apartheid and ruthless administration of South Africa is equally depressing and intolerable. However, We are convinced that before long the continued efforts of the United Nations and the legal proceedings instituted at the International Court of Justice by Our Government and that of Our sister State of Liberia will bear fruit.
The Congo Crisis
Nineteen months have now elapsed since the Republic of the Congo (Leopoldville) acceded to independence, but because of persistent foreign interference in its internal affairs that sister African State has not been able so far to consolidate its unity and to enjoy the blessings of its independence. Consequently the intervention of the United Nations in the Congo was made necessary in order to assist the Central Government to restore law and order and to maintain the territorial integrity of the country. But while We appreciate the immense difficulties posed by disruptive outside interference, nevertheless the task of reintegrating the administration of the territory largely remains the responsibility of the Congolese themselves. Certain of Our Congolese brothers should let history pass a severe judgment on them because of their seeming lack of patriotism at these critical moments. All those who aspire to leadership in that sister country should realize that they will be accountable to posterity for all their activities. Should they proceed on their present course of dissention and internecine strife, they would continue to be a pawn of neo-colonialist diplomacy and thus endanger not only their country but also the entire continent of Africa. We therefore call upon them to take heed of this solemn warning and pursue the best interests of their country and that of Africa.
As We have stated earlier a greater part of Africa has got rid of colonial rule. But colonialism has left behind various problems. It has fostered tribal, religious and linguistic differences with the deliberate intention of preoccupying African States with quarrels among themselves and obstructing their development programmes and thus creating conditions for neo-colonialism to thrive. The Africans have advanced the concept of Pan-Africanism as the best method of resolving African problems and of further strengthening African Independence and Unity.
Ethiopia has fully identified herself with the Pan-African Movement, in the furtherance of which cause she has already proposed at the 16th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations the establishment of the Organization of African States. We are pleased to state that this same proposal has received unanimous acceptance by the Independent African States at the recent Conference in Lagos.
You are now meeting here to lay the foundation for the establishment of a regional federation of the East and Central African countries. Although this objective presupposes the total emancipation of the territories of Our region, most of which still finds itself under Colonial rule, this should not hinder the already Independent States of our region from going ahead and working out the practical arrangements that would give form and substance to this objective.
The eyes of all Africa and indeed of the world are focused upon this Conference and it is Our earnest hope that the outcome of your deliberations will measure up to the expectations of the peoples of this region and indeed the whole of Africa.
Africa, together with the rest of the non-aligned world, has emerged as a positive force for peace and harmony on our planet. While striving to realize our aspirations and ideals, therefore, all our efforts and resources should as well be directed towards the advancement of this all-important aim. May God grant you the wisdom in your endeavour to accomplish the task before you.
Feb. 2, 1962.
Selected Speeches of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie – page 230 –