HONOURING FALLEN OFFICERS
Since the beginning of the world, God has always granted a people, divided though they may be into provinces, districts, villages and families, the privilege of living together as one nation, in freedom. However, because of human jealousy, and man’s domineering spirit and because of the greed that impels one to rob another of a part or the whole of his homeland, it has become an essential duty of man to keep ready the means of defending his freedom.
Ethiopia, jealous of her freedom, has always had to struggle, both for the sake of her territorial integrity and for the preservation of her religious liberty. The heroism, developed in the blood of our people and passed from generation to generation, has served to this day as a bulwark for our freedom, so that Ethiopia has never had to bear the yoke of slavery. To this, history and the world bear witness.
We have seen from the happenings of history how God, in His profound justice, never fails to execute righteous judgment, and for this our thanksgiving and praise to Him is unbounded. But unfailing as the righteous judgment of God in punishing the arrogant has ever been, since freedom is an issue upon which national existence itself depends, it becomes a sacred obligation of primary importance for a people of one family, united in their own common life and in oneness of mind and spirit, to preserve their free and pleasant way of life from all external danger, and thus be enabled to advance along the path of progress.
The glories and advantages of freedom cannot be purchased with all the world’s material wealth. Freedom’s price is the sacrifice of the lives of innumerable heroes and in deep realization of this, it becomes the duty of free men everywhere to be ever prepared for the defence of their freedom. However, since in Ethiopia the laying down of one’s life for the sake of national independence has always been looked upon as a duty of the highest priority and has been ascribed paramount honour and value, our country has, thanks to the valour of her heroes, from the most ancient times been ever mistress of her destiny. Thus, even in the dark ages through which the other nations of Africa had to pass, Ethiopia’s name was well known throughout the world because our heroic forefathers, making God their shield and their Defender, were always able to repel in defeat and shame the enemy who descended upon her from time to time.
When, by the will of God, We became Emperor of Ethiopia, We became aware of the need for minimizing the loss of life of Our people through the development of technique whereby the enemy might be repelled by the efforts of a small number of experts of military strategy, and realized the absolute necessity of entering into a race for such know- ledge in accordance with the way of the world and the practice of civilized nations. Hence it was that from the outset we established as Our primary objective, the achievement for our country of a level of attainment equal to that of other nations of the world, through the preservation of her freedom and the development of Our people in education and culture. The Military College, whose cherished memory We are today gathered here to honour and celebrate, one of the many institutions that We had established in Our time for the realization of Our primary objective for Our country, was created by Us in January of 1933, in order that Our young men might receive modern and scientific military education, and thus be fitted to defend their country's freedom and serve their Emperor. It has been with very high hopes that We waited for the early fruition of its work.
In those early days, We confidently anticipated that this institution would grow without interruption from its status as a school providing elementary military education to young cadets, until it achieved full stature as an institution of the first rank. In Our own tireless efforts to fulfil Our pledge to defend Ethiopia's freedom and to labour for the development of the life of Our people, We have given Our unstinting support and encouragement to the officials in whom We had placed Our confidence and to whom We had entrusted the responsibility of leading the school to the achievement of its intended goal, so that they might encounter no difficulties in carrying out their appointed task. We would like to mention here the earnest assistance rendered by the Swedish officers whom We brought as instructors at that time.
It gives Us pride to remember that although the war prevented the school from reaching its goal, Our efforts during the few short years of its existence bore fruit. During the invasion, the officer cadets who had studied here, though still in the prime of their youth, faithful to their pledge “For the Love of our Country and the Honour of Our Emperor”, courageously ventured forth into that territory between life and death, some to die in battle, others to undergo the rigours of exile. Some of the young cadets of the Guenet Military Academy, which was named after Us, and who distinguished themselves by their ability and their courage, are helping Us today in the execution of the plan which We have envisaged for our Defence Forces.
It is, therefore, with deep pride that We have erected this monument before Us to the sacred memory of those heroic officers, who, having studied in that early school and entered into their soldierly duties in 1935, combining in themselves the natural heroism inherited from their fore-fathers with the skills of modern warfare, and faithful to their soldierly pledge to defend their country's freedom, fell on the battlefield struggling valiantly to their last breath, without once bending their knee in shame before their enemies, as well as to the memory of those officers who died in service and of those that are living now, and We are pleased to award today these war medals to them according to the degree of accomplishment of each.
This enduring monument will not only perpetuate the proud memory of those heroes who served with pride, but will also help to transform the sorrow of their parents and their nation into joy, and to inspire posterity to emulate the heroism of those patriots to whose achievements this memorial bears witness.
We would like to say, in conclusion, that a military school unless it establishes a tradition which is handed down from generation to generation, is of no real use. You, young men, who are privileged to study at this Military College should never surrender to the spirit of defeatism, but following the example of your predecessors and ever conscious of the high responsibilities which will be yours in your future careers, should strive zealously to acquire those qualities which are the mark of a good officer.
In our day, man is seen engaged in the development of atomic energy. This power can be used for peaceful or destructive purposes. Many learned men have on various occasions sought to abolish war and establish an everlasting peace. Treaties have been signed and organizations formed to achieve this goal, but because they lacked guarantees, these efforts uniformly failed, and to gain their ends, countries even resorted to the production and use of poison gas. Now nations are producing weapons which not only constitute a terrible danger to those against whom they might be used, but could in fact mean the end of mankind, and again there are no guarantees. If these awful weapons are used, who will bear the responsibility? In these circumstances, if man has not sought out the protection of God as well as prepared himself for his self protection, the havoc and ruin that can be brought down upon the race of human beings is beyond the bounds of imagination. These matters will not fail to be mentioned in the course of instruction in this school, and We want you to keep this thought in your mind. In the ethical sphere, your primary obligation ought to be the inescapable responsibility you have to your country, along with your faith in God.
In order to acquire the qualities and equipment of a good officer, you must work hard, strive assiduously for higher knowledge, prepare your minds from day to day to offer yourselves in sacrifice for the land of your birth, and be loyal to the pledge you have taken.
So, remembering the words which We have spoken to you today, work tirelessly to fulfil your sacred duty of serving your beloved country.
We are pleased to express Our thanks to the officers and instructors and the staff of this institution, for the efficiency and diligence they have shown in developing this College to its present status, in accordance with Our commands.
We would also like to remember here and express Our gratitude and thanks to the British officers who, immediately after the Liberation of Our Country assisted us greatly in the training of our Army at this place.
We would further like on this occasion to state that a befitting memorial to those soldiers who fell in the four corners of our country in defence of their freedom, will shortly be constructed.
Feb. 15, 1958
Selected Speeches of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie – page 597 –