TO PARLIAMENT ON ITALY'S AGGRESSION,
JULY 11, 1934
….. Your Emperor who speaks to you now will also be amidst you at that time and is ready to shed his blood for the freedom of His country …..
Italy’s desire to invade Our country since forty years ago has never altered. This ambition that has been continuously manifested on several occasions in the past years became more evident during her last year’s winter activities and to make this no more a secret, the Italian Government, last year in August, without any reason, started to accumulate weapons along Our borders.
When We discovered this, We ordered Our Charge d’Affaires in Rome to ask for explanations and what We received was a completely unfounded and baseless reply that Italy was engaged in military preparations because We were planning to declare war against the colonized Eritrean and Somali territories. Although We explained that this was completely unfounded, as Italy was already pursuing her premeditated plan, she kept on building up her military preparation under the pretext that she was doing this for defensive purposes, never willing to admit that she was preparing herself to execute her aggressive plan. Italy also wanted some camouflaged pretexts to make her aggressive plan seem justified to the rest of the world.
Accordingly, when a certain clash of romance occurred between Ethiopian employees of national organizations and those of an Italian trade agency, in Gondar, last Hedar, although the blood that was shed was of the Ethiopians themselves, the Italian legation in Addis Ababa made a big scandal of this trifling affair and strongly intervened through diplomatic channels. Our Government, being peace-loving and seeking to avoid a more serious clash, responded favourably to the Italian demand. Then followed the Walwal incident which became the cause of Our present dispute.
In seeking to dismember some of Our territories, Italy ignored Our territorial integrity and in violation of the Treaty of 1900, signed between the two governments, and which laid down the boundary, she encamped a considerable military force and ammunitions at Walwal, 100 km. inside the demarcated border of Ethiopia.
Later, as Our border with British Somaliland was laid down by a treaty, representatives from Our country and those from Britain were instructed to see and approve a grazing area, which lies in Ethiopia, for the Somalis of British Somaliland as agreed upon in the treaty.
While the representatives of the two governments were executing their duties inside Our territory, for security reasons, Our Government had provided them with guards. And, as you already know, these guards were suddenly attacked on December 6, 1934, at which time they tried to defend themselves against the Italian machine guns, tanks and planes but were overwhelmed. This again became another clear evidence of the pre-calculated, unprovoked action of the Italian aggressors.
After attacking Our guards and committing all these crimes in Our own territory by its own men, Italy then wanted to put the blame on Us and to condemn Us for it, and as if her killing of Our soldiers was not enough, she even went further as far as asking for an apology and compensation.
Ethiopia, however, had a clear conscience about her just rights. And because of this, and seeking to settle the question peacefully, We referred to and immediately proposed the application of the Italo-Ethiopian treaty of 1928 in which Italy agreed to maintain lasting peaceful and friendly relations with Ethiopia and in the event of any dispute to have it solved peacefully through mediation. The reply to Our proposal was a blunt no; instead, she announced openly that she was determined to press her demands without any further examination and just appraisal of the question.
Since We were also determined to keep Our honour at any cost, and We were convinced that if any government, of its own accord, presented a case like this to impartial judges of governments, the judgment thus passed would not degrade but honour that Government, We openly declared that if Ethiopia was found guilty in this case, she would fully and immediately comply with the verdict.
Consequently, although Italy did not want to have the issue solved by mediators, We always wanted to solve it by legal and peaceful means, and in pursuance of this, We found it necessary to present the case to the League of Nations and We notified Our reasons for taking this step, in detail, to the Italian Government and its leader, Signor Mussolini.
Accordingly the case was raised last month at the League of Nations and Italy had to unhappily accept the decision that it be solved by mediators.
However, while We were following the decision reached by the League of Nations, in the same month, on January 21, and while mediators were appointed and diplomatic talks were going on, the Italian Minister continued to drag the matter in trying to make Us accept crimes which We never committed, and therefore, We found it necessary to refer the case again to the League of Nations.
While Italy was trying to press hard on Our Government diplomatically, at the same time, every day, We received the news from her daily radio broadcasts, that every day troops, weapons and ammunitions were being despatched to Our borders along Eritrea and Italian Somaliland thus confirming to Us every day that war was on the horizon.
Following Our second reference of the case to the League of Nations, it was decided to select mediators on May 27, 1934.
Since Ethiopia’s belief was that the judgment passed would be just and impartial, on her part, she selected one French and one American lawyer, well known for their experience and high reputation in international law.
Italy on her part selected two Italian citizens from among her own government officials.
At this juncture, although We had nothing against Italy’s choice of mediators, We found it necessary to remind the League that the appointment of her own citizens as mediators would prove nothing but her unwillingness to see the issue settled impartially, for the obvious reason that nobody could be expected to pass an impartial judgment against his own country that appointed him to the job.
As the Italian Government’s mediators had no freedom to pass their free judgment on the issue and it was feared that the issue would not find any solution by mediatory effort, the British government, on its part, intervened in an attempt to find other ways of reconciliation. This it did, realizing that international law was based on international peace and because its own main desire was to maintain world peace. Although it was clear and an established fact that the Ogaden has always been an integral part of Ethiopia, and although Italy had inflicted great damage on Our country by forcible entry into Our territory, Britain’s proposal for reconciliation was that We give a portion from Our Ogaden territory to Italy, in return for which, Britain would give Us the port of Zeila and a portion of British Somaliland. As we were ever determined to maintain peace, We were getting prepared to study this proposal. But the moment this proposal was put forward to him, Mussolini declared that he would completely reject it and, therefore, We were forced to drop it.
As a result of this, the mediators still could not settle the case. The leader of the Italian government cut short the proposal for reconciliation offered by Britain.
Italy is still building up its military preparedness and Italian government top officials openly talk that their major plan is to occupy Our country. Consequently, the hour of war is getting closer with the passing of each day.
Only on June 11, the leader of the Italian government, while addressing 5,000 soldiers, ordered to go to what is now known as East African territories of Somalia and Eritrea, declared in his usual war provocative and propaganda speech to the Italian people that these soldiers were going to register a great heroic chapter for Italy.
What Mussolini says is that Italy wants to civilize Our people.
Italy is stubborn not to settle the question peacefully. She wants much blood to be shed and to be avenged for the battle of Adowa.
The people of Ethiopia whom Italy wants to dishonour by calling them pagans, are people who honour their words and respect the treaties they have signed.
Ethiopia seeks no war, but she will not refrain whatsoever from defending herself against any aggressor. Even at Adowa Ethiopia was not the one that started the trouble. The war started because the Italians violated Our territorial sovereignty and crossed into Our territory. They may also be doing the same thing tomorrow.
Although, with God’s help and the valour of her patriots, Ethiopia won victory in 1896, she did not seek territorial aggrandizement and made no claim whatsoever.
The Ethiopian Government will not have a disturbed conscience when the imminent war has finally got to be faced. It has done all that it could to safeguard peace.
Ethiopia does not have the ambition of dominating others. What she wants is to be master of her own and to that end she is always prepared to defend to the last man her independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.
When the expansionist Italian force, under the pretext of spreading civilization comes, equipped with modern weapons, it will find the united people of Ethiopia ready to sacrifice their lives for their country and their Emperor.
Call to Arms
Fighting Men of Ethiopia!
Do not lament or lose hope when you see a respected and beloved leader fall in the battlefield, for the cause of Our freedom. Instead, you must realize that anyone who dies for his country is indeed fortunate. Death comes to all whether in time of peace or war and takes those it chooses. It is better to die with freedom than without it.
Our forefathers preserved Our country’s independence through the sacrifice of their lives. Let them be your inspiration!
Soldiers! Businessmen! Farmers! Young and old, men and women! Unite! Together fight for the defence of your country! As it has always been in our tradition, women too must rise to defend their country by encouraging the soldiers and nursing the wounded. No matter how hard Italy tries to disunite us, Christians or Moslems, everyone will stand united.
God is Our fortress and Our defence. Never let the aggressor’s new weapons detract you from fighting for the defence of your country and noble ideals!
Your Emperor who speaks to you now will also be amidst you at that time and is ready to shed his blood for the freedom of his country.
Before We conclude, there is one point We would like to tell you and this is the fact that we will continue to do everything possible to maintain peace. We would also like to tell you that until now the Ethiopian Government has done everything possible towards that end.
Diplomatically, it has continued to search for peaceful ways of negotiation that would be honourable to both sides. It has asked the League of Nations twice so that Italy could respect the friendship and mediation treaty it entered into of its own accord.
Moreover, since both Italy and Ethiopia, along with other states, have signed a treaty abolishing war, and America is the founder of the treaty, We have recently notified this situation to the American Government. And recently, because the Italians created problems at the mediation talks going on in Holland, We have ordered Our minister in Paris to refer the case to the League of Nations, for the third time.
We will exert every effort to maintain peace until the end. But if Our efforts and good wishes do not bear fruit, Our conscience will not blame Us. The people of Ethiopia, while strongly united to defend the right cause and freedom of Ethiopia, will raise their hands and pray unto the Almighty God that He may grant strength to their patriots and fighting men.
July 11, 1934.
Selected Speeches of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie – page 283 –