On Saturday, May 3, 1958, His Imperial
Majesty Haile Selassie I laid the foundation
stone for the construction of the Port of Assab.
Below is His Imperial Majesty's speech on that
"We have chosen to come here today for the ceremony
of laying the foundation stone for the construction of
Our Port of Assab, not only in order to inspect the
beginning of what is to be a great technical achievement,
but also to commemorate a significant moment in the
history of Modern Ethiopia, combining as it does,
progress in modernity with antiquity of tradition.
No Ethiopia, of this or of future generations, can
afford to forget the disadvantages under which Our
country suffered in the days when we had no access to
the sea. It has, therefore, long been the desire of
Ethiopia to see her ports restored to their Motherland.
In order to secure an outlet to the sea on these shores,
We entered in 1928 into an agreement with the Government
of Italy, but the agreement remained unhonoured,
with no default on Our part.
God has ordained that this desire of Ethiopia be
fulfilled during Our reign, and has crowned with
success Our efforts to secure the re-integration of Eritrea
and Ethiopia, which We undertook as soon as We, by His
grace, had returned to Our homeland and had completed
the work of re-establishing and re-organizing Our
Government under Our personal guidance and direction.
For this Our gratitude to God is unbounded.
The trails and hardships to which Ethiopia had been
subject in the days when she had no free outlet to the
sea, qualify her in a special sense to appreciate the great
importance of having a seaport of her own.
In laying the foundation stone of the Port of Assab,
this historic gateway to the sea, connecting Our land
with the oceans of the World, We are today opening
for all the peoples of Our Empire a door to prosperity
and good fortune of which they can be justly proud.
This port, connecting Ethiopia with the pulsating
artery of world commerce, joins her in ties of trade with
the shores of her friends and neighbours, and also brings
her into free contact with the continents of the world.
We stand on the renowned strait of Bab-el-Mandeb,
through which pass, perhaps more ships than through
any other stretch of water on our globe. Ethiopia, here in
Assab, stands sentinel to aid and assist the vast number
of vessels which carry the life-blood of world commerce.
She must therefore be fully conscious of her responsibility
to work hard for the development of her ports.
This uniquely strategic port of Ethiopia, after the
trials and vicissitudes of nearly a century when it
languished unattended and cut off from its motherland,
has now been restored to her, and Ethiopia, in full
realization of her high responsibility, has undertaken the
great task of transforming Assab, into that ,outlet for
Ethiopia's sea-borne products, which, by virtue of its
unparalleled position on the trade routes of the World,
it has so long deserved, and indeed demanded, to be.
At the very instant of the long awaited return of
Assab and Massawa, now five years ago, We declared.:
'In order to utilize to the maximum the resources
of the two ports of Massawa and Assab, We
have given orders that an ambitious programme
of rehabilitation and improvement of the installations
at Massawa and Assab should be undertaken.
Moreover - and this has taken place
well ahead of the date of the Federation of
Eritrea with Ethiopia - We have already
commenced important works for the repair and
improvement of the roads linking these two
ports with Eritrea and Ethiopia. "
The first part of that ambitious programme has
already been, under Our own direction, largely accomplished.
Although the challenge of the work that is
yet to be undertaken demands immense effort, We must
not forget that much has already been achieved here,
all of which may not be apparent to the casual visitor.
The more than 26 millions of Ethiopian dollars
which We are expending for the high engineering and
technical exploits involved in the development programme
of the Port of Assab, constitute already a direct and
permanent investment in the future of the Port for which
We today lay the foundation stone. This in itself is
sufficient guarantee for the unhindered development of
the port to meet the rapid expansion of Ethiopia's
economy which has characterised Our region.
The expenditure of large sum of money and thousands
of hours of engineering skills of the highest order, countless
hours of discussion and re-examination by experts
in engineering, in marine construction, in finance, in
commerce, and, finally, many weeks of careful study
and re-assessment by Ourselves of all the work that has
been undertaken at Our command, have taken place in
order to make possible this historic moment.
Following these careful studies, and after mature
reflection on all aspects made by Our friends, the great
and noble people of Yugoslavia, most advantageous to
us in comparison with other similar proposals, both in
terms of engineering genius and of financial facilities, and
accordingly, We have chosen to entrust this vastly
significant task of constructing the port of Assab, to
the Yugoslav people.
We would not let this auspicious occasion pass
without Our expressing to His Excellency Marshal I
Josip Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia, Our thanks for
the assistance he has rendered in bringing to fruition
this cooperative venture, which shall always remain a
symbol of our mutual friendship.
We are fully confident that the Port of Assab will
respond fully to its high destiny and that a great future ·
awaits to bless this undertaking.
It is essential, as We stated five years ago, that
Massawa also be fully developed. The resources of
Ethiopia, both present and potential, are manifestly
adequate to permit the three ports of Massawa, Assab
and Djibouti, to thrive together without rivalry, in a
spirit of collaboration and co-operation.
In thus providing the means for the continued
growth of Ethiopia's foreign trade, We have looked not
only to the benefit of one particular region, but also to
the welfare and prosperity of Ethiopia as a whole.
At the moment of the return to Ethiopia of Our
loyal subjects along the Red Sea coast, We declared:
We will provide, by all possible means, for the
welfare of the population of Eritrea."
This promise We have always maintained and
fulfilled in various practical ways.
Since God gives us to enjoy only those fruits which
we cultivate with toil and sacrifice, We call upon all
Our beloved subjects, in a spirit of national dedication,
by their labours and devotion, to ensure that this Port,
now to spring into existence, will prove worthy of its
heritage and of its challenge."
Speeches delivered by His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie Ist Emperor of Ethiopia on various occasions - page 54 -