COMMUNICATIONS WITH OUR PATRIOTS AND BALABBATS
Having observed that some representatives at Geneva were uneasy about discussing the Ethiopian question on the grounds that they did not have adequate evidence, We collected sufficient information, compiled it in the form of a booklet and distributed it among the representatives and to the secretariat of the League of Nations. The aim of the booklet was to demonstrate, on the one hand, that Italy’s alleged occupation of Ethiopia did not extend beyond the limits of some towns, let alone throughout the entire country; while, on the other, it disclosed the fact that the Italian government was spending millions of lire to consolidate its hold on Ethiopia.
The booklet was based on appeals sent from Ethiopia’s patriots and noblemen. It aimed to counter the unremitting and obscurantist propaganda of the Italian government which claimed that the people had accepted Italian rule cheerfully, while belittling the efforts of Our patriots [fighting] for their freedom in the gorges and ravines of the country. The booklet also mentioned that the enemy’s effort aimed at exploiting the resources of the war-weakened country.
In order to present substantiated evidence to the League of Nations, We sent the following directives to the patriots and noblemen:
1. Send Us the original copies of all the propaganda leaflets that the Italians air-dropped, the major declarations or any available intercepted mail.
2. Indicate clearly the date, the year and the places of origin on all the letters that you send to Us.
3. Let the letters that the nobility and the officials send to Us in group or individually bear their seals alone, [since] at times it is difficult to identify their names. So, write their names legibly by the side of their seals.
4. Please send, as far as possible, records of the struggle in the country indicating the combatant’s names, the dates, the places and the number of all the engagements in the past and, as well, future plans, so that We can use the evidence in our dealings with the League of Nations and to launch a propaganda campaign in newspapers.
5. Include also information about the names of the enemy’s commanders, the names and ranks of the casualties and captives from both sides in each battle, the number of captured weapons, and a list of the main weapons used – airplanes, artillery and the like, in the battles.
6. Areas which the Italians have occupied and which they have not.
7. Places where many Italian soldiers are garrisoned in Ethiopia, and their approximate numbers.
8. Whether or not the Italians are currently using poison gas in the war.
9. What, if [any], epidemic is afflicting Ethiopia… how many have died as a result… which provinces are affected?
10. The condition of agriculture in Ethiopia.
11. The condition of commerce and markets in Ethiopia.
12. The atrocities that were perpetrated after the arrival of the Italians, to the best of one’s recollections.
13. Since Our friends have asked Us to present detailed evidence of what has happened since the entry of the Italians, as many documents as possible need to be collected and sent to Us.
Our correspondence with Ethiopian patriots and noblemen, through mail, was continuous. The patriot leaders started writing and sending documents regularly. The documents We received helped Us very much in Our negotiations with friendly governments concerning the preservation of Ethiopia’s independence and to explain to the people and governments of the world that Ethiopians were determined to oppose the enemy and fight for their freedom. Among the letters sent to Us from Our patriots, We would like to cite the following as a sample from the various sections.
Hamle 18, 1930 E. C. [July 25, 1938]
From Begemdir section to HIM Haile Sellassie I…
I pray to God for Your continued well-being and the capacity to liberate your country, Ethiopia, from the yoke of the brutal enemy.
Your Majesty, since the Italians invaded Ethiopia, they have perpetrated the following audacious and brutal atrocities on the Ethiopian people.
1. Commanders and soldiers and also young men were rounded up and executed by machine guns without committing any crime. Their wives were raped and their children were burned alive after being gathered in a house. What came as a great astonishment was the fact that those who submitted themselves to the Italians were the first to be killed.
2. They machine-gunned priests for allegedly preaching against accepting the Italians, set churches aflame, and stole tabots.
3. They say Ethiopia is their property and the Ethiopian people their slaves. They force us to kill each other. Because of the Italians, who kill without trial [and] punish without guilt, your country has turned into a wilderness. She cries bitterly. Her tears and blood flow continuously. The audacious and brutal atrocities that Italy is perpetrating on Ethiopians cannot be described in words. Clearly, the Italians have no desire to bring justice but completely to destroy the Ethiopian people. They have demonstrated their desire through the regular declarations they put out. They point out that, ‘From now on Ethiopia is for the Italians. It should not be called Ethiopia. From now on, only the white race will be entitled to live in Ethiopia. The black race, from now on, will not be allowed to live here’.
We surrendered our arms to the Italians when they came because we thought they were the protectors of the weak and lovers of justice. But now we see indescribable injustice being done to us. Even if we do not have arms, we prefer to die as heroes fighting with sticks and stones rather than dying in cold blood.
Therefore, we have started fighting for our freedom. We have been able to capture weapons, cannon, machine guns, grenades and munitions. We will continue to fight unceasingly. As far as this war is concerned, our people have joined ranks wholeheartedly. The Italians live in Ethiopia only in small fortifications fenced with barbed wire. They have not been able to defeat the country. Even now, food and munitions are being airlifted to supply them, so how can they defeat and govern our country.
Your Majesty, we send you these documents hoping that you will use them to seek and ensure the flow of assistance from the member states of the League of Nations, the champion of protection of people from injustice, and from friendly countries.
Your humble servant,
Hamle 30, 1930 E. C. [Aug. 6, 1938]
From Gojam Section:
Your Majesty: I pray to my Creator, who delivered Yonas from the belly of a Fish, to make possible your return to your country, Ethiopia, and let those of us who are languishing in misery and sadness see and honor Your Majesty….
Your Majesty: The gracious God gave Your Majesty to us to bring forth light for our country which has remained backward in terms of development and removed from civilization for so long. To that effect, Your Majesty made great efforts. However, there is nothing more depressing than to see that now humankind are being slaughtered like sheep, [and] churches set afire without any reason. Instead of the happiness, which would have resulted from Your Majesty’s just administration, suffering and sorrow have become our daily bread. But we are assured that God has not condoned the total destruction of Ethiopia for eternity, and to that effect, He has allowed Your Majesty to be in Europe. We are also sure that he has not withdrawn his mercy from us, because it is said, ‘God’s anger and forgiveness live side by side’.
The nobility, patriots, your servants, and others who have escaped death, have chosen to die fighting rather than to live under an unjust administration. Therefore, by fighting in Begemdir, in Gojam, in Shewa, in Welo, they have prevented the enemy from inflicting defeat on our country. The enemy is being punished in its fortifications.
Abandoning the atrocious acts of unjustified capital punishment which had been his practice initially, the enemy has started distributing arms and money to deceive the people.
In view of this, we believe that all possible assistance in terms of arms should be extended to us.
Your Majesty, it has now become apparent that Italy has discovered that distributing arms and money is the best way to deceive our good people and let them annihilate one another.
When they first entered our country, the Italians, let alone providing money and arms, ordered us to surrender knives, spears and swords that were in the hands of our people. But now they are distributing Winchester and Alpine rifles. I am afraid our people’s unscrupulousness will put us in great danger.
Although we have a solid edge over the enemy in terms of numbers, we urgently need a continuous supply of rifles and other weapons… to be able to stop the enemy, save Ethiopia… and avert the possibility of being decimated as a people. Your Majesty should think seriously about this. This is because, our enemy, realizing that it cannot continue to rely on force alone, is trying to win the people to its side. This has created a great problem for us.
Finally, the Italians should be kept away from the areas we have liberated… but since the area is very vast, and people are killing each other within these territories, I beg Your Majesty to consider this seriously and give us some police and two or three very loyal European instructors.
Your Humble Servant,
Dejazmatch Mengesha Jembere
African Heritage Foundation (AHF)
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