The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I – Volume 2 (Pt 12)

As the carnage in Ethiopia worsened, and reports about it mounted, Our friends attempted, to find ways to stop it or, at least, to reduce its magnitude. The realization of Italy’s determination to wipe out Ethiopians completely as a race, prompted offers of negotiation from several quarters.

 

Death To Fascism, Then and Now: How Ethiopia Fought Back Against Mussolini  - OkayAfrica

 

Even before the Italians had occupied Gore, the first from the Abyssinia Association through Professor Stanley Jevons, who offered his suggestion… to put Western Ethiopia under a mandate of the League of Nations…. The notion was based on the idea of a man named Professor Gilbert Murray, who approached the Abyssinia Association and proposed that the best way to discuss the question of Ethiopia’s freedom would be to obtain the acquiescence of the emperor to the administration of the country as a mandate.

 

Italian invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), 1935: Italian officers  interrogate an enemy soldier, who has been peppered with s… | Military  heroes, History, World war i

 

Italy on her part offered the following proposal. To the north, all of Tigray was to be ceded to Italy, Axum and Aseb to be left to Us; in the east, We were to be given Harer, ceding the surrounding borderland to the British and French In the south, Bale, Arsi and all the lands between Lake Zwai and Lake Marghereta [Lake Abaya] and all the territories in the west were to be handed over to Italy, while the rest of the country was to be confirmed for Us. The sovereignty over all territories was to be given to Us, but We were to employ administrators and advisors from Italy. Italy tried to tempt Us with this arrangement in exchange for several million lire but… was unsuccessful.

 

Italy invades Ethiopia IN 1935... - RareNewspapers.com

 

Moreover, while We were in exile, Mussolini sent an emissary with a message:

I have heard of Your Majesty’s financial predicament. I am willing to buy you a palace in a country of your choice and in addition, to give a million guineas to you so that together with your family, you can live in peace for the rest of your life off the interest of the original deposit. It is because of you that I am unable to obtain recognition for Italy’s claim on Ethiopia. Sign a statement and release your claim over Ethiopia in favor of me.

We replied, “I left my country not to sell it but to seek justice for my people and my country. The history of Ethiopia will not be despoiled by a guinea stained with the blood of Ethiopians.” He proposed this idea in March 1937. A year later [Mussolini] made another proposition, saying, “I offer you one million pounds and a portion of your country. If you accept the basic idea, we will not be bickering on the division of the territories amongst ourselves; we will work the matter out.”

We rejected this offer outright, underscoring that We came to seek justice from a League comprised of fifty-three states and would await their sincere judgment; and the matter was concluded.

 

1936 Sunday Pictorial front page Italy at war with Abyssinia Stock Photo -  Alamy

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Based on these kinds of dealings, rumors spread that We and Italy were close to agreement. The matter was even raised in the British Parliament, where the Archbishop of Canterbury… testified that Ethiopia would not compromise her territory for the sake of reconciliation. In response We sent the archbishop the following words:

I am aware that, on May 27 [Ginbot 19] Your Grace was moved by Christian sympathy… to deliver good words before the House of Lords, reflecting your sympathy and concern about my country and myself….

The fact that, before, during, and after the war, I was committed to reaching a negotiated settlement conforming to the interests of my people, is not hidden from the knowledge of Your Grace.

Hidden Fighters | Molly Crabapple

 

Knowing that a settlement based on patience and goodwill is more enduring than one dictated by force, and bearing the great responsibility that my people bestowed upon me, I have done whatever I could to avoid anything that intensified animosity and brought peace efforts to a deadlock. Being aware of the danger that might befall them in an event of the failure of such efforts, my people followed me with confidence and trust and without presenting any obstacle. I recount all this to you not because I regretted anything that I have done to this point…. I never acted spontaneously but made choices and took actions after seriously pondering and carefully selecting what I deemed best. I leave the final judgment to history and the consciousness of the world.

 

On this day: Italian troops invaded Ethiopia | The Scotsman

 

My people and I believe that the Almighty God, who cares about the loss of one bird, is even more concerned about the decimation of an entire people. In this we take comfort. For me, in particular, who follows the unfolding situation as an outside spectator, this conviction gives me an additional encouragement. The atrocities perpetrated on Ethiopia have disturbed the conscience of the world, especially that of the English people, who have graciously given me hospitality. I have always known that the love for justice is in the minds of the English people. Now I have found confirmation of this fact…. [in] the recent debate in the House of Lords on Ethiopia, in which Italy’s actions were condemned as unlawful.

Prelude and outbreak of World War II

 

I have had several occasions to talk to Lord Halifax [then Minister of Foreign Affairs]. He has assured me that the British government would support any agreement that… serves the interest and honor of my people. I recognize that the support of a great government and people who love justice is very important; I therefore valued the words of Lord Halifax.

I do not want to be a tool which the Italians can use to solve their problems and destroy my peoples’ interests. I can not permit anything to happen that assists them in making my people eternal prisoners in soul as well as body. Since ancient times, Roman rule has not been reputed for its clemency. It would be presumptuous to remind Your Grace of the rule of the Roman church.

 

Why so many churches in Rome? - Italy's Wonders

 

I have not found the language and words of the fascist government to be alluring but, rather, repugnant. If I were apathetic, I would have been ready to ignore the past and to start negotiations all over again. However, since I have to be concerned about the well-being of a people, I have to compare and contrast what is bound to happen in the future with the experiences of the past.

I know that there are some people who believe that the fascist government will relinquish Ethiopia when the problems become too great for them to manage. What are these problems?

 

Members of Ethiopian Diaspora Gather at British Home of Former Emperor |  Voice of America - English

 

The first problem is that Italy’s claim over Ethiopia remains unrecognized. This problem seems close to resolution. The second problem is financial. If recognition is granted, it is doubtful that the money situation would be a problem. The only formidable problem is the indomitable spirit of the Ethiopian people. If Italy’s claim to Ethiopia is recognized, it will be allowed to do whatever pleases it, even separating souls from bodies; so what else remains to be considered a problem? Does not recognizing Italy’s claim amount to legitimizing the atrocities perpetrated against the people? The Italians have not made a secret of what they are doing in Ethiopia. It is clear that they sought the land, not the people; they have shown this in practice.

There were those who believed that, when faced with difficulties, Mussolini would seek reconciliation, and they likewise readily assumed that I might begin to compromise if I ran into problems. I worry that my friends might be misled by such things. Moreover, when I learn about the plight of Ethiopian exiles, whom I consider as my family, the future becomes completely dark and bleak, causing me infinite agony and anxiety.

 

Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and empress, Addis Ababa | International  Center of Photography

 

I spell all of this out to make clear that I will not accept any agreement that would not compensate… the people upon whom heinous crimes were committed. I am concerned more for the freedom of my soul than for the misery of my body. Indeed my people feel likewise. I beg my friends not to forget this. The sympathy that the British people has shown for Ethiopia is boundless, and the leaders of this generous people should know that I am prepared seriously to consider any reconciliation that would be just for my people.

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Our African Heritage Online invites you to join in our reading of The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I – Volume 2.  Related articles will continue to be published every morning at 6am. You are invited to leave your thoughts on this portion of our reading in the comments. Please note comments from other social media platforms will be transferred to this website.

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