The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I – Volume 2 (Pt 17)

There was a fear that the League of Nations would oppose Ethiopia’s case at its meeting to be held at Geneva in May 1938. Our loyal adviser Professor Gaston Jeze therefore sent Us the following suggestions…


LVII. L'affaire Gaston Jèze et François Mitterrand - Nos Facultés de Droit

Professor Gaston Jeze


April 17, 1938

His Majesty Haile Sellassie I
Emperor of Ethiopia

Your Majesty: Regarding the new situation that has developed and concerning the articulation of Ethiopia’s case, I feel obligated to outline my suggestions as to what course of action Your Majesty should pursue at the forthcoming meeting of the League of Nations to be held on May 11.

1st. There is nothing unclear in the correspondence between you and the British Prime Minister regarding the intentions of… [his] government. The Prime Minister’s letter indicated that Your Majesty was a guest of the British people and reminded you that, as a guest, Your Majesty should not be involved in anything which would give the impression that Your Majesty was participating in politics. For that reason Chamberlain prevented the letter, in which you opposed him, from being published in newspapers.

Now since the British government has brought up the Ethiopian case at the League of Nations council, the notice given to Your Majesty in the letter mentioned above, has put Your Majesty in a difficult position. If Your Majesty does not take the appropriate action by strongly opposing the proposal that the British government has submitted to the League of Nations council as a solution to the Ethiopian case, there is no doubt that your silence will be construed as negligence toward your people. But Your Majesty must not forget that your opposition will result in your departure from England. Thus, before taking any course of action, you must carefully weigh its benefits against the losses. This is an intractable problem. While Your Majesty must contemplate some kind of action to defend your people, you must also be careful not to do anything that may preclude you from taking any actions in the future.

2nd. The future is going to be very sad for Ethiopia. As I have repeatedly pointed out to Your Majesty since late 1935, Ethiopia has been a bargaining pawn for the big European powers. The thought that… [the Anglo-Italian demarche] would not happen was wishful thinking. Inevitably the times are getting worse. The whole world is convinced that no country is going to go to war to free Ethiopia and that Ethiopia cannot regain her independence on her own. If this is the case, people say, why should we insist on challenging the unchangeable. The whole world lives in great fear of imminent war…. Even during Eden’s time, Great Britain was ready to abandon Ethiopia to buy an agreement with Italy. After Monsieur Neville Chamberlain became Prime Minister, fear of war became endemic.


Chamberlain Declares “Peace for Our Time” - HISTORY

Neville Chamberlain


The same situation prevails in France. The French government pretends as if it did not know about Ethiopia and never wants to think about her. It focuses only on one thing. That is if France gets closer to Italy, it would strengthen its position against Germany. Yearning for reaching some kind of agreement with Italy, and in anticipation of Italy’s alliance with France against Germany, everyone seems to be prepared to recognize Italy’s occupation of Ethiopia. This appears to be an exercise in self-deception. But… [the French] seem to believe they will be successful. The smaller nations have expressed their views earlier. Under no circumstances do they want to be on a collision course with the great nations. The European governments are convinced that an outbreak of war will destroy western civilization, cause the death of millions of people, and incur indescribable destruction. In the face of the possibility of such a catastrophe, it seems that all international treaties that protect Ethiopia’s independence are not worthy of respect. Since there is no way of resuming talks with the Italian government before recognizing its claims, the governments are likely to betray Ethiopia. At first Britain and Italy will come to agreement, to be followed by… France and Italy. This demonstrates the mischievous nature of humankind. That all these are bound to happen should not elude Your Majesty.


The battle for Italy | National Army Museum


3rd. The position of Britain may be questioned at the League. In all probability, however, Your Majesty will face some problems. First, to my mind, it is appropriate for Your Majesty to appear before the League to defend Your people. I am prepared to assist you in drafting the speech to be delivered at the council meeting. In my opinion, it is wise for Your Majesty to refer to treaties [and] the proceedings of the debate made at the executive committee meeting of the General Assembly, the sole responsible body authorized to decide on this matter. From now on, Your Majesty should try to approach the representatives in London of the governments of Spain, the Soviet Union, China, and Mexico, and ask them if they are in favor of providing help in the following areas.

a. The main requirement is to have the General Assembly of the League convened.

b. Equally important is the rejection of recognition of Italy’s claim over Ethiopia. Secondly, Your Majesty should know that British lawyers are searching for ways to prevent you or your envoys from appearing at the League. Thus, guard against such a possibility. To that effect, they are likely to reason as follows.

i) Your Majesty has no substantial authority in Ethiopia.

ii) Ethiopia has no effective and established government working on the basis of law and cannot be considered a sovereign state. A state whose government has no effective authority cannot discharge its duties as a member of the League and consequently cannot claim any right. If such arguments prevail, no country would support Ethiopia’s case except the enemies of Italy i.e., Spain, the Soviet Union, Mexico and China. Without doubt, this number is sufficient. Nonetheless, the issue might be severely damaged if Your Majesty is prevented from appearing at the council and at the General Assembly.

4th. At this stage, these are the ideas which are worrisome and cause apprehension. But I have not lost hope. There is still one thing which can change the whole affair. The agreement that the Italian government reached on April 16 [with Great Britain] is vulnerable to manipulation. Nevertheless, it will take some time to get a complete grasp of the situation.

Once again, allow me to express to Your Majesty, my friendship, high consideration, and heartfelt loyalty, on which Your Majesty can depend.

[Signature] Gaston Jeze

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