The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I – Volume 2 (Pt 6)

Footnotes: As you read The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I – Volume 2, you will encounter various Ethiopian  titles of Rank. It is very useful in the reading of this text that you have a better understanding of the meanings of these rankings, to facilitate a more comprehensive outlook on the political and military organization of Ethiopia during the invasion of Benito Mussolini’s Italy.

Bitwoded means literally beloved, but similar to the rank of an Earl.

Ras is literally head, but similar to the ranking of a Duke.

Qadamawi Qadamawi means literally before the beginning which is very similar to the words used in other African languages to describe the high authority of a noble as link to the ancestral world or to describe the presence of the Almighty One.

Ballabat is literally one who has a father and is a local level official who meditates between the people and the government.

Balamabaras is commander of the fortress and a title of nobility.

Bejirond is Treasurer.

Beta Israel is the modernized term for the Ethiopian Jews (Falashas).

Blata/Blatengeta is a title given to learned men and counsellors.

Dejazmatch literally means commander of the gate and is similar in ranking to a Count.

Gerazmatch is literally commander of the left and title of nobility.

Kenyazmath is literally commander of the right and a title of nobility.

Fitawrari literally means leader of the vanguard and a title of nobility.

Kantiba is a Mayor.

Meridazmatch is literally prince and given by H.I.M to Crown Prince Asfa Wossen.

Mislene is a generic term for sub-governor.

Negus is a title of King only given to a few provincial Lords of high birth, or specially granted by Negusa Negast (who is the King of Kings, Emperor).

Shifta is an outlaw to society (bandit).


The Italians occupied Gore in the middle of Hidar 1929 [Nov. 1936], and continued to be successful both politically and militarily. The province of Gore was very close to the Sudanese border, and it was an opportune moment for Italy to make her presence felt and to threaten British authorities.


The struggle for North Africa, 1940-43 | National Army Museum


Italy’s political advantage appeared to block the chances We had to present Our case at the League, since Our claim was that We had moved the seat of Our government to Gore and continued to administer from there through Our representatives. Besides this, some of Our officials lost hope and submitted to the Italians. Our top military leaders were killed, and Ras Imru was captured.


Ras Imru at the time of his capture by the Italians | Ethiopia | Ethiopia, Vintage hollywood, History

                                                         Ras Imru at the time of his capture by the Italians


Politicians in Rome tended to believe that the occupation of Gore would tempt London, Paris and Geneva [to] speed up the recognition of Italy’s suzerainty over Ethiopia. Their predictions came true… and many countries gradually ratified Italy’s overlordship. Germany and Italy were in the vanguard to do so.

When Italy recognized the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, Japan in turn recognized Italy’s occupation of Ethiopia. Thus the two vanguard invaders, Japan in China and Italy in Ethiopia, became mutual supporters.


Invasion of Manchuria and Japanese Aggression | The Pacific Theater

                                                                    Japanese occupation of Manchuria

Speaking of these diplomatic maneuvers, Italian politicians confirmed that Japan had been motivated to convert its legation in Addis Abeba to a consulate and to recognize Italy’s government of Ethiopia, above all, to expand its trade to… Africa. Likewise, they indicated that Rome’s decision to locate a consulate-general in the Manchurian capital was the culmination of Italian interest in the “Far East,” the development of which she had been keenly following for some time.

Italy had hoped that the fate of Japan would be resolved in conjunction with the situation in Europe. Rome and Tokyo were always at loggerheads, as if giving truth to the myth that yellow and white people would never get along. Later, however, finding a common ground in the issue we mentioned above, they were able to put aside their mutual suspicions.


100th Anniversary of the Epic Rome-Tokyo Flight


Following a conference in Vienna between Italy, Austria and Bulgaria, We heard in November 1936, that Austria and Hungary had repudiated Ethiopia’s independence and recognized Italy’s occupation. Objecting to this hasty measure taken against Us, we sent the following message to the League of Nations through the Secretary General Mr. Avenol:

Peace be with you. I sincerely plead with you to make the following known to members of the League. In October 1935, when the government of Italy began invading the land of Ethiopia, the League of Nations and its council announced that a member of the League had been invaded and issued a communique referring to article 10 of the charter which reads ‘to respect and safeguard the boundaries of members of the League in an event of external assault’. In July 1936, the general assembly stated that it would not recognize any kind of occupation effected through the use of force.

Now, in violation of the Covenant and the decision of the League of Nations, Austria and Hungary have announced their recogni­tion of the aggressor as the imperial government of Ethiopia. I denounce the governments of Austria and Hungary for violating laws of international relations and committing a crime. Once again, I reassert that Ethiopia has an irrevocable right to membership in the League of Nations. I also state that my people and government are fully confident that they [will] regain our country’s integrity and political independence. I await God’s judgement that the rule of force will perish as a result of its own destructive actions. I would like to remind each member of the League that, according to article 10 of the League’s charter, each member has promised to live in harmony and mutual respect, and that each member has the responsibility to abide by its promise. No principle would relieve an invader of the responsibility it has once entered into.

In a time when, due to the Italian invasion, the relationship between countries based on international law and mutual trust has vanished, the hope hinging on certain principles and leadership in Europe has faded, [and] war appears to be the logical consequence, each member of the League has to be obliged not to surrender to force nor recognize the countries occupied by force. Above all, what should be clear about Ethiopia is that the country was occupied brutally by looting, killing and terrorizing the people.

Haile Sellassie I
Herui Wolde Sellassie
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Paradox Interactive Forums | Paradox interactive, League, Weimar


While the struggle in the political front was going on as such, We heard that the King of Belgium, the Queen of the Netherlands, the Kings of Sweden and Denmark as well as the Duke of Luxembourg and the President of Finland, were almost ready to recognize Italy’s occupation, and sent each one of them the following telegram:

I was aggrieved to learn that the signatories of the Oslo agreement… are considering recognizing Italy’s occupation.

Although the League of Nations was not able to stop the aggressor, it is beyond all doubt that its refusal to recognize the conquest and the claims of the invader has contributed in some ways to peace.

The people of Ethiopia are still struggling against an alien government. On behalf of my people I would like to remind your government to abide by the international laws which it has always respected.


Oslo Accords - HISTORY


The signatories of the Oslo Agreement failed to agree on a proposal sponsored by the Netherlands government which called for a meeting with France and Britain in order to discuss and eventually to recognize Italy’s claim to Ethiopia. In reply to Our telegram and in reference to this, the King of Norway His Majesty Haakon notified Us that he had not complied with the Dutch government’s proposal. Also, the Queen of Holland, Her Majesty Wilhelmina, sent Us a telegram expressing that her country maintains diplomatic relations with Italy because, in principle, it has an interest in association with powerful governments and seeks cooperation with its neighbors. She claimed, however, to have no intention of recognizing Italy’s claim over Ethiopia. Nevertheless, after a little while all [the Oslo signatories] had entered into an obligation gradually to recognize Italy’s claim over Ethiopia.


Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands | Unofficial Royalty

                                                    The Queen of Holland, Her Majesty Wilhelmina


Those countries who refused to recognize Italy’s occupation [and] respected Ethiopian independence and the legitimacy of Our authority were:
1st, the government of the United States of America;
2nd, the government of the Republic of Mexico;
3rd, the government of the Soviet Union;
4th, the government of the New Zealand Union;
5th, the government of the Republic of China.

Apart from these, all of the European and Asian countries one after the other recognized Italy’s occupation.


Why was Ethiopia never colonized? - Quora

The Swiss government, which was host to the League of Nations, rejected Our request to reside in Switzerland…. We did not want to magnify the issue because We thought that was the result of the current crisis. However, when it seemed that the situation had reached a stage where Ethiopia’s independence would be destroyed by approving Italy’s suzerainty, in a letter written on Tir 12, 1929 [Jan. 20, 1937], We made known to the League that the same Swiss government which willingly permitted the League to make its headquarters in Geneva, now used a heavy rod to strike people suffering from the agony of martyrdom.


Chapter 5: The Palace of Nations: A Monument to Peace | Genève internationale


Believing that it would be convenient to pursue Our case at the League if we resided in Switzerland, We submitted Our request to the Swiss government. Through its Minister in Paris, it was communicated to Us that the Swiss government had rejected Our request, because the government needed to foster good neighborliness and peaceful coexistence, avoiding conflict. Moreover, the foreign minister Monsieur [Guiseppe] Motta, who was ethnically Italian and had been in the position for no less than twenty years, believed that a great crisis would be created if We resided in Switzerland. This person had often expressed in every possible way his friendly attitude towards Italy.

Subsequently, the Federal Council of the Republic of Helvetia, breaking all international agreements, decided to recognize Italy’s suzerainty over Ethiopia. As if the Ethiopian Consulate based in Bern had never existed before, a letter signed by Monsieur Motta effectively blocked its functions.

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