The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I – Volume 2 (Pt 7)

While Our people who were living outside the regions not yet controlled by the enemy were struggling to protect their freedom, it was clear that the majority of the population living within the occupied territories did not whole­heartedly accept the government of the aggressor. The Italians, being the only source of news for the outside world regarding the situation in Ethiopia, hid its reality from the rest of the world. That was an impediment to Us.


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Nonetheless, without losing hope, We were working hard, using every possible means to bring the issue of Our country to the Geneva assembly and to the attention of the world by appearing at a number of meetings. Following each development in Our country, and explaining them in detail to whomever We met [and] through the unceasing diplomatic activities We undertook, We were able to win over many people.

Though We were disheartened by rumors that the British government was prepared to recognize Italy’s occupation, Our knowledge of the fact that some Englishmen would still sympathize with Us remained a great source of comfort to Us.

During Our secluded life, We often heard about the atrocities committed against Our people. Their sufferings increased the weight of Our sadness and made Us nervous. As the result, We endured many sleepless nights.


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Italian Invasion of British Somaliland


We heard that, in December of 1936 [Tahsas 1929], the Italians killed the sons of Prince Ras Kassa, Dejazmatch Wondbewossen, Dejazmatch Aberra, and Dejazmatch Asfa Wossen, that they captured Ras Imru in February [1937], and that Ras Desta Demtew and Dejazmatch Beyene Merid were captured and killed. Dejazmatch Gebre Mariam died in battle, and especially We were bitterly disheartened on hearing about the merciless carnage of the people of Addis Abeba on account of the attempted assassination of Graziani on February 19, 1937 [Yekatit 12, 1929], when a bomb was thrown at him.

We sent the following message to all churches:

The whole world knows the bad luck that befell Ethiopia while she was a member of the League of Nations, in which I had placed full confidence. I asked time and again that the League’s obligation and agreements be honored, but, until now, no aid has been given to my people. Yet I will not lose hope about the return of my country’s independence because I believe that in the end, God’s judgment will eventually visit the weak and the mighty alike, according to what each deserves. Until such a time I will toil patiently for the benefit of my people.

I trust that the members of the World Council of Churches have the ability to pressure the aggressor and ease the problems that have confronted my people, who are now working to stop the atrocities being inflicted on them through acts of war. To that effect, I submit this appeal to the World Council of Churches. The world has already been saddened by the news of the massacre of many thousands of the people of Addis Abeba in retaliation for the bomb thrown at General Graziani in February. Such an atrocity and blood letting, which should not have taken place during this epoch, was a deliberate and premeditated act. All entrances [to] the city were closed and all those who attempted to escape were annihilated…


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This brutal crime is the worst, of the various atrocious acts for which Italian authorities are responsible. Besides the massacre men­tioned above, I believe that the Italian government is responsible for the following barbaric acts:
1st. Although Italian soldiers have killed many thousands of men, women and children at different times and places, they have gone unpunished for it.
2nd. People of different towns and villages have been arrested and beaten to death on the pretext that Ethiopian soldiers were nearby. The most vicious of such acts is the recent [execution] of 600 peasants in Nakamte.
3rd. At various times several thousands of people were summarily killed for allegedly possessing arms and assisting banditry.
4th. The torture of prisoners [and] burning at the stake those who defied Italian authority.
5th. The beating of Ras Desta and other military officers after capture.
6th. The transfer of unmarried women and those women whose husbands have disappeared to concentration camps as prostitutes…


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Besides what has been listed above, there have been committed a number of sacrilegious acts, against the religion and the spiritual practices of my people… [and] of the Ethiopian church. These are stated below:
1st. Priests and mullahs were among the Ethiopians who were surrounded and murdered after the attempted assassination of General Graziani.
2nd. Relatives were denied the bodies of those killed during the February massacre and could not perform Christian funeral rites; rather they [Italians] stacked the bodies and burned them like waste.
3rd. The deliberate arson of the St. George Church in Addis Abeba and other churches.
4th. The public execution of Bishop Petros in Addis Abeba last July because of his refusal to submit to the Italians and to excommunicate those Ethiopians who refused to surrender.
5th. The transport to Rome of an ancient and historic obelisk which a previous emperor erected 1600 years ago.


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All these and other atrocious acts too numerous to list here, have been committed at will by a government which, in the name of civilization, defeated my country with the use of a poison gas. After having gallantly resisted the enemy, my people grew weary and were vanquished. They became objects of the enemy’s vengeance and of the satisfaction of its whim. The majority of the military officers died. As happened several times, many others were beaten to death after being captured. These actions were done in violation of the rights of prisoners of war. I beseech the leaders and members of the World Council of Churches to denounce the iniquities perpetrated on my people. I also solicit your prayers for the ending of the despicable atrocities being committed on the orders and silent consent of the Italian government.


Our African Heritage Online.

Our African Heritage Online invites you to join in our reading of The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I – Volume 2. Related articles will 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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