The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Selassie 1- Volume 2 (38)

Since We had begun work on the New Ethiopia even before the conclusion of the war in Ethiopia, five days after We entered Addis Abeba, on Genbot 2, 1933 [May 10, 1941], We established a cabinet composed of seven ministers. We appointed Dejazmatch Makonnen Endalkachew to be the Minister of Interior of the new administration, and within this ministry, We established sections on security, administrative and general services, land, and health. Appointed as ministers on the same day were Ato Wolde Giorgis Wolde Yohannes, Custodian of the Great Seal and Minister of the Pen, Ato Lorenzo Taezaz, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ato Makonnen Desta, Minister of Education and Fine Arts, Blatta Ayele Gebre, Minister of Justice, Ato [later Negadaras] Gebre Egziabher [Desta], Minister of Commerce and Industry and Ato Belachew Yadete, Minister of Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones. In addition, We created the Ministries of Finance and Public Works… temporarily headed by directors.


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Although We appointed and assigned ministers, there were still various problems ahead of Us in beginning the work. The day-to-day life of the people was not yet stabilized. We did not have a sufficient financial base and trained manpower. Besides, We were still under the menace of World War II. In all directions the problems appeared to Us as insurmountable quagmires. Although, in recognition of the benevolence of God to Us, We responded with kindness to the wicked acts of the enemy by declaring protection, instead of retribution and death, for the captured enemy troops; by contrast, Our enemy did not stop fighting.

As We indicated earlier, when the war started, the Italian armed forces in East Africa numbered around 300,000. Out of these, 90,000 were taken prisoner by the British troops and Our patriots, while nearly 67,000 escaped… The rest were destroyed by Our patriots and British troops, while some remained fugitives in various places. Those who were dispersed, regrouped themselves and garrisoned Derra, Ambalage, Gonder, and Jima. So We had still a formidable task of fighting to eliminate the enemy completely. For this reason, We ordered Our patriots and allies to conduct a campaign in these areas.


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The enemy forces stationed at Ambalage under the leadership of the Duca D’Aosta, presented strong resistance and ferociously fought from Miazia 28 [May 6] to Genbot 12 [May 20]. [When] at last the enemy was defeated… the Duca D’Aosta surrendered to General Platt, thereby marking the end of the battle of Ambalage.

The enemy force that garrisoned Derra was attacked by a unit composed of 100 members of the Frontier Battalion and a section of the Second Ethiopian Battalion under the command of… [Colonel] Wingate along with 2,000 patriots headed by Ras Kassa. The enemy was defeated and captured on Genbot 21 [May 29], at the battle of Agibar.


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The enemy forces that were stationed at Jima under the command of General [Pietro] Gazzera continued to fight in the district called Abalti until they were defeated and captured at Jima on Sene 10 [June 18] While the battle was ongoing, We visited Our troops at Gedo and Chelia, barely escaping enemy fire. When We heard that General Gazzera had escaped to Welega, We ordered Our forces at Chelia and Gedo, in collaboration with the Allied forces, to pursue him…. At Dembidolo, General Gazzera surrendered with a large number of weapons and troops to the Belgian Congo forces who had engaged him from the west.

Because of its high degree of readiness, the enemy force that was at Gonder under the command of General Nasi was dangerous. Nevertheless, while the vanguard army of Fitawrari Biru, in conjunction with a detachment of Ras Abebe’s patriot forces who were sent from Shewa, were assaulting him, additional forces under the command of Our son, the Crown Prince Meridazmatch Asfa Wossen arrived and continued to fight until Hidar 19, 1934 [Nov. 28, 1941]. On the same day, General Nasi surrendered to [Maj.] General C.C. Fowkes. Later, our victorious troops marched in and took control of the town of Gonder and hoisted our flag there on Hidar 24, 1934 [Dec. 3]. This marked the complete destruction of organized enemy forces in our country, and We resumed Our work of peace-time civilian administration. However, since the world was at war, it was not possible to consider the time as completely peaceful. Likewise, Our resumption of work was not complete.


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As statistics compiled by expatriates and our own people showed by the end of the war in Ethiopia, on our side alone, 750,000 people had been killed, 500,000 houses and other properties burned down, 2,000 churches ransacked or ruined, about 14 million cattle devoured and 75% of the educated young men killed in cold blood.

The war damage could not be less than the statistics revealed. It is probable that it was far more than alleged. On Our part, We did not find post­war reconstruction to be an easy task. Sick and homeless children were on the streets of Addis Abeba and other towns. Most of them were no more than eight years of age at most. The children either had been lured to towns by the Italians or had come in search of help when their parents were killed or their homes destroyed.


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Moreover, Our concern increased when We saw that the soldiers in the countryside did not have any food. It was the resident of the rural areas who bore the brunt of wartime difficulties. It was he who was taxed by two authorities: helping the patriots by providing them with provisions and protection, while also suffering from the enemy’s weapons, which burned and killed him. His village was set afire. His wealth was looted. His crops were spoiled. His country became a wilderness. Many such people came to Us with their wounds to express their grief. Because of a lack of capital, economic activities were at a standstill. On the other hand, those who had been earning their living from their employment with the Italians became jobless. This was another worrying matter.

The work of rehabilitating a people who had experienced moral breakdown, and whose culture had been undermined, requires going back and revisiting what had happened. It is only then that one understands that everything needs to be started from scratch. Aware that peacetime requires one to work with as much energy and strength as in wartime, We worked tirelessly… to alleviate all these problems.


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Furthermore, it was necessary to erect monuments to those who were massacred brutally, extend assistance to those who were wounded and mutilated, and to rehabilitate the patriots who wandered in the hills and ravines for five years. All these were Our responsibility. We responded… according to the urgency of the individual problem and the priority it deserved.

It is to be remembered that the Archbishop of eastern Ethiopia, Abuna Petros, was executed by a firing squad on Hamle 22, 1928 [July 29, 1936] at the orders of the brutal Graziani, thus becoming the first fallen martyr. On the same date, Hamle 22, 1933 [July 29, 1941], We laid the cornerstone of a monument for him. With his last breath, Abuna Petros said, “Behold the land of Ethiopia; be cursed, if you accept the enemy.” This immortal saying shall be instructive until the Day of Rapture. Since Ethiopia kept to the last admonition of His Grace Abuna Petros, We decided to erect a monument for [him] on the same spot his innocent blood had been spilled. The words “do not be afraid of those who kill your flesh, for they cannot kill your soul”… produced thousands of Ethiopian martyrs.


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When the enemy… fled, he left his weapons… everywhere. Rifles and explosives ended up in the hands of the people, and were used for the purpose of looting, killing, arson and various other crimes. As these kinds of crimes increased and the country remained unstable and insecure, on Sene 26, 1933 [July 3, 1941], We issued an additional criminal code. Moreover, we established courts to handle criminal cases on the basis of the criminal code or customary laws. The judges were mostly Ethiopians but at Our own request and through the recommendation of the Deputy Chief of Political Affairs, some British natives were also appointed. The establishment of the criminal courts made a significant contribution in protecting the lives and properties of the nearly 40,000 Italian citizens who were residing in Addis Abeba.

Empress Menen and our daughter Princess Tsehai left our home in Bath and, after travelling aboard a ship via South Africa, arrived in Mombasa on Nehasie 21, 1933 [August 27, 1941]. Then they proceeded to Nairobi, whence they flew to Addis Abeba aboard a British airplane. When they arrived in Addis Abeba on Nehasie 23 [August 29], We thanked God and welcomed them with joy.


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The next month, on Meskerem 13, 1934 [Sept. 23, 1941], We heard about the death of Our daughter Princess Romane Work. [She] had fallen into the hands of the enemy with her children after her husband Dejazmatch Beyene Merid was captured and killed on Yekatit 16, 1929 [Feb. 23, 1937] at the battle of Gogti. In the month of Genbot 1929 [May-June 1937], she was taken first to Azina as a prisoner and later to Turin she fell ill and after protracted suffering, We were told, she died on Tikimt 4, 1933 [Oct. 14, 1940]. Just as with other difficulties, We accepted and passed through this sad news.

Another problem for Our people was the system of taxation. When We established the Ministry of Interior after Our victory, We also divided the territories of the Imperial Ethiopian government in such a way that it fostered sound administration. These divisions were: the awraja, the wereda, and the meslene jurisdictions. Accordingly, the country was divided into 12 awrajas, 60 weredas and 339 meslenes, and subsequently We appointed awraja and wereda administrators. Later, these divisions were renamed as provinces, districts [awrajas], sub-districts [weredas] and sub-sub-districts [mekital weredas].


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Traditionally, the tax system in Our country included labor work, which took various names such as hay tax, corvee tax, holiday tax, hut tax and so forth. In 1927 [1934-35], We had planned to reform the system, but implementation was obstructed by the invasion of the enemy. Now, We abolished each of these and ordered the assessment and payment of taxes in cash. Even then, taking into consideration the hardship Our people had undergone during the five years of affliction, We decreed the taxes to be half of what was due and payable directly to the government treasury. In accordance with new administrative regulations, administrators and government employees were to receive salaries, from which they were to live.

Furthermore, We cancelled the toll gate dues paid by the merchants and decreed the payment of taxes only at the market place. We abolished the toll tax paid at the boundary of every jurisdiction and limited the amount by law. We ratified these by the proclamation of Tikimt 23, 1934 [Nov. 2, 1941] and made everything known to Our people.


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