I deeply regret my disagreement with a government which I heartily admire and to which I am greatly indebted. It was this government which showed me generosity and hospitality at the time of my grief. I will not forget my debt to Britain and France.
I would like to mention the French government which, fifteen years ago, strongly supported my country’s admission to the League of Nations. At all times, France has counselled and upheld Ethiopia’s interest during my rule and the reigns of my predecessors. I cannot forget this faithful and friendly assistance of the past.
However, as Emperor of Ethiopia, I have an overriding responsibility and obligation to defend my people, the people whose humiliating travail I referred to the League of Nations three years ago…. I respectfully and strongly appeal to the British government, whose sincerity, generosity and sympathy to the human race is known around the world, to reconsider its proposed resolution concerning Ethiopia’s case. Is not the interpretation of article 10 the one defined by the General Assembly of the League and applied to another case of aggression on October 6, 1937? It was seven months ago that the General Assembly affirmed the basic interpretation of the Charter in the following words:
The General Assembly resolves to assist the Chinese government against any action that undermines its power to defend against the aggression which has befallen it and solicits its members to look for ways to help China.
Today, the League of Nations Council is being requested to look for ways in which further to weaken the Ethiopian people, to exacerbate the difficulties in their struggle against Italy, and for member states to extend individual and collective assistance to the aggressor. I, the Emperor of Ethiopia, on behalf of my afflicted people, appeal to all governments of the world and express my strong opposition to these troublesome probabilities. The proposal which is presented today to the Council belittles the gravity of the Ethiopian situation in order to facilitate the violation of the Charter of the League of Nations.
The notion that the aggressor has broken the will of my people is far from reality. Even if this had happened and the aggressor had brought the entire imperial territory under its administration, to accept the current proposal is not the right thing to do. Has not the whole world accepted the proposal made a few years ago by the United States of America that not to recognize a territory acquired by aggression is a fundamental principle of human rights and the best insurance for peace and tranquility? I would like to remind you that, as the ruler of the people of Ethiopia, it is my responsibility to defend Ethiopia’s political independence and territorial integrity, the way of life of its civilian population, the administration of its church, and the personal freedom and the right to life of the individual citizen.
It is a pity that the Ethiopian people have not received financial or military assistance from member states of the League of Nations. Though this has proven impossible, until God’s justice is rendered, I think I have the right to request you to recognize the rights of my people lest Ethiopia became a symbol of a discredited Charter. To assume that will… lead to the collapse of amicable relations between nations is completely untenable. What will stimulate animosity in international relations are violating the law, ignoring agreements, rewarding the aggressor, and sacrificing the victim.
Today, millions of men and women around the world somberly observe the debate in the League. They understand that this is the agonizing moment when Ethiopia’s destiny will be decided. Does the League of Nations, which is entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring justice, really want to discard the Charter which justifies its very existence and, by doing so, commit suicide? Is this ornate building… going to become the temple of those who worship aggression and suborn sovereignty, and the tomb of international good intentions?
Today when I submit my objections to the idea that just came before the League’s Council, the state of resistance in Ethiopia adds vigor to my objection. The reality is not the one that was presented to members of the Council. As I have reported to the League, the Italian government does not fully control vast portions of Ethiopia’s territory. Even in Tigray, the region contiguous to Eritrea, Italian soldiers are present only in towns and in places where large numbers of people congregate. They dare not set foot in rural areas. Supplies and ammunition are transported to remote garrisons only by air. Even soldiers stationed in Gonder and Debre Tabor are supplied by air, since there is no other means of transportation. There is not one Italian governor in Gojam. In Shewa, Italian soldiers are found only in Addis Abeba, near Ankober, and along the rail line to Djibouti. Inside Welega, there are Italian detachments occupying the towns of Gore, Sayo and Nekemte proper. They have not set foot in the outlying areas. The same situation is true for Jima, Borena, Sidamo, Bale and Walamo. They have occupied the towns of Jiren, Yirga Alem, Mega, Goba, and Ginir. From other areas, however, they were driven out by Our fighters. In Harerge, the towns of Harer and Jijiga, as well as the railroad, are occupied. The fascists have not set foot in the rest of the areas and have no control over Danakil Afar and Awsa….
These things are well publicized, and the reports that come from the adjacent British and French colonies are very much consistent with them. The Italian government itself has admitted that, in addition to the one billion lire that it had spent in 1935 and 1936, it is now spending many billions of lire annually on the occupation. Thus, it has not been possible to do anything beneficial for the country, and even the construction of roads has been discontinued. The colonial regime’s inactivity emanates not only from the lack of finance, but also from the existence in the country of incessant warfare, with no prospect of an end in sight unless either the Italians leave the country or all Ethiopians are annihilated.
Eritrean women freedom fighters.
The Italian authorities preach a propaganda of desperation so that they can break the will of my people, who are ardently defending their 3000-year-old independence. Fascist propaganda is based on the hope that the League of Nations will abandon Ethiopia. The Italian government views other European governments and the League of Nations with contempt and arrogance The truth is, it seeks recognition for its occupation so that it may tell the Ethiopian people that the verdict of the League of Nations was against them. This clearly reveals the value of the principle, to which the League has been committed, of not recognizing a territory seized by force.
The current situation in Ethiopia, as far as the law is concerned, is very clear. Under international law, one belligerent is permitted to exercise an undefined, temporary and limited authority over the other when the two parties are in a state of war. Neutral governments can establish a temporary and limited communication with the military or civilian authorities of the occupier in order to safeguard the interests of their citizens. The law prohibits the occupying government from annexing a territory that is not its own and absolutely prevents nonbelligerent governments from recognizing the occupier as the legitimate authority.
Therefore, since recognizing one’s territory as the legal possession of the other is tantamount to affirming occupation by force, such an action belies the legality of the League’s Charter and the Treaty of Paris. The current situation in Ethiopia confirms the principles contained in these agreements.
The British government… seeks to manipulate these great and noble principles in its attempt to legitimize Italy’s aggression. However, such an approach abandons a whole society to achieve international stability…. I call for the rejection of this proposal. Sacrificing a member of the League for the satisfaction of another government is completely incompatible with the spirit of the Charter. Is this the manner in which Britain and France would like to implement and enforce the basic precepts of the League of Nations which they have consistently supported? How about the small governments; do they not see the frightening danger they bring on themselves for allowing this to happen?
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