Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Proposals to Haile Sellassie I from Benito Mussolini



Everyone except Ethiopia agreed that the only way to stop and settle the war between Italy and Ethiopia, was for Ethiopia to give up a large portion of its territory to Italy and be put under a mandate drawn up by the League of Nations. Italy offered the following proposal to settle the war, as quoted from the Emperor’s memoirs:

“To the north, all of Tigray was to be ceded to Italy, Axum and Aseb left to Us; in the east, We were to be given Harer, ceding the surrounding borderland to the British and French. In the south, Bale, Arsi and all the lands between Lake Zwai and Lake Marghereta [Lake Abaya] and all the territories to the west were to be handed over to Italy, while the rest of the country was to be confirmed for Us. The sovereignty over all territories was to be given to Us, but we were to employ administrators and advisors from Italy. Italy tried to tempt us with this arrangement in exchange for several million lire but…was unsuccessful..

Moreover, while We were in exile, Mussolini sent an emissary with a message:

‘I have heard of Your Majesty’s financial predicament. I am willing to buy you a palace in a country of your choice and in addition, to give a million guineas to you so that together with your family, you can live in peace for the rest of your life off the interest of the original deposit. It is because of you that I am unable to obtain recognition for Italy’s claim on Ethiopia. Sign a statement and release your claim over Ethiopia in favor of me.’

We replied, ‘I have left my country not to sell it but to seek justice for my people and my country. This history of Ethiopia will not be despoiled by a guinea stained with the blood of Ethiopians.’

He proposed this idea in March 1937. A year later [Mussolini] made another proposition, saying, ‘I offer you one million pounds and a portion of your country. If you accept the basic idea, we will not be bickering on the division of territories amongst ourselves; we will work the matter out.’

We rejected this offer outright, underscoring that We came to seek justice from a League comprised of fifty-three states and would await their sincere judgment; and the matter was concluded.”

Source: My Life and Ethiopia’s Progress Vol II by Emperor Haile Sellassie I; pg 43-44

Ethiopia Italy and the League of Nations





On October 7th 1935, the Council of the League of Nations (LON) concluded that Italy, by invading Ethiopia and capturing cities, had in fact violated Article 12 of its Covenant and therefore would automatically be punished with sanctions. To stop the war, Mussolini made it clear that he wanted to control all of the deceased Emperor Menelik II’s conquests: Eritrea, eastern Tigray, and Somalia the Ogaden and in return he would permit Haile Sellassie to run His severely trimmed state under Italy’s management and advice. The aim of Italy was to erase their previous defeat by Emperor Menelik II so that Ethiopia could no longer claim that they had in fact defeated the Italians. Italy believed they were fulfilling their destiny.

France was supportive of this move to annex Ethiopia to Italy but they knew that the Ethiopian Emperor would never agree to such a proposal. On November 18th the import-export sanctions were imposed by Geneva’s LON but did nothing to slow Italy’s war agenda. The only embargo Mussolini was concerned about, was the oil embargo from Britain and France which would affect his army. Italy presented itself as a threat to these two nations and they decided that any agreement that could be made to keep Italy as an ally and yet which didn’t openly show their approval of Italy’s aggression in Ethiopia, was best. On December 7th 1935 the French Prime Minister Mr. Pierre Laval and British Foreign Minister Sir Samuel Hoare created an Anglo-French agreement the Hoare-Laval Pact which would effectively give Italy what it wanted. This Pact was leaked to the public and created moral outrage across the globe, so it was never actually brought to the table.

“In Geneva, many commented bitterly that the effect of sanctions had been completely undermined by the Hoare-Laval Pact. In Paris, the entire liberal-left press united to denounce the service done the Facists, and the media in America were almost unanimous in seeing the newly hatched scheme as ‘a betrayal of Ethiopia’ to the aggressor. In Addis Abeba, Haile Sellassie announced that acceptance of the Anglo-French arrangement ‘even in principle…would be an act of cowardice and treason against Our people, the League of Nations, and all state which might have had confidence in the system of collective security.’ In a formal response, the Addis Abeba government followed the imperial line, refused therefore to participate in its own dismemberment ‘under the pretext of a fallacious exchange of territories,’ and called on the League not to sponsor the ‘final ruin…[of the] system of guaranteed collective security provided by the Covenant.’” Excerpt from Harold G. Marcus 1995 pg 171

Between June 30th and July 4th 1936 there was a General Assembly held at the LON to basically decide the fate of Ethiopia as a victim of Italian aggression. Countries were asked to vote on whether to lift the economic sanctions against Italy and recognize that Ethiopia had really and truly been annexed to Italy, but the result was that not enough countries supported this notion. Also, a loan of one million pounds was requested by Ethiopia and was turned down as 23 countries opposed, 1 country supported, and 25 abstained from voting. In truth there was chaos in the organization. All members of the LON knew how dangerous it was to cross Italy because of the military strength of Mussolini’s nation and it seems that many of them chose not to be a part of any voting because they did not support what Italy was doing given that it was against the LON’s laws.

Countries that supported the enforcement of the sanctions on Italy were: Sweden, Ireland, New Zealand, China, Iran, Spain, the Soviet Union and South Africa. It appears that Canada, England, Austria and France were for lifting the economic sanctions because they didn’t believe that such were any real factor in the problem between Italy and Ethiopia. The sanctions would not help improve or solve the situation.

Although the Emperor Haile Sellassie I had no other option but to turn to the LON for help while in exile, given that His country had been unable to keep Italy from occupying parts of Ethiopia, the LON truly offered no hand in settling this war. Ironically enough, in the end there was no winner. Both the Emperor of Ethiopia and President of Italy were dissatisfied with the answers given to their respective proposals.

Mussolini gave the following speech, showing his discontent with the failure of the League to officially lift the sanctions and recognize his legal control over Ethiopia and the dismemberment of the Ethiopian monarchy and government:

“The fact that the whole world conspired against Italy was an irrational act. And there is something that those who live in Britain should know. That is the fact that the so-called League of Nations is an empty and defunct machine when it comes to the dispute between Ethiopia and Italy. Italy’s glorious deed will be recorded only when the dispute between Italy and Ethiopia is settled outside the confusion of the League of Nations. I have dismantled the government of Ethiopia. The representatives of a vanquished country should not be present in the Geneva assembly.

We have not forgotten that the League levied an unprecedented punishment on the Italian people. We will not forget it in the future. It [the League] intended to decimate the people, the households, and children by starvation. It also attempted in vain to obstruct the efforts of our military, which was on a civilizing mission. It did not succeed, however…[since] the League…was confronted by the formidable unity of the Italian people, which is ready to sacrifice anything and is able to fight even against fifty-two countries.

Hereafter, it should not be necessary to involve the League of Nations in the remaining political efforts to bring peace. In 1935 AD we concluded an agreement with France. While an expansion of the agreement along the path of genuine friendship was being considered, the issue of sanctions came about. Our victory came with the spring. Yet the sanctions remained strictly in force. Two months after we entered Addis Abeba, the sanctions were still in force. France was still referring to the old records of the League and continued to believe that the previous government of the Lion of Judah was alive. However, except in the records of the League, the truth is that, due to our victory, the emperor’s government had expired.”

Sources: My Life and Ethiopia’s Progress Vol II by Emperor Haile Sellassie I; pg 2-5

Haile Sellassie the Formative Years by Harold G Marcus pg 169

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Rising Threat of War: Ethiopian Disadvantage



Since March 1935 Ethiopia maintained that the Wal Wal Incident was not a reason to start a war and urged the LON to seriously investigate the contention between the two countries and Italy’s movements to start a war, before any treaties were violated. Ethiopia protested to the LON that Italy was raising aggression but was ignored. Italy used tactics of avoidance, postposing meetings and neglecting to make official responses to Ethiopia’s claims, which disallowed the argument to be settled (this is what they wanted so they could have a reason to start the war).

From February to September 1935, Ethiopia watched as Italy’s General de Bono led troops into Eritrea and Somaliland at increasingly alarming numbers. All the time spent in shelving the Wal Wal incident, allowed Italy time and reason to start amazing thousands of troops, aircrafts, armored vehicles and artillery along their frontiers in Somaliland and Eritrea. Italy claimed they were simply beefing up their own security to keep Ethiopians from attacking them – but the Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Sellassie I had no intentions of doing anything of the sort. Italy maintained that Ethiopia was making false and unsupported allegations against them.

By September 3rd when the Arbitration Committee decided that neither Ethiopia or Italy was responsible for the Wal Wal Incident, Italy had gathered thousands of men and war supplies. They even built new aerodromes across Eritrea and Somalia. Ethiopia was not prepared to fight this well-equipped army.

Ethiopia’s guns and ammunition were of poor or outdated quality and they didn’t have enough armored vehicles, planes or tanks. Ethiopia’s attempts to buy arms form Great Britain were denied. The French also refused to grant licenses for any weapons to be sold to Ethiopia or Italy. But this only hurt Ethiopia as Italy produced their own weapons – they didn’t buy from the French or British. In French Djibouti Ethiopian arms were also held up with excuses, and the railway company refused to deliver the arms because Italy threatened to bomb the trains. France and Britain were of no help because they didn’t want to provoke Italy in any way, being such a powerful army. Even if the Emperor could have found a supplier, the artillery wouldn’t have reached Ethiopia until 1936. Germany however was noted to have been the one country to supply arms to the Afrikan nation.

The only other hope was for Ethiopia to again plead to the League of Nations (LON) which was a dead end. During June to July 1935 both countries made speeches against one another. Italy made it clear that they intended to overthrow the Solomonic State and capture Menelik’s empire. Mussolini maintained that Afrika now belonged to Europe and could not be ruled in any part by Afrikans. He wanted to take revenge on Menelik I’s win against them back in 1896 at the Battle of Adwa. Mussolini wanted Ethiopia to become Italy’s protectorate and was tired of Britain trying to protect the Afrikans.

September 4th the Italian delegate Baron Pompeo Aloisi said that Abyssinia was incapable of following and understanding the “principles of international morality.” Abyssinia could not share equal rights with civilized states in Europe. Italy would be offended as a civilized nation to continue dealings with Abyssinia on an equal footing in the LON. Ethiopia maintained they wanted peace and that Italy was threatening to exterminate them which was against League policy. The LON responded by appeasing Italy at the expense of Ethiopia, so that problems would not arise within Europe itself (Italy joining with Nazi Germany was a real concern).

The LON Council appointed a committee of 5 states including Britain and France to negotiate an agreement between Italy and Ethiopia. The result was a mandate to give Italy what they wanted under guise, which Ethiopia rejected immediately. NO agreement was made. Ethiopia would not give up its independence.

The Emperor finally realized that instead of the bogus LON creed of collective security He had to worry about national security and prepare the country for war. Haile Sellassie I intended to keep war at bay as long as possible because He didn’t want Ethiopia to be guilty of violating the treaties made with both Italy and the LON. The Italians ironically enough shared no such morality, and by then had constructed numerous fortifications along the Eritrean border.

Ras Seyoum was charged with preparing this frontline on the Ethiopian side but did a poor job in doing so. He refused to build proper trenches or use the new guns sent from Addis Abeba. He was against using the modern military tactics that were presented to him by the Russian ex-colonel Konovaloff, who was sent to help him prepare.

On October 2nd-4th Italy started its advance into Ethiopia at Tigray and the Emperor had no choice but to sound the war drums at the capital and make a speech of mobilization. October 3rd 1935 General de Bono advanced in Adwa in the North while General Graziani opened fire on the frontier at Somaliland in the South. The two made their way through Ethiopia until they met at the capital Addis Abeba early in May 1936.

Sources: The Lion of Judah hath Prevailed by Christine Sandford, The Second Italo-Ethiopian War Wikipedia

The Wal Wal Incident - Why the Italo Ethiopian War Started




At the request of Regent Ras Tafari Makonnen, in 1923 Italy agreed with France to enter Ethiopia into the League of Nations (LON). By 1925 the Fascist regime was established, with Benito Mussolini rapidly gaining power. In 1926 Great Britain and Italy made an agreement that Italy would be granted a zone of economic influence in the Eastern horn of Afrika in exchange for Italy’s promise not to interfere with the waters of the Nile that flow from Ethiopia, which Britain monopolized. Italy would have their railway and Britain their waterway.

Ethiopia knew of this exchange because all correspondents between LON member states were open for all to view. The Regent of Ethiopia was shocked and appalled and immediately sent notes of protest to both Great Britain and Italy through the LON. How could they make such a decision that involved Ethiopia, without the country's involvement?

In 1928 the Regent Tafari signed with Italy a twenty year friendship treaty where Ethiopia gained a free-zone at the Port of Assab on the Eritrean coast which was an Italian territory. A road would be constructed to link Ethiopia’s Dessie to Assab. The signatories Ethiopia and Italy agreed to build the road in their respective countries. An Italo-Ethiopian company would have monopoly on the road traffic.

This agreement however caused a lot of disagreement. The Ethiopians did not want to allow Italian engineers into Ethiopia and the Italians wouldn’t allow Ethiopia’s appointed Dutch engineers to give their plans for the road. A lot of mistrust and arguing ensued. Between 1930-35 Italy made a series of complaints against Ethiopia about border raids. They kept harassing Ethiopia during this time but the Emperor remained calm and trusted in the treaties signed with Italy and the LON.

In 1930 Italy built a garrison or fort at the Wal Wal/Ogaden Oasis at the Ethiopian-Somaliland border, but this garrison went over onto Ethiopian territory by 60 miles. The Italians stationed Somali Ascari or fighters as their frontier troops. In November of 1934, Ethiopian border troops were accompanying the Anglo-Ethiopian Boundary Commission on a survey, when the infringement was discovered. They voiced their outrage to the Italians and Somalis at the frontier. The British in the party fled the area to avoid upsetting Italy and becoming involved in the argument. But the Ethiopian troops stayed and set up camp alongside the Ascaris.

On December 6th the Wal Wal Incident happened – the two sides finally clashed. 110-150 Ethiopians died, while only 30-50 Italians and Somalis perished. The Italians had in fact planned this skirmish after seeing that the Ethiopian troops would not leave the area. They brought in planes to bomb the frontier, and 3 armored vehicles with machine guns.

The Ethiopian Government requested that the disagreement be settled by arbitration but Italy’s government rejected the proposition, demanding compensation instead. On January 3rd 1935 the Ethiopian Government submitted a report on the incident to the LON under Article II of the Covenant. The League Council agreed on the arbitration because of the Italo-Ethiopian treaty of 1928, but delayed the application until the next meeting which was months ahead.

Italy also disagreed that an assessment on the location of the garrison should be done to prove that they were in fact on Ethiopian territory. But Ethiopia insisted that the placement of the fort needed to be known in determining which country was at fault; and before they were forced to pay any form of compensation to Italy.

When the Commission of Arbitration finally met on June 25th the Italians still refused to allow their garrison’s location on the frontier to be questioned. Because the arbitration could reach nowhere, the LON decided an independent chairman should be appointed to the Committee. On September 3rd the chairman ruled that neither party was to blame for the incident.

But this ruling by that time was of no concern to Ethiopia or Italy, because the war was already on the horizon. The Emperor Haile Sellassie I did all He could to get the LON to intervene, but they didn’t. The LON failed to exercise their power by not stopping Italy from property violation, and by not helping Ethiopia settle the conflict in a reasonable time frame.

Sources: The Lion of Judah Hath Prevailed by Christine Sandford, The Second Italo-Ethiopian War Wikipedia

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The Marriage of Dejazmatch Tafari Makonnen and Woyzero Menen Asfaw




Dejazmatch Tafari Makonnen at a young age was first married briefly to Woyzero Altayech and had one daughter Princess Romanework Haile Sellassie. This was a civil contract marriage, which was a very popular custom in Ethiopia back then, where families would arrange unions between their children before they came of age, for the purpose of making social, economic and political alliances. These civil marriages could be annulled if the families did not wish to renew their contracts. The second type of traditional marriage was conducted by the Tewahedo Orthodox Church when the bride and groom were of consenting age. A civil union was not recognized by the Church. Woyzero Menen also was married under civil contracts, three times before She wed Dejazmatch Tafari in the Church. She had four children from those unions.  The Church did not recognize Their previous marriages.

On July 27th (or possibly 29th) 1911 at the age of 19 when He was Governor of Harar, Dejazmatch Tafari was legally wed to Woyzero Menen Asfaw (aged 20) in Harar as organized by Her uncle Lidj Iyasu (heir the throne). Their marriage was arranged, but it was a love match. It was observed by Her uncle that She and Tafari, his cousin, had a natural rapport and deep attraction to one another.

For the marriage ceremony Woyzero Menen travelled 45 days to Harar from Addis Abeba to meet Her future husband. Their official marriage followed traditional Tewahedo custom: they were both robed in the “Cloak of unity,” exchanged their wedding bands, anointed with the holy anointing oil and crowns were placed on their heads. Then They took the matrimonial oath and received Their first holy sacrament of Communion as a married couple.

It was believed that an official Ethiopian marriage which was in tuned with the Most High’s will and favour, would be blessed with children, material abundance and a strong spiritual foundation. These three blessings were granted to Emperor Haile Sellassie I and Empress Menen Asfaw throughout Their marriage which lasted over fifty years. They had a home filled with love, peace and adoration abundantly shared among Their six children and many many grandchildren.

Upon the Empress’ passing on Febreuary 15 1962, His Majesty commended Her great spirit and the peaceful union They shared as husband and wife:

“All of you knew her well but she was more intimately known by I. She was devoutly religious and did not lose her faith even in the time of hardship. During the memorable days of Our companionship We never had differences that needed the intervention of others. As Sarah was to Abraham, so was she obedient to I. Our wishes were mutual until we were separated by the Almighty. Her assistance for the good of the young, the old and the needy requires no testimony for they are greater than thoughts and words.
We have been extremely pleased to live long enough in the perfect union that enabled us to see our offspring, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren. We are thankful to the Almighty for having vouchsafed to us that long uninterrupted union which is not very common in the world today: There could be no more profound prayer for I to utter.
In spite of Our utmost efforts efforts to save her life in her time of illness, she was overtaken by the fate of Adam and passed away.”

Sources: The Biography of Empress Menen Asfaw The Mother of the Ethiopian Nation by Anjahli Parnell and www.jah-rastafari.com/ selassie-words/show-jah-word.asp?word_id=pass_menen

Empress Menen Asfaw: The Early Years

Young Princess Menen

Woyzero Menen Asfaw was born April 3rd 1891 in Egua at the mountain fortress Ambassel, located in the Wollo district of Ethiopia. She was born to noble parents, Jantirar Asfaw Ali and Woyzero Sehin Mikael who was the daughter of the famed King Mikael of Wollo, father of Lidj Iyasu. She had a brother Haile Maryam Asfaw. Much of Her family carried an Islamic background which was then converted to Orthodox Tewahedo Christianity. It is said that their family line can be traced back to the Prophet Mohammed.

As a young girl Menen, whose name denotes Her beauty and high esteem, was educated at home by tutors. She was taught to read Amharic letters, cotton spinning, household management and childcare.

Throughout Her life Menen was devoted to Her faith. She loved going to church with Her mother and women of Her community. Like many young Tewahedo girls of Her time Menen had crosses tattooed on Her hands.

From an early age, 9 years old, in the year 1900, Menen was married by civil contract (an arranged marriage organized by family for the purpose of economic/political/social alliances), becoming Woyzero (Mrs.) Menen. She had her first child at age eleven. In Her first marriage to Dejazmatch Ali of Cherecha She had two children a boy Jantirar Asfaw Ali and a girl Balaynesh Ali. This marriage ended in divorce and She wed again to Dejazmatch Amede Ali Aba-Deyas; having another boy and girl, Jantirar Gebre Egziabeher Amede and Desta Amede. Both these husbands were prominent Wollo nobles. Her second husband died suddenly and Her grandfather Negus Mikael arranged for Her to marry a Shoan noble Ras LeulSeged Atnafseged. This marriage was annulled so that She could marriage Dejazmatch Tafari Makonnen when She was 20 years old, which was Her first marriage officiated in the Orthodox Church.

Her four children were left in the care of their fathers' families, as in Ethiopian custom, only children under the age of 5 were allowed to stay with their mothers after a divorce.

Source: The Biography of Empress Menen Asfaw The Mother of the Ethiopian Nation by Anjahli Parnell

Parentage: The Guardians



For much of His earlier years, Lidj Tafari was unfortunately cared for by others instead of His own parents, due to the early death of His mother, and the diplomatic obligations of His father to the crown. Ras Makonnen was often away from Harar because of the military or foreign expeditions he was in charge of. This fact of His Majesty’s childhood was likely a source of pain for Him growing up, as most Ethiopian children lived with their parents and immediate family members.

In Ras Makonnen’s absence young Tafari was left in the care of his uncle Fitaurari Haile Selassie Abayneh and his wife Mezlekiya and they became his second parents. From a small child Tafari was raised with their son Imru, whom Tafari considered to be like a twin brother. They were born in the same year. These two remained very close until death parted them in audlthood. This family raised Him and cared for Him in the way that His own parents couldn’t due to death and duty.

Fitaurari Banti and Fitaurari Quollach were also entrusted guardians appointed by Ras Makonnen in Harar.

Monks of the Roman Catholic Capuchin Mission school (run by Monsignor Taurin and later Abba Jarosseau), were teachers of young Tafari and Imru. At this school they learned alongside the sons of other nobles, in a more European fashion. Jarosseau for Abba Andreas as he was called by the Ethiopians, was a close friend of Ras Makonnen’s and the Ras asked him specifically to be godfather of his son Tafari. The famous picture of young Tafari with a cross, is the picture Abba Andreas had taken to cement this adoption.

Dr. Vitalien taught Tafari French as a child and by ten years He was fluent in the language. The doctor worked at the hospital in Harar and was either from Guadeloupe or Martinique ( I have found sources saying both).

The Ethiopian Catholic priest Abba Samuel became Tafari’s tutor and he taught Him much about the world and the Christian Faith, he was also like guidance counsellor. He probably also helped Him learn Ge’ez and Amharic. He remained close to Tafari until 1915 when he died in a boating accident saving Tafari’s life. Abba Samuel was highly loved and cherished by His Majesty.

When Ras Makonnen did fall ill and was on his deathbed in 1906 he sent a letter to Emperor Menelik II asking him to take his Son under his care at court in Addis Abeba. The Emperor was impressed by teenaged Tafari’s abilities and enrolled Him in the Menelek II School, under the care of the Egyptian Hanna Bey Saleb. There Tafari was groomed to officially take up His post as Dejazmatch.



Sources: The Lion of Judah hath Prevailed by Christine Sandford, King of Kings by Asfa-Wossen Asserate, A Glimpse of Greatness by Abebe Ambatchew