Thursday, 2 May 2019

The Ethiopian American Post- Liberation Alliance

The international post World War II climate ensured a decline in European influence, especially for Britain and France. These two countries had notoriously impacted heavily on Ethiopian politics and caused Emperor Haile Sellassie I a fair share of difficulties. After World War II the United States of America emerged on top, dominating political, economic and military platforms. The Soviet Union also held a place with its powerful military resources.

Emperor Haile Sellassie’s ability to modernize and develop from the 1940s onward, was in large part due to an alliance made between Ethiopia and America. In 1943 He sent a mission to seek military, legal and financial advisors which was successful. The mission was able to secure a loan from the US which allowed Ethiopia to establish its own local currency.  This was most necessary because Britain had tried to phase out the Maria Theresa thaler and replace it with the East African shilling. Ethiopian farmers – as major exporters of grain to post war countries – refused to accept the change as their market dealt with the thaler, and as a result the shilling was devalued. To solve this conflict, a local Ethiopia currency was the only viable solution, and with its introduction the Birr contributed to securing Ethiopia’s independence from Britain. 

In 1945 the Emperor met with President Franklin Roosevelt in Egypt. There He granted the Americans the rights to search for petroleum in the Ogaden region. This was another step for Ethiopia’s reclamation of the Ogaden from the British.

Ethiopia was able to return aid to America in the form of communications. The Italians during their illegal occupation, had set up a communications centre in Asmara, Radio Marina, which the US military found to be quite useful. This centre was a key initiative in US support for the return of Eritrea to Ethiopia. 

THe Ethiopian -American alliance also saw the birth of Ethiopian Airlines. In 1945 Ethiopia signed a contract with America’s Transcontinental and Western Airline (TWA) which transformed Ethiopian life significantly. This new form of domestic travel changed the game for Ethiopian communications and trade, improving the standard of living for locals. Ethiopian Airlines gave Ethiopia a leg-up on the continent as well, solidifying its influence in diplomatic affairs and connecting Afrikan governments.

Ethiopia sent a battalion to fight in the Korean War in the 1950s. This was a move that showed their loyalty to the United Nations’ mandate for collective security and to also flex their new military expertise and resources – which they lacked back in the 1930s. Ethiopia’s top performance in this war secured their claim for Eritrea as it gained the support of the UN.

Unrest in the Middle East during this decade also strengthened the alliance with America. THe Egyptian Revolution of 1952 saw the rise of anti-American Gamal Abdel Nasser. Because the Red Sea corridor was dominated by Arabs, Ethiopia became the only port access and all for the US, which they needed in order for their petroleum trade. America was a supporter of Israeli independence and national security, so its ability to rely on Ethiopia was a boon in the hostile Arabic Red Sea region.
America’s aid to Ethiopia was the greatest on the Afrikan continent. They signed the Point Four Program in 1952 which focused on public administration and health, education and locust control. The Imperial Highway Authority was created to build and maintain roadways. Telecommunication facilities expanded and while Sweden provided the equipment and expertise, America handled the administration.

The need to replace the skilled and educated workforce in Ethiopia was one of the most important tasks of the post-liberation period. Numerous schools and training centres were opened all over Ethiopia and Eritrea. The American model was used and American found employment as teachers. Many Ethiopian students were sent abroad to Britain and North America for higher studies and this exposure introduced young Ethiopians to “radical” developments in politics around the world which directly impacted how they viewed their Ethiopian homeland. Such students became eager to see changes happen and brought their “left-wing radicalism of campus politics to Ethiopia.”

“With the advent of the American Peace Corps program in the 1960s, the youth education program in Ethiopia received an additional boost. (There are varying opinions regarding the ideological effect that these Peace Corps teachers had on their Ethiopian students. It has been suggested that the teachers, recent graduates from American universities, were themselves steeped in the radical politics of the American student movement, and that they played a major part in influencing Ethiopian students’ radicalization.) American influence in education went beyond the high school level and was significant in the various colleges, as well as in the Haile Selassie I University, whose academic system was based on the American educational model. This ubiquitous American presence would later be pointed to as one example of American imperialist penetration in Ethiopia.” Beyond the Throne 2001 Indrias Getachew, pg 127

Monday, 15 April 2019

The British Roadblock after Ethiopian Liberation

“Emperor Haile Selassie’s triumphant entry into Addis Ababa was not the expected end to the sovereignty crisis that the Italian Occupation had meant. The Emperor’s victory was achieved with the backing of British military forces. Despite Ethiopia having been an independent state prior to the Italian occupation, and the status of Ally that Italian entry into World War II bestowed on Ethiopia, the British treated the Emperor as the local leader of occupied enemy territory, and not as the leader of an independent country.”
Beyond The Throne by Indrias Getachew, Shama Books 2001 pg 109

Emperor Haile Sellassie I faced many trials and stumbling blocks upon His return to Ethiopia. While He may have expected to “pick up where He left off” and go about re-establishing His government and rule, He found that task to be exceedingly difficult due to a number of factors, on the Ethiopian front and because of British interference.

Post-liberation Ethiopia was a mess. Populations were displaced, the government destroyed, territories had been seized and people were starving and without work or homes. They, moreover, resented the Emperor for deserting them, for running away to Britain while they faced the hell of Italian occupation on their own. The Emperor lost many of His once loyal supporters because He went into exile. He was considered a traitor, disloyal to His own oath which He gave upon His coronation. His image in Ethiopia was severely tarnished as a result. One of His biggest challenges upon return therefore, was to regain the trust of His people, to reestablish and consolidate His authority over them. He set up the Ministry of Interior to handle specifically the socio-economic problems and physical hardships endured around the country as a result of Italian occupation.

Security through resettlement was the biggest and most important task, as much of the population was forced to live in the old Ethiopian tradition as “shiftas” or nomadic bandits that raided travelers and settled communities. The Emperor was also quick to establish a local police force and a new military whereby Ethiopia’s borders and urban centres could be protected.
However, in spite of these efforts, the presence of the British in Ethiopia as both administrative and military factions, made things harder for the Emperor and country to settle. Britain’s help to regain Ethiopian independence, had come at a price. The Occupied Enemy Territory Administration blatantly ignored the Emperor’s right to rule Ethiopia autonomously.

The OETA had its sights set on carrying out the Italian dream of dividing Ethiopia up. The British-led administration planned to integrate Ogaden with British and former Italian Somaliland to make “Greater Somaliland.” The Borana lands of the south would have been merged with Kenya. Eritrea would have been fused with Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in the lowlands, while the rest of it was to unify with Tigray to form an independent nation. Clearly these plans had no reverence to the Emperor’s existence or Ethiopia’s independent status. It disregarded Ethiopia’s status as an Ally as well and violated Ethiopia’s right by law to maintain its pre-occupation territories. The end result of this plan to parcel off the land would have meant that the Emperor would become a puppet to the British Empire, and so He did everything in his diplomatic power to prevent that from happening. It was not a price He was willing to pay in thanks for previous British aid.

The tensions between the Emperor and Britain continued from 1941, starting when the He named a new set of Ministers for His government without British approval. Brigadier Maurice Lush was outraged and stated that the Emperor had no right to do such a thing without signing a peace treaty with the King of Italy. Until this was done the King of Italy was still the legal ruler of Ethiopia! It was obvious that the British would take the side of their European counterparts – Italy- in spite of all that Italy had done.

The soldiers of the liberating forces and detractors were also a source of anxiety for the palace as they clashed with Ethiopian patriots and nobles. With their unruly actions they undermined the authority of the Emperor and compromised His standing in the eyes of His own nation. The Emperor was only able to gain the upper hand over the various factions of the OETA by sending messages directly to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Churchill issued a statement that made it clear that Ethiopia was independent and sovereign, and that this status was officially recognized by Britain. This statement stopped all plans to partition Ethiopian territories.

However, problems still continued. Ethiopia signed the First Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement in January 1942, which gave the British Administration too much liberties in government, and allowed them to continue occupying the Ogaden region of Harar. Luckily, by 1944 the Emperor was able to have the administration removed, eradicating their diplomatic dominance in government.  Slighted by the Emperor’s refusal to bow, the OETA had other tricks up their sleeve to undermine Ethiopian autonomy and weaken efforts in post-occupation development. They removed all Italian war booty -which would have been justified compensation and a boon to regaining stability - from Ethiopia. Machinery, factories, arms and goods were taken by the British to their own colonies – Kenya, Somaliland and Sudan.

In 1937, due to attempt on Graziani’s life, Italy killed the trained and educated Ethiopians left in the country. This meant that the Emperor had virtually no technically trained and skilled workers to employ in His new government, to rebuild and maintain the necessary infrastructure. The Italians served to fill this gap, those who remained in Ethiopia and wanted to help right the wrongs of the past and had fostered warm relations with the locals. The OETA however, insisted on repatriating these Italians, forcing them to go back home.

Territorial issues also continued, as the British kept control of the Ogaden and Eritrea, claiming them to be volatile areas. Britain eventually lost claim on the Ogaden region with the help of the United Nations*. Eritrea itself later voted to become the fourteenth province of Ethiopia, which it remained until the monarchy was abolished.

*"In 1941 Ethiopia was one of the founding signatories to the Charter establishing the United Nation and in 1945 was among the found members present at the inauguration of the organization in San Francisco." Getachew 2001 pg 120