P. Lecler, Le Journal (Paris, France), 3rd of July 1936
“The Emperor of Ethiopia granted me an interview of a great hour, in the small living room of his apartment at Carleton hotel, in Geneva.
How sad and discouraged he seemed to me after the quarrel he caused during Tuesday’s session. It seemed evident to me that he had just burned his last cartridges and that he realized the vanity of the last efforts he had just made to induce the League of Nations to bring belated support to his country.
His lips emitted words full of courage, but the deep sadness on his face and his look of weariness belied his words.
His usual black attire seemed to have taken on a striking significance; he discussed at length the possibility of his return to Ethiopia – probably to Gorè – in case the League of Nations would answer his call. But he has been forced to accept the possibility of a definitive failure which would mean perpetual exile for him.
‘I have done the impossible’, he said sadly, ‘to present my case after many delays from an angle which should decide the League of Nations to keep its commitments. I still want to believe in the active sympathy of the English people and that of other nations, but it is diplomatic chicanery that makes the exercise of justice difficult. I will remain in Geneva until the end of this conference, and, if the question is adjourned, I will return in September to present my defense again’.
‘And where do you plan to reside in the meantime ? In Geneva ?’
‘You know the Swiss do not want’
When I asked him if it was true that he had requested permission to stay in the country, he replied, as if moved by some vestige of his past pride: ‘It is not my habit to impose my presence to anyone’
Haile Selassie will prefer to return to England, and try to raise the necessary funds there to return to Ethiopia and resume a defensive action.
‘I have just received a letter from Ras Imru who is in Goré and which confirms to me that he is in the process of bringing together all our forces in this region, but that we are lacking in armaments. The Italians have spread this legend that we no longer have any government in the West, because the Gallas are not our friends. Yet almost the entire population of Addis Ababa was Galla. I will be welcome in Goré as in any other region of our country, because otherwise it would have been impossible for me to organize the energetic defense of Ethiopia until the time when we were defeated by Italian gases.‘
‘Do you plan to return back to Ethiopia, no matter what ?’
‘Yes, if the League of Nations acts, or if I can collect the funds necessary to our defence. Otherwise it would be futile to try to continue the struggle.’
The question was then asked, whether such activities in England would not be considered an anti-Italian campaign, contrary to the conditions under which the Emperor was allowed to stay in Britain.
‘No conditions were imposed on me. Certainly, I am anti-Italian, it is impossible for me to deny it.’
A well-informed personality, who saw the letter sent to the Emperor in Palestine before he embarked for England, assured me that it specified, in terms which required no reply, that the English wanted the Emperor abstained from all military activity, as long as he was in the country.
I pointed out to the Emperor that he had lost a lot of weight since I had seen him in Ethiopia. He smiled sadly and said, ‘I have hardly slept since I left Ethiopia’.
‘Is it the loss of your empire or your current situation that obsesses you?’
The answer came shortly after.
‘It is completely indifferent to me to be emperor or not. I would be perfectly content to be just a simple citizen. But the sufferings of my people haunt me. I know what happened in Tripoli, and I have doubts about the current lot of my unfortunate subjects. It is only for them that I continue the fight, for them and for the triumph of justice.’
‘And if all your efforts will be vain at the end, what will you do ?’
‘What can I do? I will eat my heart out in exile’
‘Where do you plan to retire?’
‘I did not want to think about it yet. Maybe in England, maybe in Jerusalem; it will no longer matter if there is no more hope’.
‘But what do you plan to do after that active life that I have seen you doing in Ethiopia ? Do you plan to write, to give lectures ? Maybe you will go to America?’
‘Maybe I’ll give lectures later. I have, in fact, received offers to go to America. But how could this be useful to Ethiopia? If all is lost, how can anything I do matter’.
‘The youngest will in any case remain in England. I want them to study there. The oldest will accompany me wherever I go.’
‘I suppose that your bitterness must be deep…’
‘I have no rancour, nothing but sadness. I repeat, if Ethiopia sinks, the League of Nations and civilization itself will sink with her.’