More Speeches of Haile Selassie I

Interview with Gordon Gaskill – “Images” 1942

“Images” (Egyptian Weekly Magazine in French), September 21 1942
Interview by Gordon Gaskill / Translation from French

After the shaking of hands, the monarch invited me to sit. I asked him if He preferred to speak in French or in English. He said that for an official conversation He prefers to use his mother-tongue. There was his secretary/interpreter, who took care to translate the Emperor’s statements.

– What does Your Majesty think about the current organization of the world ?

‘My answer might shock you. So before I let you know, I want to assure you that I know how horrible war is. I saw it six years ago, when my country fought alone and was conquered. I saw it only a few months ago, when my country fought alongside the Allies and achieved victory.

Above the words, above the tears, I see the whole world plunged into the bloody chaos of war.

And yet, I dare to say that in at least one area, the world today is better than that of a few years ago. Before everything, it is honest. Perhaps this honesty was imposed on it. But it remains a certain fact that today excuses, renunciations, compromises no longer exist. Today, a man, a nation can raise its head and say: <<I fight with you>>, or <<I fight against you>>.

Yet the world was honest a few years ago. I am convinced that in 1935, when Italy invaded my country, almost all the nations of the world recognized that we were the victims of a flagrant injustice. But no power dared openly to help us. We were drowning, and no helping hand was extended to us.’

– Do you think that the world has learned the lesson ?

I think the world has finally recognized its past mistakes. And I would like to be sure that these faults will not be forgotten after the war is won. This savage slaughter will have served some purpose, if we know how to draw from it the just appreciation of the value of international unity. For lack of international unity, my country was conquered by an aggressor. Thanks to international unity, which intervened because of the war, my country regained its sovereignty and independence. I do not speak with bitterness, but with the hope that the lessons of the past will serve to guide humanity into the future.

The League of Nations fought for a great ideal. But his efforts were limited into the realm of words and actions without energy. Never a word could stop a tank. Never has a platonic gesture been able to prevent a dive bomber from throwing itself into a mad dive.’ 

– When do you think this war started? Who triggered it?

‘This conflict began twenty years ago, when Italy invaded the Greek island of Corfu. It began when Japan successfully attacked Manchuria. It became inevitable when Italy invaded my country and succeeded in carrying out its aggression. Then it was the Rhineland, Spain, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and finally, in September 1939, the abscess burst and the war spread like wildfire across the wide world.

What would the great democratic powers not give to be able to go back and relive, with the experience of the present, the lost years from 1920 to 1939, the years of relaxation! At every turn in the bloody road that led us from Corfu to Poland, the war could have been prevented.

In those moments, it was perhaps not necessary to make war: it would have been enough to show the will to face the uncertainties of a conflict, to defend a just cause.

But none of the great powers thought to realize that those events, taking place in remote corners of the world such as Corfu, Manchuria and Abyssinia, could one day have some influence on their own existence. Who, in America for example, would have thought of establishing any link whatsoever between the Corfu affair and that of Pearl Harbor?’ 

– According to your opinion, what form of international organization should be established after this war ?

A few years ago, political leaders had developed a program of general disarmament. Each nation would have kept only a small police force. The League of Nations would have instituted a great single army, a world court, in a word, a sort of general super-police. This is, with a few variations, the system which is in force in your North American federation. The small nations subscribed to this project with enthusiasm, but the great powers refused to accept it. From that time on, I no longer had any doubts about the inevitability of a general conflict.

Personally, I am convinced that a system based on this principle would be the best guarantee of a peaceful peace. I have no illusions concerning the difficulties of putting such an organization into practice. Many problems of race, language, traditions will have to be overcome. But if this idea is unattainable, let us at least stay with each other, let us unite, as far as possible, by a close cooperation based on a mutual sympathy. The union of all the nations of the world will only be possible through much creative imagination, strenuous effort and sacrifice. But won’t all these efforts and all these sacrifices be less painful than a new war?’

– Do not think that the plan You suggest requires much altruism and chivalry from the nations ?

‘Chivalry ? I don’t suggest or expect it. Egoism, alas! seems to be part of human nature. Every man thinks first of himself; each nation contemplates exclusively the interests which are proper to it. But the point on which I insist, and which I hope one day the world will appreciate, is that international cooperation is only intended to serve the interests of each nation effectively.

If, in 1935, the great powers had intervened decisively in favor of Ethiopia, they would not have performed a gesture of pure chivalry. Their action would undoubtedly have prevented today’s war. It was not out of sheer altruism that Britain helped to liberate Abyssinia. Nor is it in the name of this feeling that Ethiopia is currently forming a brigade made up of its best soldiers, who will go to fight alongside the allies. We know perfectly well that only a British victory will allow us to stay free.

Too many nations have lived in the belief that it is in their interest to stay away from the problems and injustices of the world. It is necessary that this war – you hear well, it is necessary – make us understand that the policy of egoism is useless, that it can be fatal just for the egoistic nation. This war must teach us that the only coherent form of egoism is that which will contribute to establishing and maintaining justice within humanity.’ 

– Are you personally optimistic about the post-war world? Do you think the lessons of those dark years will be put to good use?

‘I don’t want to be too pessimistic, but I must solemnly warn you of the dangers that await us. Today, the leaders of democracies have laid the basis for grand plans for the reconstruction of the world and the establishment of lasting peace. The gravity of the hours in which we are living, the community dangers which we are facing, have united the masses of the people behind these leaders.

This unanimous good-will allows us to nourish the most optimistic hopes, but we must not for a single moment think that the task at hand is easy. I ask you to go back twenty-five years. Then, as now, leaders spoke of grand, humane, righteous programs. But when the war ended, the world forgot. The world wanted nothing more than pleasure and comfort.

I declare that we must always fear the danger of falling back into the same tragic mistakes of twenty-five years ago. To avoid the pitfalls of the future, it will be necessary to carry out a work of titans. The future organization of the world will be more difficult than the victorious conclusion of the war. During the present conflict, everyone is stimulated by very violent feelings: love of motherland, hatred towards the enemy, and the basic desire to survive. But all that state of mind will be upset as soon as the last shot is fired. Then the world will be, as it was a quarter of a century ago, exhausted, bled white, inexorably weary of struggle. Once again we will eat well; steel will be used to make tractors, not tanks; planes will carry passengers and no longer bombs. Then it will be tragically easy to rest, forget, sleep and do nothing. Too easy to forget the wonderful solidarity between the Allies. Too easy for each man to forget his brother, for each nation to forget another nation, for each one to follow a different and solitary path.

Yes, it will be precisely the day when each being, pushed to the limit, will cry through their tears, to ask for rest, that it will be necessary, in the four corners of the world, to make the supreme effort. This will be the most critical epoch in the history of the world. This will be the moment of great sympathy, of great understanding, of great sacrifices, of great collaboration.

Although we will have won this war by arms, we will lose it if peace and prosperity make us forget the lessons for which we will have paid such a high price. Let us therefore swear general solidarity. Let us swear, by the blood of our sons, that if ever in the future a nation is attacked, the whole world will rise in its defense and draw its sword.

And if we manage to live united, firmly united, the sword will never be drawn again’.” 

Haile Selassie I - Teachings

Interview with “Le Journal” of Paris, July 1936

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’.
‘And your sons?’
‘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.’
Berhane Selassie (Bob Marley)

A Physical Exodus to Zion

Mumia : “Brother, what’s the significance of the song, Exodus?”
Marley : “Exodus means coming together…the movement of Afrika, of Black people. Exodus from Babylon, we’re in Babylon, and then a physical exodus to Home. But what we really a say is dat, we waan Black people to unite, with one another, Seen? Now, the only way we can unite is to deal wit truth…the truth is that King Solomon and King David is the root and if we gonna deal with roots, we hafta deal from King Solomon and King David time, Lion of Tribe of Judah, ya know? So, this is what I and I say: time for unity! Cause we’s a people, we have something…and we have to deal with it, seen?”
Bob Marley, Interview with Mumia Abu-Jamal, Philadelphia 1979