884.6461 Tsana Dam/55

The Minister in Ethiopia (Southard) to the Secretary of State

No. 81

Sir: I have the honor to confirm my telegram of this date reporting that I had discussed with His Majesty, King Tafari, the proposal of the White Engineering Corporation for a conference in London on the subject of the Lake Tsana Dam.

The King stated that he had many months ago requested the British Government to indicate its attitude as to what it would be [Page 792] willing to pay for water stored by the dam, and with what regularity and in what quantity it would be used. He feels that unless a definite agreement can be entered into for fixing more or less the financial return expected the construction would not economically be justified. Apparently he does not consider that Ethiopia and the Ethiopians themselves would have any particular need for a dam. He is believed to look upon the matter as a business venture whereby he will store up water and sell it profitably—to the British.

As no reply has yet been received from the British Government His Majesty thinks that it would be tactically unsound for him to propose a conference; that such act on his part would indicate undue anxiousness and give the British an advantage in the bargaining which he feels is certain to develop. His Majesty further informed me that he had reason to believe that the first business to be taken up on the arrival within a few weeks of the new British Minister, Mr. S. P. P. Waterlow, would be this dam matter.

Such is the viewpoint of King Tafari. From my own knowledge of the situation I can agree that it would not be good tactics for Ethiopia to propose a conference until the British Government indicates its attitude in the pending question as to the terms and conditions of use of the Tsana water. …

… There are reasons for believing that the construction may eventually be undertaken, and there are also circumstantial reasons of weight for feeling that it may not be undertaken within the next several years.

There is also, in my opinion, reason to suspect that the new British Minister when he arrives will make additional proposals for British construction of the dam. In such he will doubtless have Italian support on the basis of the agreement of December, 1925, between the two countries. Italian support may be reckoned on more definitely in view of the recent conclusion of the Italo-Ethiopian Treaty and Convention. This particular point of relationship between the two matters has been discussed in previous despatches.

Dr. W. C. Martin, in connection with whose recent presence in London the White Corporation presumably considered the proposal of a conference, is stated now to be en route to Ethiopia and due to arrive before the end of this month. I had heard that he would wait to travel out with the new British Minister. On second thought, however, I realized that such would be inadvisable from the viewpoint of a man of Doctor Martin’s well known astuteness. I shall see him promptly upon his return and obtain all the information possible.

In summarizing, I may say that I have been consistently on the alert to bring about an issue in the Tsana Dam matter. Two important obstacles to obtaining action are (1) the possible lack of definite intention [Page 793] to build such a dam and (2) the very evident disinclination of His Majesty to displease the British. Further, the Government of the United States has no tangible concession to give in return whereas the British Government has various concessions to offer on a bargaining basis.

The Ethiopian Government has now procured the opening here of an American Legation. That ambition being satisfied, interest in things American tends to lag. … Our situation is peculiar here in that for economic favor we are in competition with certain European powers which can make concessions of a material or tangible nature more easily estimated and realized … than the more or less intangible good will and perhaps moral support which we can offer.

On the basis of a cordial friendship of eleven years with His Majesty, King Tafari, during which I have seen him grow from a youthful ruler of insecure position uncertain of himself to a matured and unusually able ruler with more or less secured position, I am not without personal influence of weight. But material considerations are likely to come first with His Majesty, as with the average Ethiopian, and there is little that we are able to offer in that category. It may, therefore, be seen that our possible accomplishments of economic value here are not to be arrived at without first overcoming certain handicaps or obstacles. While I continue optimistic I cannot conscientiously be enthusiastic.

I have [etc.]

Addison E. Southard