884.6461 Tsana Dam/61

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

No. 101

Sir: I have the honor to confirm my telegram of this date to the effect that His Majesty, King Tafari Makonnen, has declined to call the conference on the Tsana Dam matter proposed by the J. G. White Engineering Corporation, or to take any other action pending the receipt of further communication which he expects from the British Government.

In my despatch No. 98 of November 13th, 1928,13 and in other previous despatches, I have indicated the probable special interest with which the King has awaited the arrival of the new British Minister in connection with the Tsana Dam proposition. The new British Minister has now arrived and will present his letters of credence on December 2nd, 1928, after which he will presumably endeavor to press the Tsana Dam matter.

Since the receipt of the Department’s telegraphic instruction of October 29th, 1928, 3:00 P.M., I have twice and at length discussed with His Majesty the J. G. White Corporation’s proposals for a conference. I have used much persuasion, which I could pursue to fairly persistent length because of my long friendship with the King, but without definite result. I am convinced that he must first definitely make up his mind that he wants the dam constructed and that, second, he must overcome his apparent present reluctance to oppose British desires and decline the profitable concessions or payments which they are willing to make towards acquiring the Tsana Dam.

I have endeavored in my various despatches to place before the Department my opinion that the King originally had the White Corporation approached in the Tsana matter not because he had any clear or definite idea of building a dam but because he hoped by such action not only to uncover British attitude in certain matters of political interest to him but to provide further apparent reasons for the opening here of the American Legation which he has for many years sought. …

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… Certainly the Ethiopian mind has never yet been definitely made up as to the construction of the dam. I also believe it possible that a definite decision will now not long be deferred. I further believe this Legation able to accomplish the greatest possible results in the face of competition with the more material inducements offered by British and perhaps other interests. No effort to that end has been, or will be, spared. But the Ethiopian will not be hustled. That has been amply and expensively demonstrated by the various Occidental interests which have had, and have, aims in this country.

I regard the Tsana Dam project as the major activity of this Legation and it receives constant attention. We are doing all that is practicable to push the project towards the tangible shape which the J. G. White Corporation probably thought had already been arrived at on the occasion of Dr. W. C. Martin’s visit to the United States. At that time it was little more than an idea springing from various motives which have on previous occasions been discussed or intimated from this office. In illustration it might be remarked that the British have been working on the Tsana Dam project for many years during the last fifteen or twenty of which they have on various occasions been almost near enough to grasp it. The pendulum swung very far away from them, or so it seemed, when Doctor Martin was sent to the United States. Now it is swinging back. Whether British or American interests can catch it seems still more or less conjectural. Final decision may be had in the next week, the next month, the next year, or the next decade. In the meantime the Ethiopian is in no hurry and may even be getting some diversion out of the situation. …

I have [etc.]

Addison E. Southard
  1. Not printed.