The Chargé in Ethiopia (George) to the Secretary of State

No. 32

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my telegram of December 19, 1934, and other correspondence, with regard to the Italo-Ethiopian incident at Walwal, in the Ogaden Desert, and to submit the following.

The Department’s telegram number 22, of December 18, 1934, has just become available to me this morning, as for some reason only the first part of the message was received yesterday. The local Post Office states that the message was received in this manner from Cairo and that an inquiry will be made. I trust that my telegram above referred to will satisfy the Department on the point raised in the closing sentence of the Department’s telegram. The Department cautions against any action that might encourage the Ethiopian Government to ask American mediation.

No positive action has been taken by this Legation having any connection with the Ogaden incident. In explanation of my telegraphed statement to the effect that the Ethiopian Government was considering applying for American mediation I may add that my informant was Mr. E. A. Colson, American financial advisor to the Ethiopian Government, and that Mr. Colson received his information from Ato Wolde Giorgis, who is the private secretary of the Emperor. Mr. Colson casually passed the information on to me on the evening of December 17th.

On December 18th at 4:30 p.m. I received a telephone call from Ato Wolde Giorgis, who informed me that the Emperor desired to see me in private audience at 6:00 p.m. at the little Guebi. At this audience no one was present except the Emperor, Giorgis, and myself. [Page 773] Giorgis acted as interpreter and conversed with me in French. The Emperor is thoroughly conversant with the French language, but prefers on certain occasions to use an interpreter. I had been particularly requested not to bring my own interpreter, probably because he is an Armenian.

The Emperor exposed at length the details of the Ogaden incident, and concluded by handing me a brief aide-mémoire and requesting me to telegraph its substance to the Department. This I promised to do, and a translation of the document forms a part of my telegram of the 19th. A copy of the aide-mémoire, in the original French, is attached hereto.26

I then inquired if I might ask a few questions, and the Emperor replied in the affirmative adding that he desired me to be fully informed.

From the wording of the aide-mémoire it was apparent that meditation was not asked. I stated that I had heard a rumor to the effect that British mediation had been offered. The Emperor replied that mediation had neither been offered nor applied for in any quarter, and that as for the British, the Legation in Addis Ababa had been at pains specifically to inform the Ethiopian Government that Great Britain desired to have no connection with the affair,. I remarked that the positions publicly assumed by both Italy and Ethiopia seemed very firm. The Emperor said as emphatically, I imagine, as he is capable of saying anything, that the only concession the Ethiopian Government is willing to make is a deposit of funds in the amount of damages asked by Italy, pending arbitration. It is prepared to make this deposit, not with the Italian Legation as demanded, but with the League of Nations. “No other demand will in any measure be met except by arbitration. We have not sought war, but if Italy wishes war we are prepared to defend our independence and our territory”, he declared.

The main features of the affair have gradually become known to the Ethiopian public, which maintains a surprising calm. A variety of rumors are circulated, most of which appear totally unfounded. I believe it is true that the Ethiopian Government replied today to the last note of the Italian Legation, refusing to satisfy the demands made, except through arbitration.

Should hostilities break out again it seems not unlikely that rail communications with the coast may be interrupted, in which event I presume the mails would be routed through the Sudan. I am of the opinion that radio communications would continue to function.

I have [etc.]

W. Perry George
  1. Not printed.