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

No. 7

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s telegram No. 32 dated March 4, 1 [6] p.m.15 concerning the status and future of [Page 699] American missionaries in Ethiopia, and to submit the following discussion of recent developments with pertinent observations.

There are known to be now 50 American missionaries and 11 children in Ethiopia, of whom 36 adults and 8 children are in Addis Ababa and 14 adults and 3 children are in other parts of the interior. Many of those who were forced to come to Addis Ababa during the war have subsequently made repeated attempts to return to their distant posts. However, the Italian authorities have been so reluctant to give them permits to leave this city that only one or two have succeeded in returning. The Italians’ objections are based on the grounds that there is no safe means of transportation for more than part of the way to the various missionary posts; that because certain districts are not yet completely free of small parties of roving bandits, the authorities do not want either the missionaries to risk their lives and property or the responsibility of protecting them that would accrue from the issuance of an exit permit; and that certain land and buildings now occupied (indication of ownership was expressly avoided) by foreign missionaries may have to be expropriated by the Government—it being understood that remuneration for property taken over would be forthcoming. Mission heads have informed me that several of their stations in the interior have been occupied by Italian troops for many months, and that no rent has been offered nor has the Government made any move either to buy or to vacate the properties occupied.

During the past few months the mission heads in the Capital have repeatedly sought an expression of policy regarding their future from the authorities, but without success. The Chief of Cabinet, Lt. Col. Mazzi and his assistant, Lt. Col. Colpani, have been as helpful as they could be, but their replies have always been to the effect that there were no instructions from Rome regarding policy. In individual cases the authorities have sent communications by air for the missionaries, and have on separate occasions evacuated two American families from inaccessible points, bringing them to Addis Ababa by plane without charge. In both cases the need for medical attention was the reason for departure.

After dinner at this Legation a few nights ago I had an opportunity to discuss the missionary question with Lieutenant Colonels Mazzi and Colpani. I asked them to give me some idea of what the Government has decided or may decide to do about American missionaries. They both expressed their willingness to tell me anything they knew, but told me frankly that Rome had thus far given them no instructions.

Indirectly they implied that Rome had purposely not expressed a policy toward foreign Missionaries here in order that the local authorities would not be able to embarrass the home Government by any [Page 700] overt act, and also because Rome wants to avoid offending the American and British Governments and public opinion.

From subsequent conversations with the Cabinet heads I received the intimation that the Sudan Interior Mission members would soon have to leave (See Legation’s telegram No. 84, March 25, 8 p.m.17) The reason appears to be that certain indiscreet statements discovered in letters from some of them—mostly British—have caused the authorities to consider the Mission, if not undesirable, at least out of favor. Moreover, their valuable property seems to be desired by the Government. At the same time the Assistant Chief of Cabinet stated that there was nothing known against the American Mission or the Seventh Day Adventists Mission, and that he saw no reason why they could not “remain for awhile longer”.

Pressure upon the Sudan Interior Mission to close will affect 31 adults and 6 children, all Americans. Of that number 13 missionaries and 3 children are now at interior stations. However, the Government has not intimated that members of the Sudan Mission will be asked to leave in the immediate future. As nearly as can be guessed it would appear that they would have ample time to prepare their effects and dispose of their property to the Italian Government.

All mission heads have asked my advice regarding how to press their various claims against the Government after the closing of this office. I have advised them to interview the cabinet officials and report to their home boards. At the same time I suggested that they might ask the aid of the British Consul General, but warned them that he might have no instructions to act in their behalf, although he would doubtless do anything he could for them within his power. He has assured me personally that he will help American citizens in any way he can after my departure.

The American missionaries here generally feel that they will have to leave after some months. A few of them have stated that they intend remaining until they are forced to leave, but most of them indicate that they will gradually prepare for departure, and go as soon as they are sure that further delay will avail them nothing. It is believed that before the end of this year all but a few will have departed.

Respectfully yours,

Morris N. Hughes
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