The Consul at Asmara (Smith) to the Secretary of State

No. 38

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction dated April 18, 1942, instructing me to visit Addis Ababa and to supply the Department with pertinent information regarding the desirability of establishing a permanent diplomatic mission in Ethiopia.

My despatch No. 37, dated October 8, 1942,22 entitled “Conditions in Ethiopia, September, 1942,” should be considered as background to this despatch. As I then reported, the Emperor, in his personal interviews with me, expressed disappointment that the American Government [Page 109] had not immediately reopened its legation as soon as the campaign had been completed. He reasoned that, as the American Government had never recognized the Italian conquest, it would be the first to reestablish its legation, and expressed his hope that it would be reopened in the near future. It was at my request that he furnish me with specific reasons for reopening the legation to present to my Government that he prepared the aide-mémoire attached.

Candor compels me to admit that present American interests in Ethiopia are so insignificant that they do not warrant the establishment of a mission. There are now twelve American citizens engaged in missionary work at Addis Ababa. The only other American in the country is the wife of a British Legation official, Mrs. D. M. H. Riches, the Second Secretary. She was formerly Miss Helen Hayes, American Clerk at the Legation at Cairo. American business interests are nil at present. Nor can I say whether the reasons for originally opening the legation in 1926 or 1927 still obtain, as I do not know the reasons for its being opened then.

However, I believe a mission, or at least a consulate, should be established at Addis Ababa to report the state of affairs and developments in Ethiopia, for otherwise the Department probably will secure only such information as is permitted to leak out of the country through the complete British control of the mails. …

As will be seen from my despatch, although Ethiopians nominally are again in control of their Government, Ethiopia is actually controlled almost completely by the British. They are organizing companies and the British Government has, in the case of the United Kingdom Commercial Corporation, even gone so far as to subsidize it by guaranteeing to make good any losses it may sustain. Subsidiary companies are being formed to work the banana fibre industry, to collect and export what crude rubber there is, and to undertake several other projects. These companies being organized in Ethiopia pay almost no taxes as compared to British companies organized in the United Kingdom. Yet, in spite of this activity, the British casually remark to me that, of course, until the war is over, little can be done to promote American trade and interests. Or shipping is not available and so business overseas is not now possible. But if it is possible for the British, why is it not possible for us? Is it because the shipping control is 100% in British hands?

In my opinion an American mission should be established to observe the developments in Ethiopia, and possibly to arrange for American interests to share in the development of the country. If the British can, at this time, spare the energy to organize as they are now doing, so can we! If we do not, I feel sure that the end of the war will find our British friends so strongly entrenched in Ethiopia [Page 110] that American interests will find little left. There are various concessions to be granted to develop the country, and I know of no reason why they should all be operated by the British.

Further, I believe that there is a great deal between the lines in the Emperor’s aide-mémoire, particularly his remark “the United States of America is expected to be represented in all the countries friendly to her with a view to observing whether international affairs are being conducted in a manner of friendship and equality in compliance with the sacred ideal for which the United Nations are fighting.” Does the Emperor suggest that he would like an American Legation established at Addis Ababa to observe the operation of his Government under the treaty of January 31, 1942? I feel sure, having interviewed him twice and having had several long conferences with his closest adviser, the Minister of the Pen, that this is exactly what he means.

The British Legation was reopened at Addis Ababa about April, and occupies its old compound some three or four miles out of the city proper. Mr. R. G. Howe, C. M. G., is the Minister and details of his career, together with the names and careers of other members of the Legation will be found in The Ethiopian Star, No. 12, Enclosure No. 7 of my despatch No. 37 of October 8, 1942. Mr. Howe is young for a minister, being a year younger than I.

The only other country now represented is Greece, being represented by a Greek Consul. He himself did not know how many Greeks were in the country, but the number is 500–700.

While I believe a legation should be established at Addis Ababa, to put us on an equal footing with the British, should the Department decide to postpone such action, the officer at Asmara can make periodic trips to Addis Ababa as I have done. I do not, however, recommend this, although it may enhance the prestige of this office. Communications between Asmara and Addis are very poor. A plane leaves Asmara for Addis Ababa once every two weeks, returning the following day, and this is the only regular service to the country from any direction! Connections with Nairobi simply do not exist. One might take a military convoy, but they run on no schedule, and one might wait weeks before finding one. The same holds true of travel between Asmara and Addis Ababa by road. I was ready to go for several weeks before I left, and had repeatedly asked the British authorities when their convoy was leaving for Addis Ababa. I finally gave up going by convoy and went by plane. Single cars are not allowed to make the trip.

With such poor connections, and with complete British censorship of the mail, it can readily be seen that the Consulate at Asmara cannot hope properly to cover developments in Ethiopia. But if the Department decides not to open a legation at Addis Ababa at the [Page 111] present time, I suggest that I be authorized to visit Addis Ababa twice a year at least, to gather information and report on conditions as I have done this time.

Very respectfully yours,

E. Talbot Smith

The Emperor of Ethiopia (Haile Selassie I) to the Consul at Asmara (Smith)


The Treaty of friendship between the United States of America and Ethiopia26 is still in force. This is significant from the fact that the Government of the United States of America refused to recognise to the aggressor a country which was invaded by force.

In no way has the relationship between the Government of the United States of America and the Imperial Ethiopian Government diminished as regards political and economical matters from what existed in the past. Ethiopia, one of the first victims of aggression, was the first to regain her independence with the assistance of the leading allied Governments who decided to make every sacrifice to meet the demands of this fearful war with a view to fighting for the salvation of the world and the restoration of the independence of the small nations. Under all circumstances Ethiopia is greatly attached to the people of the United States of America.

Ethiopia, after signing the treaty of alliance with Great Britain, has applied to the United States of America to be taken as a participator of the Sacred Atlantic Charter27 signed between Great Britian and the United States of America, the initiator of the Charter which the entire world is relying upon. Ethiopia is prepared to contribute towards the war effort to the extent that may be possible at present, and to greater extent after the war by placing her economical resources at the disposal of the United Nations. She is desirous of utilizing her resources in conjunction with the Governments friendly to her, and she is confident that some of the needs of the world could be met by this means.

Apart from raw material available in Ethiopia for exportation to the United States of America there are the possibilities of exploiting the various mineral wealth of the country in the future which must be considered from now on.

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The United States of America entered the present war with the sole object of attaining victory for the allied nations and restoring complete independence to the countries overrun by the aggressors. She is despatching her troops in masses in order to achieve victory and lasting peace to all human beings. Under these circumstances the United States of America is expected to be represented in all the countries friendly to her with a view to observing whether international affairs are being conducted in a manner of friendship and equality in compliance with the sacred ideal for which the United Nations are fighting. The United States of America in addition to the war material she is providing for the fighting nations has been a great moral support to every country. At the end of the present war, Ethiopia, together with the other nations, will be one of the countries to adhere to a new and everbinding Kellogg Pact.28

In as much as it is desired that Ethiopia should be represented in the United States of America, it will be highly appreciated and regarded by the Imperial Ethiopian Government from both international and economical aspects as one of the most friendly gestures if the United States of America could see their way of reopening their Legation at Addis Ababa, which was nominally and temporarily closed, and send their accredited representative.

The results already achieved by the Grand Alliance formed by the United States of America for the salvation of the world will place American history on the front page of the annals of world history.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Signed at Addis Ababa, June 27, 1914, Foreign Relations, 1920, vol. ii, p. 243.
  3. Joint statement by President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill, August 14, 1941, ibid., 1941, vol. i, p. 367; accepted by the United Nations in Declaration of January 1, 1942, ibid., 1942, vol. i, p. 25,
  4. Treaty for the renunciation of war, signed at Paris, August 27, 1928, Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. i, p. 153.