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

No. 88

Sir: I have the honor to report to the Department that in accordance with the authority granted me in the Department’s telegram [Page 86]dated February 6, 10 p.m., I left Asmara at 5:00 a.m. on February 9th, motoring to Gura, and taking a U. S. Army plane to Addis Ababa, arriving about 9:30 a.m.

That morning I called on the Foreign Minister, Mr. E. Medhen, who had taken the post held by B. Lorenzo Taezaz, who was the Foreign Minister when I visited Addis Ababa in September, 1942. The new minister was a very polished gentleman, spoke English very well, and was much more impressive than his predecessor. I said that I presumed that my last telegram to him regarding the reopening of the American Legation at Addis Ababa had pleased him. This was the Department’s no. 21, dated February 3 [January 26], 5 p.m., to me, which I sent to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in clear on February 5th. (Enclosure no. 1).10 To my amazement, he had not received it and knew nothing about it. I gave him the substance of the telegram from memory.…

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

General Conditions in Ethiopia

I managed to see a number of the officials I had interviewed during my trip last September, but was disappointed in the almost complete lack of anything new to report to the Department. Plans were progressing slowly, the attitude between the British and the Ethiopians had not altered, either for better or for worse, the British advisers said that the Ethiopians were as slow as ever to put into effect their suggestions, but had none better to suggest themselves, and, in general, the situation as outlined in my despatch no. 37 of October 8, 1942,11 still obtains. A few more small stores have been opened, but trade with the outer world is still almost non-existent.

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Interviews with the Emperor

On this trip I first saw the Emperor at a formal reception given at the Palace on the afternoon of February 9th, when he received General Maxwell and his staff, Colonel Clark, Commanding Officer of the Eritrea Service Command, and myself. That evening the Emperor gave a state dinner for General Maxwell and his staff. At this dinner there were a number of Ethiopian ladies, including the Empress, several Ethiopian ministers (War, Finance, Foreign Minister, Interior) but no British. On February 11th, General Maxwell gave a dinner to the Emperor at “The Residence of General Maxwell” as stated on the menu. The residence was the ex-Japanese Legation, where the General and his staff were housed by the Emperor. At this dinner the guests were about the same as at the Emperor’s dinner two evenings before, except that we had no Ethiopian ladies present. On [Page 87]the afternoon of the 11th the Emperor asked for an interview with General Maxwell, Colonel Clark and myself. No one else was present except the interpreter, Mr. Tafari Worg. On Friday, February 12th, the Emperor had a very lavish picnic, lasting from about noon until 5:00 p.m. On all of these occasions I had occasion to talk to the Emperor, sometimes in English, which he speaks haltingly, or through his very excellent interpreter, Mr. Worg.

Interview of February 11th

This interview was by far the most important event of my trip. The object of the meeting was the Emperor’s desire to place his views before the guest of the occasion, General Maxwell. The Emperor had prepared his notes very carefully, read from them in Amharic and Mr. Worg, the interpreter, translated the Emperor’s remarks to us, (General Maxwell, Colonel Clark and myself). I took fairly full notes of the interview, as I did not know that I would have an opportunity to have an aide-mémoire of the interview, prepared by the interpreter. However, the aide-mémoire differed so from the notes that I took that I am enclosing, for the Department’s information, copies of both. The aide-mémoire is attached as enclosure no. 2 and the notes that I, myself, took are attached as enclosure no. 3.12 General Maxwell was extremely careful not to permit the Emperor to expect too much from the United States, pointing out the difficulties of shipping and communications. I did not receive a copy of the list of the Emperor’s wants, but I understand from General Maxwell that, compared to some lists he has seen, it is quite reasonable! As General Maxwell planned to leave for the United States immediately, the list will probably be in the hands of the Lease-Lend authorities before the Department receives this despatch.

The American Legation

The Foreign Minister and the Emperor were both delighted with the information in the Department’s telegram no. 21 of February 3 [January 26], 5 p.m., and naturally look forward to the reopening of the American Legation in the near future. Although not requested to do so, I took it upon myself to see what possibilities there were for legation quarters, as the quarters formerly used as our legation are, in my opinion, quite out of the question. They are very much run down, in a sad state of disrepair, and the Italians have built up a native quarter about it, so that its location, if nothing else, makes it quite out of the question.

As mentioned above, General Maxwell and his staff were housed by the Emperor in the ex-Japanese Legation. I was impressed by this building, which, I understand, is owned by the Empress. It is already completely and tastefully furnished, has a large reception room, a [Page 88]large dining room, a breakfast room, seven or eight bed rooms and two baths. It is situated about a quarter of a mile from the Palace, has about six acres (my guess) about the house, gardens attractively laid out, ample garage space, servants’ quarters, etc. It would make a very attractive residence, and would be considered quite suitable in Europe. In Addis Ababa it stands out as something unique! The Belgian Government requested it for their Legation, but it was refused them. (See above.) I believe that this place could be secured for use as the American Legation, and am given to understand that the Empress is reserving it with that possibility in mind. At present it is used now and then by the Royal family for week-ends.

As for supplies, Mr. Howe, the British Minister, states that, except for staple foodstuffs, everything must be imported. He had just had four tons of supplies brought to him by road from Nairobi!

What is the United States to do for Ethiopia?

In all likelihood, the American Legation at Addis Ababa will be reopened. One of the reasons for this action is to have a representative of the Government at Addis Ababa with whom the Ethiopian Government can negotiate for help under the Lend-Lease program.

But it seems to me that not only the United States, but the United Nations might use Ethiopia as an experimental field for countries that have been the subject of aggression and then been liberated.…

It appears to me that we should use Ethiopia as an example of what the United Nations are to do for nations that have been overrun by the Axis juggernaut. The amount of help required is really not great. But why not give them help, and then publicize it to the world, pointing out that, just as Ethiopia was materially helped, experts sent to her country to advise and assist her, material assistance given her to start again the industries and agriculture disorganized by the Italian occupation, so would Poland, Belgium, France, Norway, the Netherlands and others be helped, but, of course, on a larger scale, for they would need help on a large scale. Should not this be the work of ex-Governor Lehman’s Foreign Belief and Rehabilitation Operations as well as the work of Lend-Lease authorities?

It seems to me that the United States and the United Nations are missing a fine opportunity here to encourage the peoples now living under the heel of the Axis powers. If we could point to Ethiopia and say, “See, this is what we did for Ethiopia. Help us throw out the Axis powers and much more will be done for you,” it would be a great help to raise the morale of the peoples now under the Axis powers.

Also, why not use Ethiopia as an experimental station for the Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations? Send out a committee to study at first hand what the country needs to put it on its feet. Send out agronomists, timber experts, agricultural experts in general, for Ethiopia is not sufficiently advanced to be an industrial country. So let this organization try out different forms of organization on [Page 89]Ethiopia, so that, when the time comes, it will know what the best form of organization will be for it to use in the conquered countries of Europe when they are freed. Then time will be most valuable, and if we have a chance to experiment on a small scale in Ethiopia, it seems common sense to do so.

Very respectfully yours,

E. Talbot Smith
[Enclosure 1]

Aide-Mémoire of Remarks by His Majesty, Haile Selassie, on February 11, 1943 to General Maxwell, Colonel Edwin N. Clark and E. Talbot Smith

This aide-mémoire was given General Maxwell.

Ethiopia, which has got a respite from being used as a battlefield, is encountering great difficulties in her internal administration and could be regarded as suffering much more than countries which are taking part in the actual fighting. It is obvious that Ethiopia, where the war is believed to have ended, will have to suffer still further owing to the fact that she has no one at her side to assist her in the peaceful administration of her Empire since it will take a considerable time for the nations who are at war now to divert their activities towards peaceful administration.

Ethiopia was suffering from the afflictions of war for more than five years. The Fascist invader has upset the peaceful administration of the country, and has destroyed the foundation upon which the future administration of Ethiopia was to be built up.

His Imperial Majesty, on his return to his capital with the help and assistance given him by the British Government, found himself faced with a fresh start in everything.

Although His Imperial Majesty is confident that the friendly governments who have contributed so much in the restoration of the independence of his country are anxious to assist him in the task which lies before him, it has not so far been possible to obtain their aid in the problems of economy, trade, internal security, etc., as those nations are engaged in the prosecution of the war.

The following is a summary of the events in Ethiopia since His Imperial Majesty’s return to his capital which are self-explanatory:

On the return of His Imperial Majesty to his capital the British Military Authorities who came into the country as his Allies regarded Ethiopia as occupied enemy territory and they adopted the name “Occupied Enemy Territory Administration.” His Imperial Majesty protested against this attitude which was creating ill feeling and sometimes friction between Ethiopians and British Military Authorities. His Imperial Majesty did not fail to make every possible effort with a view to removing such ill feeling, and creating the spirit of [Page 90]cooperation and collaboration. Unfortunately the mutual understanding which His Imperial Majesty expected to exist between the Ethiopian and British Authorities was lacking. His Imperial Majesty, who saw no alternative but to come to an agreement with a view to solving the problem and putting a limit to this state of affairs, occupied himself in trying to find means and ways whereby this problem could be solved. Thus, negotiations for the Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement were commenced.
What happened in Ethiopia during the period when Ethiopia was regarded as Occupied Enemy Territory? The British Military Authorities in Ethiopia removed, under the pretext that they were required for the war effort, almost everything they could conceive which the Italians had brought into this country, and all the riches which the Italians had stripped of the people of Ethiopia. His Imperial Majesty who was, and still is, anxious to contribute to the war effort to the limit of Ethiopia’s capacity, even offered to provide troops from his army for service in the Middle East or elsewhere. His Imperial Majesty has been continually requesting that his offer be accepted, but without success. His Imperial Majesty requested the British Military Authorities to furnish him with a list showing the quantity and description of all arms, materials and other articles taken over from the Italians with a view to enabling him to retain what was essential for the maintenance of internal security, and allowing the rest to be used in the war effort, but without success. Ethiopia is, therefore, left without any means of defense. The ten thousand troops who are being trained by the British Military Mission are without proper arms and equipment, although the British Military Authorities promised to provide them with arms and equipment from the stock captured from the enemy in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has no means of communication whatsoever with the outside world. The wireless station which was erected by His Imperial Majesty prior to the Italo-Ethiopia war is completely smashed, and the only one which remains is the 7–kilowatt high power transmitter which is lacking a number of valves. A list of the missing parts was given to Mr. Talbot Smith in September last. His Imperial Majesty’s Government was informed that those missing parts were not available in the United States of America, and endeavors were made to obtain them from England, through the British Minister here, but without success.
Owing to the difficulty in finding the necessary funds for the repair of the existing roads in Ethiopia, which the Italians built at enormous cost and labor, His Imperial Majesty has not been able to authorize the repair and maintenance of these roads. The question of roads referred to above and the question of communication referred to in paragraph 3 are vital to internal security. Needless to say that [Page 91]without the existence of these two important items it will be very difficult to maintain the internal security of the vast Ethiopian Empire. His Imperial Majesty has been unable to get any assistance in connection with the repair of roads or communication.
As the British Military Authorities have, under the pretext of the war effort, removed from this country tens of thousands of Italian-owned lorries, it would be impossible to find the necessary vehicles to run on the roads even if the roads were made serviceable. In the event of His Imperial Majesty’s wishing to move a few troops from one province to the other for security purposes, it has been found impossible to move the troops on the spot in time, and sometimes the idea had to be abandoned for want of transport.
Up to this day, His Imperial Majesty has not been able to obtain an airplane to carry mail from and to Ethiopia. If a few planes were available, they could contribute to a considerable extent towards the maintenance of internal security.
Ethiopia has not carried on any trade with the outside world owing to conditions of war. She imports certain commodities, but not adequate to the needs of the country.
There are a very limited number of Italian doctors retained in Ethiopia for health services. Their number does not exceed more than thirty which is inadequate to the needs of the country. It is a different (sic) problem to rely on the services of these doctors.
Owing to lack of funds and transport it has not been possible for Ethiopia to develop her agriculture, external trade, etc., and the matter is causing great anxiety to His Imperial Majesty.
His Imperial Majesty has not been able to obtain any assistance in the way of arms and equipment for his army. Almost every arm and equipment which the Italians brought to Ethiopia were collected by the British Military Authorities under the pretext that they would be used for the war effort and removed them from the country. Some of these were thrown into the sea and some destroyed by fire.
Shortly before they were driven out of the country, the Italians distributed a considerable number of arms to different people in Ethiopia. It is a well-known fact that a rifle is a highly treasured possession to an Ethiopian. In order to be able to collect the rifles which are in the possession of the people it is necessary for His Imperial Majesty’s army to be adequately armed and equipped. The Somalis who raided certain districts in the Harar province last year were encouraged to do so by the fact that they possessed arms. Somalis living across the frontier can easily enter into Ethiopia.
Ethiopia possesses a natural wealth which is sufficient for her needs. But in order to utilize this natural wealth she requires technicians and money. His Imperial Majesty has not been able to get either of these.

[Page 92]

Ethiopia is prepared to contribute to the limit of her capacity any material assistance for the war effort in which the people of Great Britain and the United States of America are engaged. In order to be able to contribute more effectively, His Imperial Majesty would be grateful for any assistance which the Government of the United States of America could afford him in this respect.

His Imperial Majesty is very anxious to develop the mineral wealth of Ethiopia so that it may be utilized in this difficult time.

Addis Ababa, February 10 [11], 1943.

[Enclosure 2]

Report of Statement Made by His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie, on the Afternoon of February 11, 1943, to General Maxwell, Colonel Edwin N. Clark and E. Talbot Smith

(Note: The Emperor remarked, towards the end of his talk, that he would be glad to furnish an aide-mémoire to General Maxwell if he so desired. General Maxwell expressed his wish to have such a note-mémoire, but these remarks indicate a considerable divergence from the material in the aide-mémoire).

His Majesty stated that he believed that there should be more effective relations between the people of Ethiopia and the people of the U. S. A. He pointed out that the struggle for freedom of both peoples was very similar. The future relations will be strengthened and this strengthening must take place in the near future. His Majesty stated that he did not wish to go into detail, pointed out that Ethiopia had passed through her trials and that he had assumed the burden and responsibility for 50 [15?] million Ethiopians. This was first time he had had the honor of receiving a great general from the U. S. A. Does not wish to discuss politics, but wishes to speak frankly. The people of U. S. A. were very sympathetic throughout Ethiopian trials. Such relations still exist. Ethiopia was the first victim of aggression and U. S. and Great Britain made great efforts to liberate the country.

His Majesty stated he was glad to understand that the U. S. A. is to open a Legation and send a diplomatic representative to whom the Emperor can present his views. He looks forward to the day when the Legation will be opened and will make every effort to see that relations are most cordial. His Majesty expressed his readiness to discuss any question regarding the reopening of the Legation.

The efforts of the U. S., said the Emperor, and of the American people to help backward peoples will achieve its purpose and lead to satisfactory results. His Majesty pointed out that excellent Ethiopian-American relations are not only desired now, but existed before the aggression. Ethiopia is not new to the U. S. After the occupation, [Page 93]the American Government and people refused to recognize the conquest, because a country so occupied could not be recognized. The U. S. founded the Kellogg Pact13 to guarantee peace and non-aggression. When Mr. Sumner Welles came to England, His Majesty was there. His message was that America would hold out its hand to help nations subject to aggression. His Majesty then wrote Mr. Welles a letter,14 pointing out the position of Ethiopia. His letter, His Majesty is sure, was not ignored. America has not changed her attitude towards liberty from Washington to Franklin Roosevelt. She maintains the same principles and is now sacrificing her children in this war for them. The statement made by Theodore Roosevelt that Ethiopia is an Empire and must remain so is not forgotten by the present President Roosevelt. Ethiopia is now an ally of the United Nations. The Emperor and his people hope the overthrow of Nazism and Fascism by the U. S. and Great Britain will not be long. Ethiopia, on her part, is prepared to contribute as much as her capacity will allow. Ethiopia is ever grateful to the U. S. and to Great Britain and would like to do something in return. But she must have assistance to enable her to do her part. Ethiopia is one of the countries which has suffered from the war and lost much of her resources and equipment.

In conclusion, His Majesty stated that he would like to see President Roosevelt and put his views before him. Nothing would please him more. In the meantime, he would like to send a representative to the U. S. After diplomatic relations are opened, there will be mutual understanding and his difficulties will be alleviated to a great extent. Having full confidence in the Government of the U. S., His Majesty therefore lays his difficulties before you. He would like help in equipping his army, one way or another, possibly through Lease-Lend. His Majesty is ready to give you a list of what he wants. He has not been able to get what he needs for internal security. His Majesty wants to help the war effort, but must get help first. He is aware of the difficulties of the U. S. A. and Great Britain and is not asking for large amounts, but wants assistance so that he can maintain internal security. The list will be given if the General wishes.

If the General desires, His Majesty will have an aide-mémoire prepared for him.

The Emperor also asked General Maxwell if he would request President Roosevelt to assign a physician to serve as family physician to the Emperor.

General Maxwell replied, stating that he felt it his duty to say a word of caution against expecting too prompt action because of the [Page 94]difficulties of communications and shipping. He said he would be glad to receive the aide-mémoire, the list mentioned by the Emperor, and a letter His Majesty asked him to deliver personally to the President.

  1. Ante, p. 83.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Printed as enclosures 1 and 2, respectively.
  4. Treaty between the United States and Other Powers, signed at Paris, August 27, 1928, Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. i, p. 153.
  5. Not found in Department files.