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


No. 99

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith, for record purposes, the text of a communiqué issued to the press by the Ethiopian Government in regard to the disposition of the former Italian colonies.

The communiqué was published in the Ethiopian Herald of September 20, 1948, and had been previously handed to the foreign press representatives in Addis Ababa. In the tone of an ultimatum, it warns the members of the United Nations of the “almost certain consequences” of any effort forcibly to reintroduce Italian authority into the ex-Italian colonies, and intimates that any attempt to restore Italian authority in the former Italian provinces will be “actively resisted” and be a constant “threat to international peace and security.”

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There is certainly very strong feeling on this subject on the part of Ethiopians of all classes and it is unlikely, I believe, that the Ethiopian Government and people will peacefully accept the return of Eritrea to Italy. There is less concern about the future of former Italian Somaliland.

Giving indication of the feeling in high official circles here, the Minister of Public Works (M. Zaoude Balayneh) stated in a conversation several days ago with a French official of the Franco-Ethiopian Railway that the Ethiopian Government would, if necessary, send forces into Eritrea to prevent the re-establishment of Italy in that area. With due allowance for the fact that the Minister’s father and father-in-law both lost their lives at Italian hands, his remarks may be considered representative of the views of many Ethiopians, and it may be expected that any decision to return Eritrea to Italian control will be opposed by Ethiopia by every means at its command and lead to a chronic state of disorder on the frontier. The position of Italian residents of Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia may become dangerous and untenable, while that of nationals of countries supporting the return of Italian authority to Eritrea will, to say the least, become extremely uncomfortable.

Respectfully yours,

George R. Merrell