675.77/7–2252: Telegram

The Chargé in Ethiopia (Gatewood) to the Department of State1


41. Ital Amb called to express his private unofficial concern with importance of establishing federal supreme court for which no provision made either in Eritrean constitution or Federal act. He pointed out that, apart from conflicts of jurisdiction foreseen by Article 90 Eritrean constitution, cases involving different interests of parts of federation, must have hearing before strictly impartial tribunal in order minimize possibility Eritrean appeals to UN for protection against Ethio domination. Though confident Ethios do not intend proceed rapidly with measures that wld result virtual annexation Eritrea, Amb believes Ethios strongly impelled, both by their national character and geographic considerations, towards fullest possible control Eritrea and therefore federal supreme court must provide ultimate guarantees (outside UN) of Eritrean autonomy. He does not favor Matienzo’s suggestion to GOE that federal court consist of one Ethiopian, one Eritrean and one foreigner as chief justice since foreigner wld be obliged spend most time educating his colleagues as to legal refinements and wld be under very great pressures. He prefers court composed of one Ethio, one Eritrean and three foreigners.

Though without specific instructions from Rome, Amb asked that US Emb lend some support to Matienzo’s principle (without commitment as to exact composition of court) by displaying interest in question to Ethios. If this is done, he anticipates ForMin will ask his views also as federal court proposal wld affect many Itals. He hopes US Emb [Page 425] will be willing persuade Brit follow same line during Matienzo’s visit here, though he will not speak to Brit directly for fear of compromising good relations with Ethios who might suspect him of organizing pressures against them. He obviously does not wish to be first envoy to discuss federal court either with Matienzo or Ethios.

Before Matienzo returns Asmara July 25 there will be several occasions on which this matter can be tactfully broached. I see no reason why Amb (expected return tomorrow on delayed EAL flight) or I shld not mention US interest in fed court to Fon Min as USG has great interest in maintaining orderly transfer power and future development federation (see Asmara despatch 189 June 13).2 I already discussed matter with Spencer informally and he personally favors early GOE decision. Believe Ethios wld respond to implication that, when Matienzo renders final report to UN it wld create better impression if GOE had already announced plan establish federal court rather than have UNGA suggest such move. Shld Dept disagree request immediate instructions.3

  1. This telegram was repeated to Asmara.
  2. The subject of despatch 189, not printed, was “Views on American Policy With Respect to Eritrea and Ethiopia.” It read in part: “To express my thesis in simplest terms I believe that our policy throughout the protracted settlement of the Eritrean problem has been in fact characterized by a desire to obtain through our great influence in international circles the best possible terms for Ethiopia; I believe that the time has now come to readjust the emphasis on our policy to obtaining the best possible terms for ourselves and of gaining the maximum advantage for ourselves—and that on a long range basis.… I should like to point out the fact that we have been virtually the prime movers in bringing about the establishment in East Africa of a potentially democratic government, however limited its scope may be and however much of a by-product of an overall settlement it may have been. We have become identified with that phenomenon which, by plan or by coincidence, represents an advance in our policy toward colonial areas. That our policy rightly included action by the rule-of-thumb that the settlement must be to Ethiopia’s advantage is not questioned. The thought brought forward, however, for consideration is that by continued application of this rule we may endanger our long range policy and lay ourselves open to charges of duplicity and insincerity. Legalistic considerations to the contrary, we must live with Eritrea.” (611.77/6–1352)
  3. A handwritten note in the margin indicated that the Department concurred, so no reply was necessary.