People of my country and especially my faithful soldiers!
No human lips can express the thankfulness which I feel to the merciful God who has enabled me to stand in your midst on this day of which the angels in heaven and the creation on earth could neither have thought of nor known. Before everything else I want to tell you and to make you understand that this day is a day on which a fresh chapter of the history of the New Ethiopia begins. In this new era a new work is commencing which it is the duty of all of us to perform.
If we desire to be reminiscent of the affliction which befell Ethiopia during the past years we shall only speak of her recent history. When Ethiopia, who has preserved her independence for many thousands of years, was attacked in 1888 E.C. (1896 Gregorian Calendar) by Italy, who had harboured aggressive designs against her for many years before with the intention of destroying her freedom, her brave sons fought at Adowa and she saved her independence. The Treaty of Wuchali (Uccialli 1889) was not the only cause of the battle that was fought at Adowa. It was only a pretext for the constant desire that Italy had had of ruling Ethiopia. Although the Great European War interfered with her plans for a time, and in spite of her outward protestations of friendship, Italy revealed in recent years the preparations she had been making against Ethiopia after her defeat at Adowa, because of her resentment that justice should have prevailed against her.
When Italy began to make a war of aggression on Ethiopia, although we knew we were not as well armed as she was, we went against her with what strength we could muster, because it was our duty to resist an enemy that had come to seize our country. But as it was apparent that she was bent on exterminating our people with poison gas, the use of which was prohibited by international law, we went to appeal to the League of Nations and to claim justice. As it was feared that this hostility started by Italy might spread all over the world, and as it was a period when all those who were charged with the responsibility of government were trying to save the world from the catastrophe which has since befallen it, they were working to bring about understanding in the world to prevent the spread of the conflagration. At that time our true friend, Great Britain, received us with sympathy. I remained there working, but constantly being in spirit with my countrymen whose blood was being uselessly, and ruthlessly shed at the hands of the Italians: with the monasteries and churches that were being burned down; with those forced to take refuge in foreign lands; and with those suffering and being afflicted in the wilderness, in the caves and in the forests of their native land.
How many are the young men, the women, the priests and the monks whom the Italians pitilessly massacred during these years? You know that in Addis Ababa alone many thousands perished during the three days following St. Michael’s Day on Yekatit, 12, 1929 (19th February, 1937). The blood and bones of those who were killed with spades and pickaxes, of those who were split with axes and hammered to death, pierced with bayonets, clubbed and stoned, of those who were burned alive with their little children in their homes, of those who perished of hunger and thirst in prison have been crying for justice. Everybody knows that this act of barbarism and cruelty was not perpetrated in Addis Ababa alone, but more especially in the provinces of Ethiopia. There is hardly anyone who has not been caught and beaten, kicked, humiliated and imprisoned.
Now we shall pass on to the new history that is before us. Five years ago today the fascist forces entered our capital city. Then Mussolini announced to the world that he had established a Roman Empire in our country, Ethiopia. He believed that the land he declared he had conquered would forever be in his hands. The heroism of the Ethiopian people is known in history. But as we had no port through which to import modern armaments necessary for our people, we were unable to obtain them. Fifty-two nations condemned Mussolini for his deed. But he boasted of his violent deed and took no notice of their condemnation.
The past five years have been years of darkness for you, my people. But you never lost hope, and little by little you spread on the Ethiopian hills. The enemy never ventured to come near the mountains on which you were because, enduring every hardship and affliction, you, the warriors of Ethiopia, safeguarded your freedom during the past five years. But in spite of the fact that he could not conquer the country, he spent many thousands of millions of lire, saying that he was civilizing what he could hold. He spent all that money not because he desired to improve the condition of the oppressed Ethiopian people or to mitigate the injustice he had done. It is because he wanted to plant a fascist colony in our sacred land of Ethiopia and to impose on her the rule of oppression which he had planned.
He tried to exterminate the Ethiopian race, and did not even entertain the idea of giving her the administration of a mandate or a protectorate, which in any case would have been considered a heavy yoke for a free people. But all the money that could be counted by the thousand million and all the prepared armaments served a purpose which Mussolini never intended them to serve. At the time when Italy revealed her intentions of entering the war in order to be able to snatch from defeated France as much as she could, the number of soldiers, the amount of money and the armaments she had sent to Ethiopia was enormous. The regular troops she concentrated were not less than 250,000; she also amassed provisions to last for many years in case she was encircled. Trusting in, and bragging of, the invincibility of this military force, the fascist government proceeded with planting totalitarian rule in our country. But something happened which the fascist government did not take into account. The fighting spirit which is essential in modern war revealed in you.
You were able to destroy the enemy who were superior to you in number and equipment, because you are a people possessed of bravery and mercy and because you co-operated and knew the stratagems of war.
The British troops, who were fighting for human rights on other fronts of the war, needed time to get ready to come to the assistance of Ethiopia and free her. But you, warriors of Ethiopia, harassed the enemy by cutting his communications, by harrying him and restricting him to his fortifications. In spite of the great numbers of troops in which he put his trust, he realized that the Ethiopian people from one end to the other hated him and his rule. He knew also that it was impossible for him to live in such a country and in the midst of such a people. Even by using poison gas and bombs and by his atrocities he could no longer hope to enjoy an overlordship of a country the inside of which was undermined. He realized that the soldiers who surrounded him were adversaries more powerful than he was. He spent the daring and the money that were left to him to meet his adversaries. Then he looked around, if perchance he could find somewhere where he could take shelter in Ethiopia, but he could find no shelter.
When the time came, our great ally, the British Government, prepared to launch a proper attack against our enemy. As soon as I knew this I left for the distant land of the Sudan which borders us in the west, and entered central Gojjam. In Gojjam our enemy had strong fortified positions, powerful troops, aeroplanes and artillery. On comparing the number of our soldiers with that of the enemy we found that we had one soldier for every 20 of his. Moreover, we had no artillery and aircraft that we could dispose of at will. The fact that I was found in the midst of my warriors at once attracted many thousands of men. And the fear and anxiety of our enemy increased to that extent.
While my soldiers were harassing and cutting the enemy’s communications and after having driven his troops across the Abbai (Blue Nile), were pursuing them towards Shoa and Begamder, I heard the good news that the British Imperial troops had, with incomparable speed, occupied our capital city and were pushing towards Dessie in the North and Jimma in the South. In the same way, the troops who started from the Sudan destroyed the fortress at Keren with wonderful force and utterly defeated the enemy. And as the time came for my return to my capital I mustered my soldiers who were scattered in every direction in pursuit of our enemies, and find myself in my capital today. I am exceedingly happy that I have been able to arrive here at the head of my soldiers, the enemy who was found on my path being defeated, and to break the power of the common foe. I am deeply thankful to Almighty God that I stand today in your midst in my Palace, from which the fascist government has fled.
A New Day
People of my country, Ethiopia!
Today is a day on which Ethiopia is stretching her hands to God in joy and thankfulness and revealing her happiness to her children.
This day, on which the people of Ethiopia are freed from oppressive foreign yoke and eternal servitude and on which I am enabled to rejoin my people, whom I love and have longed for, will be honoured as a holiday to be commemorated annually as a Great Ethiopian Anniversary. On this day we shall remember those heroic warriors who, determined not to surrender the great charge passed on to them by their Father, became sacrifices, shedding their blood and breaking their bones for the freedom of the land they loved and for the honour of their Emperor and their flag. The history of Ethiopia will be witness for these our warriors.
The tribulations and afflictions which befell us during the past five years and which cannot be recounted and numbered in detail will be a great lesson to us all, and with industry, unity, co-operation and love engraved in your hearts, will be a great incentive to you to be my helpers in the affairs of Ethiopia which I have in mind. In the New Ethiopia I want you to be a people undivided and endowed with freedom and equality before the law.
You will have to join me in my efforts for the prosperity of the country, for the riches of the people, for the development of agriculture, commerce, education and learning, for the protection of the life and resources of our people, and for the perfection on modern lines of administration of the country.
It is my firm wish and purpose to merit the blessing with which God in His mercy has visited us, first, by showing our gratitude to our Allies, the British, by the release of the Imperial troops to fight the common enemy on other fronts, and by supplying them with troops whenever they may be needed; secondly, to do work beneficial to the people and the country by establishing in our Ethiopia a Government which will protect the Faith and cause it to be respected, and by guaranteeing liberty of the people and Freedom of conscience.
What I would finally announce to you, my people, is that today is a day of rejoicing for us all. Today is a day on which we defeated our enemy. Therefore, when we say let us all rejoice with our hearts let not our rejoicing be in any other way but in the spirit of Christ. Do not return evil for evil. Do not indulge in the atrocities which the enemy has been practising in his usual way, even up to the last moment.
Take care not to spoil the good name of Ethiopia by acts which are worthy of the enemy. We shall see that our enemies are disarmed and sent the same way they came. As St. George who killed the dragon is the Patron Saint of our army as well as of our allies, let us unite with our allies in everlasting friendship and amity in order to be able to stand against the godless and cruel dragon which has newly risen and which is oppressing mankind. I charge you to consider them as a brother and a friend and to show them kindness and consideration.