Speech by the His Majesty Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, at the Assembly of the League of Nations, at the Session of June–July 1936
In the early 1930s, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was determined to expand Italy’s African empire by annexing Ethiopia. In December 1934, a clash, provoked by the Italians, occurred between Italian and Ethiopian armed forces at Walwal on the Ethiopian side of the frontier with Italian Somaliland. Mussolini declared the incident “an act of self-defense” and thus not subject to arbitration under international agreements. Italy demanded compensation and formal recognition of the area as Italian. When Emperor Haile Selassie refused to yield to these demands, Italy began mobilizing its forces. As a member of the League of Nations, Ethiopia brought the case before the Council, but Mussolini ignored all League proposals to resolve the crisis. On October 3, 1935, Italian forces invaded Ethiopia from Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. The capital of Addis Ababa fell in May 1936. Emperor Haile Selassie, who was in Geneva at the time, went to the Assembly and asked for help, but to no avail; the League refused to act and most member countries recognized the Italian conquest. Presented here is the text of the emperor’s impassioned speech to the Assembly, which he delivered on June 30, 1936. He spoke in Amharic, the text of which is on the left side of the pages. The French translation is on the right. The text is preserved in the archives of the League, which were transferred to the United Nations in 1946 and are housed at the UN office in Geneva. They were inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2010.