History of the Pan-African Congress, George Padmore (editor) 1947
Chairman: Dr. W. E. Burghardt Du Bois (U.S.A.).
Rapporteur: T. R. Makonnen (Ethiopia).
Mr. T. R. Makonnen (Ethiopia): It is my task to appeal to you this afternoon on what is known as the Ethiopian problem. Historians may differ as to when the Second World War began, but it was on October 1st, 1935, that the Italians declared war against Ethiopia. Three months after that there was the massacre of the flower of our manhood, of 5,000 students, many of whom had spent years in the universities of Europe and America. The Ethiopian people endured such tyranny for seven years, until 1941, when our supposed collaborators thought it wise to enlist our services and drive the Italians away.
Most of you believe that Ethiopia is a free sovereign State, but if that is your belief, you are very much in error. In March, 1941, a treaty was signed between Britain and Ethiopia, when the Emperor was in no position to demand everything. The British Government promised certain help reluctantly, and the Emperor had to concede demands made by the British, who occupied the Ogaden Province, claiming that it was necessary for them to prepare their campaign in Egypt. The treaty was to be reviewed at the end of two years. In 1944, a new treaty was signed, and the British held to their traditional policy and still laid claim to Ethiopia-the richest part of the country. They are not satisfied with this but want to join the Ogaden province, a section of ancient Ethiopia, to British and Italian Somaliland in order to enlarge the Empire. As compensation the British are prepared to hand back to Ethiopia part of Eritrea, which formed an integral part of Ethiopia before it was grabbed by Italy.
Therefore, it is no accident that the British are today in certain parts of Ethiopia. The Bank of England lent money to the Bank of Italy, and the only way for them to be paid is by having control of parts of Ethiopia. The fact that a large part of the two million pounds sterling lent to Ethiopia goes to pay the salaries of Europeans who are in Ethiopia makes it difficult for the Stale to get far with its work of reconstruction. I hope that my comrades will put forward the legitimate claims of the Ethiopian people for freedom from imperialist opportunism.
Mr. Peter Abrahams (South Africa): There are only three States in the world that are free states run and controlled by black men Haiti Liberia, and Ethiopia, and it
is important that we should be most vigilant in the interests of these three states. Some of the extreme Socialists felt they could not support the claims of a sovereign country like Ethiopia. I disagree, for before you can talk in terms of international liberty you must talk in terms of national liberation. With regard to Somaliland, the Somalis with whom I came in contact while working my way from Africa in 1941 looked upon Ethiopia as their motherland. Ethiopia has become self-supporting as far as possible. She is grossly overtaxed, and one of greatest needs is an outlet to the sea. The federation of Somaliland with Ethiopia would provide that outlet to the sea. It was deplorable that while help had been given to Italy, and even to Germany by U.N.R.R.A., no help had been given to Ethiopia.
The Chairman said that there had been through the years propaganda in the United States against the ability of the black people to rule themselves. He had visited all these free states and was impressed by their ability to rule, and their various achievements. It was well to remember that what you know about black countries has possibly been learned through white writers.
Mr. E. P. Marks, Coloured Workers’ Association, denounced the Anglo-Saxons for their exploitation of the African peoples from the time they first went into Africa until the present day. The existence of the Negro is necessary to the white man’s existence, or he would have wiped out the Negro long ago. It was only by co-operation that this terrible scorpion can be driven out of our land. Rome, Portugal and Spain had all been powerful nations at one time, but no one power could dictate to the world for ever, and any day the coloured peoples would unite and crush Imperialism, just as Germany had been crushed. He sympathised strongly with the grievances of Ethiopians.
Mr. A. E. Mossell, Coloured and Colonial Assn. (Cardiff) pointed out the need for Africans to rise above their differences. In Cardiff, people of one tribe did not always mix freely with people of another, and that was also his experience when living in South Africa. Africans who had lived in other parts were often treated as foreigners. He himself was called a white black man. There was a clannishness it was difficult to get to the bottom of, and unless something was done to dig it out, it would hinder consolidation. In this consolidation Ethiopia and the Black Republics should have much to teach.
Discussion then followed upon the Resolution on East Africa, which is included in its final form towards the end of this pamphlet.