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The following is a speech delivered by Tsehafi Tizaz Aklilu Habtewold, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, at the first African Summit (May 1963, Addis Ababa) in response to a speech made by the President of Somalia accusing Ethiopia of seizing Somalian territory (Ogaden).

Source: "Ketema Yifru's Biography,” by Mekonnen Yifru


Your Majesty, Mr. President,

     I must apologize for intervening in this state of the debate, but
the honorable Head of State of Somalia leaves me no alternative. It
is with genuine regret that I intervene, in view of the events of the
last two days, the high standard of debate, the purpose for which
the eminent Heads of State have gathered together, this high
purpose, this dream that all Africans have been dreaming for
centuries.

     At a time when we are about to realize African Unity, I deeply regret that I am obliged to enter into the minor differences between two States. The purpose of our meeting is African unity, collaboration and reconciliation. Our purpose here is not to emphasize our minor differences, but to bring out our points of agreement. In view of the unthinkable accusation made here against my country, I had no other choice than to take the floor. I shall be as brief as possible, and it is not my intention to enter into polemics.

     The President of the Republic of Somalia stated that Ethiopia has seized a large part of Somali territory against the will and desire of the Somalia population. It is an outrageous, unthinkable accusation, without any factual basis. The Somalia delegation apparently wishes to apply in all conferences the well known adage “If you throw enough mud, some of it will stick,” but I had not expected him to apply it at this major conference, attended by great Head of States from our continent. Where does this accusation come from? What basis is there for saying that Ethiopia has seized a portion of Somali territory? I shall restrict myself to a few facts only, so that everyone may know the truth for once and for all.

     Ethiopia has always existed in history for centuries as an independent state and as a nation for more than 3000 years. That is a fact. Second fact: the historical frontiers of Ethiopia stretched from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, including all the territory between them. Third fact: there is no record in history either of a Somali State or a Somali nation. That too is a fact. I apologize for stating it. During the 19th century, when European colonialists decided to share our Africa, as eminent heads of States have here pointed out, Ethiopia, though robbed of all its coast line Eritrea, Somalia and so on, resisted as a symbol to our African brothers, a symbol of the will to the independence of Africa. It has resisted alone for centuries.

     Fellow Delegates, there is no need to recall here that it was at Adwa, in 1896, that for the first time in history a black African power defeated a white colonialist power. In doing so, it was defending its independence and the independence of our brothers. At the Paris Peace Conference after the Second World War, we obliged the colonialists, and particularly the Italian aggressors who used our Ethiopian coastline of Eritrea and Somalia to carry out attacks against the only independent African country, to abandon their former colonies, and also to abandon their colonies in North Africa and elsewhere.

     With our friends from Egypt and Liberia, we struggled alone, the three independent states of Africa, on behalf of the whole continent. Afterwards, I myself was delegated by His Imperial Majesty in 1949, when the future of the Italian colony of Somalia was discussed. Ethiopia was among the first states to support the independence of Somalia. I myself asked for this. There was a proposal to place Somalia under Italian mandate for 25 years. We refused. It was proposed to place Somalia under Italian mandate for ten years. Ethiopia alone said no, and demanded the immediate independence. After a mandate had been granted to Italy, during these last ten years, before Somalia obtained its independence, my Sovereign, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, invited the Somali Head of State, who is here, to come to Addis Ababa and granted him the honors with which all the Heads of State who are here received two days ago.                  

     Before there was an independent Somali Republic, Emperor Haile Selassie extended a hand to our Somali brothers, offering them economic collaboration, and did every thing possible to reach rapprochement, in spite of frontier questions, because questions of frontier between Ethiopia and the Somali Republic are regulated by international treaty. If the Somali Republic does not recognize the treaty, then the Somali Republic will not even exist. There is an international treaty, but on the ground there is no demarcation. We could spend much time on discussing that demarcation in order to reach agreement.

     When the Honorable President came here, he was very satisfied. It was only after Somalia became independent that all these polemics came about. Now, immediately after independence, there was immediately a terrific campaign aiming at territorial aggrandizement at the expense of Ethiopia and Kenya. It is not for me to reply for Kenya. The President of the Somali Republic said “We are not seeking territorial aggrandizement.” Then what is he seeking? What does he base his statement on? On what does he base this territorial claim? On linguistic reasoning or religious reasons?

     Even if, as was said in this very Chamber by the eminent Heads of State of Madagascar, of Nigeria, of Ghana, if we are to rewrite the map of Africa on religious, racial, and linguistic, I am afraid, as everyone has said, that many States will cease to exist. It is in the interest of all Africans now to respect the frontiers drawn on the maps, whether they are good or bad, by the former colonizers, and that is the interest of Somalia too, because if we are going to move in this direction, then we too Ethiopians have claims to make: on the same basis as Somalia, and for more on historical and geographical reasons.

     Let me say in conclusion, the policy of Ethiopia, as its history shows, while never allowing an inch of territory to be given up, is the following: non-interference in the internal affairs of States; respect for the sovereignty and integrity of every State; a peaceful settlement of disputes on the established basis; co-operation between African brother States in all fields: economics, cultural, and social; and to work actively for African unity. I beg the Government of Somalia to work on the same principles, as I hope it will, for the greater benefit of our two fraternal peoples.”



Aklilu Habtewold