ABYSSINIA: THE POWDER BARREL(When History Repeat Itself). Part I

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BARON ROMAN PROCHÁZKA

The author of this book was-a lawyer in Addis Ababa up to 1934, pleading before the mixed international I coulis and the consular tribunals of the European states. His disclosures concerning the internal administration of Abyssinia and the possibilities of war furnish Africa fund of fact partly taken from official sources, What the author here says has been confirmed by recent happenings; and what he says about the future *s therefore worthy of careful consideration.

The present book will be felt by many readers to be antagonistic to Abyssinia. The author is fully conscious of this fact but is convinced of the necessity for opposing the tendency of the pro-Abyssinian publications that have been appearing recently. However desirable it may be as an ideal to regard all nations as invested with equal rights as members of the . Council of Nations, it must nevertheless be emphasized again and again, that the present Ethiopian Empire is not fit and will presumably for many decades to come not to be fit to develop or follow a policy of its own; and that to allow it to attempt to do so would be counter to the interests of all civilized nations and would seriously endanger the peace of the world. Moreover, the opponents of Imperialism should bear in mind that the numerous non-Amharic native tribes in Ethiopia and these constitute by far the greater part of the total population of the empire, arc themselves the victims of Abyssinian imperialism.

It is, therefore’ utterly, mistaken to represent the Abyssinian usurpers’ as being in any way oppressed and worthy of protection. What the author said in the first edition which appeared in German in July 1931. has been confirmed by the actual course of events since then, so that he feels justified in claiming that what he, predicts for the future is at least worthy of consideration.

What is going on in Abyssinia

3000 miles from Europe, in the Eastern corner of the black continent”, there is situated the Ethiopian Empire, the only actual sovereign native state in Africa, a federal state under the feudal rule of Abyssinian Emperors belonging to the fabulous Dynasty of Solomon, and since 1923 a member of the League of Nations. 

What is it chat has brought this country so suddenly into the limelight of international politics and made it of such importance? 

For some four years past the Imperial Ethiopian government at Addis Ababa has been adopting a new course in its foreign policy and in its attitude towards Europeans and Americans; it has embarked, with the close cooperation of Japan (China), on a life and death struggle with the white race, the consequences of which are incalculable. 

The attack is being pushed forward, beyond the borders of the Ethiopian Empire, into the territories of the neighboring countries. In the second part of this study, the actual nature of these hostilities is described in detail. .. 

In this struggle, the attacked are all the colonial powers in Africa without exception. What we are witnessing is by no means a local frontier conflict between Abyssinia and Italy. The Italians, as the immediate neighbors of Abyssinia in her colonies of Eritrea in the north and Somaliland in the south cast, arc ‘merely called upon to be the first to take up the challenge in defense of European colonial achievements at this outpost. 

The Young-Abyssinian movement, which is aided and abducted by the Government, is systematically working up and fostering hatred of the white peoples in all sections of the population, exploiting to the full the knowledge and skill which an indulgent attitude on the part of the European races has put in their hands. The application of European methods of education to the colored peoples is bearing tragic and dangerous fruits, more particularly in the cases in which the natives are not under the rule and control of white people but have a free hand to conceive and follow up any fatal policy to which their position as a sovereign native state entitles them. 

The territory of Abyssinia, populated by some 10-12 million colored inhabitants *), is twice the size of Germany. It extends from East Africa on the one hand to the Sudan and Congo on the other and is bordered on the north by Eritrea on the cast by French, British, and Italian Somaliland, on the south by the British Crown Colonof Kenya and the British Protectorate of Uganda, and on the west by the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. 

As a country lacking an outlet to the sea, Ethiopia is mainly dependent, for the carrying on of its foreign trade, on the Franco-Ethiopian Railway which connects the capital, Addis Ababa, with the port of Djibouti in French Somaliland over a distance of not quite soo miles. Since the Franco-Italian: colonial agreement concluded in 1935 in Rome, the majority of the shares of this railway arc in Italian hands. 

The two telegraph line’s leading to Addis Ababa are also under foreign management, the one, following the railway route, being French, and the other, traversing Northern Abyssinia to Asmara in Eritrea, Italian. Otherwise, the only ‘trade routes are still the old caravan roads white arc only to a small extent passable for automobile traffic and that only during the dry season. These roads have to carry the whole of the traffic of the country. 

On account of the valuable products available for export the country badly needs opening up, in the economic interests of both of the natives and of the European colonists. The main exports are in the first place coffee, and then hides; furs, and gut. *There is also an abundance of minerals of all kinds, from gold an! platinum to the much sought after mica-slate; it is even probable chat coal and petroleum are to be found, for the natives speak of districts in which no fire may be lit or the earth begins to burn. Abyssinia is also a country where the pepper grows, and it is the only country in which civet is obtained. 

What distinguishes Ethiopia though from all over central African countries is. the favorable climate of the mountainous region in which the capital, Addis Ababa, lies. This highland portion is free from fever, malaria, mosquitos, and the tsetse fly; the temperature is relatively low having regard for the fact that the equator is only five degrees distant. It varies between 55 and 85 degrees Fahranite and is thus ideal for white people.

What has thrust Abyssinia into the forefront? Not for conquest(sic) but the initiate interests of the natives, economic considerations of a worldwide nature, and genuine concern for the peace of white society.

The African Menace

The lamentable deficiencies in the administration of the Ethiopian Empire have hitherto proved a bar to the cultural and economic development of the country.

The animosity of the ruling Abyssinian tribe, the Amhars, towards foreigners, which has been growing steadily in recent years, is becoming evident to a most threatening extent in all relations and dealings with foreign powers and their citizens. The contradictory assurances issued from time to time and the declarations published in foreign countries with a view to diverting public opinion are being constantly shown up and disproved by the open and fanatical efforts to repress and as soon as possible to get rid of the European institutions which were developed, to the equal benefit both of the natives and of the white population, under the Italian protectorate and later on under the rule of the eminently able Emperor Menelik II. 

The numerous peoples and tribes which inhabit the territory of the Ethiopian state, and which differ in race, language, culture, and religion from the ruling minority of the Abyssinians proper, would long ago have thrown off the Abyssinian yoke if they had been given the right of self-determination. Instead, they are being forcibly kept cut off from European influences and from the advantages that progressive colonization could confer upon the country. 

But the Abyssinians are planning to go much further than this, and the final aim of their policy of antagonism to the white races, in which they are relying on the cooperation of Japan (China), is nothing less than to act as the champions of all the … colored peoples of Africa. The Abyssinian people are on the ” verge of a plunge into the wildest adventures, without being capable cither of grasping the consequences of their action or of carrying the responsibility for it.’ 

The leaders of the Ethiopian Empire are faced with the Abyssinian Emperor Haile-Selassie I, the “King of the king of Ethiopia”, in a speech held to his powerful and numerous tribal chiefs assembled at Harrar at the beginning of June 1935, uttered the following challenge: –

“I am the only African Emperor, and the Leader of all Negro peoples, including those still under foreign sway…., We must regard all Europeans not only as foreigners but as enemies”

And a few days later, in an interview accorded to the white peoples and thus lead to a poisoning of the international reporter of the French newspaper “Le Matin”, the Negus laid stress on his good relations with Yemen, Hejaz, and the Egyptians, and said: —

“Mohammed says in the Koran that the Ethiopians had shown him hospitality. All Moslems must therefore come to the aid of the Ethiopians in case of need.” 

These proclamations, issued by the supreme authority in Abyssinia, are a sign to all the native peoples, including that evidence.  beyond the borders of Abyssinia itself, to look upon the Negus For two years I occupied a post, which was not without its as their leader in the coming fight with the white races, and dangers, as a barrister pleading before the Mixed Special to gather under his banner, Utterances of such official signifies- Tribunal and the Consular Courts of the foreign powers in the chance amount to grave interference in the established con- Ethiopian capital, in which capacity I represented to the best conditions of rulership in the neighboring countries, and a danger of my powers the rightful interests of some hundred white to the existence of the European colonies in Africa.

The Abyssinians at the Parting of the Ways

The leaders of the Ethiopian Empire are faced with the necessity of making a decision that is destined to leave its mark on the history of the world. They now have to choose between either at least fitting in with the system of European influence in Africa, willingly serving cultural progress and civilization by local co-operation with the white peoples, or urged on by senseless resentment and racial mania – carrying to extremes a disastrous policy which can merely exasperate enemies!”  all the causes of antagonism between the colored and the white peoples and thus lead to a poisoning of the international atmosphere, to the serious detriment of civilized and peccable progress in the world.

It is the purpose of this study to draw attention to the thread involved in the growing prevalence of acts of animosity perpetrated against members of the white races, and at the eleventh hour to give a warning borne out by documentary evidence.

For two years I occupied a post, which was not without its dangers, as a barrister pleading before the Mixed Special Tribunal and the Consular Courts of the foreign powers in the Ethiopian capital, in which capacity I represented to the best my powers the rightful interests of some hundred white people of almost all nationalities, and defended them against ..the arbitrariness of the Abyssinian government and unlawful acts of violence on the parts of native authorities.

Some measure of success that I had in this fight, and the fact that I adopted the principle of keeping all the diplomatic and consular missions established at Addis Ababa and also the Secretariat of the League of Nations at Geneva informed as to the constantly multiplying grievances and as to the growing precariousness of the position of the white people (both politically and economically) caused the Imperial Ethiopian government to expel me from the country in February 1934 on the ground that what I was doing was: “prejudicial to the internal and external safety of the state”. In very fact, this measure may be regarded as a recognition of my success in the fight I had been putting up for the rights of the white people in Abyssinia, but at the same time, it’s cogent testimony of the attitude and intentions of the native rulers who will stick at nothing to prevent dissemination on facts concerning the incredible conditions obtaining in Ethiopia. The coercive administrative measure of expulsion from the country was intended to put an end to my activities as an advocate for the white people in Ethiopia and as a political writer in Europe.

It is incumbent on the competent authorities, any more particularly on the Legations of the civilized nations in Abyssinia, which can spread the truth without running the risks incurred by a private individual and can stand up for the rights of their subjects and those under their protection openly and unchecked, it is incumbent on these authorities to open the eyes of their governments and to make it clear that it is high time to take a definite stand before a movement takes final shape under the leadership of pseudo-emancipated. colored people with the aim of Attacking and destroying western culture and civilization in its entirely!

In the following pages a detailed account will be given of these happenings which it has hitherto been the custom to regard too lightly as being far distant and of no import for us white people in Europe and America. But to avoid any. charge of one-sidedness or personal prejudice this account will in Ethiopia be preceded by a selection of opinions on Abyssinia by writers of various nationalities and more particularly by native leaders.

The Literature dealing with Abyssinia

One of the main obstacles to an understanding of the Abyssinian problem consists of the inadequate and unreliable reports on the conditions in Abyssinia by writers who are biassed by personal connections or associations or who are reluctant to stir up a wasp’s nest.

The members of modern expeditions and well-to-do travelers very often påy literally a flying visit to the various tricks on their program and, like the members of the diplomatic and Christian missions living in “splendid isolation”, never know the actual conditions and political movements insight into the prevailing conditions can only be gained by those who know the language of the natives and have been obliged to share their life with them.

It was one of the few but all the more valuable advantages of traveling in the “good old days” that the explore, later on so later on sat down to write heavy tomes on the countries they visited, did not rush through these countries but were compelled, through lack of the modern means of rapid transportation (railway and airplane) to spend months or years among the natives, to learn their language, and to become acquainted with true mentality and customs. 

This explains why it is that the older writers often give much truer accounts of the attitude of the natives to the white races. The following citations from the older literature on Ethiopia’s characteristics and deal cogently with the points at issue.

In his book “Travels in Abyssinia in the Year 1836” (Cosla, Stuttgart and Tübingen 1838). A. von Karte writes: —

“If these (my view) be calculated to destroy certain bright hopes which are entertained in regard to the people of Abyssinia this is not my fault.” 

“The white people are hated and feared. They are held to – ‘ be of finer stuff, but for this very reason, they are not liked.  It is hardly possible to imagine a more unhappy situation for a white man than to have to live under the oppression of an10) Abyssinian grandee. Everyone then feels entitled to look down on him and to treat him as if they like, and he finally sinks to a condition of moral abjectness, robbed even of despair – the last source of strength Ieft to a human being. There are Greeks and Armenians that have been living for a long time in Abyssinia in this hopeless condition, a picture of utter misery Real to the human observer.”

“My contempt of these people, of whom I have seen nothing but civil and depravity, began to strike root in my being, and my experiences to the course of my journeyings were. Unfortunately, it was not calculated to eradicate it ….. The disgust, which gradually took possession of me, became later on so intense that I finally started on the return journey thankful to turn back to the country inhabited by the most base and.  detestable people I had yet met “

These few sentences roughly coincide with the considered to this opinion of the white observer of today after spending more than a fortnight in Ethiopia. It is a significant fact that neither in the past nor the present time have the Abyssinians succeeded in gaining the sympathy of even a few independent foreigners, including the Japanese and the American negroes, who have spent any length of time on Abyssinian territory and been in a position to express their opinion freely and without incurring danger of a personal, economic, or political nature.

The Abyssinian Leaders’ Opinion of their people

In his work “Abyssinia, the Alpine Country of the Tropics” (pub. Spamer, Leipzig, 1869, page 94), Dr. R. Andree wrote as follows: 

“Turning to the character of the Abyssinians we meet with very conflicting opinions, but speaking generally it can be said occurring”, that their character is by no means commendable according to European conceptions. Thus for instance, while Munzinger and Heuglin are more lenient in their judgment, the opinions expressed by Bruce, Rüppel, Krapf, and Isenberg are courted in much stronger terms, and in the country itself there are enough people who join in the chorus of condemnation.”

Chief among these latter are King Theodoros II himself and the Abuna (Archbishop) who died in 1867 …. (This) the highest dignitary of the Church in the country … wrote in 1843 to Isenberg:

“The Abyssinians are a people without desire for knowledge or love of learning, and incapable of comprehending that what you are trying to do is for their good. What they want is a share of your possessions, and nothing else!”

Rüppel writes: “The chick traits of the moral character of the Abyssinians arc indolence, drunkenness, irresponsibility, high degree of. dissoluteness, perfidy, a thieving tendency, superstition, stupidly-proud, ‘selfishness, front skill in deception, ingratitude, impudence, in demanding gratuities, and a degree of mendacity worthy of becoming proverbial”

James Bruce, one of the earliest scientific explorers of Africa, also notes that the Abyssinians are for the most part great Diaries” “). A perusal of the voluminous and varied literature on poster Abyssinia cited in the very up-to-date bibliography published in 1928 in France as an Appendix to the thesis entitled “Ytiopia” presented by an Egyptian Doctor of Philosophy shows that the complaints as to the intrigues, hatred of foreigners, mendacity, and perfidy of the Abyssinians are recurring.

The rulers of Ethiopia, descendants of the so-called Dynasty of Solomon, knew only too well the faults of character peculiar to their poodle. King Sahilé-Selassie of Shoa, the grandfather of Menelik II summarized his opinion in the words “Mine is a bad people!” spoken to the diplomatist Harris (“Ambassadorial Journey to Shoa and Sojourn in Southern Abyssinia 1841–43″.

The Greate Emperor Minilik II, realizing the necessity for drastic methods of punishment, often opposed the intervention of foreign powers which led, among other things, to the abolition of the cutting off of hands as a punishment for “thieves, and gave as the reason for his opposition

“I know my people and I know what my people needs!”

He was aware that the Abyssinians are not fit for freedom and self-government and can only be induced to respect the rights of others by the threat of the strictest measures of enforcement and punishment.

And if a writer ever tears the veil from the secrets and ill doings of the Abyssinian magnates and unfolds a clear picture of the mentality and absolutely anti-European attitude of the Abyssinians (a’s is done for example by the Frenchman Armana in his brochure entitled “Une désagréable Partie de Campagne Paris 1931) then a. bån is immediately put on the importation of his book into Ethiopia and the possession of a copy by an Abyssinian made a severely punishable offense.

Favorable opinions are to be found in the books and other publications which in any case give biassed accounts either out of mere business interest or for the sake of cheap sensation, and in publications inspired, unofficially at least, from the Abyssinian side.

Thus the book “Land without Hunger, Land without Time’ by E. H. Schrenzel conjures up a picture of

Ethiopia is a paradise for white people as if it were a country in which nothing but milk and honey, and never the blood of white men, flow.

Similarly, entertaining reading is furnished by the French boo’ “L’empirc des negros blancs”. which is packed full of mere products of imagination and untruths. The hopelessly inadequate knowledge of the actual conditions in Abyssinia betrayed it these works is only outdone by that of the writers of this man: articles appearing in the European daily papers on the occasion of the recent events in Ethiopia, in which (for instance in the leading articles of the “Journal de Géndve”, 1934/35) among. other things the long since deceased Emperor Menelik II is spoken of as being the present ruler of Abyssinia.

In spite of the proved aggressive attitude of the Abyssinians, amiable traveler-authors, like Alfred von Rot-Rösthol in his work “Ba Menclik! Personal Experiences with Abyssinian Planters,’ Negrocs, Princes, and Gold-diggers”, write of the “pro. ‘German Ethiopian Empire”, and Paul Broszio, in an article rammed full of misrepresentations that appeared in a widely read. Central European paper in April 1934, put forward the theory (misleading for all Europeans likely to be interested in Abyssinia) that “the government and people of Ethiopia are by no means hostile towards Europeans”. A film produced with the aid of the Swiss aviator Walter Millelholzer, and containing ‘for this most part specially set pictures, is being shown by capable business people in the European capitals and big towns. This film is made up solely with a view to serving as propaganda for Abyssinia; and is supposed to show the foreigner the high level of culture attained by the Abyssinians. In very truthfully, faked displays of this nature are not calculated to the case for a lot of the white people living in Abyssinia or to aid them in their struggle for existence.

A sigh of relief went through the whole of Europe. colony in Addis-Ababa when a long article entitled “L’Italic at l’Abyssi nic”, and signed “PG.”, appeared in the “Temps”‘), the semi-official organ of the French Foreign Ministry at Paris, following the famous speech by General De Bono, at that time Italian in colonial minister, and now High-Commissioner for Eritrea and Italian Somaliland, on Italy’s colonial aims and his article in the review “Rassegna Italiana”. This article in the “Temps” at last’ called things by their right names, and made the following precise and clear statements:

Subsequent to Ethiopia’s pact with Japan, the tendency of the Imperial Ethiopian government to oppose the economic penetration of Abyssinia by the European powers are becoming constantly more hostile in character, and there is, therefore, no time to be lost in taking the necessary steps to bring Abyssinia to reason again. If necessary, Italy would have to adopt energetic measures, in which case it would act on its own responsibility, but only after consultation with the other two signatories of the London Convention of 1906.

The political situation, the article continues, has undergone a fundamental change, since Ethiopia is now opposing the very States that voted for its election to membership of the League of Nations. In spite of the inner political disturbances attendant on the flight of the ex-Emperor Lij Yassu in 1932 but in view of the grave danger to their interests they would now have to decide on a final settlement of this question, and if necessary put Abyssinia under the protection of Italy. 

In a leading article entitled “Abyssinia and the European… powers” in the “Berliner Lokalanzeiger” for 11th December 1934, I pointed out that the Ethiopian Empire had become changed in recent years from the ordered, unified, and firmly ruled State accessible to European penetration that it had been under the Emperor Menelik II, to an inwardly disrupted and in every respect unsafe country which is definitely hostile 10 Europe. I went on to show that the government of this country is systematically thwarting the fulfillment of the obligations entered into under international contracts and agreements and that its population, inspired by their officially approved hatred of foreigners and by…excessive–national consciousness, are forming themselves into the core of a new Ethiopian movement for the organization of a battlefront of all colored peoples under Abyssinian leadership for a general attack against the white race.

To be continued …

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