Speech at the 1964 O.A.U. Summit

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Speech at the 1964 O.A.U. Summit  (1964) 
by Haile Selassie, translated by Haile Selassie I Press
Cairo, July 21, 1964

Opening[edit]

Dear Friends:

We meet again, at the Summit of Africa. Once more, Africa's leaders have convened to consider in concert the past accomplishments, the present problems and the future goals of their mother continent. Today, the eyes of the world are directed anew to a distinguished gathering of African statesmen and leaders.

At Addis Ababa, just fourteen months ago, the first Conference of the Heads of African State and Government was held. Today, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government created by the Charter of African Unity which we signed in Addis Ababa meets in Cairo, the ancient capital of ancient Egypt, with long-established civilization, and it is Our privilege now to extend to Our host, President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the warm greetings of the Ethiopian Government and people and to express to him Our thanks for the gracious and generous hospitality which has been extended to us all in this illustrious country. Ethiopia and other East African countries are linked with the United Arab Republic not only by history but also by the life-giving waters of the Blue Nile which springs in Ethiopia and in Lake Victoria annually flooding the great Nile Delta.

We also extend greetings today to our African brothers in those nations which join us here for the first time - Kenya and Malawi - states which have at long last taken their rightful places in the councils of free Africans and to their valiant leaders H. E. Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta and H. E. Prime Minister Hastings Banda. We rejoice at their presence in this hall, and we see in their addition to our rank a portent of hope and confidence for the future of those who remain yet unrepresented in our midst.

The agenda before us is long. Each of its topics deserves our most thoughtful and careful attention. We pray that our deliberations will be characterized by the same spirit of oneness, the same inspiration, the same courage and determination, which marked our meeting at Addis Ababa. If we will, it can be so.

The achievements of the months since May of 1963 stand, as well, as a favourable augury for the long road which still remains to be travelled to our stated goal of African Unity. The Organization of African Unity is today a solid and tangible achievement. The Charter itself has been ratified by thirty-three African States, and it was Our signal privilege personally to deposit it with the United Nations Organization in October of last year. The OAU's Council of Ministers has met not once, but several times during the last year in seeking the solution to immediate and pressing African problems. A sturdy framework has been provided for closer co-ordination of national policies and programmes in a variety of domains - defence, economic and social co-operation, developmental assistance - these and many more have received added impetus from the work accomplished by the Provisional Secretariat and the decisions taken at the meetings of the several Commissions created by the Charter of African Unity.

Spiritual Vitality[edit]

But perhaps more important than the individual events of these months has been the demonstrated vitality of the spirit of Africa, a vitality which has permeated every aspect of intra-African relations and has, in the short space of fourteen months, produced a basic and fundamental change in the African scene. During the past year, We paid State Visits to nearly a dozen African nations, and in the views which We exchanged with other African leaders We encountered a sense of purpose, of dedication, of vision, which, We are persuaded, found its genesis in the common acceptance of the ideal of African unity, in the common response to the unique challenge which modern Africa presents to each of us in the common crusade in which we are each enlisted.

It was in this spirit that Algeria and Morocco put aside their arms and agreed to negotiate the settlement of their border dispute. It was this spirit which motivated Ethiopia to call without pause or hesitation upon the Organization of African Unity when violence erupted last February on the common frontier with the neighbouring Republic of Somalia. It was to this spirit that African nations have responded to calls for aid from their brothers. It is this spirit which will sweep us forward to final, conclusive, glorious victory in the struggle to overcome the obstacles which still remain before us in the making of a united Africa.

It is in this, We believe, that the real triumph of Africa lies today. Economic development may lag; difficulties may be encountered in working out unanimously acceptable programmes and policies; temporary dissentions may interfere with harmonious relations between individual states. But so long as the spirit of Africa prevails and stirs within us, so long as we continue to think and work and act within the African context which we have created, imbued by the African atmosphere which surrounds and pervades us, We are confident that the goals we seek shall be attained.

Our Child[edit]

We have created this spirit; it is our child. To bring it to its full potential we must, firstly define with precision and clarity the programmes which will advance us along the path we have chosen, whilst simultaneously avoiding those dangers which could frustrate what has been so laboriously won. And in order that these programmes be coherent and intelligible, they must be founded upon painstakingly articulated principles and policies which we, as African nations, must apply, not only in charting the future of the Organization of African Unity, but in directing our own activities as independent African states.

What do we seek for Africa? We seek to consolidate and guarantee our own precious liberty as independent nations. We seek freedom for our still dependent brothers. We seek Africa's economic growth and development, the betterment of the way of life of Africans and all men. We seek the closest collaboration with those others - Asians, Europeans, North and South Americans - who share our desires and who are willing to co-operate with us. We seek that self-sufficiency which will enable us to play our rightful role in international affairs and live in full harmony with all men. We seek to make our voices heard and our views heeded on the major problems confronting the world today.

Our quest, above all else, is to assure to Africa and to each African state the fullest and most complete measure of freedom - freedom from all remnants of colonialism; freedom from neo-colonialism, whatever form it may take; freedom from political and military threat; freedom from aggression; freedom from interference by others in our internal affairs; freedom from economic domination; freedom from the danger of nuclear destruction.

This is easy to state; how infinitely more difficult it is to achieve!

Find Solutions[edit]

We are convinced that it is in our search for African unity that we shall discover the solutions to the vexing problems which confront us. We have taken upon ourselves the liberation of the remaining dependent territories of the African continent such as Angola, Mozambique and Southern Rhodesia and the elimination of apartheid. This battle must and shall be won; but if our victory is to be real and not ephemeral, it is we Africans who must achieve it. We can accept assistance from those who seek the same ends only if the other precious freedoms which we equally cherish are not thereby prejudiced.

In our struggle to eliminate from the African continent the ugly sore of apartheid, so repugnant and loathsome to us Africans, unhappily, all too little progress has been recorded. Much has been said and written in condemnation of this most ignoble and inhuman form of the abasement by man of his fellows, each one of us here has roundly and unequivocally condemned this evil. But what have these words accomplished? To what results have our condemnations led? Of what effect have been our attacks, our criticisms?

If we are truthful with ourselves, we must admit that there yet remains far to go in eliminating racial discrimination from our continent. We must, first of all, look to our own efforts. We have declared that all economic ties with South Africa must be terminated. Have we done so? We have declared that diplomatic relations with Portugal must be severed. Do portuguese envoys still grace African capitals? In both of these areas, have we acted in unity?

Since this is fundamentally a human question, we can take heart in the fact that at our side in our struggle against apartheid are ranged the vast majority of human race. But to justify their support we must ourselves scrupulously and militantly enforce the measures which we have agreed upon. It is not the strength or the power or the determination of those who oppose us that will delay success in this battle, but only the weakness of our unity.

Heavy Task[edit]

Admittedly the task is not an easy one. Immediate sacrifices are required. Ethiopia's ties with Portugal stretch back to the 16th Century, and our relations with that nation have always been amicable. It was not easy to request the recall of the portuguese Ambassador accredited to our Court, but We did so. Had We not, We could not stand before you today and declare that Ethiopia has done what principle and conscience and the blood of our brothers in South Africa, in Angola, in Mozambique, required of us. Similarly Ethiopia has recognized the Provisional Government in Exile established under the leadership of H. E. Mr. Holden Roberto.

It may well be that even the united weight of the free nations of Africa is inadequate to bring to their senses the governments of South Africa and Portugal. Assistance is required - and it will be welcome, if it comes without conditions.

Let us bring the combined pressure of African influence to bear on those other nations of the world to whom our friendship and goodwill are meaningful, who claim adherence to the same principles of freedom and independence for all men that we uphold, who affirm their support for our struggle against oppression. Let us more effectively marshal our individual and collective forces to use our influence, to exploit our position in various international organs, to enlist their support in Africa's fight for freedom and development. By combining our efforts with these others, freedom can come earlier to our remaining dependent brothers. With their aid we can soon sweep the stigma of racial discrimination from Africa.

Let there be no mistake: the continued oppression of Africans on this continent and the continued domination of our South African brothers because of race constitute grave dangers which threaten the very foundations of the unity we seek. We cannot rest while these twin evils live on.

These are not the only dangers which threaten us. Disputes between African states themselves constitute potentially serious obstacles in our path. Foremost among the causes of such disputes are those of the sort which have exacerbated relations during the past year between Morocco and Algeria as well as between Ethiopia and Kenya and Somalia.

Accept Frontiers[edit]

At Addis Ababa enough was said to demonstrate beyond doubt that Africans are virtually unanimous in their agreement that only by acceptance of the frontiers bequeathed to them by the colonialists can permanent peace reign on our continent. The principle of respect for the territorial integrity of states is repeated in the OAU's Charter no less than three times, and it is only for us to observe it as scrupulously as it deserves. Ethiopia supports this view, although she herself suffered no less than others from the depredations of the imperialists.

We must, however, go still further. The Charter has accurately and adequately defined the principles to which we have pledged our adherence. Africans, however, like all other peoples possess not only virtues but weaknesses and it is perhaps inevitable that differences will arise among us from time to time. Just as Africa, as a single entity, and the several African states individually toil for the peaceful settlement of disputes among states, so must we ensure that disputes in Africa are settled peacefully. If our continent is not free of internecine strife, how can we hope to influence others whose disputes endanger the peace of the world?

In like manner, the Charter's signatories have declared their adherence to the complementary principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and this principle, too, must be rigidly observed if conflict between Africans is to be avoided. It is all too often under the guise of territorial disputes and through the medium of subversive activity directed against legitimate governments that the foreign influences which we seek to bar from our continent endeavour to exert their power and establish for themselves a foothold from which to expand their activities. We must guard against the insidious substitution of one form of dominance and rule for another; we must be vigilant to inhibit the growth of what is called neo-colonialism.

Neo-Colonialism[edit]

Neo-colonialism today takes two forms: economic and political. We recognize that economic dominance is not only often the more difficult to eliminate, but often serves as the entering wedge for political domination. We further recognize that, given the history of our continent, and the conditions under which we came to freedom, it is not unusual that, despite our best efforts, the economic independence which we seek is long and difficult in coming. Long-established patterns of trade are not easily or quickly reoriented. Let us not delude ourselves in thinking that these facts, for such they are, are of no significance for the future of Africa. But let us, at the same time, toil with all our strength to alter them.

When we consider political neo-colonialism, our desires, although perhaps no less difficult of attainment, are at least easier of articulation. We seek to avoid a rigid and inflexible posture which prejudices our position on the major issues before the world. We seek to avoid alignment, to achieve true non-alignment. Our late good friend, H. E. Prime Minister Nehru of India, put it thus: "The only camp we should like to be in is the camp of peace and goodwill." At Belgrade, in September of 1961, We stated that the essence of non-alignment was to be impartial, impartial to judge actions and policies objectively, as we see them either contributing to or detracting from the resolution of the world's problems, the preservation of peace and the improvement of the general level of man's living conditions. Those who righteously denounce one side on every major problem or issue while reserving nothing but praise for the other cannot claim to be non-aligned, we may from one day to the next find ourselves now opposing, now supporting, now voting against, first the East, next the West. It is the worth of the policies themselves, We Say, and not their source or sponsor, which determines the position of one who is truly non-aligned.

Non-Alignment[edit]

We repeat that non-alignment is in no way anti-Eastern, or anti-Western, any more than it is anti-Northern or anti-Southern. It is neither anti- nor pro- in any absolute fashion. It is largely affirmative, not negative. It is for peace and freedom. It is for a decent standard of living for all men. It is for the right of the people of any nation to adopt that economic and political system which the majority of them freely elect to follow. It is for the right of men and nations freely to take their stand on the great issues of the day, as their consciences and their sense of right and justice - and these alone - dictate.

It should be clear, however, that as Africans embracing this principle we are not choosing to form a third bloc, a supra-power which can only speak with a single voice because it is controlled and dictated by a single organ. What we seek to create is flexible, not inflexible; a moral force to be used for world peace, for economic development, for the benefit of humanity. We cannot impose our views by force. We have only the power of moral persuasion. This is our strength - and a great strength - if we will but use it.

And, finally, there exists today, not for Africa alone but for all mankind, the danger of the extinction of the human race by nuclear holocaust. We have supported it in the past, and We reiterate now, that Africa must be declared a denuclearized zone. We urge again that efforts to achieve a progressive disarmament be redoubled. The limited nuclear test ban treaty constitutes a step in this direction, but it should be but the first of many. Our united efforts must be exerted to this end.

Some Objectives[edit]

What must we do to transform our aspirations into reality, to overcome the dangers to which We have referred, to advance to the destiny we have marked out for ourselves: We have spoken in the past of some of the concrete measures to be taken. The creation of a permanent machinery to settle intra-African disputes is one such. We must take up where the colonialists left off in transforming the social and economic patterns of our nations. In order to decrease our economic dependence on the developed nations, trade among Africa's nations must be expanded. Transportation and communication facilities among us must be expanded and improved. A unified African Development Programme which utilizes to the fullest the individual resources of the individual African states must be prepared and implemented. Techniques must be found and employed for the most efficient and economic use of our resources and financial means. In all of this, we can profit from the example of both the East and West.

Is this enough? Let Us only say that if even a partial measure of these programmes can be agreed upon here, our presence in Cairo today Will have been more than justified.

We would, however, add these last requirements! What is needed, above all, is patience which accepts delays while striving to overcome them and tolerance which comprehends our weaknesses, our selfish ambitions, and our narrow self-interest, while seeking to strengthen our will and stiffen our moral fibre and devotion to principle and international morality: which can alone arm and shield and support us in the daily strife which is our fate as we toil to better the lot of Africa and all men everywhere. Unless we find the requisite courage and fixity of purpose to rise above our petty selves; we shall be broken on the wheel of our own invention, slaves of our own despotism. The spirit of Africa, which surrounds our deliberations here, is deserving of the greatness which Africa demands of it. Let us prove ourselves worthy of it.

This is a translation and has a separate copyright status from the original text. The license for the translation applies to this edition only.
Original:
This work is in the public domain because it was first created in Ethiopia.

Under Title XI of the 1960 Ethiopian Civil Code, copyright exists only during the lifetime of the author.

In addition, any potential Ethiopian copyrights are non-binding in the United States, according to Circ. 38a of the US Copyright Office.

Translation:
This work is in the public domain worldwide because it has been so released by the copyright holder.