From the S&S archives:Haile Selassie promises full cooperation with U.S.
Stars and Stripes April 5, 1953
GETTING IN TO see the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Haile Selassie I, Elect of God, Emperor of Ethiopia, is not a simple thing.
Your ambassador has to wrangle an appointment for you somewhere in the tight palace schedule, a full set of formal morning clothes are required, and a protocol expert instructs you how to time your bows and back away from the imperial presence without tripping over a rug.
Nevertheless, an interview with Haile Selassie can be rewarding front a news standpoint, The emperor indicated to The Stars and Stripes that when and if the U.S. requires new and safe air bases closer to Soviet Russia, Ethiopia will be available.
"We are in full agreement with the principle of collective security," he declared. "We will do everything necessary to carry out this policy" including an easily-defended home for relatively short-ranged jet bombers that might not be able to operate from such distant bases as Morocco and the U.S.
The emperor also said that he would like to have American military advisers and that Ethiopia will join the proposed Middle East Defense Pact if she is invited to. Now that the empire has a coastline in Eritrea, it also might not be amiss for Ethiopia to have a navy, the emperor intimated.
He revealed that a new battalion of Ethiopian troops will soon be on its way to Korea, where the Reds rank then as among the UN's toughest soldiers.
WEARING a khaki uniform with a shoulder full of ribbons (including the U.S. Legion of Merit) his majesty sat straight on the edge of his chair like the field marshal he is and permitted himself a small but proud smile as he recalled a story carried two weeks earlier in the weekly English language Ethiopian Herald.
The news story, a reprint from an S&S dispatch, said in part:
"Over recent months (Ethiopian soldiers) have spread fear in the hearts of the Communists by beating them at their own nocturnal game. Night patrols are a joy to the Ethiopian ... who knows how to use the silent bayonet so well.
"The ultimate pride of the Ethiopian battalion is that it is the Emperor's personal bodyguard. Individually the men would rather die in battle than disgrace the unit in any way. No Ethiopian soldier has been captured and the battalion has never failed to take its objective. ..."
Haile Selassie's comment on this: "They have done no less than I expected them to."
Addis Ababa is a beautiful city, more because it is not much of a city than anything else. Built on a dozen hills 9,000 feet above sea level, it has a few modern buildings, no shopping center and a kind of leisurely anarchy in atmosphere. Donkeys wander down lanes bordered with one-story whitewashed clay houses roofed with corrugated iron and shaded everywhere by the acacias, eucalyptus and cedars which make Addis almost invisible from the air.
There are some cars but mostly the city trots about behind one-horse, two-man rubber-tired sulkies. The climate is perfect; except for the rainy season, a perpetual Indian summer.
The universal male dress consists of bare feet, jodhpurs (called English pants and apparently copied from an 1870 punitive expedition), a bush jacket, a kind of shawl, Haile Selassie beard and an oversize pith helmet worn for sartorial elegance rather than necessity.
Addis is also a cosmopolitan city. The Swedes run the air force and the telegraph, the French control the railway and a Britisher advises the customs department. The Dutch are in coffee, the Swiss in hotels, the Greeks and Armenians in small business and the Italians — against whom there is remarkably little ill-feeling — are the mechanics and artisans.
There are plenty of Americans, especially in banking and the imperial highway commission. Every Ethiopian Airliner (a TWA subsidiary) brings in another Point IV man, and U.S. Information Service far outdistances the Soviet information office with its lectures, library, film shows and handouts. (The Russian hospital, incidentally, was established by the Czars in 1896 and is definitely not a center for Red spies in Africa. There are only 26 Soviet citizens in Ethiopia.)
U.S. missionaries work up-country; a large share of Ethiopia's teachers are American (all classes over 5th grade conducted in English), and the YMCA secretary has been blocking traffic in a main square with crowds of 8,000 to 10,000 who come to hear his lectures on health and VD. (Addis has 4,000 beer parlors usually staffed with casual but good-looking girls).
That Ethiopia, tugged one way by foreigners and another by isolationist Coptic priests and feudal barons, has not turned into another Macao or another Tibet is due entirely to the progressive but iron-willed character of one man: Haile Selassie.
HE IS NOT the direct descendant of Menelik, a son born after a too-successful diplomatic mission by the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, although all of Ethiopia's genealogists labor to prove that the longest dynasty in history remains, in fact, unbroken.
(Menelik visited his father when he grew up, the Ethiopians say, and brought back the Ark of the Covenant as a souvenir to Ethiopia, where it is guarded today by priests high in a craggy monastery. Quick-thinking Solomon is supposed to have had another Ark made in secret.)
Haile Selassie, the regent of the last empress until her death, had himself crowned in 1930 largely owing to the fact that he built up the imperial bodyguard to equal size with the army (which it still is).
He was a popular ruler. At his call every Ethiopian male rose to arms to fight a quarter of a million Italian troops equipped with modern planes and tanks. The Ethiopian patriots — fantastic as it sounds — were led by 2,500 British, a few units of the Sudan Defense Force, a string of camels and a couple dozen ancient. Fords carrying machine-gun platforms.
In the period from May 1, 1936, when he fled Addis, to May 5, 1941, when he returned in triumph, the emperor won the sympathy and respect of the outside world. Foreigners in Addis today always refer to hint as "his majesty" rather than as "the emperor" or "Haile Selassie."
His natural dignity commands a situation which could take on comic opera overtones. Custom, for example, demands that the populace bow as the emperor drives through the streets. If you happen to be in a vehicle you pull over, get out and do likewise.
The imperial lions used to he regularly paraded on a leash. Now they pad about in a modern zoo cage and the public comes to them. The palace, built in 1934 and surrounded by a high wall, is not especially extravagant and looks more like a French chateau of no particular period. It is decorated with great restraint inside.
There is a waiting room at the entrance; then you turn a corner and, with his majesty's private secretary at your side, walk down a hail in full view of the emperor who is sitting in a small apartment at the end.
In the doorway you and the secretary bow, you wondering if the striped pants borrowed from an embassy official are in any danger of splitting. Half way into the room you bow again and the emperor stands up. You bow a third time just in front of him. If he offers (he did), you shake hands. He gestures and you flip up the tails of your morning coat and sit down.
The talk is formal and translated into Amheric by the secretary, although his majesty speaks excellent French and good English. The talk is of Mau Mau in Kenya, of Russia's rulers, of progress in education of Point IV (he has high hopes especially for an agricultural college) and of Ethiopian troops and their training (five miles on a dead run before breakfast with rifles over their shoulders).
The emperor speaks briefly and to the point. With his black beard, piercing eyes and erect bearing he seems as tough as his troops.
When it is over you back out of the room with the secretary, repeating your bows which in each case are answered by a slight bow from the emperor. Somehow it isn't an obeisance but a bit of mutual courtesy. You can't help thinking that a man like this — whatever his customs — is a worthy ally, in Korea or anyplace else.