You are about to read a speech that was delivered by Ketema Yifru at the Sixteenth U.N. General Assembly (1961). The speech was printed in a book format by Les Presses Jurassiennes – Dole – Jura, in 1962, and is available in several libraries, including Michigan State University, Boston University, McGill University (Montreal, Canada), University of California (Melvyl), and Colombia University. I though that the speech was important because it points out the issues of the day, as well as prescribing possible solutions to the many problems of the world, including Africa.

Statement made in the United Nations


H.E. Ato Ketema Yifru

Mr. President, Fellow Delegates:

It is with great pleasure that I come to the rostrum today to address the 16th Session of the General Assembly, and to extend to all delegations the warm greetings of the Ethiopian Government and Delegation.

Mr. President

Much has already been said concerning the numerous compelling and urgent problems which are on the agenda before us. Positions have been stated and restated, various policies suggested and explained. Work is about to begin in the various committee in an effort to search just and peaceful solutions to many of these problems. We are hopeful that positive contributions will be made to this end.

I do not wish to take your time in a long recital of the multifold difficulties which today perplex the world. Neither is it my intention to attempt to reformulate in new phrases the views of my Delegation on these problems. I believe that the positions of Ethiopia on most of these problems are known to all. I propose, instead, to limit my remarks to some particular problems which pose the most serious threats to the peace of the world, and some others which are of major importance to the Assembly.

Mr. President

We find the world today inexorably slipping ever nearer a precipice at the foot of which lurk in the abyss of total destruction. We stand gathered here on the stage of history, while an armed symphony provides an ominous background music punctuated by the tympani rumblings of nuclear explosions. Today, when man’s capacity to improve his way of life and to assure to all physical and spiritual well-being is at a level never before attained in history, his capacity – and, it sometimes appears, his willingness to wreak universal destruction is unsurpassed. Surely, this is a nightmare, from which we must awaken.

It will come as a surprise to none when I say that, in casting about for the means whereby the disaster which threatens to overwhelm and engulf us may be averted and the peace and security which we claim as an inalienable right may be assured to ourselves and to succeeding generations, my Delegation takes as its starting point the very Organization within whose walls we are now meeting. Ethiopia’s devotion to the cause of Collective Security, which finds its most eloquent expression in the principles enunciated in the United Nations Charter, is too well known to require elaboration. As a small country, Ethiopia has always known that the greatest measure of protection and the most effective safeguards against breaches of the peace, aggression and the abuse and disregard of the rights of small nations are to be found in this Organization. My August Sovereign, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie 1st, set forth Ethiopia’s position regarding the United Nations at the Conference of Non-Aligned States held recently at Belgrade, when He declared, and I quote:

                    « ...he who acts deliberately and with calculation to the injury of the United Nations, to weaken it or to endanger its existence as an elective and energetic international institution... robs the world of the last best hope for peace, he robs the small nations of that bulwark which the United Nations provides against oppression and aggression and he deprives them of the forum where their voice may be raised against injustice and oppression. »

During the past year we have received further tangible proof of the force which the United Nations can constitute for the common good in the various activities, of both a routine and extraordinary character, which have been carried out by the Organization. If some measure of tranquility and security has been restored to a good part of the Congo, for example, the action of the United Nations in responding to this threat to the peace of the African continent must share largely in the credit. If, as the tragic events of the last few days would indicate, the calm which appears to prevail in the Congo is not yet solid, it is not due to any fault of the Charter. It is rather the combination of reactionary forces that have brought about the present stalemate in Katanga. We accordingly must persevere and use all our resources to ensure that the province of Katanga is fully reintegrated in the Republic. The Republic of the Congo is and must remain one whole and indivisible. We are indeed duty bound to assist the Central Government to reintegrate the province of Katanga into the Republic and to expel all mercenaries from the province. It is the view of my delegation that the presence of the United Nations in the Congo can be justified only on these grounds. If we do not intend to carry out the decisions of the Security Council and of the General Assembly in this regard, then one is bound to enquire the purpose of the continued presence of the United Nations in the Republic of the Congo?

It is clear to us that to realize reintegration, we must expel and keep out all mercenaries from the province. If the mercenaries have no known nationality or if the Governments concerned do not wish to take energetic measures to keep them out, then the Command should hand all such mercenaries to the Central Government so that it may take whatever lawful measures it may deem necessary. The present situation whereby captured mercenaries are able to return to Katanga by various means and devices must be stopped. Furthermore, we must condemn any colonial interference in the implementation of the decisions of the Security Council and of the General Assembly. The machinations of the reactionaries who encourage the Katanga authorities in their irresponsible designs must equally be condemned and stopped.

Mr. President

On World problems, we start from the premise that no nation today wants or seeks war. We cannot accept the argument that in pursuit of a set of political or economic principles, any nation today will deliberately press its policies if it realized that war was, in such circumstances, inevitable or a likely result. If war, therefore comes about, it will occur because one side miscalculates and misjudges the determination or the endurance of the other.

At the same time, we cannot shrug off the plain fact that the two great powers today are following policies, which quite apart from their inherent rightness or wrongness, must and do inevitably lead them into conflict and friction. To the extent that these conflicts arise from the efforts of either group to secure acceptance of its particular political or economic philosophy, or in an attempt to impose their system of government upon others, we here at the United Nations have not only the right but the duty to insist that they stay their hands lest miscalculation occur and destroy us all.

We must also, unfortunately, recognize that when their interests so dictate, the great world powers are capable of acting not only in violation of the principles by which we seek to regulate the conduct of nations, but it appears also in disregard of the safety of the world as a whole. Thus, in spite of repeated demands of the General Assembly upon the Government of France to desist from further nuclear tests, that Government had continued to endanger African life. Recently the World was profoundly shocked by the unilateral and unexpected decision of the USSR to resume nuclear tests. Shortly afterwards the United States of America resumed underground nuclear testing. But any tests, whether conducted in the air or buried deep underground have only one purpose: the perfecting of nuclear weapons. Accordingly all tests must be deplored and brought to a speedy end. 


Though it can be said we must be realistic, we must recognize the limited nature of our ability to prevail upon the Great Powers to stay their hands from the nuclear trigger, we can nevertheless unanimously demand an immediate halt to all nuclear tests, followed by a complete nuclear ban, and in so doing point the finger of history squarely at those who must stand before posterity, if posterity there will be, to justify their actions. In this area the Ethiopian delegation is convinced that the draft resolution, which was submitted together with eight other Member States last year on banning nuclear weapons, must receive priority. I do not wish to elaborate the arguments which we presented last year: suffice to say that our resolution has the support of the great majority of Member States because it contains the aspirations of mankind. It is our hope therefore that the Great Powers concerned will endorse it and thus ensure its application. But, whatever the position of the Great Powers may be, the General Assembly must pass its judgment on the resolution.

Disarmament has become, for our time, the overwhelming imperative. In no other area, perhaps, has so much been said and so little accomplished.

The Ethiopian delegation however believes that we can do more on the question of disarmament. We can take hold of the agreement of principles on disarmament which the two Great Powers have recently signed and using that as a starting point, we can challenge them to make a firm commitment in advance to abide by the decisions which this body may reach and thus test the sincerity of the protestations which ring in our ears – though often punctuated by the explosions of nuclear devices – that both sides desire peace.

Mr. President:

The Berlin crisis has developed because of the absence of agreement among the Four Powers concerning the future of Germany and, in particular, the status of Berlin. We appeal, therefore, to all the Powers concerned to find a final solution to this problem which is the cause of great anxiety to the World.

Mr. President:

High on the list of topics and clamoring for our attention is the final liquidation of colonialism. Here I wish first to seize this opportunity to express once again the satisfaction of the Ethiopian Government and people on the admittance of Sierra Leone to the United Nations. We wish them success and prosperity as a new and independent member of the world Community. 

We feel certain that this struggle in which so many of us have participated will come to a triumphant conclusion. In order to ensure that the final stages of this development are not delayed or hindered, we urge, in the words of the Declaration adopted by the Conference of Non-Aligned States at Belgrade, and I quote, « The immediate, unconditional, total and final abolition of colonialism... » We can settle for no less and will be satisfied with nothing else. In other words the Continent of Africa must be fully and totally liberated from the rule of colonialism. Algeria, Kenya, Uganda, Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, Nyasaland, Angola, Mozambique, Zanzibar, South West Africa, indeed all and every African dependent territory must he free.

With respect to Algeria, we insist that the General Assembly adopt a resolution providing ways and means for the proper implementation of self-determination by the people of Algeria. In other words, if negotiation cannot settle the question definitely, we believe that the resolution which could not pass in its entirety last year must this year be adopted as the only way out of the dead lock that now subsists in that war ravaged land of North-Africa.

We applaud the release from prison of Jomo Kenyatta and his resumption of leadership of our neighbor, Kenya. To refer only to recent history, my Government and people have strong association and ties with the people and leaders of Kenya, dating back when some of our compatriots went in exile to that beautiful land in 1936-1941. We look forward to collaborating and strengthening our ties when Kenya becomes independent. We hope Kenya’s independence will swiftly follow that of Tanganyika, which will join us here next December. 

Whilst the independence of Kenya, Uganda and to some extent that of Nyasaland seems to be assured under African rule, the picture is gloomy in the Rhodesias. The recent massacre, imprisonment and oppression of the followers of Kenneth Kaunda in Northern Rhodesia is to us a matter of great concern and indignation. We therefore call upon the Government of the United Kingdom to grant the right of equal suffrage to the African population so that each territory may determine its own future no matter what the desire of the settlers might be. Unless this is done promptly and the African majority given governmental power, now, we feel certain that the United Kingdom will bear a great responsibility. We accept all peoples in good faith, but in this instance we are compelled to reject all policies that perpetuate supremacy to the white settlers under the guise of multiracial society. The only policy that is realistic and acceptable to Africans is the transfer of power to Africans. Nothing will satisfy us short of this, and we are determined to continue to extend our support to our African compatriots in these territories in their struggle for liberation. Such is our position also with respect to South Africa, Zanzibar, and indeed any colony on our Continent.

The case of Angola cries out for special consideration. The full extent of the dreadful state in which our brothers in Angola today find themselves is not known; censorship and other repressive measures have kept the Angola situation in a dimly-lit twilight zone. But enough is known to demand our immediate intervention and elicit out universal condemnation. Over one hundred and forty thousand refugees have fled their homes, a shocking testimony to the lengths to which the Government of Portugal has gone in imposing a rule of terror and oppression.

I wish to take this opportunity, Sir, to express to the Republic of the Congo, Leopoldville, our heartfelt appreciation for extending assistance to the thousands of refugees who are now in its territory. On our part, we will continue to extend our support to the people of Angola in their struggle to achieve independence. We are also confident that all African States, as well as all freedom-loving nations, will provide equally effective support both to the refugees and to the freedom fighters of Angola.

A scarcely less compelling problem exists in the policies of racial discrimination, which continue to be followed in certain states. We are saddened, but not dismayed, by incidents which occur from time to time even in those states which make the highest claim to civilization.  In speaking, therefore, of racial prejudice, we look principally to the Union of South Africa, where a legalized policy of discrimination exists.  In our view, the United Nations has done far too little in the past with respect to this problem. We call, therefore, on all member states to join in collective action in sanctions, which will demonstrate to South Africa once and for all that the way of life which they have professed is repugnant to mankind and that, considerations of principles aside, it is not in their interests that it be followed longer.

The numerous violations of the terms of the mandate held by South Africa over South West Africa has been taken jointly by Ethiopia and Liberia to the International Court of Justice at the Hague. This action will be pressed with all vigor and energy. We are happy to report that all the African States participated in all decisions leading to this action. We are also happy to know that Ghana and others are planning to intervene before the Court in support of this action. We feel that this cooperation augurs concerted action in other areas of common interest. The Court action, however, is not enough. We call therefore for greater measures of action than has been taken in the past, which will provide more tangible and positive results. The Union Government has in recent years, in violation of the Mandate, has made South West Africa a prison cell by garrisoning armed forces on all the frontiers of the land, so as to continue its unhindered massacre, imprisonment, in short, wholesale suppression of the innocent inhabitants of the international territory.

Mr. President:

The United Nations cannot close its eyes to these facts, it cannot stop its ears from listening to the cries of the colonized peoples, it cannot stand idly by while the colonial powers resist all appeal to reason and justice. To do so is to abdicate its functions and responsibilities. Last year, by an overwhelming vote, the General Assembly called for the speedy dissolution of the last strongholds of colonialism. Unhappily, this resolution has remained largely unimplemented. It is not enough that this year we merely adopt another resolution couched in the same general terms. Unless affirmative and effective measures are taken in implementing the resolutions, which express our will, we run the risk that what we do here will assume an ever lessening degree of significance in the view of those who look to the United Nations as the guarantor of their future. We have demonstrated that we can act if the need be urgent. Let us act now, forthrightly and honestly, to dispel this problem and to remove it permanently from the agenda of this body. 

In this connection, I wish to point out that the spread of the cold war to areas which have heretofore escaped entanglement in this struggle, a danger recognized by many, has not to this point perhaps been dealt with as effectively as could have been. This development constitutes a particular danger for Africans and Asians, so  many of whom have only recently gained  their independence and whose territories are believed by the Great Powers to represent a field which must be contested, threatening, thereby, the peaceful and rational development of their economic and social structure. We have seen, unhappily, how easily erstwhile tranquil areas can succumb to these pressures and be transformed into cold war battle fields. We believe it essential that this evolution be resisted in order that the cold war be restrained within the narrowest possible confines. 

It appears to my Delegation that one way of contributing to this objective is to provide the institutional framework whereby problems which are essentially local in nature are limited to the locality most intimately concerned. In order to achieve this end for the Continent of Africa, we call upon our sister states in Africa to join in the creation, under Article 52 of the United Nations Charter, of a regional Organization of African States, the basic and fundamental task of which will be to furnish the mechanism whereby problems which arise on the Continent and which are of primary interest to the region could, in the first instance, be dealt by Africans, in an African forum, free from outside influence and pressure. We trust that the other African members of this Organization, whom we believe to be equally dedicated to disengagement from the toils of the cold war, will lend their full support to this proposal. As our proposal rests on Article 52 of the Charter, we hope it is clear to all that our desire is not to disengage ourselves from the World Community, but to redevelop institutions peculiar to ourselves in accordance with the Charter.

Mr. President:

Four last points remain to be dealt with, all touching the institutions of the United Nations. They concern the representation of the Government of the People’s Republic of China; the enlargement of the Security Council and of the Economic and Social Council; the reorganization of the Secretariat; and finally the question of economic and technical assistance machineries.

On our Agenda we have two items concerning the representation of the Government of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations. Because of our belief in the peaceful coexistence of nations irrespective of differences in political and social systems, and because of our realization of the advantages emanating from the universality of the United Nations membership, the Ethiopian delegation will support the proposal that the Government of the People's Republic of China occupy its rightful place in the United Nations.

In considering the structure of our Organization, the Ethiopian delegation would like to point out that membership has increased from the original number of 51 to 100. Nonetheless, the composition of some of the principal organs, and in particular the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, remains what it was 16 years ago. Taking into account the above mentioned changes, there must be an increase in the membership of both the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council to facilitate an increased participation by the Afro-Asian states, who are at present poorly represented.

Regarding the reorganization of the Secretariat, it is the view of the Ethiopian delegation that we must abide by the provision of the Charter as stated in Article 97. It is to be noted that in accordance with this provision, it is appropriate that one person occupy the post of Secretary-General. In fairness to all concerned, it is preferable to select as a Secretary-General a national from the Afro-Asians countries.

At this point I would like to bring to your attention the General Assembly Resolution 1559 (XV) regarding the chronic problem of the imbalance of the geographical distribution of the United Nations Secretariat. This resolution requested the Secretary-General, inter alai, to intensify his efforts to implement the General Assembly resolutions on that question. It is imperative that the closest advisers to the Secretary-General also should be staffed on the basis of equitable geographical distribution.

My country has been associated with the work of the Economic and Social Council for the past year. As the only African country on the Council, we have observed very closely the efforts of the United Nations in the economic and social fields, while at the same time we have endeavored to bring to the attention of' the Council the special problems of Africa. Our experience in the Economic and Social Council has convinced us more than ever that the interest of the under developed countries can best be served by channeling all aid and assistance through the United Nations. The problem in the social and technical assistance activities of the United Nations is not only one of making available more funds to the organization. Undoubtedly, the increase of such funds is indeed imperative, but there is also the problem of effectively utilizing the available resources. We are very much disturbed by the existence of duplication of efforts and by the absence of clear-cut objectives in the activities of the United Nations and the specialized agencies. We believe there should be effective coordination, even if this entails structural changes in some of these institutions. Coordination in the economic and social and technical assistance activities of the United Nations should be effective both at the planning and execution levels. A system of priorities, which corresponds to the resources of the Organization, should be worked out first and foremost on a regional basis, on the planning stage, by the specialized agencies working in close cooperation with the regional economic commissions. On the operative level of economic and technical assistance coordination should likewise be effective. Again, the regional economic commissions should play a leading role, especially regarding regional projects concerning their respective areas of operation. The regional commissions should have more leeway for initiating programs of their own, and where appropriate, by undertaking operative functions of technical assistance.

Mr. President:

Permit me at this juncture to bring to the attention of the Assembly, a problem which the Ethiopian delegation was privileged to present in the 32nd Session of the Economic and Social Council. Last May under the auspices of UNESCO and the Economic Commission for Africa, high representatives of African governments met in Addis Ababa to assess the dedicational needs and requirements of their respective countries and to relate their efforts in the field of education to their overall economic development. The deliberations of the conference have revealed, in terms so concrete, the alarming situation that exists in the educational field of the continent. To meet,  therefore, the basic educational needs,  the conference established as targets the increase of enrollment in African schools by 20 % in the next 5 years and the achievement of universal literacy by the year 1980. The achievements of these targets by African governments will call on their part a doubling of efforts and heroic sacrifices. The conference estimated, on the basis of these targets, that the current external aid, which was assessed to amount lo 140,000,000 dollars, should be increased by 1965 to 450,000,000 dollars. My delegation, and I am sure, indeed all delegations from Africa, request that the General Assembly endorse the Economic and Social Council Resolution 83 (XXX11), which calls on all member states to mobilize their resources and help the African governments achieve these targets.

In my discussion I have considered only a few of the many pressing problems before us. The fact being there are no easy and clear-cut solutions to many of these problems and we are therefore forced to improvise, to settle for halfway measures, to grope in semi-darkness only half aware of what we are in search of, never quite sure where we are or what we have achieved. Man's progress on this earth has been at best a painful and laborious process, and we are perhaps unrealistic if we expect it to be otherwise. 

Nonetheless, if we work with zeal and energy, if we face the problems and the crises of today, honestly and squarely, we will have fulfilled our duty to ourselves and to mankind. And, we suspect, in this process we will do much to achieve peace and security in the world.

Thank you...