Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement

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The Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement was a joint effort between Ethiopia and the United Kingdom at reestablishing Ethiopian independent statehood following the ousting of Italian troops by combined British and Ethiopian forces in 1941 during World War II.

There was a prior Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement in 1897. This convention involved Menelik II and it largely dealt with the boundary between Ethiopia and British Somaliland.

Under the agreement[edit]

After the return of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie to the throne, an interim Anglo-Ethiopian agreement was signed 31 January 1942 between the two governments; Major General Sir Philip Euen Mitchell, Chief Political Officer of the East African British Forces High Command signed on behalf of the United Kingdom.[1] Great Britain sent civil advisers to assist Selassie with administrative duties and also provide him with military advisors to maintain internal security and to improve and modernize the Ethiopian army. The terms of this agreement confirmed Ethiopia's status as a sovereign state, although the Ogaden region, the border regions with French Somaliland (known as the "Reserved Areas"), the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railroad, and the Haud, would remain temporarily under British control. The British also assumed control over currency and foreign exchange as well as imports and exports.[2] It also reconfirmed the Klobukowski agreement of 1906, which had exempted foreigners from both Ethiopian law and her justice system, as well as giving the British minister precedence over the other diplomatic missions to Ethiopia. Lastly, the agreement contained a clause which permitted the Ethiopians to end the agreement by giving three-months' notice.

The Ethiopians soon found the implementation of this agreement oppressive, although a slight improvement over the previous attitude of the British who treated Ethiopia as occupied enemy territory. As Haile Selassie describes one aspect of the prior relationship, "[The British] took all the military equipment captured in our country...openly and boldly saying that it should not be left for the service of blacks."[3] Another point of contention was through British control of Ethiopia's banking and finance, which required all letters of credit to be opened in Aden and required all exports to be cleared through that port, yielding an official profit margin of 9-11%; in addition, all dollars earned by exports to the United States were required to be automatically converted to the British Pound.[4] The Emperor and his ministers soon began to direct their efforts to three specific points: a new treaty to replace this one; a new currency to replace the East African Shilling which the British had imposed on Ethiopia; and a source for military aid which would free Ethiopia from dependence on the British.[5]

A British-trained police force eventually replaced the former police who were in the service of local provincial governors. There were two revolts during this time: the Woyane rebellion in eastern Tigray Province, which was suppressed with the assistance of British air missions; and the other in the Ogaden which was put down by two battalions of Ethiopian forces.[2]

British Ogaden[edit]

British Ogaden Protectorate

Flag of
StatusBritish Military Administration
Common languagesSomali
• East African campaign
December 1954
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Italian East Africa
Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea
Today part of Ethiopia

The British Ogaden Protectorate, or simple British Ogaden, was shortly under British Military Administration from 1949 until 1954. The British came to control this region in the aftermath of the East African Campaign when it dislodged the Italians from the area.[6] The original British intention was of uniting the British Ogaden with its fellow Somalis in the east into a single polity. This policy was in particular voiced by British foreign minister Ernest Bevin. However after Ethiopian deliberations, this policy was abandoned.[7][8]

During the British administration period, Haile Selassie had made additional territorial demands; while his demands for the annexation of Italian Somaliland might have been a bargaining tactic, he was serious about the return of Ethiopian territories in the Ogaden and the annexation of Eritrea. These requests were ignored by the British, who were in favor of a separate Eritrean entity, and wanted to combine the Ogaden, Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland into a "Greater Somalia".[9]

The process of reversing the effects of World War II on Ethiopia did not completely end until 1954 when Ethiopia was restored to its internationally recognised borders of 1935, prior to the Italian invasion when the British Ogaden was once again ceded to Ethiopia.[10] One the 1954 decision to cede the territory of the British Ogaden Protectorate to Ethiopia became public, there have been numerous calls, as well as violent insurgencies intended to reverse this decision. The movement to gain self-determination from Addis Ababa has continued into the 21st century.[11]

Negotiating a new agreement[edit]

Despite Ethiopian distaste for the agreement, both the Emperor and his innermost group of Ministers were reluctant to actually submit the notice required to end the agreement. A set of proposals for a new agreement submitted to the British at the beginning of 1944 was summarily rejected. As John Spencer, an American advisor to Ethiopia in international law during this period, explains, "They feared retaliation in the form of a re-occupation of the province of Tigré, south of Eritrea, and of Sidamo and Gemu Gofa bordering on Kenya, and just possibly other areas in the west such as the provinces of Wollega and Illubabor. These fears were the subject of endless discussions with me."[12] In the end, Ethiopian officials overcame their trepidation and had the three-month notice of termination delivered to the British chargé d'affaires 25 May 1944 along with a request for the prompt negotiations of a new agreement. By this time, the United States had not only re-established its diplomatic mission in Ethiopia, but declared the country eligible for Lend-Lease, providing a vital tool to Ethiopian officials in their negotiation with the United Kingdom.[13]

The initial British response was silence. Only after the Ethiopian government reminded them of the expiry of the agreement 16 August and that they were looking forward receiving possession of the railway and administration of the Haud and Reserved Area, did the British respond. Initially the British attempted to delay the termination of the agreement, claiming it could not accommodate the Ethiopian demands, and settled for a two-month extension for the date to hand the properties over. A negotiating team led by the Earl de la Warr arrived 26 September, and over the following months both sides argued until 19 December 1944, when a new Anglo-Ethiopian agreement was signed and Britain agreed to relinquish several advantages they had enjoyed in Ethiopia.[14] Specifically Britain would: remove her garrisons, except from the Ogaden; open Ethiopia's airfields (heretofore restricted to British traffic) to all Allied aircraft; and give up direct control of the Ethiopian section of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railroad.[15] The new agreement also revoked British precedence over other foreign representatives.[16] But perhaps more important was the use of the word "Ally" in the agreement. Not only did this remove any further basis for considering Ethiopia "enemy territory"—as General Mitchell had claimed—but it also prevented Ethiopia from being denied a seat at the future peace conference, and made it harder for the British to permanently keep the Haud and Reserved Areas without jeopardizing the territorial status of other allies.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Haile Selassie, My Life and Ethiopia's Progress Volume Two: Addis Abebe 1966 E.C. (Chicago: Frontline Distribution, 1999), p. 176
  2. ^ a b "Ethiopia: Ethiopia in World War II", Library of Congress website (accessed 30 January 2011)
  3. ^ Haile Selassie, My Life and Ethiopia's Progress, p. 173
  4. ^ John Spencer, Ethiopia at Bay: A personal account of the Haile Selassie years (Algonac: Reference Publications, 1984), p. 106
  5. ^ Spencer, Ethiopia at Bay, p. 102; Mauri A., "The re-establishment of the national monetary and banking system in Ethiopia", The South African Journal of Economic History, Vol. 24, n. 2, p. 91
  6. ^ Super powers in the Horn of Africa - Page 48, 1987, Madan Sauldie
  7. ^ Cahiers d'études africaines - Volume 2 - Page 65
  8. ^ Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: O-X - Page 1026, Siegbert Uhlig - 2010
  9. ^ Spencer, Ethiopia at Bay, p. 142
  10. ^ a b Spencer, Ethiopia at Bay, p. 152
  11. ^ Vaughan, Sarah. "Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Ogaden: Still a Running Sore at the Heart of the Horn of Africa." Secessionism in African Politics. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2019. 91-123.
  12. ^ Spencer, Ethiopia at Bay, p. 143
  13. ^ Spencer, Ethiopia at Bay, p. 144
  14. ^ Spencer, Ethiopia at Bay, pp. 145-153
  15. ^ "The Negus Negotiates", Time 1 January 1945 (accessed 14 May 2009)
  16. ^ Bahru Zewde, A History of Modern Ethiopia, second edition (Oxford: James Currey, 2001), p. 180

Further reading[edit]

  • "Consequences of the British Occupation of Ethiopia During World II" by Theodore M. Vestal
  • Harold Courlander, "The Emperor Wore Clothes: Visiting Haile Sellassie in 1943", American Scholar, 58 (1959), pp. 277ff.
  • Arnaldo Mauri, "The re-establishment of the national monetary and banking system in Ethiopia, 1941-1963", The South African Journal of Economic History, Vol. 24, n. 2, 2009, pp. 82–130.