CHAPTER XXII
ENTER THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS

If King Alexander was a dead man, and could not object to the League of Nations' behaviour, Haile Selassie was alive.

When Ethiopia had been admitted to the League, the Treaty of 1906 (see above, p. 74) was not abrogated. She was therefore weighted down with the mortgage with which the Governments of London, Paris, and Rome had saddled her. There were three classes of members in the League of Nations: (1) the greater Powers; (2) the smaller independent Powers; and (3) the Powers over which the influence of some other Power had been explicitly recognized or at least tacitly admitted by the other Powers. For instance, Iraq, Egypt, India, and Ireland belonged to Great Britain's sphere of influence, Albania to Italy's, while Ethiopia was divided among Britain, France, and Italy. According to the letter and spirit of the Covenant, however, no new bond might be imposed either through threat of war or by any other form of compulsion, on a member of the League. This was what Mussolini was trying to do to Ethiopia in 1935, and this was the issue on which it was the duty of the League to take a stand.

Haile Selassie had another card in his hands. Mussolini had deigned to sign with him the pact of friendship and arbitration of August 1928 with all the pomp attendant upon the signing of such pacts between two equal sovereign States. The infallible Ducc was then signing pacts of friendship with everybody except his neighbours, France and Yugoslavia. Had he foreseen the use to which Haile Selassie would put that treaty seven years later, he would have had no part in it. Nor would he in 1923 have favoured the admission of Ethiopia to the League of Nations had he suspected what hurdles he was putting up in his own path.

The case was crystal clear. There was no doubt that the Wal- Wal incident might lead to war and that the Italo-Ethiopian treaty of 1928 provided that any dispute should be settled by conciliation or arbitration. The Emperor of Ethiopia had invoked that treaty. In addition, he could invoke the Covenant of the League.

Unfortunately for him, Laval had personally pledged himself in January 1935 not to raise difficulties against Mussolini's initiatives. In addition, the British Government was pledged by the Chamberlain-Mussolini agreement of December 1925 to lend "wholehearted support" to Mussolini. Such French and British pledges clashed with the Covenant of the League. But who had

-179-

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