CHAPTER XXI
THE LAVAL-MUSSOLINI ENTENTE

While the Marseilles affair was hushed up, Mussolini must have been informed that Laval's intentions concerning Ethiopia would be good.1 In fact, the King of Italy paid a visit to Italian Somaliland during the latter part of October and the first two weeks of November 1934. When a King goes on a trip of this kind, serious trouble is brewing. De Bono tells us that while escorting the King in Somaliland, "he settled with the local military Commandant what most urgently needed to be done".2 The Tribuna announced that in setting foot in the most remote of Italy's colonies, the King was "hallowing once again the expansive mission of the Italian nation" (4.xi.34).

On November 7 at Gondar, in Ethiopia, a quarrel broke out between Ethiopians and some servants of the Italian consulate, one man being killed and two wounded. The Duce instructed the Italian Minister at Addis Ababa to demand "reparations". The Ethiopian Government made all the apologies and genuflexions requested, and the incident was settled "in a friendly spirit". But it was not difficult to surmise that the trouble would not stop there. Correspondence sent from Addis Ababa to London reported that it was currently believed in French Somaliland that Rome and Paris had reached a secret understanding; Addis Ababa believed one of its many features to be for "Italy to obtain a protectorate over Ethiopiay linking Eritrea and Somaliland"; anti-Italian feeling was running high (DT. 2.i.35).

On November 22, an Anglo-Ethiopian Commission, which included a British colonel and was engaged in the survey of grazinglands in Ogaden, went to the wells of Wal-Wal with an escort of some 600 men. All maps located these wells within Ethiopian territory, forty miles from what was considered the Italian frontier. But in

____________________
1
During the Pétain trial ( August 3, 1945) Laval stated that when he became Foreign Minister after Barthou's death he found "the draft—but the sketchiest of drafts, since them was no document of kind in the dossier—of an entente, of an agreement to be brought to a head with Italy. I consequently carried out the policy of my predecessor" ( Procés du Maréchal Pétain, p. 183). It is strange that in the dossier on Franco-Italian relations he found no documents on the entente which had already been outlined. Laval had to rely, ten years after the events in question, solely on his memory. His testimony therefore contains errors and a certain amount of confusion in matters of dates, persons, and events. At any rate, his statement that an understanding had already been outlined when Barthou disappeared from the scene is corroborated by so much indirect evidence that it can be accepted as true.
2
De Bono, La conquista, p. 17.

-172-

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