Haile Selassie and the United States

Haile Selassie had a special relationship with the United States. The United States is located thousands of miles away from Ethiopia and did not colonize a territory in East Africa like the Italians, British, and French. However the United States established itself as a super power after World War II and would have a significant impact on the reign of Haile Selassie as emperor of Ethiopia.

Selassie first gained international fame when he gave a speech before the League of Nations and his plea for help fell on deaf ears. As a result of that event "a generation of Americans was to grow up remembering Ethiopia's betrayal at the League" (Vestal 4). Ethiopia was special to many black people around the world for having remained independent during at the height of colonialism in Africa. African Americans spoke out against the aggression of Italy on Ethiopia. However, the United States government was against intervening in the fight between Ethiopia and Italy and limited African Americans support. The United States had taken a position of neutrality and it would not be until the 1940s that a relationship between the US and Ethiopia would begin.

The center piece of US-Ethiopian relations was Kagnew Station. It was vital to US interests during World War II but even more crucial during the Cold War. US was a given a long term lease of Kagnew Station and in return it was to provide economic and military assistance to Ethiopia. During the 1950s and the 1960s, the United States trained and equipped Ethiopia's army. It also got involved in several economic and social projects. Selassie knew that the US needed Ethiopia's cooperation to stabilize the Horn of Africa. However much aide the United States gave, it was never enough. The emperor continuously pressed for more assistance. US support was also crucial in ridding of the British out of Ethiopia, who had helped the emperor retake his position as ruler of Ethiopia but at the same time had become its new occupiers. US also aided Ethiopia in incorporating Eritrea as part of Ethiopia.

Haile Selassie visited the United States several times during his rule. His first trip to the United States was in 1954. In total he made 6 state visits to during the presidency of Eisenhower, Kennedy and Nixon. Selassie believed in face to face diplomacy and his numerous visits the US secured more than half of military aide to Africa went to Ethiopia (Vestal 187). During his visits, his biggest bargaining chip during negotiations was Kagnew Station. However, because of technological advance, by the end of the 1960s, Kagnew Station no longer became vital. Soon after, because of civil unrest within Ethiopia and military preoccupation elsewhere, US involvement in the Ethiopia declined. With the fall of Haile Selassie in 1974, the USSR replaced the US as Ethiopia's ally (Vestal 187).

Vestal, Theodore M. The lion of Judah in the new world Emperor Haile SeLassie of Ethiopia and the shaping of Americans' attitudes toward Africa. Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger, 2011.