ITALY AND AFRICA.
(BY QUENTIN POPE.)
There Is a curious sense of fatality sur- rounding Italy's Abyssinian advent«!«, when one lecalls two occuirenccs of recent years_ the Tiipoli Incident of 1911 and the Italo Greclan crisis of 1923 A strange bewilderment which comes when one realises that the his- tory of the past Is being re-enacted to-day, and that leaders of nations seen incapable of learning from it Is piovoked by a study of
these two events
A swift suivey of the Tripoli affaii is enough to make one i enlise that the attack on Ethiopia is no sudden product of a Tischt and foolhardy State Italy's AfrlcHn ambi- tions go bacic a long way In earlier years they were subordinated to the plans of Bri- tain and France but long before any step had been taken towards the unification of Ttalv Maazini had declared that North Africa would belong to his country In 1906, Britain lecognised Italy's sphere of influence as in- cluding Tripoli subject to rcseivations about the eastern frontier, and from the moment that she had in understanding with Britain and Trance which meint m effort that these countries would no1 seek concessions in this part of Africa, Italy went ahead She began with an economic conquest of Tripoli Bran- ches of the Bank of Rome were established thcie, an attempt was made to develop the agi ¡cultural resources of the country, the natives were encouraged to undeitake new en- terprise and become dependent upon the bank, heavily subsidised steamship lines linked this portion of the Ottoman Empire with Italy, j, parcels post system was extended to includr Tripoli, and the Italians began to talk of "making secure" trading routes in the Inte- rior, and of beginning railway construction
These things the old Turkish Government peimltted, but the Young Turk revolution of 1908 changed the situation The new official» weie no longer so willing to allow Italy a free hand, they began to obstruct Italian enter- prise, to obtain troops to extend the military frontier into the Sudan pnd to woo the fana- tical Moslem tribes of the interior. What followed presents some striking parallels with what has happened and Is likely to happen, to-day A violent Italian press campaign wn< launched against Turkey Trivial incident« were seized upon and magnified-an Am»ri enn archaeological expedition was granted * permit to dig in Tripoli m similar Italian re- quest was refused, therefore the American« were really prospecting foi slh'cr mines, and theil dlscoveiy would have fatal consequence* foi the great mines of Sicily The Turks wem showing contempt for Italian officers and th» Italian flag, French administrative "ontroí flom the west was a menace to Italian inter- ests The Turks (like the Ethiopians) -wer« scandalously allowing slavery to continue
In September, 1911, Italy delivered an ult*. matum in which she gave Turkey forty-eight hours to consent to the occupation of Tri- poli, piomislng to maintain the Sultan'* sovcieignty under the Italian protectorate aDd to pay an annual subsidy to the Ottoman Tieasury Two classes of conscripts were called up, they weie embarked on transports which had already been prepared, and the Italian fleet sailed With the same methods that they were to employ twenty-four years later, the Italians did not wait to declare war Their fleet had already attacked and sunk Turkish torpedo boats in the Adriatic The next day Tripoli was bombaided, the forts were dis- mantled and the garrison driven out Within a month the coastline had been captured But the Italians found that they had em- barked on a campaign of which they had little knowledge It was almost two decades before the guerilla warfare which started at that time was brought to a close Without roads or railways they would not use their artillery or make the most of their superior numbers It was ultimately the inhabitants of Tiipoli Itself and not the Turkish garrison which waged wai in defence of the threatened land. At the end of September the Italian Parlia- ment voted the annexation of Tiipoli, just as the conquered areas weie annexed the othei day And an effort was made to force Turkey to recognise the annexation bv bombarding the forts at the mouth of the Dardanelles
If the history of Tripoli reveals Italian im- perialism in action the dispute with Greece in 1923 equally revealed Fascist Italy's atti- tude towards the League of Nations. The begin- nings of that dispute were, oddly enough also connected with a frontier. The task of fixing the frontiers of Albania with her neighbour States had been entrusted by the Conference of Ambassadors to an Inter-Allied Delimita- tion Commission. A delegation of this Com- mission consisted of Italian officers, and they were charged with the work of fixing the line between Albania and Greece. It was while engaged on this task that three officers were traversing a section of Greek territory on August 27, 1923, when they fell into an ambush and were assassinated. Two days later the Italian Minister at Athens forwarded to the Greek Government the following de- mands: An unreserved official apology, the holding of a solemn memorial service in the Catholic cathedral at Athens all the mem- bers of the Government to be present, the pay- ing of honours to the Italian flag by the Greek navy, a drastic Inquiry into the assassination in the presence of the Royal Italian military attache, capital punishment for the authors of the crime, military honours for the bodies of the victims, and an indemnity of 50,000,000 lire within five days of the presentation of the note.
CORFU. The Greek Government protested that these demands placed upon it the responsibility for the crime, and declared that it could not accept three of the last four demands as an infringement of sovereignty. Nevertheless, it offered to hold the memorial service, to pay military honours to the Italian flag and to the bodies of the victims, to grant fair and equitable compensation to the relatives of the murdered officers to express its full regret in official form and to accept the assistance of the Italian military attache in a judicial in- quiry which it would hold. It will be seen that the acceptance was very nearly complete in form, if not in extent. But Italy deemed the assurances Insufficient and on August 31 gave orders for the occupation of the island of Corfu. The Council of Ambassadors was able to intervene because the officers had been acting as its agents and at once asked for an inquiry which the Greek Government pro- mised to hold. The Greeks at once invoked the intervention of the Council of the League asked for investigation by a commission of three, one Greek, one Italian, and one neutral, and offered to pay Into a Swiss bank the sum of 50,000,000 lire in guarantee that any in- demnity which might be fixed would be met Italy's representative at the League declared that the Council had no right to intervene in a dispute then before the Council of Ambas- sadors that the appeal by Greece to the League was based on the assumption that there was a danger of war which did not exist (the measures which Italy had taken not being of a hostile character) and that "the creation of the League of Nations did not constitute a renunciation by States of all right to act for the defence and safety of their rights and their dignity," a statement which should have been a clear warning of the manner in which Italy viewed her responsibilities under the
It was suggested by the representative of Spain that the conditions laid down by Italy should be accepted, by and large, with the judicial inquiry to be held under the super- vision of representatives of the League, the 50,000 000 lire to be paid into a Swiss bank and the amount of the indemnity being re- ferred to the Permanent Court of International Justice. The Italian representative refused to accept that portion of the proposal which affirmed the competence of the Council to intervene "even indirectly" with a view to settlement of the dispute (a forerunner of the stubbornness of Mussolini during the recent meetings of the Council) and the resolu- tion was revised accordingly. The Conference of Ambassadors found a formula by substitut- ing the names of the three Allied Powers represented on the Delimitation Commission for that of Italy as the injured parties in- sisting that the apologies should be presented to them, that they should carry out the in- quiry Into the crime, and that the determina- tion of the amount of the indemnity should be left to the International Court. This was done, and the Court awarded the full sum which Italy had demanded.
It is significant that throughout the nego- tiations Italy refused to discuss her Impetu- ous and unwarranted seizure of the Island of Corfu as a "guarantee" of the satisfactory settlement of the conflict, and that she did not relinquish the island even after the sum for which she asked had been lodged in a neutral bank. She even posed as acting as an agent of the League in this matter be- cause the crime "had been an offence against the Conference of Ambassadors in the person of its executive agents " ' The Conference of Ambassadors had full competence in all that related to the execution of treaties, and had therefore, the right of securing repara- tion for an act which constituted a violation of its orders and an opposition to the execu- tion of its mandate," argued the Italian dele- gate to the League when justifying a flag- lant case of lefusal to abide by the Covenant of the League. It was, In fact, a curious forecast of the attitude which the Italians were to take up this year, and it helps to fill out the picture of Mussolini's cavalier attitude towards the League and his obligations to-
wards that body.