"by his recent speech on the situation in North Africa?"
East Africa (1925) (Abyssinia outlined in purple)
Creative Commons AttributionEast Africa (1925) (Abyssinia outlined in purple) - Credit: cod-gabriel

In the Franco-Italian Agreement of 1935, the French Prime Minister Pierre Laval collaborated with Mussolini to hand over part of French Somaliland (now Djibouti) to Italy, and allow Italy to invade Abyssinia (now Ethiopia).  In exchange, Italy pledged military support in the event of German aggression, a pledge that Mussolini failed to honour when Germany invaded France five years later.

The British Foreign Minister, Sir Samuel Hoare, had already applied to the League of Nations asking for sanctions to be imposed on Italy in anticipation of Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia.

Despite these sanctions, Italy invaded Abysinnia, emboldened by the pact with France. Hoare and Laval then put together the Hoare-Laval Pact under strict secrecy, the intention being to hand large parts of Abyssinia to Mussolini and grant the rest of the country access to the sea via Italian access points. The plan was intended to head off any alliance between Italy and Germany.

The plan was leaked before the pact could be ratified, and in the face of public outrage at the proposed betrayal of Abyssinia, the British government was forced to denounce it.  Hoare and Laval both resigned.  In the event, Mussolini took control of Abyssinia anyway.  It has been argued that the failure of the Hoare-Laval Pact pushed Italy into the arms of Nazi Germany, so determining the course of the coming World War.