The legacy of Ethiopia’s patriots

Historians say that most of human history is characterized by wars, conflicts, power struggles and insurrections among peoples, their rulers or aspiring ones. People fight for the control of resources, land, power as well as glory. States try to dominate other states and wage wars leaving aside diplomatic efforts because they want to show their might, their strength. Once might was usually considered as right and in this case no one third party may be ready to involve in some wars unless there is a national interest to protect or preserve in that particular conflict.

There have been countless wars in the world including attempts of colonization of other states. So many wars have taken a place in the world ever since the formation of states beginning ancient times. There were also several civil wars in the same country for the control of central power. Wars inevitably destroy the resources of the states involved in the conflict. Huge numbers of people are killed or wounded. And yet wars have continued to rage the world for a number of factors including the ego of certain leaders or war lords.

The wars or campaigns of colonization could be considered as the outstanding feature of the nineteenth century particularly regarding African countries. One of the victims of these invasions was Ethiopia. Most of African countries fell under colonial yoke but Ethiopian patriots were able to halt the trend by defeating the invading forces of Italy, one of the major powers of the then Europe.

The Victory of Adwa has gone to the annals of modern history with the immense victory of Ethiopians over European aggressors and a lot has been written on this momentous chapter of the history of Africa. This event became a symbol of defiance and resistance to any form of aggression and injustice imposed on a people by alien forces. In the end it was to inspire other peoples that with a brave fight against aggressors they could be successfully repulsed. It was to be a warning for colonialists. The victory raised the consciousness of all oppressed people and was a source of anxiety for colonialists.

That was why all of them regretted that Italy opened uncertainty among the colonizers as their invincibility was shattered. Ethiopia became a standard bearer of freedom, independence and justice. The Victory of Adwa gave a new dimension to the history of Ethiopia and it also stretched to the entire continent. It was to carve a new balance of power that was redesigned and redrawn. Adwa is considered by many scholars that it is a watershed moment in the history of the modern world.

After forty years yet, Italy led by the Fascist regime of ‘il Duce’ Mussolini wanted to take revenge against Ethiopia for the defeat of his country inflicted at Adwa and tried to invade Ethiopia and put it under his control. He was very anxious to conquer Ethiopia and add it to what he called the ‘Italian East Africa’ (Africa Orientale Italiana) after Italy had already conquered Eritrea and Somalia. He said Italy had to wipe away the memory people had of the defeat of Adwa and the shame should not be inherited by the new generation.

On May 5th 1936, the Fascist forces entered Ethiopia waging a war of attrition from several directions boasting victory. However, Ethiopians never admitted defeat and continued to fight in the countryside, the mountains, the valleys and gorges and the bushes. Although the Fascist forces even used internationally prohibited chemical gas to quickly break the morale and resistance of Ethiopian patriots, they were never intimidated by it. For five years they continued fighting with fierce and persistent resistance movement.

Meanwhile the then Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie went to Geneva, Switzerland at the League of Nations to demand justice, to let Ethiopia continue its fight with weapons it tried to buy. But the then European forces did not want to listen to the emperor. They were afraid of facing the negative reaction of the Fascist Italy then getting nearer and nearer to being associated with the powerful Nazi dominated Germany and that was not considered as worth the pain of listening the Ethiopian plea or helping it foil the naked aggression it was subjected to.

Ethiopia asked in earnest the League of Nations to condemn Italy and sanction it so that it could not have all the resources it could buy from other nations to continue with the aggression. Ethiopia’s diplomatic efforts fell on deaf ears and could not produce the desired outcome. Ethiopia was left alone to be the sacrificial lamb to the Fascists.

Then the emperor made a historic and prophetic speech in which he warned the world that if they disregard such an injustice and aggression against arrogant invaders, there would be no guarantee that the same fate would not reach other small countries. In fact his prophesy did realize when there followed other invasions by the Nazi-Fascist forces in Europe and the world had to respond defensively in earnest.

Fascist Italy along with Nazi nationalists of Germany allied themselves for the same cause of conquering the world and subject it to their rule. They mounted a huge campaign against European countries such as Poland, France, Soviet Union and others including England itself had no choice but act promptly to gather together and organize their forces and resources under one command. They decided to counter the emboldened aggressors which were appeased when they initiated with the invasion of Ethiopia, a sovereign nation and a signatory of the League of Nations to then extend it to others.

That was when they began to consider Ethiopia’s case and this move encouraged more Ethiopian patriots in their fight of resistance against the occupiers of Ethiopian sovereign territory. This state of facts even added more morale to Ethiopian patriots who carried out their stiff resistance more intensely, with more belief in victory at the horizon. They were also galvanized by the news of the approaching of the emperor to return to his country in a triumphant mode. He was accompanied by the British who were a part of the Allied Forces that included the Americans and the Soviet Union.

The emperor and what were called the Black Lions of Ethiopia were attacking the Italians from the Sudanese border of Ethiopia and other Ethiopian patriots were heading on to Addis destroying the last resistance of the Fascist forces in several fronts. In the end the Fascist forces had to succumb to their more stimulated and encouraged Ethiopian patriots along whom the British troops were associated.

World War II had involved almost the entire world in one way or another and the Fascist Italians, the Nazi Germans and the Japanese forces had formed a kind of alliance to dominate the world by force, but the Allied Forces that included the US, Russia, France and Great Britain along with other forces from Africa and Asia were superior in resolve, resources, weapons and man power and the fate of invaders was nothing but defeat and surrender and the death of the principal leaders like Hitler and Mussolini.

Ethiopia was considered as the first victim of this ‘axis of evil’ including the Fascist forces and the Nazis who created massive damage to Ethiopians destroying the quiet life of communities who lived in peace and harmony. For five long years there was no peace and stability in the country as guerrilla warfare raged in the entire country and even people who did not take part in active military operation were never trusted by the invaders. It was normal for the Fascist occupiers to take revenge when they were ambushed by the patriots.

They resorted to attacking civilians subjecting them to various summary executions and other atrocities in various parts of Ethiopia. And yet these cruel moves of the Fascist forces did not discourage Ethiopian patriots or lead them to despair. Rather it stimulated them to fight even with more resolve and prowess involving even the participation of women. Women served particularly in communicating new development in the urban areas to the patriots. Information on the moves of the occupies was crucial to the strategies to be followed by the fighting forces.

Patriot leaders in various parts of Ethiopia gathered their faithful followers and attacked the invaders systematically and in an organized manner. The Fascists never had full control of the territory of Ethiopia and had to engage thousands of troops to try to keep their strategic positions free from sabotages and guerrilla incursions or sudden attacks.

In the end and above all, after the Fascist forces were engaged in multiple fronts due to their joining the German and Japan coalition, their fate was to be doomed. The Ethiopian forces intensified their resistance and after five long years, just to the day, on May 5th 1941 the triumphant entry of the emperor to his capital city happened. This is recorded as another milestone and another victory of Ethiopia over aggressors and colonizers.

History books have recorded that Ethiopia does not have a history of subjugation or defeat and its patriots have never taken defeat as their destiny. They had to fight back every time aggressors waged war against their country, and surrounded by many historical enemies and regional rivals, Ethiopians had to mount their resistance and foil any potential aggression.

May 5th 1941 is just another glorious chapter of modern history of Ethiopia. Today Ethiopia is required to continue on its traditional path and defend itself against any potential form of interference in its internal affairs including against those who would be engaged in proxy wars. While it continues to strengthen its defensive military forces to discourage or deter any form of attack to its integrity and territorial sovereignty or even independence, it is also engaged in intense and extended continuous efforts in strengthening its diplomatic relations with other nations, both near and distant.

Ethiopia’s diplomatic moves are characterized by first of all defending its national interest but governed by the principle of give and take and guarantee peace and stability in its territory and environs. It is also characterized by its strict and unwavering adherence to international law and practice. Its recent joining of the BRICS economic group is one example of this diplomatic policy and a success at that. Due to its geopolitical position Ethiopia needs to keep itself always vigilant that it is not threatened or subjected to any negative or dangerous move by external forces as well as those who could operate inside the country but are sent as Trojan Horses for enemies.

As we celebrate the Victory Day we must not forget all the sacrifices that have been paid by patriots and even civilians to keep this country free and independent with its dignity, pride and glory intact. The new generation must not forget or undermine these tremendous exploits and sacrifices. We must give them utmost credit because they inherited us a free and independent country and not one that is colonized and subjected to humiliation and indignity. Long live Ethiopian patriots.


The Ethiopian herald May 11/2024


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