5 Years Italian Invasion of Ethiopia – Concise History and Unexpected Twist

Italian Invasion of Ethiopia -

The Italian invasion of Ethiopia? Victory seemed unlikely. It was in 1935, where the war between Italy and Ethiopia revived again. The victory of Adwa did not hold back Italy, from revising to colonize Ethiopia. Adwa, a place where Italy lost the first war, was a place of shame for the proud Italians. How could a powerful European power lose for some African nation? It was an easy job for the other colonial powers to enslave Africa. 

No matter how long the Italian power waited for a reason to provoke a fight with Ethiopia, the stacks were against them. League of Nations, which was formed to prevent wars and to solve problems between countries through negotiation. The organization has power and influence to stop fascist Italy from provoking Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, therefore, trusted the League of Nations and the international community and hoped for fair justice. Even though, the League of Nation created a relatively peaceful situation for some countries after world war I, it didn’t give much attention to the constant call for action from Ethiopia. League of Nation was not a fair organization. Conflict emerged between Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland.   

Beginning of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia

Italian attack came from two bearings, within the north from Eritrea and within the south from Italian Somaliland. Italian military operation in the north was driven by Marshal Emilio de Bono, who after the starting of the war was replaced by Pietro Bergoglio. Badoglio led the highly ruthless phase of the war on the northern front. His troops progressed quickly into Tigris, went with by air attacks.

About three hundred airplanes were ordered to shower the internationally outlawed poison gas upon the Ethiopians. In the south, the Italian army was under the command of General Rudolf Grazziani. Italians also used about 100 airplanes for air attacks on this front.

On the Ethiopian side, there was a massive reaction to the mobilization order of the state. However, Ethiopia’s counter-offensive came very late. There were two reasons for the delay. First, Ethiopia trusted the League of Nations and the international community to intervene. Second, Ethiopia desired to stretch out Italy’s line of supplies by allowing them to proceed deep into the interior.

Eventually, Ethiopian forces set out to confront the Italians on both northern and southern fronts. Within the north, the Ethiopian armed force was put under the overall command of Ras Kasa, the most reliable strategist appointed by Emperor Haile Selassie who was also the emperor’s closest advisor.

Ethiopian forces brawled the Italians in three different directions.  The forces under the minister of war, Ras Mulugeta, went on the eastern direction at the battle place of Amba Ardom. At the center were the forces of Ras Kasa and Ras Seyoum. Ras Imiru Haile led a force that fought against Italians in Shire in the western direction. 

After a treacherous match, the Ethiopians finally won the battles in the western front. However, they were unable to stop the overall Italian advance, Ethiopians could not withstand Italian aerial bombardment and poison gas. Italian won a victory at the battle of Tembien and Amba Ardom. Ras Mulugeta Yigezu lost his life in the war. The Ethiopian army scored minor victory only at the battle of the shire in the western front.

Beginning of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia

Italian Invasion of Ethiopia and Haile Sellasie

Emperor Haile Selassie took command of the Ethiopian powers which offered the remaining organized resistance. The better-trained army, the imperial Bodyguard was at his disposal led by the emperor, Ethiopians fought the battle of Maichew on 31 March 1936. Nonetheless, they lost this battle as well.  After Maichew, Ethiopian troops retreated in a disorderly manner.

Muddled, the emperor came back to his capital, late in April 1936. The council of ministers, under the chairmanship of the emperor, decided to continue the diplomatic campaign at the League of Nations. On 2 may, 1936 emperor Haile Selassie, his royal family, and some notable officials left Addis Ababa for Europe via Djibouti. On 5 May 1936, Addis Ababa came under the control of the Italian army led by marshal Badoglio.

In the south, the Italian army under General Rodolfo Grazziani attacked Ethiopians using its superior weapons. The Ethiopian forces under the command of Gejazmach Mekonnen Endalkachew resisted the Italians with determination.  In the south, the Ethiopian resistance had successful and United authority However, they could not stop Italian advance. Harare was occupied by Italian, some days after Addis Ababa was under the troops.

Finally, the summation of different factors; the poison gas caused great frustration among Ethiopian troops. Even the neighborhood Europeans colonial powers blocked the import of arms into Ethiopia, accusing Ethiopians of using arms in slave raids on the other hand; the Ethiopian army was still predominantly traditional. The Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935-36 was then concluded by the victory of the fascist forces.

  • Italian Invasion of Ethiopia and Haile Sellasie

Fascist Rule and Patriotic Resistance 1936-41

The Italian invasion of Ethiopia and Italian control over Addis Ababa on 5 may, 1936 marked the beginning of the fascist Italian invasion of Ethiopia in Ethiopia. Ethiopia was then merged with the other Italian colonies, Eritrea and Somaliland. In 1936, Italy declared the establishment of Italian East Africa, by putting the three territories together and began to administrator them as one colonial unit. The Italian victory was selected to be in charge of the administration of the Italian East Africa.

The prime fascist governor was Badoglio, but he was soon replaced by the commander of the southern front, Grazziani in May 1936. The latter ruled up until the unsuccessful attempt of his life in Addis Ababa in February 1937. The last Italian victory was Amadeo Umberto, whose administration is said to be relatively liberal. The Italian east African empire had six administrative divisions. These administrative divisions ruled from the towns of different parts of urbanized areas, which were made capitals of their respective administrative divisions.

The fascist Italian Invasion of Ethiopia was a military rule, racist and violent. Its officials were highly corrupt, most of them inefficient and irresponsible.  Italian effective control, in most cases, was limited to towns due to a nationwide patriotic confrontation.  Italian rule caused great human and material destruction of Ethiopia; hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians lost their lives during the invasion, as well as in subsequent patriotic movements against the Italians.

Italian Invasion of Ethiopia and the Aftermath

These included both soldiers and civilians. Young educated Ethiopians were executed.  Thousands of Ethiopians have deported to prisons the Italian set up in different parts of their empire as well as in Italy. Many Ethiopians were exiled to neighboring countries.  Families were broken up and children orphaned.

Yet, Italian conquer also witnessed the establishment of a few factories, producing items for colonial consumption like food, textile, cement, and construction materials. The want for effective control of colonies engaged them to invest a huge sum of money on road construction. 

Italians expelled other foreign companies engaged in trade and replaced them on their own. The time of the fascist Italian Invasion of Ethiopia saw the expansion of hotels and prostitution.  In major towns, they left modern buildings, garages, and different technical services. The linguistic influence is still to be seen in Italian loan-words in many Ethiopian languages.

Italian Invasion of Ethiopia and urban Goals

Immediately after the capture of Ethiopia and the establishing of the Empire, it was only with the conception of this general territorial plan, which was projected to coordinate and guide all of the urban planning measures in the colonies, which a public discussion began in Italy concerning colonial urban planning. The debate was gradually dominated by Political events, and it turned into an explicit medium for conveying ideology.

Major points in the discussion over an Italian form of colonial urban planning concerning ways of controlling the flow of traffic as well as the residents themselves ordered subordination of the architecture to a systematic planning model and detailed subdivision and specialization of land areas. On the first national urban-planning conference, held in Rome in 1937, plans for Addis Ababa, Gondar, and Dessié were presented in the Sector devoted to colonial urban planning.

Among the foremost imperative comes about of the conference were the choice to set up coordination arrange for urban-planning measures in Italian East Africa and the foundation of a Colonial Office for Urban Arranging. At the beginning of the Italian Invasion of Ethiopia, a colonization program for Ethiopia was built up and was to be actualized inside six a long time. It basically included plans for infrastructural measures: road development, water supply, hydroelectric offices, advancement works, and the establishment of farming villages.

Formative plans for the bigger centers, especially for Addis Ababa, were given exceptional significance within the colonization program. The press gave much consideration to the ambitious urban arranging ventures for the unused abroad region, indeed in spite of the fact that these basically included common plans that were afterward decreased in scale or not implemented at all.

Italian Invasion of Ethiopia and urban Goals

Italian Invasion of Ethiopia And the Patriotic Resistance Movements

The Italians faced nation-wide opposition from the very beginning of their Italian Invasion of Ethiopia. It has already been stated that few notables who had grudges with the emperor became collaborators.  There were also some ordinary individuals that served the Italian for small pay. Aside from this fascist rule had triggered protests and large-scale opposition virtually in all parts of the country all the way through the five years of Italian Invasion of Ethiopia. The peoples of Ethiopia were not willing to surrender the independence of their country and thus paid immense sacrifices to defend it.

There were 2 stages of the patriotic resistance against Italian rule. The first was a continuity of the major war that lasted up to early 1937. It was led by members of the upper mobility in command of their respective troops.  One of them was Ras Imiru Haile Sillase, designated viceroy of the emperor, in exile after 1936. Imiru was in the gore town of Illubabor when members of the black lion organization invited him to become their leader. 

This organization was formed in 1936 and it consisted of graduates of Holeta military academy and some other civilians. The black lion team engaged in fighting the Italians around Naqamte, in Wollega. Ras Imiru accepted the invitation and became the head of the black lion organization. He led the Patriots on the first planned attempt to liberate Addis Ababa in 1936. However, the forces under the Ras were defeated near river Gojeb in Kaffa by an Italian army before they reached Addis Ababa, Ras Imiru was caught and deported to Italy. Some other participants were detained.

Italian Invasion of Ethiopia, Second Libration Attempt

The second attempt to liberate Addis Ababa was carried out in the summer of 1936. A group of notable commanders planned to attack the Italians in the capital, from different directions, at a time. The operation was organized by the two sons of Ras Kasa, Dejazmachs Abrera, and Asfawossen Dejazmach Balcha safe and Dejazmach Fikremariam. However, the plan lacked proper coordination, and Italians easily crushed it. One of the unifying figures of the attack, Abuse Petros was caught and executed in the capital. The Kasa brothers were later on persuaded to surrender, but executed in the end. Dejazmach Balcha continued his active involvement in the resistance in the south, until his death in 1937.

On February 19, 1937, two young Ethiopians named Moges Asgedom and Abraha Deboch made an attempt to assassinate the Italian viceroy, Grazziani, Grazziani was seriously wounded while some other officials were killed. As revenge, Italian soldiers carried out a wholesale massacre of Ethiopians in the city. The incident is referred to as the February or Grazziani Massacre.  Within three days about 30,000 Ethiopians were killed.  Most of them were shot on the street’s others burnt alive in their homes, and others were beheaded. The Italians targeted chiefly educated Ethiopians.  Mass atrocities exposed the true face of fascism and provoked a new wave of nation-wide opposition to Italian rule.

This event marked the beginning of the second phase of resistance that was led by the nobility and local notables. It assumed the character of guerrilla warfare and largely centered in rural areas. It was mainly strong regions of Shoa, Gojjam, Begemidir. Many renowned guerilla leaders fought the enemy at different battles. Haile Mariam, Abebe Aregay, Geresu Duki, and Bekele Woya in Showa were some of the renowned patriotic leaders.

As guerilla fighters, the Patriots made a serious of surprise attacks on enemy forces camps, vehicles and broke enemy lines of communications. Knowledge of the terrain and the ability to rapidly disperse and regroup enabled the Patriots to harass the Italians throughout their struggle. There were also instances of direct foundation with enemy forces

Ethiopian resistance fighters had no organized system of supplies and provisions.  They depended largely on individual contributions and the looting of enemy properties. They also looted those whom they considered collaborators.  At times, Patriots used to assign soldiers to peasant homesteads for shelter and food.  In addition to these, some patriotic groups were engaged in farming to feed the combatants.  In this way, the Ethiopian peasantry and ordinary people contributed by supplying food and sheltering fighters.  At times peasants fought with Patriots against the Italians on several occasions.  They also supplied the Patriots with value Information.

Another significant contribution to patriotic resistance came from yewust Arebegnoch’ inner Patriots ‘. These were Patriots who lived and often worked with the Italians in towns but passed on useful information to the Patriots.  Some members of this group used to give underground service to the Patriots fighting in the bushes.  Their major service was in the collection of arms, medicine, food, and intelligence reports to be secretly sent to fighters.

Italian Invasion of Ethiopia, Second Libration Attempt

The Italian invasion of Ethiopia and Ethiopian Women Resistance

Ethiopian women played significant roles as Yewst arbegnoch women used to spy on the Italian soldiers and the high-ranking officials.  They collected arms from corrupt officials and deserters.  Some were even able to exert influence on Italian officials so that they would be moderate towards prisoners.  Some went to the extent of arranging secret killings of Italian authorities. In addition to underground activities some of the women-led their own troops in the battle of resistance. 

Others served as rallying points to soldiers as a widow. The patriotic struggle persisted often under difficult circumstances. Shortages of arms, food, clothing, and medicine had always been daunting challenges to the Patriots throughout the period of struggle.  There were also personal conflicts among patriotic leaders which even some times led to the extent of armed clashes.  The Patriots also lacked proper coordination.  They had no strong uniting political organization. Their slogan was ‘fighting for the Ethiopian flag and monarchy’.

The Italian invasion of Ethiopia and Ethiopian Women Resistance

Italian Invasion of Ethiopia And Public and International Reaction

Italy’s victory dominated concerns about the economy. Mussolini was at the tip of popularity in May 1936 with the proclamation of the Italian empire. He was able to make something going after a national agreement both in favor of himself and his new set administration. A sign of Mussolini’s extended control and popularity after the war was, he made a cutting-edge military rank.

To start with Marshal of the Italian Domain, which he progressed both himself and Lord Victor Emmanuel III, to hence putting the prime serve on a hypothetical level of balance with the ruler. Haile Selassie cruised from Djibouti within the British cruiser HMS Endeavor. Whereas still in Jerusalem, Haile Selassie sent a telegram to the Alliance of Countries.

The Ethiopian Emperor’s telegram caused several countries to give high attention to Italian conquest. On 30 June, Selassie talked at the League of Nations and was presented by the President of the Gathering as “His Royal Magnificence, the Head of Ethiopia” (“Sa Majesté Imperiale, l’Empereur d’Ethiopie”). Some groups of Italian journalists began yelling insults and were deported before he could speak. The Romanian chairman, Nicolae Titulescu, bounced and yelled: “Show the savages the door!” (“A la porte les sauvages!”). Selassie criticizes Italian hostility and criticized the world community for standing by.

At the end of his speech, which showed up on newsreels throughout the world, he said “It is us nowadays. It’ll be you tomorrow”.

France conciliated Italy since it could not manage to chance a union between Italy and Germany; Britain selected its military weakness meant that it had to take after France’s lead. Selassie’s firmness to the League to reject recognition of the Italian conquest was defeated and he was deprived of a loan to finance a resistance movement.

On 4 July 1936, the Alliance voted to end the endorsements imposed against Italy in November 1935 and by 15 July, the approvals were at a conclusion. The treaty signed in Paris by the Italian Republic (Repubblica Italiana) and the victorious forces of World War II on 10 February 1947, included formal Italian recognition of Ethiopian independence and an agreement to pay $25,000,000 in compensations.

Since the Association of Countries and most of its individuals had never formally recognized Italian sway over Ethiopia, Haile Selassie had been recognized as the reestablished head of Ethiopia following his formal section into Addis Ababa in May 1941.

Ethiopia presented a bill to the Economic Commission for Italy many million birrs, for damages inflicted during the course of the Italian Invasion of Ethiopia. Even though Haile Selassie was seeking of fair justice from league of nation and had spoken in public meetings, but the case that makes the external to give fast reaction was, Italy’s conflict with British, that gave the opportunity for Ethiopia to get help from British.

Despite the fact that mentioned in the above weaknesses, patriotic resistance continued throughout the five years of Italian Invasion of Ethiopia. This played a great role in the gradual weakening of the fascist forces and enhanced the liberation of Ethiopia.  Yet, the final liberation of Ethiopia was achieved by combined efforts of internal and external forces which were partly associated with the Second World War.

Cover: “Detail, ‘Battle of Adwa'” by A.Davey is licensed under CC BY 2.0  (color and size modified)

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