Relevance of Ethiopia’s sterling victory at Battle of Adwa to present realities

2 Mar
Ethiopian fighters at the Battle of Adwa

Ethiopian fighters at the Battle of Adwa

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin

Ethiopia today has officially observed the 117th anniversary of the Victory of Adwa. Speaker Abadula Gemdeda has called on Ethiopian youth to repeat the history of the Victory of Adwa now against poverty. He urged them to actively take part in the ongoing development efforts in Ethiopia, according to ERTA.

Understandably, he cannot say more than that, in the circumstances. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that for many Ethiopians around the world who are observing the occasion with more profound reflection, the importance of the occasion is hardly sentimental or to allow its symbolism to serve as promotional for political agenda that cannot advance human liberation.

There is no doubt that Ethiopia needs to rise from the depth of poverty; it would once again ensure the shackles are removed. The dishonor this has imposed on our people is too obvious, the nation – the people – wallowing in the continued denial of their human dignity. Ethiopians realize that the world, including many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, have made advances in good governance, institutionalization of democratic rule and the inviolability of fundamental human rights.

What is growth without rights or a say how one’s country is run? What is growth and poverty eradication, when under the guise of chasing terrorists, government allows its security forces to roam homes by nights and loot properties, as is now happening in all parts of Ethiopia?

What is growth without the appropriate institutions that ensure each to get according to his labour or contributions? What is the meaning of fighting poverty, when government is not held accountable for its erroneous policies that force many people into poverty, or worsen the conditions of the poor?

Therefore, beyond goods and services, the inspiration behind the Adwa Victory must be cherished for its inspirational and transformational values. After all, in our country citizens live in fear and utmost insecurity, their civil rights suspended and human rights continually violated, with no possibility to turn to for redress.

Ethiopians live under the most notorious repressive regime, whose drive is the concentration of power in a few hands. It is regarding this that NATO Parliamentary Assembly, following is visit in Addis Abeba and Mekelle remarked that Ethiopia’s “government rules in a kind of commando fashion rather than building up strong governance instituions.”

I am sure they knew what they were talking about and why that happens”!

Precisely, this is what has surfaced as theme in this year’s observance by Ethiopians of the Victory of Adwa across the world over highlighting the illustrious victory of their ancestors at the Battle of Adwa.

Revival of xenophobic ideologies

It is evident that some in our world are pressuring politics to increasingly move astride. This is attributed to pressure by economic forces lending support for revival of xenophobic ideologies. People with such ideologies are pushing the institutionalization of discrimination and all forms of intolerance of human differences, especially those based on color and religion.

Graziani's Mausoleum in Affile, not far from Rome

Graziani’s Mausoleum in Affile, not far from Rome

A case in point is the latest development in Italy itself. In that country some, including powerful and wealthy individuals have been scurrying to revive legacies of the national fascist party, or Mussolini’s Duce Fascism.

In fact, in a manner that hits close to home they facilitated and encouraged honoring the memory of fascist commander Field Marshal Rodolfo Graziani, a convicted war criminal, otherwise known as the “Butcher of Ethiopia” and “Butcher of Fezzan”, which was the prelude to World War II. All signs now point tilt in that direction in Italy, although their number is insignificant and their arguments less appealing than the commonsense of ordinary Italians who are resisting this latest plot.

Graziani was the most notorious of Benito Mussolini’s military commanders, who led his occupation forces against Ethiopia and Libya. His achievements for the most part were the cruelest massacres history has ever known.

A few of Ethiopian victims of Graziani's war

A few of Ethiopian victims of Graziani’s colonial war

He carried out immense atrocities against the Ethiopian people, including by the use of chemical weapons. Neither the Vatican nor the ICRC could raise their voices, whose silence has made them party to one of history’s worst atrocities.

Consequently, the warning signs have been everywhere once again, ever since in the presence of the mayor of Affile and the representative of the Vatican, Graziani’s mausoleum was officially inaugurated in 2012. Politics in Italy, as in other countries affected by economic crises, is being exploited by those abominable ideologies that have gone beyond rearing their ugly heads.

Certainly, as many Italians of conscience are angry as are many people around the world. Accordingly, it has now become an imperative necessity to remind those that want to turn the hands of time to an ugly past with the lessons of history.

History in retrospect

Emperor Menilik II

Emperor Menilik II

The number of distant wars in history that have found admirers and a sense of identification by generations of peoples in lands near and afar and are limited in number. One of these is the 1896 Battle of Adwa and the subsequent sterling victory of Ethiopian fighters against imperial Italy’s intrigues and drive at colonial occupation of Ethiopia.

For many around the world, however, elevation of the Battle of Adowa in the annals of history is credited by its very logic and the justness of Ethiopia’s causes against the arrogance of the invading Italian forces. Therefore, even when it hardly was fought to advance or defend the interests or causes of other peoples, the Battle of Adow to this day holds an important place in the minds of the peoples of the world, especially those in the developing world.

To begin with, Ethiopia was convinced about the justness of its cause, established by history. Ethiopia has had an organized state for centuries and it was one of the great powers of the ancient world. And, in the case of Italy’s attempt at occupation, Menilik and his courtiers had done a great deal of soul-searching to understand the motives.

Indeed, M. Mondon-Vidhailhet, Director of Public Education in Abyssinia, is reported to have heard Emperor Menilik expressing his frustrations with the Italians. Mondon-Vidhailhet heard Menilik saying, “I find…that the Italians are impossible to deal with…from now on no one will try to appease the Italians…(Quoted in Sven Rubenson’s the Survival of Ethiopian Independence).

When the time arrived, Menelik decided that it was the right thing to confront the Italians, about which he is quoted to have uttered the following:

    “God, in his bounty, has struck down my enemies and enlarged my empire and preserved me to this day. I have reigned by the grace of God….Enemies have come who would ruin our country and change our religion. They have passed beyond the sea which God gave us as our frontier….These enemies have advanced, burrowing into the country like moles. With God’s help I will get rid of them.”

People under colonial occupations or those that stand for justice saw that this poor African country, which has never been used to surrendering to conquerors known in history, was only defending its own against the colonialist ambitions of Italy. It is evident, therefore, most of all its sterling victories in battlefields has won it admiration.

Ever since, that has been in the psyche of Ethiopians never to yield to occupation. Consequently, when Menelik called upon the nation to rise and defend their country and the dignity of the crown, the church and their families, no Ethiopian able-bodied person – man and woman – ever hesitated to leave home, families and farms to stand guard for national honor.

In his mobilization call to the nation, Menelik appealed to citizens saying, “Those who have strength, support us with your strength. Those who are weak, support us with your prayers”

What has most surprised those that sympathized with the just cause of the Ethiopians’ was not only their defense of their territory, but also their determination in refusing to accept their country’s occupation. What came out loud and clear was the people’s gallantry that for the first time in world history humiliated a superior European power in an African battlefield.

Evidently, Ethiopia is a country that did not seek the lands of others nor slept at night surrendering its own. It is this that has made the its victory at the Battle of Adwa winner of hearts and minds of generations in different countries.

TE – Transforming Ethiopia

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