On March 2, 1896,  Ethiopians under the able leadership of Emperor Menelik II defeated an  invading Italian force at the Battle of Adwa. Though constituted as a country called Italy in 1870 before it invaded part of Ethiopia, its various components were nonetheless vibrant states.  Upon the unification of its states Italy sought "virtues" of its “Roman past” and  “brotherhood in colonial activity” with neighboring "colonial European states". Britain was eager to satisfy that quest by inviting Italy to take over Massawa in 1885, in a direct contravention of the 1884 Treaty it signed with Emperor Yohannes IV only about five months earlier. In 1887, Yonannes IV went to confront the Italians in Saati, about 26 miles from Massawa.  However, after camping near the  Italian fort for a month he returned to fight against Gojjam instead, and then died in Metema in a battle against the Dervish in 1889. In the wake of Emperor Yohannes IV' s trek from the coastal plains near Massawa to Gojjam, Italian forces had advanced to Asmara and beyond.  After the death of Yohannes IV, Menelik II became Emperor of Ethiopia and had to stop the southward advance of Italian forces, and to change a misreading of  the Treaty of Wouchale that he had signed with them in order to stop their southward encroachment.

Emperor Menelik II prepared for the defense of his country by firstly paying all funds he had borrowed from Italy. He was determined to defend his country though he always sought peaceful means of resolving conflicts. Accordingly, he freed Italian forces that were defeated at Amba Alaghe, and those at the fort near Mekele so that they would join the main Italian forces further north. All along, the Emperor sought to resolve the conflict with Italy peacefully despite the battles at Amba Alaghe  and at Mekele between Italain forces and the soldiers of Menelik. He then marched to Adwa. Ethiopians from the south had traveled for over 1000 kilometers to fight in the liberation of their country, and food rations were  getting tight. By assuming that the conditions are propitious for them, Italian forces charged against Menelik at Adwa. The Italian forces were routed. Many died. Others were taken prisoners of war and few escaped. Knowing that his country was completely surrounded by colonial European forces, Menelik sought to resolve the conflict with Italy without further warfare and signed a treaty with it with the stipulation that Italy could not transfer any part of Ethiopian territory under Its administration (Eritrea) to any other authority, indicating his astute belief that the Europeans will be driven away in time.  

The brilliant battle conducted by Ethiopians and the defeat of a European army was so devastating to the ego of Western powers and their press that they tried to hide the results. Yet, all Africans and those of African origins in the Americas, and amazingly the Japanese authorities rejoiced in the victory of Ethiopia. The world, including colonial Europe, accepted Ethiopian independence. However, to this day it appears that some Western agents and their Ethiopian viceroys appear to want to change the outcome of the Adwa victory.


                        HG.  March 1, 2006