By Aregawi Berhe (PhD)
For the second time in forty years, a European power, Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. Until this time, Ethiopia was a traditional polity with a predominantly feudal socio-political system, while Italy was an industrialized nation under the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini. The invasion was conducted with the most advanced military organization and hardware - vast killing machine - against a spirited people of an old nation. In defiance of the occupation that ensued, the Ethiopians were engaged for five years in a multi-dimensional ‘patriotic resistance’ to drive the invaders out of their country, while the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie was engaged in an outmatched diplomatic struggle from exile. It was a resistance against many odds, including indifference from the League of Nations and the Western countries.
This paper will look into the resistance that was launched to counter a five-year long Italian occupation in Ethiopia. It is intended here to reconsider the nature and impact of this resistance and highlight some aspects of its role in ‘redefining Ethiopia’: its internal policy and its position in the global community since the start of World War II. The paper will commence with a brief historical background to the resistance in which national, religious and traditional values that drew together millions of people into the resistance are narrated. Then the occupation itself and the resistance it triggered shall be discussed. This will be followed by the actual resistance as it unfolded, focusing on momentous aspects of its features. Finally, I dwell on how the resistance came to an abrupt end as result of the intervening external factor without which the resistance would probably have continued as long as the invaders tormented the nationhood of Ethiopia.
Why Resistance: Historical Background of Ethiopian Nationhood
It is beyond the scope of this paper to narrate the history of Ethiopia’s nationhood. A brief sketch of this history, however, is provided in order to better grasp the essence of the resistance, as it was nurtured by the larger section of the population with strong notions of cultural identity and nationhood.
Its reign stretching as far as South Yemen across the Red Sea, the recorded history of Ethiopia as a state dates from the third century A.D., when it was known as the kingdom of Aksum. Around 340 the Aksumite kings adopted Orthodox Christianity,1 which quickly became the religion of the inhabitants and provided the symbolism and substance of the
royal ideology. For almost seven centuries, the empire gradually expanded over the Ethiopian highlands thereby giving form and structure to the longstanding Ethiopian state.
The aggressive expansion of Islam after the seventh century led to a loss of international trade routes and revenues for Aksum and a decline in its regional influence. In the tenth century, a revolt by an Agew queen, Yodit, from further south, led to the demise of the...... Read full article in pdf