The Battle of Adwa That Shook Africa
The 1st of March, 2017, was the 121th anniversary of the Battle of Adwa in which the Ethiopian Empire defeated the Kingdom of Italy. Not only did this battle secure Ethiopia’s sovereignty but ensured its unique status of being the only African nation not to be colonized following the ‘Scramble for Africa’. The victory at Adwa which resulted in Ethiopia’s victory in the first Ethiopian-Italian war, would also comprise one of the few but notable battles and wars where a non-European army successfully defeated a more technologically advanced European army.
The significance and impact of the victory was not isolated in Ethiopia but resonated globally as it dented notions of African inferiority against the superiority of white Europeans. However, the victory of Adwa would result in unforeseen consequences for Ethiopia and its neighbors. Nevertheless, Adwa remains a great source of pride for Ethiopians and Africans to this day as African scholar Molefe Asante explains:
‘’Ethiopia became emblematic of African valor and resistance, the bastion of prestige and hope to thousands of Africans who were experiencing the full shock of European conquest and were beginning to search for an answer to the myth of African inferiority.’’
The events leading to Adwa were the culmination of increased Italian aggression following the signing of the Treaty of Wuchale by both Italy and Ethiopia in 1889. The treaty granted Italy the Northern Ethiopian regions of Bogos, Hamasen and Akale-Guzai which are now part of modern day Eritrea and Tigre. Article XVII of the Amharic version stated that the Emperor of Ethiopia ‘could’ conduct all foreign affairs through Italy. However, in the Italian version, the word ‘must’ was used, thereby officially rendering Ethiopia a protectorate under Italy. Emperor Menelik rejected the treaty in 1893 which was met with a military response as Italy began annexing small territories past the Mareb River, which was demarcated as the border for Eritrea.
The victory at Adwa was primarily due to the sheer size of Menelik’s army but also due to Menelik’s calculated preparations and foresight in stockpiling modern weaponry. Mistakes on the part of the Italian Generals whom used inaccurate maps also contributed to the defeat.
Today in Ethiopia, Adwa is celebrated as a national holiday and signifies the prestige that Ethiopia holds among its own people and in Africa. The Battle of Adwa must be seen in the light of other historical events such as the Haitian Revolution (1804), the Battles of Little Bighorn (1876), Isandlwana (1879) and Khartoum (1885). These were successful cases of colonized and oppressed people, who defeated superior armies in their goal to liberate themselves and assert their independence.
Read the full story By Omar Z.: The Battle that shook Africa