Ethiopia, unlike various African Countries, is one of the two nations in this content that were never colonized. Although that was the case, it does not mean that European nations were not interested in seizing the land and oppressing Ethiopian people, however the great tactics of Ethiopian empire and military led their way into liberation from Italian attacks – further becoming the first country in the world to liberate itself in World War II.
Africa’s iconic Afrolutionist Haile Selassie‘s memorable speech on this day in 1941, paints a better image of the importance of this date, and what it should mean not only to Ethiopians, but those who fight for a better future (you can reafd the full text here):
“no human lips can express the gratitude which I feel to the merciful God who has enabled me to stand in your midst on this day, of which the angels in heaven and creatures on earth could neither have thought of nor known about. Before everything else, I want to tell you and to make you understand that this … is a day on which a fresh chapter of history of the New Ethiopia begins. In this new era, new work is commencing, which is the duty of all of us to perform.
As We remember the affliction which befell Ethiopia, which had preserved her independence for many thousand years, was attacked in 1888 E.C. (1895-6) by Italy, which had harbored aggressive designs against her for many years and intended to destroy her freedom, her brave sons fought at Adwa and she retained her independence. The Treaty of Wuchale was not the only cause of the battle that was fought at Adwa. It was only a pretext for the ongoing aim that Italy had of ruling Ethiopia. Although the Great European War interrupted her plans for a time, notwithstanding her outward pretensions of friendship, Italy made preparations to invade Ethiopia. Since her defeat at Adwa, she had been irate that justice prevailed against her.
When Italy began to wage a war of aggression against Ethiopia, although We knew We were not so well armed as she was, We countered with what strength We could muster, because it was Our duty to resist an enemy that had come to seize Our country. But as it was apparent that she was bent on exterminating Our people with poison gas, the use of which was prohibited by international law, We went to appeal to the League of Nations and claim justice. As it was feared that the hostility started by Italy might spread all over the world, and as it was a period when all those who were charged with the responsibility of government were trying to save the world for the catastrophe which has since befallen it, the [leaders] worked to bring about understanding in the world to prevent the spread of the conflagration. At the time our true friend, Great Britain, received Us with sympathy. I remained there working, but in spirit was constantly with my countrymen, whose blood was pointlessly and ruthlessly shed at the hands of the Italians; with the monasteries and churches that were being burned down; with those forced to take refuge in foreign lands; and with those suffering and being afflicted in the wilderness, in the caves and in the forests of their native land.
How many are the young men, the priests and monks whom the Italians pitilessly massacred during these years? You know that in Addis Abeba alone many thousands perished during the three days following St Michael’s day on Yekatit 12, 1929 [Feb. 19, 1937]. The blood and bones of those who were killed with spades and pickaxes, of those who were split with axes and hammered to death, pierced with bayonets, clubbed and stoned, of those who were burned alive in their homes with their little children, of those who perished of hunger and thirst in prison, have been crying for justice. Everybody knows that this act of barbarism and cruelty was not perpetrated in Addis Abeba alone, but [also] in the provinces of Ethiopia. There is hardly anyone who has not been caught and beaten, kicked, humiliated and imprisoned.
Now We shall pass on to the new history that is before Us. five years ago on this day the fascist forces entered Our capital city. Then Mussolini announced to the world that he had established a Roman Empire in Our country, Ethiopia. He believed that the land he declared conquered would forever be in his hands. The gallantry of the Ethiopia people is recorded in history. But as We had no ports through which to import armaments necessary for people, we were unable to obtain them. Fifty-two nations condemned Mussolini for his actions. But he boasted of his violent deeds and took no heed of their condemnation. The past five years have been years of darkness for you, my people. But you never lost hope, and in the Ethiopian hills you gradually grew [strong]. The enemy never ventured to come near the mountains on which you were, because, enduring every hardship and affliction, you, the warriors of Ethiopia, safeguarded your freedom during the past five years. But in spite of the fact that he could not conquer the country, he spent many thousands of millions of lire, saying that he was civilizing what he could hold. He spent all that money not because he desired to improve the conditions of the oppressed Ethiopian people or to mitigate the injustice he had done. It was because he wanted to plant a fascist colony in Our sacred land of Ethiopia and to impose on her the rule of oppression which he had planned. He tried to exterminate the Ethiopian race and did not even entertain the idea of giving her the administration of either a mandate or a protectorate, which, in any case, would have been considered a heavy yoke for Our people. But all the money that could be counted by the thousands of millions and all the prepared armaments served a purpose which Mussolini never intended. At the time when Italy revealed her intentions of entering the war in order to be able to snatch from a defeated France as much as she could, the number of soldiers, the amount of money and the armaments she had sent to Ethiopia were enormous. The regular troops she deployed were not less that 250 000, she also had amassed provisions to last many years in case she was encircled. Trusting in, and bragging of , the invincibility of this military force, the fascist government proceeded with implanting dictatorial rule in Our country. But something happened which the fascist government did not take into account–the fighting morale, essential in modern war, demonstrated by you.”
It’s very important that we see the importance of Ethiopia’s liberation – as one would suggest that becoming a pioneer in the quest for freedom in Africa not only enabled a consciousness that brought our independence, but also an ideal of a unified Africa – that which was created to be known as the African Union today.