Ethiopia: Adwa As an African Heritage


We have records of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians from all walks of life taking part in the preparations for the battle and everything had to be planned and organized besides getting coordinated. Every resource available was used to contribute to the campaign aiming to repulse the invaders' attack.

Here the leadership by Menelik was vital because if there was no enlightened leadership that did inspire and encourage the population to have belief in victory over the enemy we would not be here narrating the story of an independent and free country.

The people of Ethiopia were never more united as they were under the leadership of Emperor Menelik in the face of such a huge adversity. The country and the leader had several other challenges pertaining to their day to day life, but there was nothing more important and vital than guaranteeing the preservation of the sovereignty of the country repulsing alien invasion. That was why everyone was mobilized under one guidance for the same cause.

Furthermore, the history of the participation of several societal bodies was not properly told. For instance the participation and role of women in the preparation of the provisions and what was needed to fulfill the logistics for the campaigners has not been well documented and told to sufficient details.

The participation of those who were entrusted with the responsibility of preparing the armaments and arsenal in general has not been told. The organisation of the medical staff in the background of the campaigners and actual fighters is not told with the deserving emphasis and detail.

The story of those who took care of all the animals that were used not only for transport to the battle site but also to the battle front and during the rage of the hostilities has not been told in detail. They all deserve a chapter or a book that would bring an account of the battle.

There are so many efforts of so many protagonists not well documented nor narrated sufficiently. It is very important to give credit to all those who worked hard to make this story a success, a glorious chapter of our history that can and deserves to survive centuries.

We need to underline it because it does not happen so easily. In fact, it was an extremely outstanding event that changed the history of Ethiopia first, but also that of all black people of the world.

In relative terms the history of relations between the colonizers and the colonized has also changed. Adwa was also an inspiration to rebel against any form of injustice suffered by colonies. There are several testimonials to this effect from African historians and statesmen.

The recognition that Adwa has an international dimension is encouraging. In fact we have recently noted that there are efforts to mark it warmly in every African country. The African Union has elevated this date as one to be marked continentally.

This is fine but the celebrations must not be limited to a day. It would diminish the significance of such a glorious event. Continuous accounts of the events that led to the conflict and the effects of the same must be narrated to a sufficient length through a series of research papers and presentations with panel discussions.

Every African must be well informed about this fact because Adwa is an inspiration for unity and dignity. It is the culmination of a struggle to preserve a country's dignity and integrity, a country's survival in independence without giving in to the subjugation of dominion. That is why it is often stated that Adwa is also a symbol of perseverance and freedom. That is why the message must be conveyed loud and clear to all peoples who love freedom.

Freedom lovers must appreciate Adwa because no people deserve to be subdued by another one. We see from time to time attempts to do that even in our own epoch, currently. But this shows that we are not good history students. Colonialism or dominion in any form must be repelled by all peoples who love and appreciate freedom.

The resurgence of some form of colonialism can be noted in some countries' diplomatic packages or messages. This cannot be accepted. Adwa must be envisaged in this context. Adwa is the incarnation of independence and not the triumph of alien influence or rule.

When the story of Adwa was discovered and told all of a sudden all downtrodden people began to fancy the possibility of unshackling the chains of servitude and dominion by alien forces referring to its symbolism. These were mainly European or white.

Suddenly, people of black origin began to think of themselves in another perspective. It shattered the inferiority complex vis à vis the West or Whites if at all there was any. It inspired them to stand up for their rights for their dignity and if they were determined to risk dying to defend their dignity, they would as well succeed. A country practically unknown heretofore was now in the lips of everyone.

Reports transpired that following the Italian forces' defeat on March 2, 1896 darkness befell in Rome that evening. Listening to the sad news of defeat, humiliation was unbearable for the Italian government. In fact, the Crispi government fell and Rome entered crisis. It was to leave an indelible mark on the psychology of Italians and in many ways it was bound to determine the future relations with its African colonial possessions.

In a way, Adwa also affected the relations between African countries and their colonizers. Now the perspective was destined to change completely. Suddenly, the news of the defeat of a European power by a miniscule unknown state cast a new shade on all inter-country relations.

The repercussions were enormous and far reaching. All people of colour began to feel a certain revival of dignity and pride. All black people began to refer to the victory of Adwa as a new rebirth, a renaissance for people of African origin.

There was nothing to be taken for granted any more. There were reports that Adwa was to inspire new rebellion and resistance against any form of subjugation or oppression. Adwa was perceived to be synonymous with freedom, independence and victory.

It began to imply the renaissance of African pride and it elevated Ethiopia's status to being a true inspiration for all peoples of African origin. This led Emperor Menelik to becoming an instant celebrity featuring in many newspapers and magazines.

Many European countries rushed to recognize the sovereignty of the Ethiopian state and established diplomatic relations with it. They opened missions in Addis entertaining various sorts of projects with the government

Adwa's significance in the historiography of Ethiopians is also not well told. Ethiopians may have had their internal power struggles, their internal feuds but when a foreign force threatens their sovereignty or dignity they put away all their differences and divergences and rally behind the unique flag, the unique guidance of their leaders.

They bury their internal opposition or feuds and march in unison, putting aside their grievances. And it is that spirit that must be underlined when we now face multiple challenges.

When these challenges come from forces that aim to destabilize and possibly destroy the country, that is when we need to look for Adwa as a huge inspiration, a symbolism that has crossed Ethiopia's borders and spread to the entire world.

Today, 125 years since that iconic event took place, we need to look at Adwa again, rediscover its significance and try to replicate it and use its spirit to save our country from going astray or worse still from disintegration. We must begin by paying the appropriate tribute to our forefathers.

We cannot let the spirit of Adwa fade at this specific moment of our history where we are risking to be overwhelmed by multiple challenges that are both internal and external!

We cannot undermine all the sacrifices paid by our forefathers who fought to preserve its independence and unity! That is why Adwa is as timely as ever.

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