Ethiopia: A Victory Amid Difficult Landscape


The Battle of Adwa is known to have stopped the colonial aggression of Europeans in Africa after Ethiopian forces surprised the world by defeating heavily-armed Italian troops that attempted to conquer the Empire in 1896.

The topography of Adwa

Adwa town of northern Ethiopia lies on the east-west highway between Aksum and Adigrat at its junction with the road north to Asmara (Asmera), in Eritrea. Adwa is a market centre (grains, honey, hides, coffee) for the Tigray people.

The town is located 10 miles (16 km) west of an area of fantastic volcanic formations. On 1 March, 1896, Emperor Menelik II defeated an Italian force there. In this piece, the writer tried to raise some points how Ethiopians had utilized Adwa and its environs so as to win the war victoriously.

The northern part of mount Adwa is full of hills. Apart from that the infrastructure development was intricate to budge from one place to the other. In short, the geography of Adwa is not suitable to conduct war especially for the war.

Some professionals considered the landscape as an advantage in war against the Italians. Even if Ethiopians commitment took the lion's share to win, the geography of the land has its own contribution for the victory, said Assistant Professor of History Biruk Woldemichael from Jimma University.

The then Ethiopian's had been standing in unison so as to win Italian worries. Indeed such sort of geography is found in various parts of the world. However, the people in the time were not challenged by the tricky landscape of Adwa, they stood in unison so as to resist and defeat the warriors.

But this does not mean that the topography of Adwa had been a critical role to end the war with victory. The patriotism and national pride of the people to its countries was immeasurable.

The people rose up in unison in front of the well equipped army of Italia and sacrificed their precious life to keep the nation's reputation and transferred to the generation a country that remains sovereign. When comparing the Italian army with Ethiopians counterpart, they were well armed.

Due to this reason, the situation was very easy for Italians troops than Ethiopians. The passion, enthusiasm of the people is really appreciated and contributed a great share to gain unexpected victory.

Many professionals argued that the topography of the Adowa assisted Ethiopians to end the war with victory. However, countries who have such kinds of topography win by their enemies. Even if we couldn't deny its contribution, the contribution is lower than the commitment, endurance, and enthusiasm of Ethiopians.

Adwa is a place where a sense of I can and spirit of unity has been observed. "Yes I can", the principle of US President Obama was first issued by the black Africans in the area where there was no civilization, no technological advancement, and so on. So, the message Adwa conveys to Ethiopians and Africans is if people stand in unison, they can do whatever they wish to do.

In Adwa, white invincibility mentality was broken and buried once and of all. That is why Adowa is said to be the tower of all victories. And Adwa is a place witnessed that all Ethiopians sacrificed in order to protect their sovereignty.

Wisdom of Taytu

Ethiopian troops had their first taste of victory at the Battle of Amba Alage, where they defeated an Italian vanguard force well entrenched in a natural fortress. When they later arrived at the Italian fort at Mekelle, Taytu immediately saw that the Ethiopians would lose countless lives in staging a frontal attack, despite their superior numbers.

Yet her brilliant mind swiftly devised a plan to cut off the Italians' water supply, thereby transforming the fort into a prison. The parched Italians were forced to surrender after a short siege.

The main battle, however, took place at Adwa on 1 March 1896.Throughout the battle, Empress Taytu instructed the 10,000-12,000 women in the camp to fill jugs of water to reinvigorate tiring soldiers, and tirelessly urged the soldiers to fight to the last.

Throughout the assault on the Italian troops, Taytu was on the frontline in the battlefield commanding her own contingent of about 5000 infantry and 600 mounted troops.

The Empress also received and analyzed intelligence information which has been characterized as of crucial importance to the Ethiopian victory at the battle. This information enabled Ethiopian soldiers to attack the Italians at Adwa instead of Adigrat where the Italians had a well-protected military base.

Pioneer logistic center

Menelik for the first time in Ethiopian history established a logistics center for providing nourishment for the soldiers and family members going to battle, Tilahun Tassew, the author of a book titled "Emperor Menelik II: the military strategist and diplomat who changed the course of history said.

Thousands of men and women were assigned to remain in Woreilu to prepare dry traditional food and drinks. These were transported on pack animals and sometimes by people to the battle sites in the north. Oxen, sheep and goats were also sent from Woreilu to the warfronts, it said.

This gained the support of the local people where the battles took place. As the war prolonged the supply of Woreilu dwindled and soldiers were to collect food from the areas. But the lesson learnt was very important.

In previous experiences, before Menelik, the local population was required to transport equipment without payment but with Menilik that traders were paid for rental of their mules and camels. The lords where battles were conducted were given an amount of Maria-Terasea to cover the damage they suffered.

In the camps, oxen, sheep and goats were distributed as per the religious affiliations of the commanders slaughtering was conducted according to the rite of the Christians or the Muslims.

In the nutshell, apart from the courage, enthusiasm as well as endurance of Ethiopian which took the lion share for the victory of Adwa, the geography, wisdom and logistics center had contributed some.

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