Why Ethiopia celebrates first blacks’ victory over colonizers

Ethiopians colorfully today celebrate the 123rd anniversary of the Battle of Adwa, considered as the first victory of black people over Western colonizers.

The day is being celebrated colorfully in Adwa town and in the capital Addis Ababa under the motto, ‘Adwa the stamp to our unity’. Historians mention Article 17 of the Wuchale Treaty signed between Ethiopia and Italian government at the time as the main reason for the war between Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia and the Italian forces.

Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taitu Betul have managed to mobilize the people of Ethiopia from all corners of the country against the Italian army, which at the time was expanding from north to the central part of Ethiopia.

The Amharic version of the controversial Article 17 reads that Ethiopia will communicate with the rest of the world with the support of Italian government. Meanwhile the Italian version reads Ethiopia will communicate with the rest of the world through the Italian government.

Addressing the gathering in Adwa town this morning, Dr. Debretsion Gebremichael, Deputy Head of Tigray Region indicated that the Battle of Adwa is a reminder for today’s Ethiopia to carefully look into the details of the deals with foreign countries at this age of indirect colonization.

Some historians estimate that 17,000 Italian soldiers died at the Battle of Adwa and the two major battles before Adwa (Battle of Ambalagae and Battle of Mekelle) including two Italian Army Generals. The three battles took nine months before it is concluded at the Battle of Adwa 123 years ago on March 1, 1896.

Some 2,400 Italian soldiers were also surrendered of which 700 died on the way to Addis Ababa. From Ethiopian side some 20,000 are reportedly died or wounded at the battles.

Named after Adwa Mountain, which is located in Tigray, Region of Ethiopia, the Battle of Adwa is mentioned by historians as the first victory of black people against the Western invaders well-equipped with machine guns.

President Sahle-Work Zewde, President of Ethiopia who also attended the celebration in Adwa town this morning indicated that fighting and winning white colonizers for black people at that time was unthinkable. President Sahle-Work urged Ethiopians to replicate that victory today by winning the battle against poverty.

In Addis Ababa, the 123rd anniversary of the Battle of Adwa is being celebrated at Adwa Square. Among other events, a concert is organized at Meskel Square in the afternoon.

“We Ethiopians are a great, proud people, who regardless of the politics and government of the day, always prioritized unity over division; our country over power or personal benefits; our common values over divisive hearsay,” Deputy Mayor of Addis Ababa City twitted.

Over the past few decades mainly because of politicization of ethnicity and/or injecting ethnicity into politics, Ethiopians have not had consensus over national victories such as the Battle of Adwa.