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Haile Selassie in Abyssinia

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Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia addresses his subjects in July, 1935. It was during the intense negotiations in London and the Hague to avert an Italian invasion of Ethiopia which happened a few months later anyway.

Both Italy and Ethiopia (Abyssinia) were members of the League of Nations, but its rules forbidding aggression among members, were proved to be ineffective when Italy started to encroach upon Abyssinian territory by building a fort at Walwal, an oasis in the Ogaden in 1930. In December 1934, the fort became the site of an international incident that had never been clarified. A skirmish that both side blamed on each other ended with the death of  150 Ethiopians and 50 Italians were killed.

In February 1935, Mussolini began to send large numbers of troops to Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. Although Selassie’s Allies, France and Britain offered Italy large concessions in Ethiopia, war was inevitable. In October, Italy invaded Ethiopia without a declaration of war. Italy captured the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on May 5, 1936, and annexed the country into Africa Orientale Italiana.

“If by some unhappy chance the Italo-Ethiopian war should now spread into a world conflagration, Power of Trinity I, the King of Kings, the Conquering Lion of Judah [all being titles of Haile Selassie] will have a place in history as secure as Woodrow Wilson’s. If it ends In the fall of Mussolini and the collapse of Fascism, His Majesty can plume himself on one of the greatest feats ever credited to blackamoors.” wrote Time magazine, nominating the Emperor as their person of the year. Indeed it led to WWII and eventually to the fall of Mussolini.

At the beginning of WWII, the Allied Forces liberated Ethiopia; on May 5, 1941, five years to the date after the Italians had captured his capital, Haile Selassie entered Addis Ababa in triumph.He ruled the Empire of Ethiopia for another 33 years. In 1974, he was deposed in a military coup by low-ranking military officers, the Derg, which announced the end of the Solomonic Dynasty. Thus endeth dynasty that traced its origins to the 13th century, and from there by tradition back to Prester John, King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 12, 2009 at 2:38 am

Posted in Politics, War

Tagged with ,

One Response

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