Occupied Enemy Territory Administration
The Occupied Enemy Territory Administration or (OETA; pronounced o-eet-a) is the name given to two separate 20th century administrations established by the Allied military authorities, to administer enemy colonial territories captured in war.
The original OETA was established during First World War, to administer the Arab territories of the Ottoman Empire. The second OETA was established during the Second World War to administer the territories of the Italian Empire in East Africa and in North Africa, but not for the Italian territories captured in Europe.
No OETA, as such, was established, either for the German territories in Africa or in Asia captured during the First World War, nor for the Japanese territories in the Pacific captured during the Second World War.
Within Europe, the Allied military authorities used the format AMGOT: Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories, though the Italian territories in the Adriatic and the Aegean were passed quickly to the successor states, such as Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece.
OETA (World War I)
This was a joint British and French military administration over Levantine and Mesopotamian provinces of the former Ottoman Empire between 1918–20, set up following the Sinai and Palestine Campaign of World War I. The administration ended following the assignment of the French Mandate of Syria and Lebanon and British Mandate for Palestine at the 19–26 April 1920 San Remo conference.
Following British and French occupation, the region was split into three administrative sub-units, which varied very little from the previous Ottoman divisions. OETA South, consisting of the Ottoman sanjaks of Jerusalem, Nablus and Acre, OETA North (later renamed OETA West) consisting of the Ottoman sanjaks of Beirut, Lebanon, Lataqiya and a number of sub-districts, and OETA East consisting of the Ottoman sanjaks of Syria and Hejaz. But, success of Turkish War of Independence, Maraş, Antep and Urfa sanjaks of former Halep Eyalet remained in Turkey after 1921. Also, Antakya and İskenderun kazas of Halep Sanjak in one were separated as Republic of Hatay in 1938. The republic joined to Turkey in 1939.
When the British forces occupied Ethiopia, Libya, and other Italian colonies during World War II, the OETA was revived as the administrative structure by which the British governed these territories. In Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie was allowed to return and claim his throne, but the OETA authorities ruled the country for some time before full sovereignty was restored to Ethiopia.
When Allenby first assumed command of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force he quickly joined the army in the field leaving the political and administrative problems related to the Egyptian Mandate to a Government appointee with a suitable staff. The area of formerly Ottoman territory now under occupation also required management, and with the approval of the Government, Allenby appointed a Chief Administrator for Palestine. He divided the country into four districts: Jerusalem, Jaffa, Majdal and Beersheba, each under a military governor. Under this administration the immediate needs of the people were provided for, seed grain and live–stock were imported and distributed, finance on easy terms was made available through the Army bankers, a stable currency was set up and postal services restored. Allenby insisted that while military administration was required it was to remain his responsibility.
- 1918 Jun.- 1919 Jun.: Major General Arthur Wigram Money
- 1919 Jun.- 1919 Dec.: Major General H.D. Watson
- 1919 Dec.- 1920 Jul.: Lieutenant-General Louis Bols
OETA (World War II)
In June 1940, Benito Mussolini declared war on Britain and France. It was felt that both of these countries would be unable to resist the military dominance of Nazi Germany, and that prompt intervention was required for Italy to be able to sit as a victor at any future peace conference and demand colonial concessions from Britain and France. In particular, possession of the British territory of the Sudan would link Italian North Africa with Italian East Africa and establish an Italian zone in Africa to match those of France in the West and Britain in the South.
Italian East Africa, or Africa Orientale Italiana [AOI], made a useful template for a wider Italian zone in North-East Africa. The new Vice-Royalty combined the well-established Italian colonies of Eritrea in the North, and Italian Somalia in the South, with the newly conquered territory of Ethiopia, formerly known as Abyssinia. The Vice-Royalty was administered as 6 territories: Eritrea, Amhara, Scioa (Shoa), Galla-Sidamo, Harar and Somalia. From 1940, it also included the former British Somaliland.
The British Commonwealth campaign was launched from the Sudan and from Kenya, with some support from Aden in the East. Despite untried troops, inexperienced formations and command staffs, the obsolete equipment considered satisfactory for colonial operations, a demanding climate, tough topography and vegetation and, last but not least, the huge distances, the campaign progressed steadily and soon the British colony had been recovered and the six Italian territories captured.
Four of the Italian territories of AOI were acknowledged as Ethiopian territory and the Emperor himself, Haile Selassie, had accompanied the Allied forces into his realm, together a nominal force of Ethiopian troops, known as the 'Patriot' battalions. However, the Emperor's forces in exile did not have the numbers to provide an Ethiopian administration straight away and so the Commonwealth forces continued a military administration on his behalf. In 1944, a review of the situation was carried out and an Anglo-Ethiopian treaty set out the revised terms, but outside help was still required for several more years. Ethiopia was not, and is not, a nation state and combined many different peoples, languages and religions, that added to the complexity of the task.
The remaining two Italian territories, Eritrea and Somalia, were not considered Ethiopian territory and the question remained as to what plan was intended for them, since the future direction would determine, at least to a degree, the nature of the administration applied in the interim. Britain itself was experiencing not only a degree of short-term combat fatigue but also of longer-term 'imperial-fatigue', as was keen not to acquire impoverished new territories, that held little economic advantage. The question was therefore whether they were to be prepared for self-government, administration by Ethiopia - as the local major-power - or for some United Nations [UN] trust territory or mandate. In the event, the response to the two territories was surprisingly different.
Ethiopia's economic development and modernisation was felt to be greatly hampered as a land-locked country. Its prospects would be greatly enhanced with a coastline that contained a significant commercial port. Eritrea, with its port of Massawa, therefore represented 'a perfect fit' with Ethiopia, and Ethiopia had the power, in turn, to support Eritrea. The conquest of Italian territory therefore appeared to represent a unique opportunity to create a powerful African state, already run by Africans, in an era in which de-colonialisation was becoming reality. In particular, it avoided placing an undue economic dependence on the French-run port of Djibouti, which must inevitably compromise the political independence of the state. Accordingly, by 1947 Eritrea was being administered with Ethiopia, as a de facto federation. This move was gain United Nations approval in 1950, and was formalised in 1951. However, the idealistic aspiration did not account for political realities. By way of example: Eritrea had been under Italian influence, voluntarily, for half a century and the process of 'localisation' had already begun, with Eritreans being trusted as officers in the colonial local military units and in junior administrative positions; the Ethiopians, by contrast, were proud of their opposition - since 1896 - to Italian military dominance, and indeed to France and Britain, and there was an immediate cultural clash with Eritrean methods. For the next decade, the title of Federation was maintained, but almost from the start, a process of Ethiopian-isation was being initiated. In practice, Eritrea became a province of Ethiopia for half a century, until Eritrea gained its independence - and regained its identity - in 1991.
In the case of the final territory, Somalia, the title suggested an obvious goal. Somaliland and Somalia had briefly been united under a common administration for just one year, from 1940. However, under the OETA it was proposed to unite the territories into a nation-state and prepare the new entity for independence, under UN guidance. As in Eritrea, the Italian era was not seen as an oppressive regime, and the few Italian civilian internees soon returned to assist in the administration. From 1949, when the OETA was replaced by the UN authority, the new Republic of Italy took an active and formal role in administering its former colony, until independence and Somali union in 1960. The Republic of Somalia survived for half a century until it broke up in the 1990s and Somaliland withdrew, to become a de facto state, largely along the lines of the old colonial entity.
For half a century there were the two united Republics in the Horn of Africa. Now, however, both states have - de jure, or de facto - restored the status of the four separate territories that existed when the OETA was formed in East Africa in 1941: Eritrea, Ethiopia and (Italian) Somalia, plus the former (British) Somaliland, that was also liberated by the campaign. The final territory in the region, the former French Territory of the Afars and Issas, or Djibouti remained separate from both Ethiopia and Somalia throughout the period and, it too, maintains the borders it had in 1941.
Italy acquired its North African territories by the invasion of 1911-1912, but it was not until 1929 that they were united as Africa Settentrionale Italiana [ASI]. This term was short-lived as the word Libia was both simple and classical and was adopted for the combined territories, in 1934. Large-scale European settlement began in 1938 the coastal region was designated a region of Metropolitan Italy early in 1939, in the manner of Sicily and Sardinia. Libya had 4 provinces: Tripoli and Misurata in the former Tripolitania, and Bengasi and Derna in the former Cyrenaica. The South, otherwise known as the Fezzan, was still under military administration as the Territorio del Sahara Libico or, more prosaically, the Territorio militare del Sud.
Italian forces in North Africa were strong in numbers but poorly equipped and poorly led, at higher levels. British Commonwealth forces were trained to use surprise and daring to compensate for inferior numbers, and by the end of 1940, the myth of Italian superiority had been exposed. However, a decision to split the meagre forces and send some to assist Greece would actually do little for Greece but would throw away the momentum in North Africa, in addition. During the disastrous year of 1941, Middle East Command had to direct campaigns in Libya, Greece, Syria, Iraq, and East Africa, mostly simultaneously. In Libya, Erwin Rommel arrived with a very small force of German troops, but his daring and mobility matched the British and the equipment was far better. It was astonishing that Greece was sole conclusive defeat for the Allies. In North Africa, neither the Germans nor the British could gain a decisive victory with the forces given to them, until in May 1942, the Germans seemed set to break through to the Suez Canal. However, they lacked the support to see it through and the long-term advantage was definitely with the British. In November, the British had another try, at Alamein, and this time their overwhelming superiority meant that they did not stop. By the New Year, Tripoli had at last fallen to the Allies and the final success was guaranteed by the new campaign, from French North Africa.
OETA units were working in Cyrenaica at the end of 1942. By early 1943, Tripolitania had been added. The Fezzan was under the administration of the French, whose forces had carried out the arduous campaign in the region, and Libyans anticipated a partition, though the fears would, in fact, prove groundless. The Emir of Cyrenaica was felt to have sufficient support and standing to stand as the local ruler of this, as yet, impoverished country and so the administration prepared the country for independence. In 1951, the Emir was re-styled as a King and the Kingdom was granted a nominal independence, with the Fezzan included.
- The memoirs of Sir Ronald Storrs
- Israel: the first hundred years, Efraim Karsh
- Harold G. Marcus. Haile Selassie and Italians, 1941–1943. Northeast African Studies, Vol. 10, No. 3 (New Series) 2003, pp. 19–25. (Online version of the article).
- Keogh, E. G.; Joan Graham (1955). Suez to Aleppo. Melbourne: Directorate of Military Training by Wilkie & Co. OCLC 220029983. p. 202–3
- Hughes, Matthew, ed. (2004). Allenby in Palestine: The Middle East Correspondence of Field Marshal Viscount Allenby June 1917 – October 1919. Army Records Society 22. Phoenix Mill, Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7509-3841-9. Allenby to Robertson 25 January 1918 in Hughes 2004, p. 128