Italians of Ethiopia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Italians of Ethiopia
Italo-etiopi
Soldatietiopia.jpg
Italian soldiers and immigrants leaving for Ethiopia in 1935
Total population
1,400 (plus 2,000 descendants)
Regions with significant populations
Addis Ababa
Languages
Italian, Amharic
Religion
Christian, mostly Roman Catholic
Related ethnic groups
Italians

Italians of Ethiopia are the immigrants from Italy who moved to live in Ethiopia as far back as the 19th century, and their descendants. King Menelik II did not allow the sale of lands belonging to Ethiopia to Italians (Eritrea) and probably allowed France (Djibouti) to solidify his centralized power and have external trading partners. Most of the Italians moved to Ethiopia after the Italian conquest of Abyssinia in 1936.

History[edit]

The 1880s were marked by the so-called "Scramble for Africa" and the Berlin Conference of 1884–85. When the Italians began to vie with the British and French for influence in the area. Asseb, a port near the southern entrance of the Red Sea, was bought by in March 1870 from the local Afar sultan, vassal to the Ethiopian Emperor, by an Italian company, which by 1890 led to the Italian colony of Eritrea being established. From then on, the Kingdom of Italy had traded and set up large tracts of farm land up to the borders with Ethiopia. As the Italian colonists moved further inland from the agreed upon borders of Eritrea which had been agreed upon in the Treaty of Wuchale, Emperor Menelik II saw this as an invasion of his country, whereas the Italian King Umberto of Italy referred to Article 17 of the treaty to justify Italian claims to the land.

Conflicts between the two countries resulted in the Battle of Adwa in 1896, whereby the Ethiopians defeated Italy and remained independent, under the rule of Menelik II. It should be noted that at the time, Italy had only been unified for less than a few decades, and support for the war was minimal, especially among Southern Italians who were forcibly conscripted. Anti-war riots and demonstrations broke out across Italy and in the city of Pavia the population came out to blockade the railroad to prevent Italian troops from leaving for Ethiopia. Many Italian prisoners of war were treated very well, and many given over to noble families for work on their estates, while others with specialized skills were used in the construction of the newly formed capital of Addis Ababa, such as St George's Cathedral. Italy and Ethiopia signed a provisional treaty of peace on 26 October 1896.

Shortly after the Fascist government under Benito Mussolini forcibly came to power, he began a campaign to expand the African colonial possessions of Italy in the 1930s. In October 1935, Mussolini launched the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and invaded Ethiopia. Emperor Haile Selassie went exile to avert the genocide in the hands of Italians in war and appeal to the society of the nations the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on 2 May 1936 and the Fascists entered the city on 5 May, after several bloody battles which included the Fascist army's use of mustard gas[1] in battle against the Geneva Protocol[2] of 1929 (of which Italy was a signatory).

Victory was announced on 9 May 1936 and Mussolini declared the creation of the "Italian Empire". The Italians merged Eritrea, Italian Somalia, and newly occupation Ethiopia into Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana, A.O.I.). Among the war crimes committed under the orders of Mussolini was the robbing of one of the so-called Axum Obelisks[3](properly termed a 'stele' or, in the local Afro-Asiatic languages, hawelt/hawelti as its form is not topped by a pyramid).

The Italian King Victor Emmanuel III added Emperor of Ethiopia to his titles, a title not welcomed by the many nations that were part of the society of the nations.[4]

From 1936 to the start of World War II Mussolini controlled much of Ethiopia, but a guerrilla war raged in areas of Ethiopia still controlled by resistance ethiopian linked to Haile Selassie and (who was exiled in Great Britain) and the royal family remaining in Ethiopia, including the heroic efforts of Ras Imru Haile Selassie who was captured on December 19, 1936 and taken to prison on the Island of Ponza until freed after the Armistice of Cassibile[5]

Italian occupation: 1936-41[edit]

[citation needed]According to official statistics of the Italian government, in October 1939 the Italian Ethiopians were 35,441, of whom 30,232 male (85.3%) and 5,209 female (14.7%), most of them living in urban areas.[6][citation needed]

Only 3,200 Italian farmers moved to colonize farm areas, mainly because of the danger of Ethiopian guerrilla (still controlling nearly 1/4 of Ethiopia highlands as of 1940).[citation needed]

Ethiopia (divided in the administrative provinces of Scioa, Oromo, Sidamo, Harar, and Amara) was part of the Italian Empire from 1936 to 1941. The Italians constructed huge and expensive infrastructure projects, that drained the Italian economy but reduced in those years the unemployment in the Kingdom of Italy. They did 18,794 km (11,678 mi) of new roads asphaltated: in 1940 Addis Ababa was connected by state-of-the-art roads to Asmara and Mogadishu called Via dell'Impero.[citation needed][citation needed]Furthermore, 900 km (559 mi) of railways were reconstructed or initiated/planned (like the railway between Addis Abeba and Assab), dams and hydroelectric plants were built, and many public and private companies were established in the underdeveloped country.[citation needed]The most important were: "Compagnie per il cotone d'Etiopia" (Cotton industry); "Compagnia etiopica del latte e derivati" (Milk industry); "Cementerie d'Etiopia" (Cement industry); "Compagnia etiopica mineraria" (Minerals industry); "Impresse electriche d'Etiopia" (Electricity industry); "Compagnia etiopica degli esplosivi" (Armament industry); "Industria per la birra dell'AOI" (Beer industry); "Trasporti automobilistici (Citao)" (Mechanic & Transport industry).[citation needed]

There was an urban project for the enlargement of Addis Ababa, but these architectural plans -like all the other developments- were stopped by World War II.[7][citation needed]

Under Ethiopian and British rule[edit]

[citation needed]Some Italian civilians participated in the Italian guerrilla war in Ethiopia until 1943, like Rosa Dainelli. This Italian doctor was a woman who became an active member of the Fronte di Resistenza (Front of Resistance), an Italian organization which fought the Allies in a guerrilla war from December 1941 until summer of 1943.[citation needed]

In August 1942 she managed to enter inside the main ammunition depot of the British Army in Addis Ababa and blow it up,[citation needed] somehow surviving the huge explosion. This act of sabotage destroyed the ammunition for the new British sten machine gun and delayed the deployment of this "state-of-the-art" weapon for many months.[citation needed]

Doctor Dainelli, even if less known than lieutenant Amedeo Guillet, was famous as one of the few Italian woman who participated actively in the Italian guerrilla operations against the British troops after the East African Campaign (World War II). She was nominated, after the end of the war, for the Italian medal of honor called "Croce di Ferro".[citation needed]

After World War II the Italian Ethiopians were given a full pardon by the newly returned Emperor Haile Salassie, as he saw the opportunity to continue the modernization efforts of the country, namely in the capital of Addis Ababa. He declared that no reprisals would be taken against the Italians, and many remained for decades, until the overthrow of the Emperor by the Dergue.[citation needed] It was under the Communist-led government of Menghistu that the Italians were forced to return to Italy in 1974. Nearly 22,000 Italo-Ethiopians took refuge in Italy during the 1970s.[8] Their main organization in Italy is the Associazione Italiana Profughi dall'Etiopia ed Eritrea (A.I.P.E.E.).[9][citation needed]

Notable immigrants[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Antonicelli, Franco. Trent'anni di storia italiana 1915 - 1945. Mondadori ed. Torino, 1961
  • Blitzer, Wolf. Century of War. Friedman/Fairfax Publishers. New York, 2001 ISBN 1-58663-342-2
  • Del Boca, Angelo. Italiani in Africa Orientale: La conquista dell'Impero, Laterza, Roma-Bari 1985. ISBN 8842027154
  • Del Boca, Angelo. Italiani in Africa Orientale: La caduta d'Impero, Laterza, Roma-Bari 1986. ISBN 884202810X
  • Labanca, Nicola. Oltremare. Storia dell'espansione coloniale italiana. Il Mulino. Bologna, 2007. ISBN 8815120386
  • Rosselli, Alberto. Storie Segrete. Operazioni sconosciute o dimenticate della seconda guerra mondiale. Iuculano Editore. Pavia, 2007.
  • Sbiacchi, Alberto. Hailé Selassié and the Italians, 1941-43. African Studies Review, vol.XXII, n.1, April 1979.