By Solomon Dibaba(ENA)
February is a month in which Ethiopia and Africa mark the victory of Adwa, in which Emperor Menelik II mobilized ill equipped youth army of peasants, artesian, women and volunteers from all walks of life to repel Italian aggressors who received the blessings of the colonial powers in the scramble for Africa in line with the resolutions of the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) for total colonization of the continent.
According to Dr. Kassahun Brehanu, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Addis Ababa University “…the Berlin Conference was meant to create harmony and alignment between colonial powers and to reduce tension and competition among themselves in their quest of portioning Africa”
In his official proclamation for mobilizing the peoples of Ethiopia towards a nationwide resistance against the Italian aggressors, Emperor Menelik said:
“Enemies have now come upon us to ruin our country ……Our enemies have begun the affair by advancing and digging into the country like moles. With the help of God I will not deliver my country to them. Today, you, who are strong, give me your strength, and you, who are weak, help me by prayer”
The Battle of Adwa which took place on March 1, 1896 runs across the annals of both Ethiopian and African history, as the first victory of black Africa against a European colonial power. The nostalgia of the war still haunted not only Ethiopians but also fellow African and the entire black population in the world. The victory depicted the defiance and pride of Ethiopians, an attitude which was inherited by the national liberation movements in Africa in their struggle against colonial powers.
The victory of Adwa depicts the ingenuity of the leadership of Emperor Menelik, not only on the battle field but also on matters of foreign policy and diplomacy in which he was able to isolate Italy from seeking any diplomatic or political support. In fact the European powers of those days were the first to declare the victory at Adwa through their telegraphs and newspapers.
Compared to other wars of resistance that the peoples of Ethiopia had to fight, the victory of Adwa was a unique victory in the sense that its results were not short lived but surprisingly permanent.
At a period in time when the colonial powers attempted to demonstrate their invincibility, the victory at Adwa showed that the same victory can be repeated by Africans. This came true when a number of African countries gained their independence in the early 1960s. Besides, this was the first victory in the world against a powerful European power ever to be registered by black people.
The victory at Adwa set the ground for the spirit of Pan-Africanism, which is a collective self reliance in the struggle against colonialism and related racial discrimination. The protagonists of Pan-Africans included leaders such as Emperor Haile Selassie I, Julius Nyerere, Ahmed Sékou Touré, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta and leaders like Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X, academics such as W. E. B. Du Bois, and others in the Diaspora.
Apart from becoming one of the influential countries in the formation of the OAU and later on AU, Ethiopia has always pioneered in promoting Pan-Africansim not only from the perspectives of decolonization but also spearheaded in keeping peace under the UN peace keeping mission in South Korea in the early 50s, Congo and in modern days in Somalia, Darfur and Abiye area.
Today, Ethiopia is also successfully accomplishing its continental obligations in promoting Agenda 2063 as leading country in connecting Africa on air transport through the Ethiopian Airlines.
Ethiopia is progressively serving Africa in the spirit of Pan-Africansim in constructing the biggest hydroelectric power dam, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), in the attempt to connect Africa through a network of hydro power.
In terms of the world wide effort to curb the effects of climate change, Ethiopia is leading the rest of Africa to solicit support for the region that has not been a party to global warming and devastating fluctuations in climate change.
The country is also proudly constructing a Pan-African University in the town of Adwa, where it registered the first black victory against colonial power, to bring together African youth on the lofty goals of Pan-Africansim.
Ethiopia has set an example in African decolonization and today, the country is doing its part in the continental struggle against poverty. Poverty in Ethiopia fell by behalf from 44 percent in 2000 to less than 22 percent in 2016, driven mainly by agricultural growth, underpinned by high and consistent economic growth.
By doing these things, the country is setting an example for the rest of Africa in shifting the struggle for decolonization to a battle against poverty.