ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopians on Sunday celebrated the 118th anniversary of the Adowa battle when an untrained Ethiopian army routed a better equipped Italian invasion army.
“Over 7,000 Italian soldiers were killed, 1,500 wounded, the Commanding General [Oreste] Baratieri taken prisoner and 11,000 rifles [seized] from retreating Italian army,” Professor Mohammed Habib of the Law School of Addis Ababa University told Anadolu Agency.
The academician said the conflict was linked to the treaty of Wuchale, which Italy signed with Emperor Menelik II in 1889.
He said the Italians had tried to depict the agreement as acceptance by Menelik of Italian protectorate status over Ethiopia.
Menelik, according to Habib, then decided to pick up the gauntlet and mobilize forces against the superior European power.
Though Ethiopia was at the time a loosely connected, predominantly agrarian community of impoverished peasants, Menelik managed to recruit and organize an army of nearly 80,000-100,000 men and women, many of them farmers, for the showdown.
At 6am on March 1, 1896, Menelik ordered his army to mount a blitzkrieg against the Italian army in Adowa, a small town in northern Ethiopia.
The battle pitted the untrained Ethiopian army against a well-trained Italian army of 17,000 men equipped with superior firearm.
But the encounter ended a day later with a humiliating defeat for the invading Italian army, said Habib, adding that around 5,000 Ethiopians were killed.
-National Pride –
On Sunday, scores of people descended on Menelik Square in Addis Ababa, the venue of a bronze statue of Menelik on a horse charging an attack that has since become a source of national pride for Ethiopians.
Veteran soldiers in uniforms showing their insignia at the chest stood proudly in three rows holding spears, scimitars, and shields.
They chanted and recited gallant songs and poems.
Professor Mekuria Mekasha of the Addis Ababa University`s Communications and Journalism Department said the Adowa battle was a demonstration of unity of purpose by all cultures, religions and regions of Ethiopia.
“The war mobilization was done by an interpersonal communications,” he told AA.
President of the Ancient Ethiopian Patriots’ Association Lij Daniel Jottie Mesfin, for his part, hailed the day as “a victory for all black people even beyond the African continent.”
Mesfin lamented that the Adowa battle is not being given the attention it deserves.
“The grandsons of the Adowa victors do not know about what the event represents,” he said.
“The torch of victory that was passed down from the ancient patriots should be shining bright as ever,” Mesfin insisted.