Ethiopians from all walks of life gathered at Menelik Square in the heart of the capital Addis Ababa on Tuesday to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Victory of Adwa.

The Battle of Adwa was the last and most decisive of a series of battles Ethiopians fought against the invading colonial forces of Italy – a colonial force that had ambitions to bring the whole East Africa region under its control.

Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde attended the celebration together with senior government officials and members of the Ancient Ethiopian Patriots’ Association and thousands of city residents who gathered around a bronze statue of Emperor Menelik II on horseback.

“The victory was one that demonstrated the resolve of Ethiopians to liberty and freedom,” Sahle-Work Zewde said, adding that Ethiopians had united in fighting the invading colonial forces.

She said: “The Victory of Adwa was not only a victory for Ethiopians but for all Black people.”

Adwa, historians agree, had served as a pre-eminent emblem for Pan-African movements across Africa and beyond.

The 1889 Wuchale Treaty signed between Italy and Ethiopia served as the immediate cause of the final showdown between the two sides in the mountainous terrain of northern Ethiopia. The Italian version of the agreement said Ethiopia was obliged to conduct its foreign relations through Italy. The Amharic version of the article, however, stated that the Emperor could use the good offices of the Kingdom of Italy in his relations with foreign nations if he so wished.

Sense of unity

In his message to the nation, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the present generation should draw from the Victory of Adwa the sense of unity displayed in defeating a formidable enemy. “Adwa thus provides a historic reference and perspective for the current generation to stand in unison to achieve progress and prosperity.”

Brigadiers Albertone, Dabormida, Ellena and Arimondi were the commanding generals of the invading Italian army that received a crushing blow at the hands of Ethiopians – an event that triggered Italians in Rome to shout “Viva Menelik, Viva Taitu!”

History recorded that the wife of Emperor Menelik, Empress Taitu, fought in person in the battle of Adwa together with many other women, who also played a key role in maintaining the Ethiopians’ supply lines.

Adwa has many proponents in the persons of renowned African scholars and statesmen, of whom former South African President Thabo Mbeki is the most vocal.

Mbeki once wrote: “The great victory of Ethiopia in 1896 at the Battle of Adwa was indeed both an Ethiopian and an African victory, corroborating the high regard in which Africans across the continent and the African Diaspora in general hold Ethiopia as well as the inspiration they draw from the existence of a sovereign African State which has existed for millennia.”

Celebrations in Turkey

Though in small participation due to the pandemic, Ethiopians living in Turkey also celebrated the Adwa victory in the Istanbul Consulate Office of the embassy.

During the celebration, Wondimu Gezahegn, consul general in the Consulate Office of Ethiopia in Istanbul, dubbed the victory as a “sacrifice paid to the inherent human dignity.”

“Adwa is a clear testimony of how Ethiopians were united and determined for their independence,” he said.

Ethiopian national Abigen, 37, has lived in Turkey for almost eight years. She told Anadolu Agency that Adwa always makes her feel proud and strong among other diasporas whenever the day comes.

“Celebrating this victory with fellow Ethiopians here in Istanbul is a priority for me,” she said.

Commemorating the victory in solidarity with Ethiopians, Ahmet Cakir, a Turkish citizen, urged them to learn their history well and educate others about it.

“We can’t move forward without knowing our history,” he added.

*Sadik Kedir in Ankara has contributed to this story

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