The invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 is actually preceded by another symbolic event of historical import in the epic memory of Pan-African Nationalism known as the Battle of Adowa� (1896).� This latter event was the armed rejection of imperial Italy�s initial encroachment on Ethiopia.� Italy�s actions, at that time, were reflective of the 1884-85 Berlin Conference, the so-called, �Scramble for Africa� conference.�The conference produced documented commitment to the cooperative pursuit of Africa�s exploitation.� A particular document titled, General Act of the Berlin Conference was addressed to: 1. The Empress of India;
2. The emperors of Germany, Austria, the Russias, the Ottomans; 3. The Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; 4. The kings of Prussia, Bohemia, Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, and Norway; 5. The Grand Duke of Luxembourg; and 6. The presidents of the United States of America, and the French Republic (Annex to Protocol No. 10:� General Act of the Berlin Conference 1973, 288). While this conference focused primarily on the �free navigation on the two chief rivers of Africa flowing into the Atlantic Ocean �� �(288) it also addressed the criteria of settling the African coast. Part of a document issued from that conference provides a glaring example of the latter: Chapter 6.� Declaration relative to the essential Conditions to be observed in order that new Occupations on the Coasts of the African Continent may be held to be effective.
Any Power which henceforth takes possession of a tract of land on the coasts of the African continent outside of its present possessions, or which being hitherto without such possessions, shall acquire them, as well as the Power which assumes a protectorate there, shall accompany the respective act with a notification thereof, addressed to the other Signatory Powers of the present Act, in order to enable them, if need be, to make good any claims of their own.
The Signatory Powers of the present Act recognize the obligation to insure the establishment of authority in the regions occupied by them on the coasts of the African continent sufficient to protect existing rights, and, as the case may be, freedom of trade and of transit under the conditions agreed upon.� (Ibid., 299-300)
Italy was a relatively young �national� entity at this conference.� It had become a nation-state in 1861.� National unity for Italy required a battle for liberation against the Bourbons.� Garibaldi successfully led that battle (Davidson 1992).� England was his ardent supporter and under his lead England�s approach toward Africa was mimicked, as seen in Davidson�s statement: After the unification of Italy in 1861 the new Italian nation-state would turn quite shamelessly to colonial enterprises in Africa.� The very steamship company whose boats had carried the Thousand to Sicily would be foremost in Italian colonialism; and Garibaldi himself would speak in favor of loading on Africans the chains of servitude that Italy had struck from itself.� (1992, 127)
�By the time Italy and Germany became colonial adventurers in Africa, they were barely three decades young� (Tibebu 1995, 23).� The Red Sea port of Assab was declared an Italian colony in 1882 after being obtained by the Societa Rubattino, a private Italian shipping company.� The shipping company itself had acquired the port from an Italian Lazarist missionary named Giuseppe Sapeto.� Mr. Sapeto had purchased the port from a local sultan for �6000 Maria Theresa dollars� (Akpan 1985, 265). The fact that such penetration was possible reveals the fragile situation in that part of Africa at that time.� Competing empires plagued Africa during this century and the horn of Africa was no exception.� As Italy encroached, Emperor Yohannes was more concerned with the...
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