The Italian Invasion of Ethiopia and Its Impact on Education

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Ethiopia, is one of the very few African nations that was never a European colony, nonetheless it was still a victim of colonial greed: as it endured five oppressive years of Italian fascist occupation between the years of 1936 and 1941. The Invasion of Ethiopia by the fascist leader Benito Mussolini was one of “the greatest colonial wars ever fought on the African continent,” paving the way for this five year occupation a “turning point in the country’s millennium-old history”. In fact it could even be considered the dark ages of Ethiopian education as all existing attempts to modern education came to a complete standstill, in short it was a negative period in the history of Ethiopian education. Overall the educational policies that were instilled during this time had a considerable social impact on the Ethiopian population and in some ways are the foundations of the educational structure we have today.

Ever since their defeat at Adwa the Italians always had a secret lust for revenge. The advancement to power of the Fascist in Italy in 1922 greatly fueled this feeling. At first, Mussolini veiled his true intentions about Ethiopia, to colonize Ethiopia like they did with neighboring Somalia, and today’s Eritrea. As a result when Ethiopia was seeking admission to the League of Nations in the 1920s it appeared like Italy was one of their main supporters. For instance, during his European tour in 1924, Emperor Haile Selassie was welcomed very enthusiastically in Italy with shouts of “Viva Ethiopia! Viva Tafari!”. This in future led the way to the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the two nations on August 2, 1928 where a binding treaty was signed. Unfortunately, after the treaty it was as if everything went downhill: the treaty, which was meant to last over twenty years, didn’t even make it to ten. The Italians were again pursuing a rather aggressive approach; an approach of supervision, the British seemed to support Italian ambitions in Ethiopia (via the Anglo-Italian treaty of 1925). As it was clear that both countries gave little significance to Ethiopia as a diplomatically represented country in the League of Nations. Not only emphasizing this air of colonial greed at the time, but also portraying the ineffectiveness of the League of Nations. In a way it foreshadowed the League of Nation’s incompetence in halting Mussolini’s invasion.

Mussolini’s intention to invade Ethiopia was made clear in 1932, after a speech he made in Rome, where he repeatidly proclaimed Ethiopia as his own, (“Mia Abyssinia). By 1934 his aggression grew further and he bean studying tactics on how to deploy troops into Ethiopia via the Mediterranean sea. He aggressive attitude resulted from many sour events that were occurring under his reign. Firstly, he had just been forced to back down from Austria, and this humiliation in itself urged him to prove the world that Italy was still capable. Therefore, he looked for an easy way out of the situation turning to Africa for glory. In addition the continued failure of Fascism and the aggression of the Italian people towards fascism made him seek rehabilitation elsewhere through colonial means. As a result, the Italo-Ethiopian War was bound to take place; it seemed to be Mussolini’s sole opportunity to escape economic crisis in Italy and his only source of therapy for his continues blunders. He was only waiting for an excuse to light the fire: this crucial event was the Walwal incident. The Walwal incident occurred on the fifth of December 1934. It resulted from a border dispute between Ethiopia and the Italian Somaliland. Although the Walwal region was originally Ethiopian the Italians had taken advantage of the loose Ethiopian borders and had started to exploit the rich resources of the area. When Ethiopian presence increased in the area and began demanding their land back the Italians answered with anger and aggression. Consequently this incident led the two countries to prepare...
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