May 18th 2001
The Dread of Taitu (Part II)
As the 19th century came to a close, Italy in underestimating the strength and wisdom of the Ethiopian crown had ruined any hope of maintaining a peaceful relationship with this African pharos. Through their lack of judgement and respect towards the Ethiopians, the Italians had exposed themselves as wolves in sheep's clothing. Yet their treachery and deceitfulness would not be enough to defeat a son of Solomon. Through the resilience of his generals and more so the valiant heart and dedication of his Empress Taitu, Menelik II stood firmly in the path of Italy's wish to subdue the heart of Afrika. The negotiations had failed in regards to the Treaty of Wuchale due to the infamous Article 17 and the Italians would no longer be embraced as the Emperor's friends from the west.
Angered at the fact that the Emperor had turned the tables on them, Antonelli and the Italians tried to pressure the Emperor financially through the debt owed to Italy for services rendered in the implementation of railroads, telecommunications lines and other goods and services. However, this country of proud and noble Africans would not see their King and home held hostage in any way. So at the call of their Emperor they banded together to repay their debt to Italy with interest!! Furthermore, to add insult to injury the Ethiopian currency was, then, worth more than it's Italian counter-part!! The Abyssinians had begun to show their own true colors, that of an unstoppable, un-movable and mighty race.
Ethiopia during this time had begun to strengthen their relationship with the French and the Russians. These nations would in turn supply the Ethiopians with the necessary artillery to increase their fire power which already was not lacking.
The first two Major Battles:
Amba Alage 1895
The Italian continued their campaign to take over land in Eritrea, continually trying to advance their borders. The Ethiopians being aware of this, began to form their armies preparing for the possibility of war with the pompous Italians. The Emperor and the Empress had sounded the call and gathered their respective troops. This was the first time Taitu would go to war with her husband bringing with her a suite of 100 women and 5,000 soldiers loyal to her, for whom she was solely responsible. Menelik in making time to gather his armies had ordered Ras Makonnen to make peace talks with Italy. Makonnen upon sending a messenger to invite the Italians to a "sit-down" had received no response. Thus he sent a second message "I have come to make war... As I have had no answer I must advance because my Emperor is behind me". The Italian responded in their usual tone of disrespect, saying "your advance contradicts the offer to mediate. To advance means war." At dawn on December 7th three Rases Makonnen, Wele and Mengesha of the advance force, engaged an Italian look out post where shots were exchanged... The Ethiopians sustained at least 500 casualties but they had won the first the battle. Proving that they could stand up to a European military force.
The Battle at Mequelle & Taitu's Plan
Nevertheless the Italians continued to brag to their European brothers of a 45 day siege of Meqelle and how they had held out against attacks from "war crazed black barbarians". Yet it was the Italians who were being the war crazed barbarians! This was sovereign country they were trying to implement imperialism upon. We as Afrikans had every right to fight for our land. Once again Makonnen sent a message to the Italians, "In the name of the Emperor Menelik II, I beg you to set free our land, otherwise I will be forced to make war. I beseech you. Go away with your soldiers". But again the pompous smart assed response from the Italian Commander Galliano was that his king had ordered him to stay where he was. He stated, "Believe this, I have here the very best guns and some excellent cannon. Your Friend Galliano."
Inevitably on January 6th, 1896, all out war began. Taitu's actions in this battle would lead her country to yet another victory. Not only would she capture the water supply of one Italian fort but she proved herself as the heart of the nation when she spoke these words to her men:
"You soldiers have been saying you would be happy to go into the fort and fight. But with an army as large as ours, and with only one small point to attack you might kill each other and the massacre would be worse than what the Italian guns could do. Those of you who boast of fighting, I hope you will not be afraid to die in the plains. Those who volunteer will be honored - I will make the teskar (funeral remembrance) for those who die and I will care for their children may the lord be with you."
Taitu had dealt the Italians a defeating blow with this move and had not lost any of her warriors in the process. Let the truth of these battles be known and the true nature of this lioness be seen.
With the water supply of the Italian fort diminishing slowly but surely a surrender was near. Once again Menelik, tried to persuade the Italians to surrender their men for they had been without water for some time. He made it clear it was not his intention to see these men die and that if Italy would only surrender the fort their men might survive. But again the late response of the Italians and total disrespect of this Ethiopian force led to the finale of the war - The Battle of Adwa. On March 6th, 1896 the Empress and Emperor gathered to pray and ask God for blessings for this up-coming battle. Later that day as the shells rang out and Taitu covered her head bowing to the ground to protect herself it was clear that this would be the last major battle with Italy for a long time.
ETHIOPIA TIMES Vol.1