The Battle of Adwa: A Shining Path to Pan Africanism



The Victory of Adwa is a hard won battle in 1896 during the reign of Emperor Menelik II.  Following the declaration pronounced by the emperor that the sovereignty of Ethiopia was endangered by Italian Aggression, Ethiopians from four corners of the country marched to Addis Ababa and Were Ilu.

Peasants, women and volunteers, artisans and others from all backgrounds and ethnicities left for Addis Ababa and Were Ilu to fend off Italian aggressors who had the support of the colonial powers in the Scramble for Africa.
The victory of Adwa is commemorated annually on March 2 in Ethiopia. 

Exactly 128 years ago, more than 100,000, multi-ethnic, barefooted and well equipped but courageous Ethiopian irregular soldiers led by Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taitu and 12 commanders drawn from across the country marched for a historic face off with invading Italian Army equipped to the teeth with modern firearms at the hills of Adwa. 

The victory of Ethiopian youth army at the Battle of Adwa on March 2, 1896 is a historic landmark in the history of the black population across the world, particularly in Africa. It ignited two important phenomenological incidents in Ethiopian and African history including the decolonization of African and the continental vision of Pan Africanism. 

The victory at the Battle of Adwa immediately resonated across the world in complete negation of the invincibility of the diplomatic, political and military prowess of the European colonialists and their cry wolf of “civilizing mission.” 
Every year on March 2, Ethiopia and Africa mark the victory at the Battle of Adwa, in which Emperor Menelik II mobilized youth army of artesian, women and volunteers from all walks of life to repel Italian aggressors which received the blessings of the colonial powers in the Scramble for Africa in line with the resolutions of the Berlin Conference (1884-1885.)

Professor Richard Pankhurst, in his book "Reflections on the Battle of Adwa," highlights the enduring significance of the Ethiopian triumph at the Battle of Adwa, which holds a prominent place in the collective memory of the African continent. This historic event stands as a remarkable testament, celebrated for over a century, and holds the unique distinction of being the sole secular occurrence in Africa's extensive chronicles to garner such prolonged recognition. 

A phenomenon such as Adwa is a complex nexus of various historical processes with wide ranging but as yet not fully explored meanings. Adwa does not only reflect its time, but that it also transcends it, and that the aspirations and meanings that flow from it have been a powerful constitutive force in the rise and evolution of modern African Pan Africanism. Indeed, it is an event that awakened the hope for emancipation and the struggle against colonialism and racism among Africans in the colonies and in the Diaspora.

Black people across the globe celebrate one historical asset that occurred 128 years ago in a small town in northern Ethiopia. The Battle of Adwa was a rocket booster or a launching pad for the inception of Pan Africanism. This historic battle and the subsequent victory registered by irregular army of Ethiopia resonated across the world as the first victory against a colonial power ever to be won by an African country.

History proves that the victory at the Battle of Adwa was not a victory only for Ethiopia. Although the Battle was fought in Ethiopia, the entire global peoples share this outstanding victory against a European colonial power that was thought to be invincible. 

It must be noted that the founding fathers of the former OAU were certainly inspired by the loft goals of pan Africanism. Kwame Nkrumah, who was undoubtedly one of Africa’s foremost freedom fighters, nationalists, writers, and thinkers, that influenced a generation of Pan-African nationalists and freedom fighters, and the founding member of the Organization of African.

He foretold that “It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided We fall; United, We Stand" become one of the greatest forces for good in the world.
Will Africa live up to these expectations? The current trend is in the right direction but certainly there are huge challenges ahead before the lofty goals of Pan Africanism are achieved.

Today, the African Union (AU) has creatively designed Agenda 2063.
Ethiopia was and is indeed a forerunner in promoting the loft goals of Pan Africanism and the decolonization of the African continent by supporting major African liberation fronts like ANC.

Moreover, in the sphere of integrating Africa, Ethiopia has already gone a long way in connecting Africa by aviation, railway line, road transport, telecommunication and supply of renewable hydro-electric power for the neighboring countries. 

The aspirations of the victory at the Battle of Adwa needs to be implanted in the African youth who are expected to continue to light up the torch of Pan Africanism. The spirit of Adwa will certainly continue to reverberate in the current pan Africanist battle against abject poverty, climate change and pursue common destiny. 

In this regard, Ethiopia has recently inaugurated a state-of-the-art memorial to honor those who fell at the Battle of Adwa. The Adwa Victory Memorial honors the bravery and resilience of Ethiopians in the face of colonial powers who labeled the continent Africa as dark.

In addition to its historical significance, the Victory Memorial also serves as a symbol of pride, unity, and resilience for the Ethiopian people and Africa at large. It is a place of remembrance, reflection, and education, preserving the memory of the Battle of Adwa and its enduring legacy for future generations.

Victory at the Battle of Adwa is indeed symbolic of how an irregular army of Ethiopia defeated an European army equipped to the teeth only because Ethiopians were united in purpose to ensure their freedom and territorial integrity. The lesson from Adwa was loud and clear, united Africans can overcome any challenge facing them.

Ethiopian News Agency