Historical Fact: How Ethiopia Was Never Colonized

by Duke Magazine

There is a lingering question raised by many going down the memory lane to infer why Ethiopia was the only Africa country that did not fall to the hands of colonialism. Perhaps, it might just be appraised as a sovereign state on its own. 

This is because Liberia, a country founded in 1847 as a home for freed enslaved African by abolitionists ulterior motives, was also technically never colonized, at least, not in any way close to how we would speak of the imperial annexation of other places in Africa.

The American Colonization Society, the private company that founded Liberia, referred to the nation as a colony, but the society was not committed to running it like one. In the foregoing, Ethiopia is the only African territory that went to war as a nation to wade off any colonization posed to them.

But, it is however imperative to dissect the cogent stance of Ethiopia on successfully toppling the politics and imperial reach of Italy and Great Britain.

Ethiopia celebrates till today, its victory of over Italy in 1895.

Victory at the Battle of Adwa (Adowa)

Sequel to the Berlin Conference that was purportedly geared at reaching out to Africaland by the sovereign nations (Portugal, France, Germany, United States, and Great Britain) to possess its resources and people, Ethiopia seemed to enjoy a little respite to the European invasions. Britain, for once, was in control of Somaliland, the Sudan and Egypt, territories whose proximity to Ethiopia allowed the British to make attempts at taking over.

But Ethiopia went to war and conquer the 1895 Battle of Adwa, against Italy in order to defend its territorial sovereignty. Italy, founded in 1861, was then a new nation that followed the footsteps of the older nations and took up the European imperialist hobby.

Image credit: AfricanExponent.com

Saved by World War II

Italy, under the fascist Benito Mussolini, went back to Ethiopia in 1935 to try and annex the country, and this time they succeeded. Between 1936 and 1941, Italy practically ruled over Ethiopia as Emperor Haile Selassie fled into exile.

Except for the Soviet Union, all the major countries in the world recognized Italy’s annexation of Ethiopia.

But in 1941, Italy, a part of the Axis powers who fought against the Allies in World War II, was defeated by British forces which included Ethiopians. This then availed Haile Selassie the good opportunity to return back to Ethiopia, and Italian colonization has since then been shun off by the global community. 

Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia, went into exile when the Italians invaded in 1936. Image Credit: Pinterest

It was left alone at the Scramble for Africa

Together with Liberia, Ethiopia (then Abyssinia) was untouched at the so-called Scramble for Africa initiated by the Berlin Conference of 1884. When the European diplomats carved up the territories north to south, Liberia was left, because it was seen as a colony of the United States but it is not quite clear why Abyssinia was untouched.

Some have theorized that Ethiopia benefited from a sort of respect accrued thanks to its ancient prestige. The land of Abyssinia was known to European historians and so were its mystique and myths, not to talk of Abysinnia’s connection with Christianity.

This theory may have some merit. As far back as the 14th century, the Zagwe dynasty of the Kingdom of Axum in modern-day Ethiopia, sent a delegation to meet a Pope.

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