The Battle of Adwa took place on 1st and 2nd March 1896 at Adwa in northern Ethiopia. The Battle occurred at a time when European nations were engaged in the scramble for Africa.
Notably, at the Berlin Conference in 1884-85, Africa was divided up for the European nations to colonise and Ethiopia was awarded to the Italians, all Italy had to do was use its troops to take possession of Ethiopia. On the 2nd March 1896, united Ethiopian forces commanded by Emperor Menelik II defeated the Italian army at the Battle of Adwa. It was the first time an African nation had defeated a European power. The Ethiopian victory at Adwa prevented the Italians from colonising Ethiopia.
The main reason that the Italians lost the Battle is because they did not know their enemy! Although Barateir who led the war was well prepared in terms of planning and equipment, the Italians had hoped to exploit what they thought would be internal conflict amongst the Ethiopian princes. Before the Battle, the Italians even encouraged internal rebellion amongst Ethiopian troops to benefit themselves.
The Italians however, had failed to see that the Ethiopian aristocracy by this time had begun to develop Ethiopia in a way that would benefit all its citizens. For instance, Emperor Menelik II did not collect taxes from the princes in the north. Ethiopian troops were also large in numbers and reasonably well equipped and disciplined.
The victory at Adwa was widely reported throughout the world, strengthening Ethiopia’s image as a defender of African independence.
It became the source of pride and inspiration for Africans around the world. Today Ethiopian’s celebrate this historic holiday on 2nd March, the anniversary of the Battle.