February 19, 1937: The sacrifice for freedom!

February 19, 1937 is engraved in the chapters of the history of Ethiopia in golden terms because it is the day heroic Ethiopians paid immense sacrifices for freedom. On that specific day a few patriotic Ethiopians made an attack on the occupiers of the country showing their resolve that Ethiopians would never accept dominion of aliens in their own land and would rather pay the ultimate sacrifice.

They went straight to the platform where the representative of the Duce in Ethiopia was delivering a speech (with all the rank and file of the authorities in the country present), trying to convince Ethiopians that the Fascist government was good and generous, and citizens should accept to be ruled by it.

The program was intended to distribute some coins to the poorest people and show magnanimity amid the most heinous of crimes already committed by the Fascist forces in trying to subdue every possible resistance to their reign. But Ethiopians were not ready to submit to slavery.

So a few leaders of the resistance movement sneaked among the crowd approached the platform where Graziani was speaking, and threw a few hand grenades trying to kill him and his closest aides. But he survived with only a wound in his back and recovered soon.

It was following this incident that the Fascist leadership panicked and unleashed one of the most heinous crimes against civilians ever carried out indiscriminately against everyone at the square, without sparing even women and children.

The estimates of the casualties vary but there are credible reports that as many as three thousand Addis residents were immediately massacred in immediate revenge of the attempt. For three days the massacres continued and the violence went on in other localities as well with the suspicion that the attackers may have fled the city to the provinces.

The Black Shirts were convinced that the danger was more than what they could deal with and that was why they resorted to all sorts of attacks against everyone! For them every citizen was a suspect and had to be done away with.

There have been some books written based on deep research by scholars on the massacres the Fascists carried out in those days following the attempt on the life of the Viceroy of the Duce.

Innocent civilians who had no idea of what had happened were made to pay for something they did not even dream to do. It was only after orders from Rome that the series of atrocities was quelled, but by then thousands had already perished with their houses burnt down mercilessly including their families. The livelihood of thousands more was completely destroyed because the Fascists practically burnt down the city.

The Martyrs of February 19, 1937 and subsequent days should be remembered in the context of Ethiopians’ eternal

resistance to alien rule or dominion.

The Fascist invasion of Ethiopia in 1936 was revenge to the defeat the Italian army had experienced in 1896 at Adwa by Emperor Menelik II. It was officially announced by the Fascist leader that the shame of Adwa can only be washed away by the conquest of Ethiopia, whatever the human cost, whatever means was to be used, including the prohibited nerve gases launched from the air! The Fascists however never managed to rule over Ethiopians peacefully because the resistance of the patriots was indomitable and the fascists never slept comfortably.

Even women and elderly people had joined the patriots in their drive to sort out the invaders especially when people experienced the worst atrocities committed against their compatriots and many times in violating their own promises of not hurting those who would peacefully surrender to them. But as the Fascists never kept their words, the reaction of every one was never to trust them and hence fight them to the end by joining the clandestine resistance movement.

Ethiopia has produced so many brave patriotic leaders who are now part of Ethiopian history. The Fascists managed to stay on Ethiopian soil only for five years but they were hard days for both Ethiopian nationals as well as for the Fascists.

There were continuous and extensive guerrilla attacks and ambushes by patriotic leaders including the clergy leaders who excommunicated those who accepted to be ruled by the invaders.

Hence the mobilization of the patriots against the Fascists was immense. However, the sacrifices were huge and the casualties were tremendous. February 19, 1937 and the following days are just the ones that the annals of history have officially registered. But there were other attacks not exactly or meticulously recorded and Ethiopians have bravely resisted the Fascist occupation despite all these indiscriminate attacks.

History tells us that Ethiopia is not new to similar attacks from outside the country. Its neighbors have tried to occupy its land and subdue the population but the rulers of the country never accepted any form of colonization and fought back. Emperor Tewodros took his own life while combating foreign forces and would never surrender. Emperor Yohannes died in the battle field fighting the Mahdist along the Sudanese border.

Emperor Menelik II did fight and register a huge and historic victory against invaders in 1896 and this has resulted to be an inspiration to this day in the fight against any form of dominion.

The attacks from outside the country have continued to this day in the twenty first century in various forms, some very sophisticated, some crude and overtly visible. It may have different forms.

But the ultimate goal is to dominate Ethiopian politics and as there have been collaborators with the enemy even in those remote years, no wonder there are still new ones like the TPLF today, ready to sell the country to the best offer from abroad.

These are unscrupulous forces who work for their personal advantages disregarding the interests of the nation in general and leaving the inheritance of shame to their descendents. But Ethiopians are still adamant and inflexible in their fight for integrity, dignity and sovereignty of their nation. Today the forms of aggression are more complex and sophisticated but the ultimate goal is still the same.

Ethiopia has survived various attacks by aliens and has successfully foiled them. Ethiopia’s tradition of being indomitable continues because it is in its DNA. There could be multiple issues that may play in favor of those who try to attack the sovereignty of Ethiopia, but when it comes to such levels Ethiopians have always united their forces and defended their country successfully.

Today the attacks against Ethiopia have new forms; new methods and Ethiopians are called to resist such interference. Close observers have noted that the recent conflict in the north has been spearheaded by alien forces who try to fish in troubled waters in Ethiopia. They argue that bills such as the one being drafted and passed by the US Congress focusing on Ethiopian affairs could only be taken as a part of such conspiracy.

The interests of citizens are not a worry to any of these forces but their own strategic interests only.

The costs have never been a concern to these forces and Ethiopians have been made to undergo all sorts of predicaments. In the end however, their truth triumphs, their resistance lasts until necessary and gets rewarded with freedom. That is what history has taught Ethiopians. Martyrs Day is one such huge chapter in the history of the country. It remains as a testimony of the country’s fight against colonialism and dominion.

Ethiopians know there can never be freedom without sacrifice and one such sacrifice is the incident of February 19, 1937! Ethiopians cannot wait for the approval of any nation in the world to defend their national interests as it is a part of the sovereign rights conquered through the blood and toil of their patriotic forefathers.

Ethiopia cannot seek the approval of any one to be able to use and exploit its natural resources.

In this context, the use of the Abay River must be mentioned apart as interference in the internal affairs of Ethiopia will always be emphatically rejected despite any threats of sanctions. Ethiopians know that even if another February 19 may come to life, there is no fear of undergoing such sacrifice.

It comes from the conviction that freedom is never a gift handed in a golden plate but something that is deserved through struggle and sacrifice and it is the foundation of the country.

Ethiopians say it is worth living only in freedom and never in bondage. Life in bondage is not worth living!


The Ethiopian   20 February  2022

Leave a Reply