1:09 am - Saturday March 6, 2021




Abebe Haregewoin
Estimates of the number of people killed in the three days that followed the attempt on the Marchese di Neghelli’s life vary. Ethiopian sources afterwards estimated as many as 30,000 people were killed by the Italians, while Italian sources claimed only a few hundred were killed. Over the following week, numerous Ethiopians suspected or accused of opposing Italian rule were rounded up and executed, including members of the Black Lions, and other members of the aristocracy; most of the 125 young men whom Emperor Haile Selassie had sent abroad to receive college education, and were still resident in Ethiopia, were killed. Many more were imprisoned, even collaborators like Ras Gebre Haywot, the son of Ras Mikael of Wollo (who had been imprisoned by Emperor Haile Selassie for nine years prior to the Italian invasion), Brehane Markos, and even Ayale Gebre; the latter had helped the Italians identify the two men who made the attempt on General Graziani’s life.
The Italian response was immediate. According to Mockler, “Italian carabinieri had fired into the crowds of beggars and poor assembled for the distribution of alms; and it is said that the Federal Secretary, Guido Cortese, even fired his revolver into the group of Ethiopian dignitaries standing around him.” Hours later, Cortese gave the fatal order:
“ Comrades, today is the day when we should show our devotion to our Viceroy by reacting and destroying the Ethiopians for three days. For three days I give you carte blanche to destroy and kill and do what you want to the Ethiopians. ”
For the rest of that day, through Saturday and Sunday, Italians killed Ethiopians with daggers and truncheons to the shouts of “Duce! Duce!” and “Civiltà Italiana!” They doused native houses with petrol and set them on fire. They broke into the homes of local Greeks and Armenians and lynched their servants. Some even posed on the corpses of their victims to have their photographs taken. In three days, the Italians had killed 30,000 Ethiopians in Addis Ababa only. The first day has been commemorated as “Yekatit 12” (Ethiopian February 19) by Ethiopians ever since . There is a monument called by the same name in Addis Ababa in memory of those Ethiopian victims of Italian aggression.
The attempted murder provided the Italians with the reason to implement Mussolini’s order, issued as early as 3 May 1936, to summarily execute “The Young Ethiopians”, the small group of intellectuals who had received college education from American and European colleges. The same day as the assassination, a military tribunal was set up, and by nightfall 62 Ethiopians were tried and shot. “The Graziani Massacre marked the almost total liquidation of the intellectual component of the Resistance,” writes Bahru Zewde.
Thousands of Ethiopians of all classes were sent to detention camps at Danan in the Ogaden and Nokra in the Dahlak Archipelago. Conditions at Danan were inhospitable, and the Marchese di Neghelli had given orders that the prisoners would receive only the bare minimum of food and water. As Sbacchi notes, “Poor facilities, including latrines, the humid climate, malaria, stomach infections, and venereal disease took many lives, especially among those compelled to work on the irrigation canal or on the banana and sugar-cane plantations.” Between ten percent and half of the prisoners died at Danan.
Conditions at Nokra were even worse than at Danan, according to Sbacchi. The detainees sent there joined 500 prisoners serving life sentences for serious political crimes, increasing the total number incarcerated to 1,500. These inmates suffered from lack of fresh water, sunstroke, marsh fever, and dysentery.
The final reprisal struck in May. Investigators found that Abraha and Mogus had stayed a while at Debra Libanos, and slight circumstantial evidence suggested that the monks had foreknowledge of their plans. The Marchese di Neghelli (better known as Marshal Graziani), mindful of his misadventure at Jijiga, believed they were complicit and on 19 May cabled the local commander: “Therefore execute summarily all monks without distinction including the Vice-Prior.” The following day, the feast day of their patron saint Tekle Haymanot, 297 monks plus 23 laymen were shot — the entire population of the monastery.
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