“Today is the day on which we defeated our enemy. Therefore, when we say let us rejoice with our hearts, let not our rejoicing be in any other way but in the spirit of Christ. Do not return evil for evil. Do not indulge in the atrocities which the enemy has been practicing in his usual way, even to the last. Take care not to spoil the good name of Ethiopia by acts that are worthy of the enemy. We shall see that our enemies are disarmed and sent out the same way they came. As Saint George who killed the dragon is the Patron Saint of our army as well as of our allies, let us unite with our allies in everlasting friendship and amity in order to be able to stand against the godless and cruel dragon which has newly risen and which is oppressing mankind.”
This was a speech given by Emperor Haile Selassie on May 5, 1941, when he addressed the citizens in its victory against the Italian occupation. It signified the end of the Italian control in Ethiopia and has been celebrated as a national holiday under the Patriots’ Victory Day (Arbegnoch Qen) ever since.
As European nations looked to subdue and occupy Africa at the end of the 19th century, Ethiopia entered into an agreement to receive support from Italy in exchange for ceding land in modern-day Eritrea to the Italians. The Italians however, tried to expand their territorial claims to the southern side and attempted to colonize Ethiopia. This led to the First Italo-Ethiopian War in 1895. This conflict erupted in the Battle of Adwa on March 1st, 1896 in which Italy’s colonial forces were defeated.
This defeat was a historic event that left a scar on Italy and Europe as it was the first war ever for a white army to be defeated by an African and black one. However, it arguably gave rise to Fascism and Benito Mussolini and in October 1935, Mussolini was to pay the ultimate revenge when he invaded and defeated Ethiopia in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War and proclaimed Ethiopia.
When the second world war began, the Ethiopian resistance, the Arbegnoch (literally, “patriots”), with the support of the British were able to restore sovereignty during the East African Campaign. The Italian control over Ethiopia ended and was commensurate when Emperor Haile Selassie entered Addis Ababa on May 5th (Miaza 27 in the Ethiopian calendar) 1941. Though an Italian guerrilla warfare campaign continued until 1943, it failed to topple the Ethiopians. And atlas, in a peace treaty in 1947, Italy recognized the sovereignty and independence of Ethiopia.