May 5, 1941: Ethiopia Regains Its Independence

May 5, 1941: Ethiopia Regains Its Independence

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Exactly five years after Addis Ababa fell to Mussolini's troops, Emperor Haile Selassie was reinstalled on the Ethiopian throne. He reentered the city through streets lined with black and white African soldiers, having fought his way back against a determined Italian army with Major Orde Wingate's Gideon Force and his own Ethiopian 'Patriots.'
It was only five days after Italian forces under the command of General Pietro Badoglio entered Addis Ababa back in 1936, at the end of the 2nd Italo-Abyssinian War, that Mussolini declared the country part of the Italian Empire. "It is a Fascist empire because it bears the indestructible sign of the will and power of Rome." Abyssinia (as it was known) was joined with Italian Eritrea and Italian Somaliland to form the Africa Orientale Italiana (Italian East Africa, AOI). Haile Selassie fled to Britain where he remained in exile until the Second World War gave him the opportunity to return to his people.
Haile Selassie had made an impassioned appeal to the League of Nations on June 30, 1936, which gained great support with the United States and Russia. However, many other League of Nations members, especially Britain and France, continued to recognize the Italian possession of Ethiopia.
The fact that the Allies ultimately fought hard to return independence to Ethiopia was a significant step on the path to African independence. That Italy, like Germany after World War I, had its African Empire taken away, signaled a major change in European attitude towards the continent.


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