Ethiopian Treasures

Emperor Menelik II (1889-1913)

Subsequent to Emperor Yohannes's death in March 1889, Prince Menelik of Shewa Menelik was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia, and he established Entoto as his Capital, on the hill of Addis Ababa. Menelik expanded his rule to the south, east and north west of the country by subjugating the local nobles and and kingdoms in Lasta, Yejju, Kaffa, Welayta, Sidama, Gojjam, Wello, and Begemder. He then moved onto incorporate Western Tigray territories such as Welkaite, Tsegede, Kafta Humera, Armachiho, Lemalemo, Abraha Gera, Amba Georgis, Metema-Yohannes, Adi Arkay and Ras Degena into Gonder province to widen his wife, Empress Taytu Betul, family’s provincial administration of Northern Begemder (Gonder). Emperor Menelik’s systematic destruction of Tigrayan heritage was intended to supress Tigrayans' rivalry to his rule and diminish Tigrayan ethnic population resulting in the increasing of ethnic Amhara population in districts of Addi Arkay, Armachiho, Lemalemo, Abraha Gera, Amba Georgis, Metema-Yohannes, and Ras Degena. Historically, these incorporated Western Tigray were part of Tigray before the reign of Emperor Yohannes IV. Therefore, Tigrayans in Welkaite, Tsegede and Kafta Humera struggled to maintain their Tigrayan heritage and officially reunited into Tigray State in 1992.

Menelik faced a major threat to his rule from the Italians who still occupied Massawa, Saati and the Red Sea Coast. Menelik was helpless to defend the country from the Italian occupation, and he attempted to negotiate with Italians. The Treaty of Wechale was signed effectively Menelik had granted Eritrea to Italy in exchange recognition of Ethiopian sovereignty. What Menelik did not know was the Italians inserted a clause in the Italian version of the Treat of Wechale, restricting Ethiopia from foreign contact stating all contacts must be made through Italy. Menelik's nightmare did not end there, the Italians attempted to court the Tigrayans Princes into the alliance with Eritrea and the Italians invaded north part of Tigray that led to the Battle of Adwa.

The Ethiopian army equipped with spears, machetes and a few rifles marched on Adwa to defend their country from the foreign invader Italy. In March 1896, the Ethiopians defeated the Italian army, which was one of the proudest moments in the Ethiopian history. The Italians defeat at the Battle of Adwa was not enough for the Ethiopians warriors who wanted to drive the Italians out of Eritrea for good. Nevertheless, Menelik returned to Addis Ababa leaving Eritrea under Italian occupation. Menelik is believed to have said, "leave the Italians to rule Eritrea beyond Merab River". This dismayed many Ethiopians who prepared to die and defend their country's sovereignty against Italian occupation.

After his return to Addis Ababa, Menelik negotiated with Italy to define a common border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. He signed an agreement recognising Eritrea as a sovereign state of Italy, beyond the Merab River as main border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Ethiopia remained an independent and sovereign state, though Menelik lost Eritrea to Italy, during the "Scramble of Africa".

Menelik then moved his Capital from Entoto to Addis Ababa, which is now the Capital of Ethiopia. Menelik began to build schools and hospital in Addis Ababa and introduced electricity and telephone. He continued his modernisation programme by building a railway, with the help of the French, linking Addis Ababa to Djibouti through Dera Awa, main trade centre of Harar.

In 1913, Menelik died from ill health. Iyasu was the successor and designated heir of Menelik II.



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