Every 5 May is a national public holiday called “Ethiopian Patriots’ Victory Day”. The holiday commemorates the brave resistance of Ethiopia’s people against the Italian invasion of the 1930’s and, more specifically, the victory in Addis Ababa in 1941 that led to Ethiopia’s independence.
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 then tried to expand their territorial claims leading 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 by the Ethiopians.
The defeat left a scar on Italy and arguably gave rise to Fascism and Benito Mussolini. In October 1935, Mussolini was to exact Italian revenge when he invaded and defeated Ethiopia in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War and proclaimed Italian 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. Italian control ended when Emperor Haile Selassie entered Addis Ababa on May 5th (Miaza 27 in the Ethiopian calendar) 1941 and addressed the citizens, saying:
“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 which 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.”