November 30, 2022

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Adwa Menelik square

News: Controversy over the venue of Ethiopian Adwa celebration

Adwa Menelik square
Menelik square Addis Ababa

News: Ethiopians will hold Adwa celebration tomorrow. Each year on March 2, Ethiopians from all walks of life gather at Menelik Square in the heart of the capital Addis Ababa to celebrate the Victory of Adwa. But this year, the venue of the celebrations has been changed, which is stirring controversy.

The Battle of Adwa was the last and most decisive of a series of battles Ethiopians fought against the invading colonial forces of Italy – a colonial force that had ambitions to bring the whole East Africa region under its control. Adwa, historians agree, had served as a pre-eminent emblem for Pan-African movements across Africa and beyond.

While most of Africa had come under colonial rule during the so-called scramble for Africa, Ethiopia remained a sovereign nation with a formidable army and a strong monarchy.

In 1889 Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II signed the Treaty of Wuchale with Italy. But the two sides interpreted the treaty differently. The Italians saw the treaty as having made Ethiopia a protectorate of Italy.

This led to the First Italo-Ethiopian War in 1895, with the Italians having some initial success until Ethiopian troops counterattacked Italian positions and besieged the Italian fort of Meqele, forcing its surrender. The decisive victory for Ethiopia came at the Battle of Adwa, a northern town in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region. In October 1896, Italy signed the Treaty of Addis Ababa, recognizing Ethiopia as an independent state.

Adwa celebrations are held at Menelik square in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on March 2. The day is a national holiday. But hours before the start of these celebrations, a controversy is emerging.

Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism has changed the venue of the Adwa celebration from Menelik square to Adwa bridge. Both Menelik square and Adwa bridge are situated in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

The change is being criticized by religious figures, some politicians, and groups especially those based in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism is led by minister Kejelea Merdasa. Kejela is from a breakaway faction of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). He is from the Oromia region.

Ethiopian Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Addis Ababa city government, and Oromia regional government are coordinating to hold tomorrow’s event.

Addis Abab government is led by mayor Adanech Abebe who is from the Oromia region too. Amhara region-based groups are accusing Oromo politicians of changing the venue. Emperor Menelik’s legacy is viewed differently in the Amhara and Oromia regions. Oromos claim that Emperor Menelik committed genocide of Oromos during his rule.

Are Oromo politicians changing the venue because it has the name of Emperor Menelik?

Another controversy between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Addis Abab government over the ownership of Addis Ababa’s Meskel square is also ongoing. Read more

Meanwhile, some religious leaders, politicians, and groups are telling their followers to arrive at Menelik square. They say celebrations will be held at Menelik square, not Adwa bridge.

Another controversy between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Addis Abab government over the ownership of Addis Ababa’s Meskel square is also ongoing.