Italian East Africa

Italian East Africa

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Italian East Africa was an Italian colonial administrative subdivision established in 1936, resulting from the merger of the Ethiopian Empire
Ethiopian Empire
The Ethiopian Empire also known as Abyssinia, covered a geographical area that the present-day northern half of Ethiopia and Eritrea covers, and included in its peripheries Zeila, Djibouti, Yemen and Western Saudi Arabia...

 (recently conquered after the Second Italo-Ethiopian War) with the old colonies of Italian Somaliland
Italian Somaliland
Italian Somaliland , also known as Italian Somalia, was a colony of the Kingdom of Italy from the 1880s until 1936 in the region of modern-day Somalia. Ruled in the 19th century by the Somali Sultanate of Hobyo and the Majeerteen Sultanate, the territory was later acquired by Italy through various...

 and Italian Eritrea
Italian Eritrea
Italian Eritrea was the first colony of the Kingdom of Italy. It was created in 1890 and lasted officially until 1947.-Acquisition of Assab and creation of the colony:...

. In August 1940, British Somaliland
British Somaliland
British Somaliland was a British protectorate in the northern part of present-day Somalia. For much of its existence, British Somaliland was bordered by French Somaliland, Ethiopia, and Italian Somaliland. From 1940 to 1941, it was occupied by the Italians and was part of Italian East Africa...

 was conquered
Italian conquest of British Somaliland
The Italian conquest of British Somaliland was a military campaign in the Horn of Africa, which took place in August 1940 between forces of Italy and those of Great Britain and its Commonwealth...

 and annexed to Italian East Africa. Italian East Africa was eventually disestablished as a consequence of the events of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

Territory


In 1936, Italian East Africa covered Italian Eritrea
Italian Eritrea
Italian Eritrea was the first colony of the Kingdom of Italy. It was created in 1890 and lasted officially until 1947.-Acquisition of Assab and creation of the colony:...

, the just conquered Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 and the former Italian Somaliland
Italian Somaliland
Italian Somaliland , also known as Italian Somalia, was a colony of the Kingdom of Italy from the 1880s until 1936 in the region of modern-day Somalia. Ruled in the 19th century by the Somali Sultanate of Hobyo and the Majeerteen Sultanate, the territory was later acquired by Italy through various...

. The colony was divided into the six governorates of Italian East Africa
Governorates of Italian East Africa
The governorates of Italian East Africa formed the first level of country subdivision.The territory was divided into 6 Governments. Existed until 1938 the Governorate of Addis Ababa, whose territory was integrated in the new government of Shoa, with a municipal administration.The governments were...

: Italian Eritrea and Italian Somaliland, plus four provinces of Ethiopia (Amhara, Galla-Sidamo, Scioa, Harar) each run by an Italian governor
Governor
A governor is a governing official, usually the executive of a non-sovereign level of government, ranking under the head of state...

. Each governor was answerable to the Italian viceroy
Viceroy
A viceroy is a royal official who runs a country, colony, or province in the name of and as representative of the monarch. The term derives from the Latin prefix vice-, meaning "in the place of" and the French word roi, meaning king. A viceroy's province or larger territory is called a viceroyalty...

, who represented the Emperor Victor Emmanuel III.

Italian East Africa briefly enlarged in 1940, as Italian forces conquered British Somaliland, thereby creating a single Somali provincial entity within Italian control, though this and the colony was broken apart one year later as Italian East Africa was occupied by British forces.

In the course of the British-led East African Campaign
East African Campaign (World War II)
The East African Campaign was a series of battles fought in East Africa during World War II by the British Empire, the British Commonwealth of Nations and several allies against the forces of Italy from June 1940 to November 1941....

 (June 1940-November 1941), Italian East Africa was conquered and dismembered. The other Italian colony in Africa was Italian North Africa
Italian North Africa
Italian North Africa was the aggregate of territories and colonies controlled by Italy in North Africa from 1911 until World War II...

 (Africa Settentrionale Italiana, or ASI).

History


The dominion was formed in 1936 during Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

's government in Italy with the defeat of Haile Selassie's Ethiopia in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War.

Rule in Italian East Africa was harsh for the native peoples, especially towards Ethiopians as Fascist policy sought to integrate their culture into the Italian Empire
Italian Empire
The Italian Empire was created after the Kingdom of Italy joined other European powers in establishing colonies overseas during the "scramble for Africa". Modern Italy as a unified state only existed from 1861. By this time France, Spain, Portugal, Britain, and the Netherlands, had already carved...

. Eritreans integrated very well. But Ethiopians opposed strongly: in February 1937, following an assassination attempt on Italian East Africa's Viceroy Rodolfo Graziani
Rodolfo Graziani
Rodolfo Graziani, 1st Marquis of Neghelli , was an officer in the Italian Regio Esercito who led military expeditions in Africa before and during World War II.-Rise to prominence:...

, Graziani ordered Italian soldiers to raid the famous Ethiopian monastery Debre Libanos
Debre Libanos
Debre Libanos is a monastery in Ethiopia, lying northwest of Addis Ababa in the Oromia Region. Founded in the thirteenth century by Saint Tekle Haymanot, the monastery's chief abbot, called the Ichege, was the second most powerful official in the Ethiopian Church after the Abuna.The monastery...

 where the would-be assassins had briefly taken refuge and had the monks and nuns in the monastery executed. Afterwards, Italian soldiers destroyed native settlements in Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia...

, which resulted in hundreds of Ethiopians being killed and their homes left burned to the ground.

Fascist colonial policy in the AOI had a divide and conquer
Divide and rule
In politics and sociology, divide and rule is a combination of political, military and economic strategy of gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into chunks that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy...

 characteristic. In order to weaken the Orthodox Christian Amhara people
Amhara people
Amhara are a highland people inhabiting the Northwestern highlands of Ethiopia. Numbering about 19.8 million people, they comprise 26% of the country's population, according to the 2007 national census...

 who had run Ethiopia in the past, territory claimed by Eritrean Tigray-Tigrinyas
Tigray-Tigrinya people
Tigray-Tigrinya are an ethnic group who live in the southern, central and northern parts of Eritrea and the northern highlands of Ethiopia's Tigray province. They also live in Ethiopia's former provinces of Begemder and Wollo, which are today mostly part of Amhara Region, though a few regions...

 and Somalis was given to the Eritrea Governorate
Eritrea Governorate
Eritrea Governorate was one of the six governorates of Italian East Africa, capital was Asmara....

 and Somalia Governorate
Somalia Governorate
Somalia Governorate was one of the six governorates of Italian East Africa....

., even as a reward for the Eritrean Ascari
Eritrean Ascari
The Eritrean Ascari were indigenous soldiers from Eritrea who were enrolled as askaris in the "Royal Corps of Colonial Troops" of the Italian Army.-Characteristics:...

's help during the Ethiopia's conquest. Reconstruction efforts after the war in 1936, were partially focused on benefiting the Muslim peoples in the AOI at the expense of the Amhara to strengthen support by Muslims for the Italian colony.

Italy's Fascist regime encouraged Italian peasants to colonize the AOI by creating agriculture and small industries there. However few Italians came to the colony, most to Eritrea. By 1940 only 3200 farmers had arrived to Ethiopia, less than ten percent of the Fascist regime's goal.

Continued insurgency by native Ethiopians, lack of resources, rough terrain, and uncertainty of political and military conditions discouraged development and settlement in the countryside But Italian Eritrea enjoyed a huge development, supported by nearly 80,000 Italian colonists
Italian Eritreans
Italian Eritreans are Eritrean-born descendants of Italian settlers as well as Italian long-term residents in Eritrea.-History:...

.

The colony proved to be highly expensive to maintain, the AOI's budget in 1936-37 requested from Italy 19.136 billion lire to create the necessary infrastructure for the colony. At the time Italy's entire revenue that year was only 18.581 billion lire.

The Italians nonetheless made huge and expensive infrastructure investments that drained the Italian economy but also reduced the unemployment in the Kingdom of Italy
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

 during those years. The Italian administration built 18794 km (11,678 mi) of new asphalted roads: in 1940 Addis Ababa was connected by state-of-the-art roads to Asmara
Asmara
Asmara is the capital city and largest settlement in Eritrea, home to a population of around 579,000 people...

 and Mogadishu
Mogadishu
Mogadishu , popularly known as Xamar, is the largest city in Somalia and the nation's capital. Located in the coastal Benadir region on the Indian Ocean, the city has served as an important port for centuries....

.
Furthermore, 900 km (559 mi) of railways were reconstructed or initiated (like the railway between Addis Abeba and Assab
Assab
Assab is a port city in the Southern Red Sea Region of Eritrea on the west coast of the Red Sea. In 1989, it had a population of 39,600. Assab possesses an oil refinery, which was shut down in 1997 for economic reasons...

), dams and hydroelectric plants were built, and many public and private companies were established in the underdeveloped country. The most important were: "Compagnie per il cotone d'Etiopia" (Cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 industry); "Compagnia etiopica del latte e derivati" (Milk industry); "Cementerie d'Etiopia" (Cement industry); "Compagnia etiopica mineraria" (Minerals industry); "Imprese elettriche d'Etiopia" (Electricity industry); "Compagnia etiopica degli esplosivi" (Armament industry); "Industria per la birra dell'AOI" (Beer industry); "Trasporti automobilistici (Citao)" (Mechanic & Transport industry).

There was an urbanistic project for the enlargement of Addis Ababa, in order to become the state-of-the-art capital of the Africa Orientale italiana, but these architectural plan
Architectural plan
An architectural plan is a plan for architecture, and the documentation of written and graphic descriptions of the architectural elements of a building project including sketches, drawings and details.- Overview :...

s -like all the other developments- were stopped by World War II.

In June 1940, at the beginning of Italy's involvement in World War II, the AOI potentially constituted a dangerous menace to British interests in Africa. From one perspective, a successful Italian attack from the colony through the Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

 and the establishment of a connection to Italian-held Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

 would have isolated vital British positions in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

.

However, from a different perspective, the colony itself was isolated from Italy and surrounded by British forces in the Sudan, Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

, and British Somaliland. British forces in Aden
Aden
Aden is a seaport city in Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea , some 170 kilometres east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000. Aden's ancient, natural harbour lies in the crater of an extinct volcano which now forms a peninsula, joined to the mainland by a...

 could provide critical air and naval support against Italian naval forces operating in the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

. Italian maritime transport was cut off by the British at the Suez Canal. What supplies did arrive in the AOI were generally from the air and in small quantities.

In 1940, the adjacent protectorate
Protectorate
In history, the term protectorate has two different meanings. In its earliest inception, which has been adopted by modern international law, it is an autonomous territory that is protected diplomatically or militarily against third parties by a stronger state or entity...

 of British Somaliland
Italian conquest of British Somaliland
The Italian conquest of British Somaliland was a military campaign in the Horn of Africa, which took place in August 1940 between forces of Italy and those of Great Britain and its Commonwealth...

 was occupied by Italian forces and absorbed into Italian East Africa. The conquest was the only victory of Italy without reinforcement from German troops during World War II against the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

. This occupation lasted around one year.

At the beginning of the East African Campaign
East African Campaign (World War II)
The East African Campaign was a series of battles fought in East Africa during World War II by the British Empire, the British Commonwealth of Nations and several allies against the forces of Italy from June 1940 to November 1941....

, the Italian troops amounted to 291,000 men including native troops. Training of the native troops was poor, the Italian garrisons were too spread out, due to the extremely poor state of most roads, and were essentially reduced to a static role without enough ammunitions and oil reserves
Oil reserves
The total estimated amount of oil in an oil reservoir, including both producible and non-producible oil, is called oil in place. However, because of reservoir characteristics and limitations in petroleum extraction technologies, only a fraction of this oil can be brought to the surface, and it is...

 (which allowed the Allies to liberate AOI in 1941).

On March 27, 1941 the stronghold of Keren
Keren, Eritrea
Keren is the second largest city in Eritrea. It is situated about 91 kilometers northwest of Asmara. The town serves as the capital of the Anseba region, and is home to the Bilen ethnic group.-History:...

 was captured by the British troops after a strenuous defence from general Orlando Lorenzini in the bloody Battle of Keren
Battle of Keren
The Battle of Keren was fought as part of the East African Campaign during World War II. The Battle of Keren was fought from 5 February-1 April 1941 between the colonial Italian army defending it's colonial possession of Eritrea and the invading British and Commonwealth forces. In 1941, Keren was...

. After the surrender of Massaua (April 8), Eritrea was lost for Italy.

The war was lost on May 1941, when the last stand on Amba Alagi
Amba Alagi
Amba Alagi is a mountain, or an amba, in northern Ethiopia. Located in the Debubawi Zone of the Tigray Region, Amba Alagi dominates the roadway that runs past it from the city of Mek'ele south to Maychew. Because of its strategic location, Amba Alagi has been the location of several battles...

 under Viceroy
Viceroy
A viceroy is a royal official who runs a country, colony, or province in the name of and as representative of the monarch. The term derives from the Latin prefix vice-, meaning "in the place of" and the French word roi, meaning king. A viceroy's province or larger territory is called a viceroyalty...

 Amedeo di Savoia, Duke of Aosta
Duke of Aosta
In the mid-13th century the Hohenstaufen Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II made the County of Aosta a duchy; its arms were carried in the Savoyard coat-of-arms until the unification of Italy in 1870. The region remained part of Savoy lands, with the exception of a French occupation, 1539—1563...

, at Amba Alagi ended honourably in face of overwhelming Allied troops. On November 28 of the same year, general Guglielmo Nasi
Guglielmo Nasi
Guglielmo Ciro Nasi was an Italian General who fought in Italian East Africa during World War II.-Biography:Nasi was born in Civitavecchia, Latium...

 and the last Italian occupants of Gondar
Gondar
Gondar or Gonder is a city in Ethiopia, which was once the old imperial capital and capital of the historic Begemder Province. As a result, the old province of Begemder is sometimes referred to as Gondar...

 surrendered.

Many Italians fought a guerrilla war in the "Africa Orientale Italiana", after the surrender at Gondar of the last regular Italian forces in November 1941. Indeed from November 1941 to September 1943 there was an Italian guerrilla force
Italian guerrilla war in Ethiopia
The Italian guerrilla war in Ethiopia was as an armed struggle fought from the summer of 1941 to the autumn of 1943 by remnants of Italian troops in Italian East Africa, following the Italian defeat during the East African Campaign of World War II.-History:...

 made up of 7000 Italians who had not accepted surrender to the Allies.

They were waiting for the possible arrival of the Italo-German army of Rommel
Rommel
Erwin Rommel was a German World War II field marshal.Rommel may also refer to:*Rommel *Rommel Adducul , Filipino basketball player*Rommel Fernández , first Panamanian footballer to play in Europe...

 from Egypt and the Mediterranean (called in 1942 by Mussolini "the Italian Mare Nostrum"), but after the Battle of El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein
The Second Battle of El Alamein marked a major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The battle took place over 20 days from 23 October – 11 November 1942. The First Battle of El Alamein had stalled the Axis advance. Thereafter, Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery...

 the momentum of this resistance slowly faded away.

See also

  • Colonial heads of Italian East Africa
    Colonial heads of Italian East Africa
    The following is a list of colonial heads of Italian East Africa, an Italian dominion from 1936 to 1941....

  • Italian Governors of Addis Ababa
    Italian Governors of Addis Ababa
    -List of Italian Governors of Addis Ababa:- See also :*Ethiopia*Lists of office-holders...

  • Italian Governors of Amhara
    Italian Governors of Amhara
    -List of Italian Governors of Amhara:-See also:*Ethiopia**Italian East Africa*Lists of office-holders...

  • Italian Governors of Galla-Sidamo
  • Italian Governors of Harar
  • Italian Governors of Scioa
  • Dubats
    Dubats
    Dubats was the designation given to armed irregular bands employed by the Italian Regio Corpo Truppe Coloniali in Italian Somaliland from 1924 to 1941...

  • Political history of Eastern Africa
    Political history of Eastern Africa
    -Ancient and Medieval history:*25th century BC: Earliest recorded Egyptian expedition to the Land of Punt in the Horn of Africa organized by Pharaoh Sahure of the Fifth Dynasty....

  • Italian guerrilla war in Ethiopia
    Italian guerrilla war in Ethiopia
    The Italian guerrilla war in Ethiopia was as an armed struggle fought from the summer of 1941 to the autumn of 1943 by remnants of Italian troops in Italian East Africa, following the Italian defeat during the East African Campaign of World War II.-History:...

  • Italian Africa Police
    Italian Africa Police
    The Italian Africa Police , was the Police of "Italian Africa" from 1 June 1936 and 1 December 1941.-Characteristics:...

  • Italian East African lira
    Italian East African lira
    The lira was the currency of Italian East Africa between 1938 and 1941. It was equivalent to the Italian lira and Italian currency circulated, together with banknotes first issued in 1938. In Italian Somaliland, the lira was already circulating...

  • Augusto Turati
    Augusto Turati
    Augusto Turati was an Italian journalist and Fascist politician.Born in Parma, after moving to Brescia as a young man, Turati worked on newspapers and became one of the editors at the liberal Provincia di Brescia; he attended law classes, but never graduated...


External links