‘No War No Horse - No Horse No Victory’: The Seven Years’ War of Aggression and Crafting of Modern Wolaitta, 1887-1894

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Henok Yonas Alambo


Before the final assault made by the Shoan, the Imperial government had been encroaching around the Wolaitta kingdom since 1880-1886 E.C. During the seven years’ war, the various Abyssinian generals and army contingents led many expeditions and skirmishes. On these battle fields, they had been experienced loses of their soldiers and armaments. Such incidents apparently generated the belief that the Wolaitta army had been invincible. As a result, Menelik begun to organize a huge campaign in terms of armaments, army organization and operated European military advisers. Hence, the aim of this work is to  reconstruct the comprehensive history of  the seven years war of aggression and crafting of modern Wolaitta, 1887-1894. It employed qualitative method. The study used primary and secondary sources as well as substantiate the lacuna with rich oral data. Lastly, the finding of this research would be a necessary step to solve the existing socio- economic, political crises and also help to consider policy matters in the upcoming period.

Menelik campaign to Wolaitta had both major and minor drives. Religion was the minor one, where Christianity used as a pretext to invade Wolaitta. The inherent causes were political and economic. Politically, the  threat and expansion of European imperialism. Ethiopia had been encircled by the expanding colonial power like Great Britain, French & Italy. In 1891 Italy colonized Eritrea and begun to expand to south by crossing Mereb Melash. Ethiopia knows that there would be unavoidable war against Italy in the near future. In addition,  Tona’s instigation of the surrounding Omotic (Dawro, Kucha, Konta, Koyra) and Cushitic (Sidama, Hadya, Kambata and Arsi) states, who were incorporated earlier against Imperial government irritated Menelik to give attention to Wolaitta cause before dealing with Italy. Above all, the  economic motive was the main justification for the 1894 Wolaitta conquest. It includes the Great Famine, European debt, the upcoming battle of Adwa and strategic significance. Wolaittans 8 years war against Imperial Ethiopia embraces  two phases and six major campaigns.  When the first period covers (1887-1893) and 5 major expedition, while the 1894 venture was the 6th  grand invasion in which all generals took part, who were later  involved in the battle of Adwa.

The outcomes of the 1894 conquest were far reaching. To indicate  political, socio- economic, history and heritage destruction as well as moral blow.  In short term, the battle brought fresh resources, fertile land for settlement, large cattle population and slaves as booty, which answered the hunger of great famine  and secured the campaign of Adwa.  In contrast, both sides lost thousands of people. Wolaitta lost its independence, pride and wealth. The long term impact had been the Neftegna Gabbar system or Melkegna rule, the most exploitative quttir-gebbar, the grinding reign instituted. In general, Imperial troops made devastation on Wolaitta. It obliterated traditional administration, customary law, brought material and moral blow; exploit the wealth of a nation; historical and heritage destruction; mass massacre, mutilation and enslavement.

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