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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Graziani’s Reign of Terror, and Ethiopian Patriot Resistance

Ethiopian Argument | Thursday, March 20, 2014
By Dr. Richard Pankhurst:-
Repression in the Wake of the Massacre
Graziani’s attempted assassination resulted not only in the great massacre associated with his name, but also in intensified repression all over the country.
Mussolini, on receiving his Viceroy’s first report about the attempted assassination, immediately telegraphed back, on 20 February 1937. He declared that without attributing the incident “greater importance” than it really had, “it showed the need for that radical clean sweep which, in my mind, is absolutely necessary in Shoa.”
“Get Rid of Them”
This message set the tone for the events that followed. On 25 February one of Graziani’s commanders, Archimede Mischi, the officer in charge of the western stretch of the railway, reported the execution of 42 Ethiopians, whom he described as “dangerous elements”, guilty of “continual activity of rebellion”. A few
days later, on 1 March, the Viceroy ordered General Nasi, his governor of Harar, to shoot all the “Amhara notables and ex-army officers” who had surrendered. “I order”, he commanded:
“that they all be shot immediately according to the directions of the Duce repeated a thousand times… It is time to put an end to it. Your Excellency may keep in mind that those who made the attempt on my life – which although a miserable thing yet represents Italy – were all Abyssinian notables in the very same positions who had received pardon in many places. Keep in mind also that here I have already aimed at the total destruction of Abyssinian chiefs and notables and that similar measures should be completely carried out in your territories. A better opportunity could not be found to get rid of them. Give assurances with the word `shot’, but let the assurance be serious.”
Nasi, on receipt of this order, at once telegraphed to his subordinate officers, on March 2, saying:
“Shoot All – Rebels, Notables, Chiefs…”
“His Excellency the Viceroy has demanded rigorous adherence to the directions of the Duce for the treatment of rebels. Consequently I give you orders to shoot all – I say all – rebels, notables, chiefs, followers, either captured in action or giving themselves up after leaving their formations, or isolated fugitives or cunning elements hiding among the local populations or who even though they have not taken an active part in the revolt are suspected of bad faith or of being guilty of helping rebels in a concrete way or only intending to, or if they hide arms. Women are, of course, excluded, except in particular cases, and children. The commandants addressed will give necessary directions to subordinate commands and proceed meanwhile to execute elements captured hitherto or who are found to be in the categories mentioned by me above. . . Commanders addressed will give me immediate assurance with the word `shot’, and communicate to me as soon as possible the measures taken and which they will take from time to time in accordance with these orders.”
“A Pinch More Courage”
Similar instructions were despatched by Graziani to other commanders, among them Geloso, his governor at Jimma, whom he telegraphed on 8 April, reminding the latter of “the directions of the Duce which aim at the complete destruction of Amharic elements in territories of former Abyssinian conquest: give a pinch more of courage in this respect to the civilian officials who are nearest you and to column commanders who, with the instinctive generosity of the combatant, are sometimes led to make terms by easily understandable sentiments. Be assured, Your Excellency, that by acting thus in a very short time, having now been furnished with all the troops and materials necessary, you will assuredly obtain complete pacification in your territory.”
“We Cannot Have Confidence in Priests or Nobles”
Despite this optimistic note fascist intelligence reports revealed extensive popular opposition. Thus Major Giuseppe Franceschino, reporting on 17 April on the situation at Dessie, frankly declared, “We cannot have confidence in either the priests or the nobles: the sentiment of rebellion is latent in all.”
Fascist doubts as to the wisdom of the policy of indiscriminate execution were, however, sometimes voiced. Thus on 23 April, General Nasi in Harar sent Graziani a long telegram, in which he recalled that “600 chiefs and followers” had been executed after their unconditional surrender in Bale, but that “to encourage the dispersion” of enemy forces near the Webe Shebele he had later obtained Graziani’s special permission to spare the lives of those who surrendered. As a result of this it had been possible to persuade some 4,000 persons to give up the struggle who “would otherwise… have dispersed into the country, thus creating the phenomenon of brigandage which might have given us serious trouble and difficulties, especially during the rains”. He now urged a similar policy of expediency in respect of 54 Chercher chiefs, who had relatives among Italian “native” troops, and he argued that the “mass execution” of these chiefs would have “damaging repercussions on the efforts for pacification.” The mere fact of their having been put into a concentration camp, he noted, had given rise to the rumour that they had been executed, and this had “created panic and commotion.” He therefore “earnestly” begged the Viceroy to allow court procedure to take its place,” but added: “I assure you that it will deal with the utmost severity, and will end with capital punishment for the leaders most compromised and dangerous.”
Graziani accepted this plea, and replied: “Since in these questions it is shades of opinion that count, I leave your Excellency to settle the matter as you think best.”
The Viceroy had, however, by no means abandoned his aim of eliminating the Amhara chieftains, and returned to the question in the following month. Somewhat disingenuously he complained, on 11 May , of the “hypocrisy and falsehood of the Abyssinian people”, who had replied to his “goodness and kindness” with “treachery and bombs.” On the following day he despatched a telegram to all his provincial governors, praising what they were doing against the rebels, “be it to disarm them or be it to eliminate all the Amhara chiefs large or small.” The rest of the population, he declared, was “but an apathetic mass which once the chiefs are eliminated can easily be absorbed by us. Everyone must understand this. Civil officials and military commanders, without any false humanitarian pity, we must have before us but one aim which is that of consolidating the conquest of the Empire, above all after the experience acquired during a year, and to which the Amharas and inhabitants of Shoa have replied with bombs.”
Addis Ababa Gallows
At about this time the fascists in Addis Ababa, Sava recalls, erected a gallows on which “ten people could be hanged at one time.” It stood 8 ft. above the street between the wood market and the straw market, and a couple of electric lights were fitted nearby to illuminate the scene as the bodies, closely guarded by troops, were often left hanging overnight, and sometimes two days and two nights. Besides each victim, the Hungarian adds, was “placed the rifles and other weapons taken from him in life, that people might understand that men were hanged for using weapons in the defence of their country.”
“Wizards and Soothsayers”
The Viceroy had meanwhile also directed his attention to another section of population, whom he chose to describe as “wizards and soothsayers”. These, he considered, as dangerous opponents of the fascist regime. On 15 March , one of his aides, Princivalle, noted that Addis Ababa had “already been cleaned of all spell-binding groups of wizards and soothsayers”, and that “a similar cleansing” was anticipated throughout Shoa, where such “treacherous elements” enjoyed “great power among the population”, “and were “particularly dangerous.”
A few days later, on March l9, the Viceroy telegraphed to Lessona, the Minister of the Colonies in Rome, that after the attempt on his life one month earlier “the political organs and police” had “shown me that among the most dangerous disturbers of public order one must enumerate the travelling minstrels, soothsayers and wizards because they treacherously spread among the primitive, ignorant and superstitious population the most untruthful news concerning catastrophic events: the complete destruction of the entire population by the Italians, coming attacks on the capital led by imposing rebel formations with foreign help, the forthcoming return of the Negus at the head of an imposing army, etc.”
Turning to the supposed influence of such persons, and his wish to eliminate them, he added :
“The population, though mistrustful of these agitators and reporting them to the authorities as dangerous elements, nevertheless does not escape from the spell of their prophecies… Convinced of the necessity of completely eradicating this evil plant I have given orders that all wandering minstrels, soothsayers and wizards in the town and the surroundings be arrested and shot.”
These orders had, in fact, already been largely carried out, for he adds: “In all today seventy have been arrested and eliminated. This measure has produced an excellent impression and a sentiment of alleviation among the native population. By a special order the exercise of the above professions in the future has been forbidden under pain of death.”
Source: http://www.linkethiopia.org

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