Dejazmach Belay Zeleke (በላይ ዘለቀ ) an Ethiopian and Omar Muktar ( عمر المختار ) a Libyan, fought successfully against the expansion of Fascism in the African continent.
Belaye was born in 1896 in Bichena district in Gojjam province of Ethiopia. 1896 is a historical and symbolical year for all Africans, a year the King of Kings of Ethiopia Menlik II won the war in Adwa and stopped the African Scramble led by the Italian Army from Eritrean colony.
Omar Mukhtar was born in Benghazi, Libya 1862 in mist of the new effervescence Muhammad Ibn Ali s-Sanussiy Islamic movement in Libya. Sanussiy established a powerful religious movement from Walad Sidi Abdalla tribe tracing his descent from Fatimah, the daughter of Mohammed. Sanussiy‘s took over Libya and start resistance against Ottoman occupation. The New insurgency against Fascism after Italian victory over the Turks was led by Omar Mukhtar. Mukhtar , The Elected One, led this highly closed movement of Sanussiy which become the bases of Islamic resistance against the African Scramble in Sahara and fought the French in Chad and the Italian in the North.
In 1911 the Italy organized an African conquest as revenge to the 15 years old defeat in Abyssinia by Menlik II. Libya & Italy, as a part of ancient Carthaginian civilization, was highly connected in their historical past become the center of Italian ambition as a stepping stone for North and East African conquest. Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini launched his infamous “Riconquista” of Libya as a reminiscence of the Roman Empire, calling back the original conquest 2000 years before.”
Italy successfully dislocated the Turks from the costs of Libya in the “Tripolitania war” which lasted from 9, 1911 to October 18, 1912. The war of Tripolitania has marked history and become the turning point to Italian abolition in the north and eastern Africa :-
1. It was at Tripolitania that the future of modern Libya and Turkey was sealed and become the seedbed for the for the coming WWI,
2. the War of Tripolitania provoked the Serbian nationalism and the long process of Balkanization of the region leading to the WWI;
3. It was in the War of Tripolitaniais that the future founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) showed his performance and distinguished himself as a great leader.
4. After the war of Tripolitania the Italina brought Eritreans to fight against against Omar Muktar;
5. It was from this experience and massacre of the Libyan at Tripolitania that Italy lunched a chemical war against Ethiopia by plane for the first time ;
6. It was the war of Tripolitania which gave the birth of the Omar Muktar on the mountains of Jabal al-Akhdar in Cyrenaica .
7. It was after Tripolitania the destiny of Ethiopia’s Belay Zeleke was sealed by the following fascist attack of his country in 1934 announcing the WWII.
Italy made her first victory against the the Ottoman Turks since the great defeat with Ethiopia in 1896. Turkey never able to reorganize itself since coming out of the War of Crimea against Russia. Italy used her Ascari Eritrean soldiers giving the last blow to the Ottoman Empire which occupied the known world for over 700 years(1299 to 1923) . Furthermore, Italy from this victory against the once strong Ottoman Empire starts having ambition to rebuild Rome as in the past. It was Tripolitania that the 2nd trumpet was blown against Abyssinia. Mussolini started preparing for a long drown in East African invasion by preparing over 60 thousand thousands Eritrean / Somalian Ascari as an indigenous soldiers from East Africa. They were enrolled in the Corps of Colonial TroopsRegio Corpo di Truppe Coloniali. Ascari troops played an important role in the conquest of the various colonial possessions of the Kingdom of Italy, further organized as a full garrison in war and internal security forces in time of peace in the short lived East African Italian Empire. They were prepared mainly were employed against the Omar Mukhtar’s resistance in Libya and Belay’s rebellion in Ethiopia .
After the defeat of the previous Turkish rulers of the coast of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica had been occupied, Omar al Mukhtar organized the resistance of the Islamic Senussi orders . He successfully led a fierce guerrilla war against the Italian occupiers in the mountains of Jabal al-Akhdar in Cyrenaica up unto his capture and execution in 1931, which marked the end of the Libyan war and the beginning of the Italian east African adventure against Belaye Zeleke for 5 years in the Nile region.
Belay reached to maturation and he was a man of 40 when the Italian bombarded Ethiopia after killing over 200, 000 civilians Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, but in Ethiopia they used chlorine gas killing over 1 .5 million Ethiopians. In 1936 war , the Ethiopians front was forced to retreat by sophisticated Italian war machine prepared to revenge the 1896 European defeat using poisonous gas . A a bloody battle was fought in Tembien in Tigray, and Maichew in Wollo which cost a lot of lives in both sides . Mostly the Eritrean Ascari and Ethiopians scored the highest victims.
Italy’s revenge on Ethiopia was to use its own people the Eritreans against herself . This was done by preparing over 60,000 Ascaris led by veterans of 1896 African war where 5,000 Eritrean Ascaris were killed. This methodology used by the Italian fascists in its East and north African Champagne against Belay Zeleke’s troops and earlier against Omar Muktar in Libya. A best way to reduce the fascist victims and letting the Africans to kill one another and eventually reduce the population of occupied territories was the Mussolines master plan agisnt the Abyssinias in Eritrea and Ethiopia.
King of Kings Haile Selassie left the country to go to Europe for a demand to stop the genocide of his people by the fascist regime of Mussolini, presenting his case in front of the League without any success.
The internal rebellion was organized and led by Ethiopia patriots especially that of Belay Zeleke . His insurgency in Gojjam killed many fascist soldiers even capture a general. He stopped the Italian troops to cross the Nile and occupy is definitively. His rebellion in the region of Gojjam block the Italian from crossing the the Nile region successfully.
In early 1931, Mukhtar after 20 years struggle was wounded and captured by the Italian fighters. Omar Mukhtar was tried by the fascist marshal court “convicted” and was hanged on September 16, 1931 at his refusal to recognize Libya as a part of Italian territory , and was hanged declaration:-
“Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.” (“To God we belong and to Him we shall return.”).
The death of Omar Mukhtar is glorious since he died in the hand of his enemies, but that of Belay Zeleke was shamefully and brutally executed by the order of his own Emperor after being imprisoned. The principal reason was the fear of the emperor to his rebellion if he was left as a governor of his liberated region of Gojjam and Eastern Wello the land of his mother, rather he was demoted as a ruler of a smaller district in Gojjam which he contested . In history of Ethiopia there was no king who left his people in war time and went to exile and came back to power, except the Negus . The king of kings Tewoderos died fighting the British in 1868 in Mekedla, and the King of Kings Yohanus IV died fighting the Dervish in Metema. The second ruler who shamefully abandoned Ethiopia to the dictatorial regime of Melese is Mengistue Haile Mariam today lamenting in exile in Zimbabwe. The post war true power of Ethiopia belonged to Belay according to the Ethiopian legacy a hero defeating the enemy always was coroneted as a king. The king himself came through the liberated territory of Gojjam with the help of the British and the support of Belaye Zeleke whom he met in Debere Marcos the capital his liberated region Gojjam in 1941. But Emperor later corrected the error committed by the court and visited Gojjam, compensated the heroes of the land and let the peasantry live free of tax.
In his hanging Belay Zeleke regretted that he did not die in hand of his enemy. In the following three decades his region revolted and fought three wars and become ungovernable to the last days of the Emperor.