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Belaye Zeleke & Omar Mukhtar African Patriots against Fascism , Muse Tegegne, Prof – Ethiopianism

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.


By Prof. Muse Tegegne

Prof. Muse Tegegne has lectured sociology Change & Liberation in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Americas. He has obtained Doctorat es Science from the University of Geneva. A PhD in Developmental Studies & ND in Natural Therapies. He wrote on the problematic of the Horn of Africa extensively. And Lecture at Mobile University..

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