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Italy and the Treatment of the Ethiopian Aristocracy, 1937-1940

Author(s): Alberto Sbacchi
Source: The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 10, No. 2 (1977), pp. 209-
241
Published by: Boston University African Studies Center
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/217347
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ITALY AND TTHETREATMENT
OF THE ETHIOPIAN
ARISTOCRACY,1937-19401

AlbertoSbacchi

Prior to the conquest of Ethiopia in May 1936, Italian authorities
anticipated placing the country under a form of government that would
allow the Ethiopian aristocracy to maintain its status. The plan was
designed to keep intact a social structure of considerable potential use to
the conquerors; both politically and economically, Italy could derive
great benefits from the cooperation of the elite in the administration of
the country.2 However, during the first year of occupation, 1936-1937,
unsettled political and military conditions in the newly acquired
territories prevented the emergence of a clear colonial policy on the
question. Moreover, Italian antagonism toward the nobles began to
grow.
Exactly why Mussolini reversed his earlier thinking on ruling through
the aristocracy is not clear, but several factors may have influenced his
change in attitude. First, the territory outside Addis Abeba was proving

tResearch for this article was conducted in Italy using the resources of the Central
State Archives and the archives of the former Ministry of Italian Africa in Rome.
Permission to consult the latter was granted on the condition that the archival position not
be cited. Therefore, the documents cited below that contain only a title, description, or
sender and receiver, plus date, but omit any more specific numerical categorization or
locational designation, are housed in the archives of the former Ministry of Italian Africa
in Rome [hereafter AMIA]. Material from other repositories has been cited more fully. I
would like to acknowledge the support given me by the University of Illinois at Chicago
Circle and Atlantic Union College, as well as the assistance of my Ph.D. supervisor,
Robert L. Hess, and the late Professor Carlo Giglio of the University of Pavia.
2Ministry of Colonies [hereafter MC], "Directions for a Possible Protectorate in
Ethiopia" (July 1935), AMIA; MC, "Ethiopian Protectorate" (18 July 1935), AMIA;
MC, "Ethiopian Protectorate" (19 July 1935), AMIA.

The InternationalJournal olfAfican HistoricalStudies, x, 2 (1977) 209
210 ALBERTOSBACCHI

difficult to subdue. In addition, the Ethiopian people were expressing
growing hostility toward the colonialists, and the nobles were said to be
behind this feeling. Moreover, Mussolini's military campaign was in
part motivated by his desire to avenge Italy's shameful defeat at Adowa
in 1896; Ethiopia's royal families had combined with Menelik II to
resist the invaders, and as a result were partially responsible for Italy's
humiliating loss. Finally, the victory over Ethiopia produced a state of
euphoria in Italy. Its army had conquered an empire, and the defeat of
forty years earlier had been revenged. The economic sanctions imposed
by the Western democracies had been challenged and successfully
resisted. The acquisition of Ethiopian territory made Italy a colonial
power. Militarily, politically, diplomatically dominant, Eternal Rome
ruled again on three seas. To share this power with the Ethiopian elite
was no longer a tolerable idea, nor did such a civilized and powerful
nation feel the need for intermediaries to govern its new subjects. There
was also the fear that the nobles, allowed to stand between the
government and the Ethiopian people, would delay penetration and
threaten sovereignty. For all these reasons, once in power in Addis
Abeba the Italians came to consider the rases (ras is an Ethiopian title
equivalent to duke or other high-ranking aristocrat, a governor, or a
marshal) and dejazmatches (a lesser noble or provincial marshal) not
collaborators but enemies whose power at least, and perhaps lives, was
to be eliminated.
The occasion for action was the assassination attempt on Rodolfo
Graziani, viceroy of Ethiopia, on 19 February 1937. Graziani believed
that the nobles had fomented the rebellion and threatened his life, and
in retaliation he called for their exile. It is difficult to ascertain the exact
number of Ethiopians deported to Italy beginning in March 1937. An
early record gives a total of 155 persons, but a later listing of 197 seems
to be a more accurate figure (see chart 1).3 By the end of 1937,
however, the number sent to Italian confinement had grown to 377.
Another document, which divides the exiles by sex, lists 321. The
largest group ended up in Asinara in Sardinia; their recorded number
varies from 173 to 284.4 Rases were quartered at Tivoli and at the Villa
Camilluccia near Rome.

3Graziani to MC (8 March 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 14, Central State Archives,
Rome [hereafter CSA]; Princivalle to Governor General of Italian East Africa [hereafter
GG of AOI] (21 March 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 39, fol. 59, CSA.
4Ministry of Italian Africa [hereafter MAI], Political Office, to Cabinet of the Minister
of Africa (26 Aug. 1937), AMIA.
1937-1940
ITALYAND ETHIOPIANARISTOCRACY, 211

EXILES IN ITALY: NUMERICAL DIFFERENCES
ACCORDING TO SOURCE

1937: 1555 1937: 3778
1937: 1976 1939: 1529
1937: 3247 1939: 8810

CHART 1

EXILES IN ITALY, 1937-1939

March March August December January July
1937 1937 1937 1937 1939 1939

5Princivalle to Vice-GG of AOI (21 March 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 34, fol. 59,
CSA.
6Graziani to MC (8 March 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 34, fol. 59, CSA.
7"'Prospectusof the Ethiopian Nobles Sent to Italy" ([Dec.] 1937), AMIA.
8MAI, Political Office, to Cabinet of the Minister of Africa (26 Aug. 1937), AMIA.
9Moreno to Cabinet of the Minister of Africa (31 Jan. 1939), AMIA.
l"' Prosp(,ctiusof the Ethiopian Nobles Sent to Italy' ([Dec.] 1937), AMIA.
212 ALBERTOSBACCHI

Allegedly dangerous individuals were sent to isolated places like
Longobuco,near Cosenza, Asinara,and the islandof Ponza, where Ras
Imru, leader of Ethiopia'swestern army and cousin of Haile Selassie,
was confined. Students were sent to Palermo. Older people, women,
and children, who were considered harmless, were accommodatedat
Mercogliano(Avellino). The emperor'sdaughterRomaneworkand her
childrenwent to Turinunderthe careof the Missione dellaConsolata.11
According to the available documentation, one-fourth of the 350
Ethiopiansin Italywere women and children.Six were rases and fifty-
four dejazmatches;there were thirty-eight ato (mister), fifteen Iji
(noble), fifteen fitaurari(general or knight), three cadi (judge), one
sheikh,and one abuna(bishop), amongothers (see chart2).12

CHART 2

EXILES IN ITALY DIVIDED BY SEX, 1937-193913

May Aug. Jan.
Locality 1937 1937 1937 1938 1939
Asinara Men 214 173 143 141 94
(Sardinia) Women 43 - - -
Children 27 - -

Mercogliano Men - - 32 - 18
(Avellino) Women - 32 37 12
Children - 21 22 - 6
Longobuco Men - 28 34 - 35
(Cosenza) Women - - -
Children --

'lMoreno to Cabinet of the Minister of Africa (31 Jan. 1939), AMIA; MAI, Political
Office, to Cabinet of the Minister of Africa (26 Aug. 1937), AMIA; "List of Ethiopians at
Asinara" (1938), AMIA; "Ethiopians to be Confined at Mercogliano [Avellino]"
(1937), AMIA; "List of Ethiopian Nobles for Whom No Special Police Supervision is
Necessary" ([1937]), Graziani Papers, busta 34, fol. 82, CSA.
12This statistic is incomplete. The ranks of many persons are not given, and many
nobles purposely did not declare their titles. The term dejazmatchalso includes dejazmaz,
kegnazmaz, and grazmaz.
13Moreno to Cabinet of the Minister of Africa (31 Jan. 1939), AMIA; MAI, Political
Office, to Cabinet of the Minister of Africa (26 Aug. 1937), AMIA; "List of Ethiopians at
Asinara" (1938), AMIA; "Prospectus of Ethiopian Subjects Sent to Italy" (1937),
AMIA; Dr. Massimo Grisoglia to Ministry of Interior, Political Office, "Report... on the
Services Rendered to the Ethiopians at Asinara" (1 May 1937), AMIA.
ITALY AND ETHIOPIAN ARISTOCRACY, 1937-1940 213

CHART 2 (continued)

EXILES IN ITALY DIVIDED BY SEX, 1937-193913

May Aug. Jan.
Locality 1937 1937 1937 1938 1939
Palermo Men - 4 4
(Sicily) Women - -
Children -
Ponza: Men- 3 3 - 3
Women - - - -
Children- - - -

Tivoli Men - 11 11 - 18
(Rome) Women - - - 6
Children - - - 4
Tropical Men - 4 -
Hospital Women - 9 -
(Rome) Children - -
Missione della Men - - - -
Consolata Women 1 3
(Turin) Children - 3
Camilluccia Men - - 20 -
(Rome) Women - 10
Children - - 4
Torre Del Men- 15 -
Greco Women - -
(Naples) Children -- -
Naples Men - - -
Women - -
12
Children
Totals Men 214 231 247 141 168
Women 43 41 52 - 21
Children 27 10 32 - 13
Grand Total 284 282 331 141 202
214 ALBERTOSBACCHI

The conditions under which these people lived were precarious.14
MartinoMarioMoreno, directorof the politicaloffice at the Ministryof
Africa, complainedthat the exiles were being sent out of the country
precipitately. They had no chance to provide caretakers for their
property,and Italiansin Ethiopiawere encouragedas a result to take
possession of their estates, sometimes without even paying rent.15
Several nobles asked that the Ministry of Africa in Italy receive the
income from their properties.16They needed money for clothes in the
concentration camps and to supplement food rations, which were
limited by the Italiangovernment's lack of funds. In one instance the
prefect of Sassari, responsiblefor the Ethiopianprisonersat Asinara,
reportedthat he hadno money to payfood contractors,who had refused
to extend any more credit.17He needed at least five lire per person a
day, or over half a million lire a yearfor about three hundredcharges.18
To these expenses were added those for water, heat, clothing, and
medical services; in the first six months the expenditure for Asinara
alone amounted to half a million lire.19The prefect of Avellino, who
oversaw the exiles at Mercogliano, stated that his food budget was
insufficient, and that he needed more money for heat, another
expensive commodity.20
Italian documentation also records the difficulties the Ethiopians
were havingadjustingto their new environment,includingthe food and
the climate. Many were demoralizedby their mistreatmentat Italian
hands, in particularbecause the Italians differentiatedbetween title-
holding families and persons of royal blood. Most of the former were
concentratedat Asinara and Mercogliano,while the latter, nearly all

14Nino Villa Santa, A. Scaglione, and others, Amedeo Duca D'Aosta (Rome, 1954),
175.
15Moreno to Teruzzi, Memorandum (Dec. 1938), AMIA.
16Some of the nobles requesting their rent payments were Woiziero Turuerk Aligaz,
Ato Jasu Maru, Woiziero Tzahaity Askale, Woide-Emanuel, Woiziero Debritu Aberet,
Woiziero Azede Babicheff, and the widow of Ras Nasibu. All these people wrote directly
to the Ministry of Italian Africa. Their correspondence is found among the papers of the
Ministry of Italian Africa's Political Office housed at the Central State Archives. See
MAI, Political Office [hereafter MAI/PO], busta 21, fol. 14-11, CSA; Petretti to all
governors of AOI (23 April 1927), Graziani Papers, busta 34, fol. 60, CSA.
17Vella (prefect of Sassari) to MAI (12 March 1938), AMIA.
18Cerulli to MAI (17 March 1938), AMIA; Cerulli to MAI (2 Sept. 1938), AMIA;
Lessona to GG of AOI (15 May 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 34, fol. 64, CSA; Grisoglia,
"Report... on the Services Rendered to Ethiopians at Asinara" (1 May 1937), AMIA.
19Teruzzi to GG-of AOL (29 Nov. 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 15, CSA.
20Tamburini (prefect of Avellino) to MAI (4 Oct. 1938), AMIA; Moreno to
Tamburini (20 Dec. 1938), AMIA.
ITALYAND ETHIOPIANARISTOCRACY,
1937-1940 215

rases and their families, were kept near Rome. The Italiangovernment
paid 750,000 lire a year to house the rases in private dwellings at the
Camillucciaand at the Villa Leonardiin Tivoli.21The rases were also
given generous salaries, although not enough to compensate for their
loss of power and freedom. Enrico Cerulli, one of the directorsat the
Ministry of Italian Africa, visited Asinara to interview some of those
detained there. Dejaz Ayalu Burru,former leaderof Amhara,told him
that Italy needed the nobles to govern the country.The pacificationof
the territoriesoutside the capital, especially Shoa, could be effected
only through a continuous militarycampaign;without the cooperation
of the nobility such a campaignwould be impossible, but he, for one,
had been asked to perform only cerefnonial functions. In its own
interests, therefore, as well as the nobles', the Italian government
should restore their possessions, guaranteetheir positions, and assure
their futures.
Ras Gabre Haywot, son of Ras Mikael of Wallo, said that he had
helped Grazianiestablishhis administrationin Addis Abeba. Liberated
by the Italiansafternine years in exile at Haile Selassie's instigation,he
hardly expected to be imprisoned by his rescuers.22Another high-
rankingofficial who complainedabout Italian treatmentwas Brehane
Markos,23educatedin Catholicmissions, former minister of post and
telecommunications,and later Ethiopianminister in Istanbul.He told
Cerulli that his countrymen could benefit greatly as subjects of an
Italianempire, but only if the imperialleaders followed the advice of
the aristocracyon a number of issues of local government, tradition,
and interethnicrelations. Dejaz MakkonenWosenie, former minister
of the interior and mayor of Addis Abeba, had contributed to the
submission of Wallamo and the disarmament of its people. He
describedEthiopiansas tired of warand desirous of peace and security;
they would find the return of the aristocracyreassuring.Cerulli also

21Lessona to GG of AOI (10 Aug. 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 34, fol. 69, CSA;
Lessona to GG of AOI (21 June 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 35, fol. 58, CSA.
22Cerulli, "Report on the Visit to Asinara" (25 April 1937), AMIA.
23Angelo Roncalli (Apostolic delegate of the Vatican in Istanbul, later Pope John
XXIII), "Memorandum on Brehane Markos" (23 Aug. 1936), Graziani Papers, busta
27, CSA. The Ethiopian foreign minister from 1920 to 1930, Brehane Markos helped the
Italian government obtain the concession to build the road from Assab to Dessie. He
helped Baron Franchetti secure mineral rights in Aussa. As minister of post and
telecommunication, he arranged to have the Italian Ansaldo Company build a powerful
radio transmitter near Addis Abeba, and he was a close friend of engineer Mario
Zambon.
216 ALBERTOSBACCHI

spoke to Dejaz Ayale Gebre, former president of the mixed court of
justice which had tried Europeans in the pre-invasion period. When
Pietro Badoglio entered the capital in May 1936 Ayale Gebre had
cooperated in setting up the new judicial organization; after the
assassinationattempthe had helped search for the guilty persons.24In
these and others Cerullidiscoveredindividualswho had been rewarded
for their cooperationwith imprisonment, who were condemned and
punished without evidence of wrongdoing.Cerulli was convinced that
their treatmentwas both demoralizingand unjust. Moreno agreed;he
recommendedreparationand an early determinationof their status. In
his opinion, the rights of the aristocracyhad been abused to the point
that their trustin the governmentwas shakenbeyondrepair.25
Unfavorableas the living conditionswere for the Ethiopiansinterned
in Italianconcentrationcamps, those at Nocra in Eritreaand at Danane
in Somaliawere even worse. In these two penal centers were the lower-
rankingEthiopianofficials roundedup after the attempton Graziani's
life in 1937. The number at Danane varied from fifteen hundred to
sixty-five hundred.26Manyof these were Amharasoldiers,membersof
the defeatedarmyof Ras Desta Damtu, Haile Selassie's son-in-law,but
prisonerstaken duringthe conquest whom Grazianiwanted out of the
way were also housed there.27Graziani planned to eliminate all the
Ethiopianauthoritieswho would not cooperatewith his administration,
but especiallyAmharasand Shoans,28by sending them to Somaliafor
life. He transportedthem into exile in covered trucksby night so they
wouldnot be seen by the people.29Once in Danane they were organized
into units of 150 persons, again on Graziani'sorder to the governorof
Somalia, and allowed to work to earn their food and lodging.
According to Ethiopian eyewitnesses, conditions at Danane were
unbearable. Prisoners ate mostly galletta, dry biscuits, rotten with
worms. Reportedlythe diet reached eighteen hundred calories a day;
despite this, body resistance was lowered, and internees became the

24Moreno to GG of AOI (9 July 1938), AMIA; Cerulli, "Report on the Visit to
Asinara" (25 April 1937), AMIA.
25Moreno to Teruzzi, Memorandum (Dec. 1938), AMIA; Moreno to the prefect of
Avellino (20 Dec. 1938), AMIA.
26Hazon toGG of AOI (24 July 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 34, fol. 62, CSA.
27Graziani to Chief of the Italian Government (21 March 1937), AMIA.
28Graziani to Santini (28 Feb. 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 14, CSA; Graziani to
Santini (18 April 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 14, CSA.
29Graziani to Governors of Harar and Somalia (21 March 1937), Graziani Papers,
busta 14, CSA.
ITALY AND ETHIOPIAN ARISTOCRACY, 1937-1940 217

victims of variousdiseases. Hygienewas a problem,and pollutedwater
caused many deaths.30Without potable water many were forced to
drink sea water; they caught dysentery and died at a rate of between
fifteen and thirty a day. The climate claimed many lives as well.
Ethiopianswere used to the cool dryweatherof the highlands.Danane,
at sea level, was hot, humid, and beaten by monsoonal winds. Italian
recordsshow pneumoniaas a cause of death at Danane. Accordingto
Ethiopiansources, out of sixty-five hundreddetainedat Danane, 3175
died. Otherslived only becausethey received enough money from their
relativesto purchasemineralwaterandmilk.31
But Colonel Azolino Hazon, chief of the Italian police in Ethiopia,
reportedthat mortalityat Danane was not very high. CaneroMedici of
the politicaloffice at the Governorateof Somalia affirmed his claim;
accordingto Medici, in August 1937 126 of the approximatelyeighteen
hundred prisonerswere ill and thirty-sixdied, only seven percent and
two percentof the total.32In July 1938 there were six deaths.33In April
1939 183 persons, or about ten percentof the inmates at Danane, were
given medical attention, again accordingto Italianstatistics.34Because
of these conflicting reports, the occurrence of illness and death is
difficult to determine, but we can assume that many suffered and died.
Graziani'sorderto supplythem with only enough food to live strongly
suggests it,35 as do the conditions under which the Ethiopianswere
confined. Poor facilities, includinglatrines,the humid climate, malaria,
stomach infections, and venereal disease took many lives, especially
among those compelledto workon the irrigationcanalor on the banana
and sugar-caneplantations.36

3?Ethiopia,Ministry of Justice, Documentson Italian War Crimes(2 vols., Addis
Abeba, 1950), II, affidavitof BlattaBekele HaptaMichael (judgeof the High Courtof
Justiceof Ethiopia),doc. 18; ItalianWarCrimes,I, doc. 56; Hazonto GG of AOI (20 Sept.
1937), GrazianiPapers,busta 34, fol. 66, CSA.
31ItalianWarCrimes,II, affidavit of Michael Tessemma (official at the Ethiopian
Ministry of Justice), doc. 15; Italian War Crimes, I, doc. 56.
32Hazonto GG of AOI (20 Sept. 1937), GrazianiPapers, busta 34, fol. 66, CSA;
CaneroMedicito GG of AOI, Mogadisho(21 Sept. 1937), GrazianiPapers,busta34, fol.
66, CSA.
33Governorof Somaliato MAI (18 Aug. 1938), AMIA.
34Governorof Somalia,"Economic-AdministrativeReportof Somalia"(April1939),
AMIA.
35Grimaldito QuartermasterGeneral's Branch in Addis Abeba, Makki (9 March
1937), GrazianiPapers,busta 14, CSA.
36Governorof Somalia,"Economic-Administrative Reportof Somalia"(April1939),
AMIA. The Italiansmade sure the Ethiopianaristocracywas not subject to degrading
tasks.Petrettito Governorof Somalia(16 May 1937), GrazianiPapers,busta36, fol. 40,
CSA; Santinito GG of AOI (24 April 1937), GrazianiPapers,busta 36, fol. 40, CSA.
218 ALBERTO SBACCHI

Italiandocuments describingthe treatmentof Ethiopiansat Danane
are few. Those that exist claim that the largest number of prisoners
interned was 2847.37 Ethiopiansources give this figure as 6500. The
latter is the more accurate according to Michael Tassemma of the
EthiopianMinistryof Justice, medicalassistantat Danane for three and
a half years and in chargeof recordingillness and death.38And indirect
Italian evidence indicates the kind of crowded living conditions that
lead to health problems.AlessandroLessona, ministerof ItalianAfrica,
urged Graziani to send Ethiopians to other localities to relieve the
overcrowding at Danane. He stressed that these alternative camps
should be somewherein ItalianEast Africa,however, because the penal
colonies in Italy were alreadybulgingwith prisoners.39Colonel Hazon
noted that the number of latrines at Danane was insufficient to
accommodatethe increased population.40These reports suggest that
manyof those who died at Danane were the victims of confinementand
poor living conditions as much as of disease.
At Nocra (Dahlak Islands) near Massawa the situation was even
worse. In 1937 the island prison contained five hundred serving life
sentences for serious politicalcrimes. By 1939 most Ethiopianpolitical
prisonershad been returnedfrom Italy, and some found their way to
Nocra. Combined with other political prisoners, the new arrivals
swelled the number of detainees to fifteen hundred.Inmates at Nocra
were subjectedto forced labor in quarries;they manufacturedcement
or were assignedto AGIP, the Italianpetroleumcompanyexploringfor
oil.41Temperaturesat Nocraaveraged122?F (50?C), takinga heavy toll
of inmates, who suffered sunstroke, marsh fever, from lack of fresh
water,and dysentery.42And badas conditionswere, there seemed little
chance that they would improve, since those who endured them were
considered politicallydangerous.The arrivalof the Duke of Aosta as
viceroy in late 1937 signaleda shift in attitude, however, and the status
of the Ethiopianaristocracychanged again.
The Duke of Aosta wanted to ameliorate the situation for human-

37MAI,"EthiopianPrisoners"([1937]), AMIA.
38Italian War Crimes,passim.
39Lessonato Graziani(15 May 1937), GrazianiPapers,busta34, fol. 59, CSA.
40Hazonto GG of AOI (20 Sept. 1937), GrazianiPapers,busta34, fol. 66, CSA.
41Daodiace,"Reporton My SecondYearof Governmentin Eritrea"(1939), AMIA;
Report on Eritrea" (Dec. 1937), AMIA; Corriere
Daodiace, "Political:Administrative
Eritreo(19 Jan. 1939).
42ItalianWar Crimes,II, affidavit of Jacob Gabre Leul (lieutenant colonel in the
Ethiopianarmy), doc. 16.
ITALYAND ETHIOPIANARISTOCRACY,
1937-1940 219

itarianreasons, but he also felt that the Ethiopianelite would be useful
in helping administerthe country. His visit to Asinarahad convinced
Cerulli that only a handful of the approximately three hundred
prisonerswere even indirectlyinvolved in the assassinationattempt, a
fact which added to their demoralization.43Othercolonial officials, for
example Renzo Meregazzi, chief pf the cabinet at the Ministry of
Africa, Attilio Teruzzi, minister of ItalianAfrica, and Moreno agreed
with Cerulli that, following the assassination attempt, many of the
aristocracyhad been detainedon minimalevidence and withouttrial.A
largenumber of personswith no politicalsignificancehad been sent to
Italy at great expense when they could have been held at Ambas, a
natural mountain fortress, at no cost to the government.44Many of
those incarceratedin Italyhad renderedfavors to the colonialregime;as
a result, it was widely believed in Ethiopiathat to submit to the Italians
was to endangerone's life and liberty.45Not unnaturally,the prisoners
themselves resented their confinement and distrusted Italians and
Italian justice. This further lowered Italy's prestige.46For all these
reasons, the new viceroywas anxious to returnthe rases, dejazmatches,
and other exiles home to restore trust in the Italian government and
prevent dissension among the people.
In early 1938 Moreno suggested that the detainees reenter Ethiopia
gradually,beginningwith women, children,and demonstrablyinnocent
men.47 In June Mussolini decided that those whose presence in
Ethiopiaposed no politicalproblemshould be released at once; others
could be relocatedunderpolice supervisionin Obbiaand RoccaLittorio
in Somalia. The Asinara inmates could go to Danane, while those at
Tivoli, Mercogliano,and Longobucowould remain there. As welcome
as the release of the innocent would be, Mussolini's relocationscheme
would hardlyrestore confidence in the colonial government. Rather it
would increaseantagonism,because going to Somaliawas considereda
harsherpunishmentthanstayingin Sardinia.48

43Cerulli, "Report on the Visit to Asinara" (25 April 1937), AMIA. Ironically, those
responsible for the plan, Abraha Debac Mogos Asghedon, Brehane Hopte Mikael, and
Blatta Ayele Gabru, had escaped and were free in Ethiopia.
44Teruzzi to Duke of Aosta (14 Feb. 1938), AMIA.
45Moreno to Teruzzi (26 April 1938), AMIA.
46Moreno to Teruzzi, Memorandum (Dec. 1938), AMIA; Meregazzi to Teruzzi (21
June 1938), AMIA.
47Moreno, "Memorandum on the Return to Ethiopia of the Ethiopians Exiled in
Italy" (27 June 1938), AMIA; Moreno to Teruzzi (26 April 1938), AMIA.
48Moreno, "Memorandum on the Return to Ethiopia of the Ethiopians Exiled in
Italy" (27 June 1938), AMIA; Moreno to Teruzzi (26 April 1938), AMIA.
220 ALBERTO SBACCHI

Determining which Ethiopians would be returned, and in what order,
was not an easy task. The General Governorate of Italian East Africa
was given orders to review the political merits of each case and issue
acts of clemency,49 which in reality were nothing less than acknowledg-
ments of the political, psychological, and material damage Italy had
caused. In 1938, another proposal for the repatriation of the exiles was
put forward: those who were harmless should be returned home but
kept under surveillance, while those considered politically dangerous
should be sent to Somalia. Teruzzi agreed that all the women and
children at Mercogliano, with the exception of the family of Workeneh
Martin, the Ethiopian minister exiled in London, should be repatriated
immediately. Abuna Isak and Afework Gebre Jesus, the former
Ethiopian minister in Rome, returned. The inmates at Asinara were
sent to Somalia,50 and Ras Imru remained on the island of Ponza, but
Ras Seyum of Tigre, Ras Getachew, former governor of Kaffa, Ras
Kebbede of Ghedem-Enfrata, and Dejaz Asserat, son of former
minister of war Ras Mulugeta, were home by the end of 1938.51
The reentry procedure was accelerated by an incident provoked by
Zerai Derres, an Eritrean who had served as interpreter to the confined
rases. On 13 June 1938 Derres stood in front of the monument to the
fallen heroes of Dogali in Rome and began shouting anti-Italian and
pro-Haile Selassie slogans to the public. Several persons were injured in
an attempt to silence him.52 In anger, Mussolini ordered the
repatriation of all Ethiopian interpreters and nobles, and in the
meantime he forbade them to go out of their houses, saying he didn't
want to see any more "niggers" on the streets of Italy.53 But in spite of
his order, the rases were still in Italy in October,54 delayed by the
paperwork involved in examining each case. In November 1938 the
Ministry of Africa expressed reservations about repatriating Ras
Seyum, Ras Kebbede, Ras Getachew, and Dejaz Asserat, perhaps
because of their part in the Zerai Derres incident. Teruzzi recom-
mended that they be sent to Libya or the Italian Aegean islands rather
than to Italian East Africa. The women and children could return,

49Moreno to Teruzzi, Memorandum (Dec. 1938), AMIA.
50Meregazzi to MAI (23 June 1938), AMIA.
51Meregazzi to Teruzzi, on board the Victoria(24 May 1938), AMIA.
52Meregazzi to Teruzzi (15 June 1938), AMIA.
53Moreno to prefects of Avellino, Cosenza, Sassari, and Rome (15 May 1938),
AMIA; Meregazzi to MAI, Political Office (15 June 1938), AMIA; Meregazzi to Teruzzi
(15 June 1938), AMIA.
54Teruzzi, handwritten notes (18 June 1938), AMIA.
ITALYAND ETHIOPIANARISTOCRACY,
1937-1940 221

however, as could a group of fifty at Asinara, as soon as accommodation
could be found for them in Addis Abeba. In addition, Muslim and
Orthodox Christian leaders such as Cadi Ahmed Abdalla and Giaha
Ahmed were allowed to return; in their cases the Italians hoped to
accrue some political advantage from their release. Those remaining in
Italy would be able to go back when the political situation permitted.55
Thus, at the end of 1938 and the beginning of 1939, after more than
eighteen months' confinement, the first Ethiopians came home.
In response to pressure from the Ministry of Africa for a speedy
implementation of its decision, and perhaps to leave a favorable
impression in the people's minds, Graziani marked his departure from
Addis Abeba in 1938 by releasing nine hundred prisoners at Danane.
Generous and humanitarian, his act of clemency was impractical since it
was done indiscriminately. Among the nine hundred were many
students from the School of Holetta, who had sworn to oppose the
colonial government and had supported the attempt on Graziani's life.
The pardon put the incoming viceroy, the Duke of Aosta, in an
embarrassing position: to punish the transgressors he would now have
to either reopen court proceedings against them, or reimprison them at
Nocra and bring new charges against them later.56 In a similar manner,
repatriation caused problems that offset any heightening of Italian
prestige the original act might have promised. The return of so many
caused a serious housing shortage. Moreover, as most of the nobles left
the concentration camps destitute, the colonial government had to
support them financially. Added to the various other difficulties the
Italian government was experiencing, the influx of repatriated exiles
made the administration of the empire even more ineffective. Even the
political benefit to Italy of their release was limited by the overwhelm-
ing number of pardons granted. Used with moderation and at
advantageous moments, restoring the nobles' freedom might have had
the meaningful political effect the Italians hoped. 57
The Duke of Aosta recommended that the nobles be pardoned
gradually; he also pointed out that much more significant use could be
made of their administrative and political potential. On the other hand,
he realized that the Ethiopian feudal system could not be changed

55Teruzzi, "Notes for the Duce" (10 Nov. 1938), AMIA; Teruzzi to GG of AOI (18
Nov. 1938), AMIA.
56Duke of Aosta to MAI (21 Feb. 1938), Graziani Papers, busta 27, fol. 10, CSA.
57Duke of Aosta to MAI (19 March 1938), AMIA; Corriere Eritreo (19 Jan. 1939);
Gazzetta Del Popolo (14 Nov. 1938).
222 ALBERTO SBACCHI

overnight.This difficultyhad been circumventedin Eritreaby an Italian
campaignto progressivelytransformthe traditionalcustoms and ways
of thinking. The viceroy thought this could be done in Ethiopia by
introducing and applying Italian institutions, especially the Italian
judicial system. The nobles could be encouraged to support such
changeswith financialcompensation,58the amountdeterminedby how
well they served Italy's interests. Returning the rases' political and
militarypowerwas of courseout of the question, the duke said, but they
should nevertheless be treated with the respect their titles and their
formerpositionsin Haile Selassie'sgovernmentdeserved.59
The duke's plan to use loyal nobles as high-rankingstate function-
aries and executives in the colonial governmentwas stronglycriticized
by the Fascist party.60Nevertheless, it was evident that restoring at
least some of the exiles' former power was necessary.In Amharaand
Shoa, government control had little impact outside the resident's
territorial seat, and, with few well-qualified colonial officials to
represent it, Italy elicited only limited cooperationfrom the people.
Moreover, Ethiopianstraditionallyobeyed only their own governors,
anotherreasonto put them in leadershippositions.The viceroywon his
point, and a move was made to restore authorityon conditionalterms,
with the first two to assume their old positions being Dejaz Gugsa of
Tigreand Ras Hailuof Gojam.61
The wider political situation made some kind of accommodation
crucial. Italy anticipatedan internationalwar, in which case a hostile
populationand an unfriendlyelite would prove an impediment. In an
attemptto inspiretrustand eliminateuncertainty,the duke contacteda
numberof dissidentnotablesin Amharaand askedfor their submission
in return for a guarantee of justice.62 Preliminarydiscussions were
opened in 1939 with nationalist leaders like Asfaw-Bogaleof Debre
Taborand Dagnau Tessema of Belesa63to determine the concessions
the Italianswould make in returnfor acceptanceby these notables and
their followers. The same method was followed in Shoa, where

58Duke of Aosta to MAI (25 Oct. 1938), AMIA.
59Duke of Aosta to MAI (Feb. 1938), in Villa Santa, Scaglione, and others, Amedeo
Duca D'Aosta, 177.
60National Fascist Party to Mussolini (30 Oct. 1938), Segreteria Particolare del Duce,
Carteggio Ordinario, busta 260, fol. 1, CSA.
61Moreno to Teruzzi, Memorandum (26 April 1938), AMIA.
62Duke of Aosta to MAI (Feb. 1938), in Villa Santa, Scaglione, and others, Amedeo
Duca D'Aosta, 177.
63Frusci, "Political Report of the Governorate of Amhara" (April 1939), AMIA.
ITALYAND ETHIOPIANARISTOCRACY,
1937-1940 223

innumerable military campaigns had made the people particularly
hostile to the government. Here General Guglielmo Nasi, vice-
governorgeneralof ItalianEast Africa, began talkswith Abebe Aregai,
the leader of the Shoan opposition, to secure his submission. At the
moment of success, a resident massacred a number of Abebe's
followers, and the agreementfailed. The results of these meetings bore
some fruit, however. All of 1939, as negotiations continued, peace
reigned throughout Shoa and part of Amhara. The number of
aggressive incidents diminished, as did their resultantthreat to Italian
rule. Despite this advantage, the attempts at appeasement by the
viceroy and the vice-governor general were too late to be really
beneficial.
Another policy error the duke attempted to correct concerned
Ethiopianparticipationin a Councilof the Empire.The constitutionof
Italian East Africa, as spelled out in the Legge Organicaand the
OrdinamentoPolitico Ammistrativo, provided that a council be called at
least once a year. Six members of the assembly were to be Ethiopian
leaders,one representingeach of the six governoratesinto which Italian
East Africa was divided. Although the council was to be an advisory
body, it could have functioned as a forum for discussing colonial
matters with those familiarwith the problems of their people,64and
served as a contact point between the Italian government and its
subjects.In July 1936, however, Grazianihad been unable to make the
appointmentsbecause he was not familiar enough with the rases to
know which ones would be loyal. The one individual he felt was
trustworthy,Ras Hailu, he nominatedas adviser for internalaffairs.65
But Lessonaobservedthatsinglingout Ras Hailuwould make the other
nobles jealous, and he proposedfive more for places on the council,
among them the Muslim rulers Sufian Abdullahi, son of the former
emir of Harar,and Abba Dula and his son Abba Jiobirof Jimma, both
of whom had submitted to Italy in writing even before the Italo-
Ethiopian war. Lessona foresaw no difficulty in finding suitable
candidates in Eritrea and Somalia, and as for the newly acquired
Christianterritoriesof Amhara and Shoa, whose notables were little
known to the Italians, let them be brought to Addis Abeba as

64Law of 1 June 1936, No. 1019, Art. 24; Law of 11 Nov. 1937, No. 2708, Arts. 15-17.
See Gennaro Mondaini, Legislazione Coloniale Italiana (2 vols., Milan, 1941), II, 423-425;
Renzo Meregazzi, Lineamenti della Legislazione per l'Impero (Milan, 1939), 47-48.
65Graziani to MC (8 July 1936), AMIA.
224 ALBERTOSBACCHI

councillors without actually being nominated as such. They could serve
as advisers, and as hostages as well.66
Graziani responded with a more definitive list of nominees. He
thought that Ras Hailu could represent Gojam; Ras Kebbede, Shoa;
Ras Gabre Haywot, Amhara and Gondar; Dejaz Gugsa, Eritrea; Sufian
Abdullahi, Harar and Somalia; and Abba Jiobir of Jimma, the territory
of Galla-Sidama. Graziani also suggested to the Ministry of Africa that,
considering the great ethnic and linguistic diversity among the
Ethiopian people, their representation in the council was very small.
Moreover, limiting membership denied the viceroy the use of other
important personalities in the empire, such as Ras Seyum of Tigre and
Dejaz Ayalu Burru of Amhara. As a result, instead of encouraging
cooperation by allowing the aristocracy a voice in the administration,
the establishment of the Council of the Empire was a source of
resentment among those traditional leaders not chosen to sit on it. To
avoid this, Graziani proposed that the number of Ethiopian councillors
be increased.67
Both Mussolini and Lessona rejected this suggestion, although
Lessona counterproposed calling the most important nobles to Addis
Abeba and giving them salaries scaled according to their rank.68 As
politically advantageous as their presence in the capital might be,
however, it also would give rise to the more immediate danger of
gathering all the potential troublemakers in the empire in one place.
Graziani foresaw in Lessona's suggestion the possibility of creating a
class of people paid to do nothing but breed dissatisfaction. On the other
hand, he was certain that, given constructive employment in which they
could take pride, many of the rases could prove as useful to the colonial
government as was Ras Hailu. The Gojami chief had been officially
nominated adviser to the viceroy, and had disarmed the people of Addis
Abeba and Shoa in a short time when all Italy's attempts to do so had
failed.69 Another person who could have been very helpful to the
Italians was Ras Seyum of Tigre, but Mussolini suspected his loyalty,
and denied him council membership on those grounds.70
Stymied in his attempts to exploit the rases in administering their
people by ministry objections and Mussolini's opposition, Graziani

66Lessona to Graziani (11 July 1936), AMIA.
67Graziani to Lessona (28 July 1936), AMIA.
68Lessona to Graziani (1 Aug. 1936), AMIA.
69Graziani to MC (27 July 1936), AMIA.
70Lessona to Graziani (4 Aug. 1936), Graziani Papers, busta 23, CSA.
ITALYAND ETHIOPIANARISTOCRACY,
1937-1940 225

found it expedient to postponecallingthe council indefinitely.71Other
causes contributedto the delay as well, such as the conquestof western
Ethiopia, the mass exile of the nobles to concentrationcamps, and
revolt in Amhara and Shoa. By the time Graziani left, no one paid
attention to the absence of council meetings, despite the fact that the
colonialconstitutionrequireda yearlyconvocation.The Duke of Aosta
inheritedthis situationbut he had little chance to rectifyit, since by that
time most of the Ethiopianaristocracywas interned away from Addis
Abeba.
In a general review of how best to exploit the rases after their return
in 1939, however, Moreno revived Graziani's suggestion to raise the
numberof council members. Moreover,Moreno proposedthat each of
the local governoratesbe providedwith a consultativebody on internal
affairs. In this way all Ethiopiansabove a certain rank would become
involved in the colonialgovernment.Participationin these bodies could
be made attractive by generous salaries, which Moreno felt was a
cheaper propositionthan maintainingthe large army requiredto keep
orderwithoutthe rases' cooperation.72Despite these arguments,by the
end of 1939 the colonialgovernorswere convinced thatcallinga council
would be useless: the Ethiopian representatives, divided by race,
religion, language, and understanding of Western culture, shared
neither the same interests73nor the same opinions on how internal
problemsshould be solved. As a result, the Council of the Empirewas
never called, and in 1940 the Committee for the Reform of the
FundamentalLaws of Ethiopiarecommended its abolition in light of
the new raciallawwhich prohibitedthe participationof colonialsubjects
in the administrationof the empire.74
The death of the council, the only approvedstructurefor Ethiopian
participationin the colonial administration,had been assured by the
policy of niente potere ai ras, which prohibited sharing power with the
rases. Mussolinihad remindedthe Duke of Aosta on a visit to Rome in
June 1938 that Ethiopian traditionalleaders were to be confined to
Addis Abeba and were forbidden to occupy positions of military or
political importance.They were to be kept happy and paid generous

71Lessona to Graziani (12 Sept. 1936), Graziani Papers, busta 13, CSA; Lessona to
Graziani (3 Oct. 1936), Graziani Papers, busta 13, CSA.
72Moreno to Teruzzi, Memorandum (26 April 1938), AMIA.
73Duke of Aosta to MAI, "Minutes of the Sixth Meeting of the Governors of AOI"
(11-12 Dec. 1939), AMIA.
74Committee for the Reform of the Fundamental Laws of AOI to Teruzzi (14 Nov.
1940), AMIA.
226 ALBERTO SBACCHI

salaries and could be consulted individuallyon questions concerning
the Ethiopian people, but the number of rases Italy would recognize
formally was six, and even one of these would not be replaced if the
titleholderdied.75
Despite Mussolini'sstrictproscriptions,underthe Duke of Aosta the
conditionof the Ethiopiannobilityimproved,since the duke sometimes
followed his own judgmentratherthan the duce'sordersin dealingwith
his aristocraticsubjects. He could hardly do otherwise than promote
Dejaz Gugsa to ras, since Badoglio had promised to make the
appointment in 1936. In addition, he rewarded other nobles for
supportinghis administration.At Maskal, the Festival of the Cross,
Haile Selassie customarilyhad distributedgifts and titles; in September
1938 the viceroy continued the tradition, bestowing the title of
dejazmatchon Sebhautu Johannes, an interpreter; Takle Markos,
former minister of post and communications; and Fullas Wonneta,
chief of the ChristianGuraje.76At the 1939 Maskalfive nobles were
awardedthe title of ras:Ayalu Burruof Amhara;KidaneMiriam,chief
of Arresa (Eritrea);BarachiBeshit, militaryleaderof the colonialtroops
in Eritrea; Amedie Ali, traditionalruler of the Borana region; and
Abba-Ukum Burru of Shoa, political adviser to the colonial govern-
ment.77
The new viceroy was anxious to impress the aristocracywith the
greatness of Italy's culture and the benefits their country could derive
from associationwith it. For this reason he sent delegatesfrom all over
ItalianEast Africato the second anniversarycelebrationof the founding
of the Italian empire in Rome on 9 May 1939.78About forty nobles,

75The rases to which Mussolini was referring were Ras Seyum of Tigre, Ras Kebbede
of Wollo, Ras Getachew of Shoa, Ras Gugsa of Tigre-Eritrea, Ras Hailu of Gojam, and
Ras Gabre Haywot of Wollo-Gondar. Meregazzi to Teruzzi, Addis Abeba (24 June
1938), AMIA; MAI to MAI, Political Office (June 1938), AMIA; Meregazzi to Teruzzi
(22 June 1938), AMIA. To keep the rases under surveillance in Addis Abeba, a number
of houses with gardens were built for them. See Nasi, "Bi-Yearly Report of the General
Governorate of AOI" (July 1939), AMIA.
76Duke of Aosta to MAI (27 Oct. 1938), AMIA.
77Corrieredell'Impero (29 Sept. 1939); Azione Coloniale (5 Oct. 1939). None of the
Galla nobles were awarded the title of ras, a fact which caused resentment among the
Galla people. Especially bitter were the brothers Johannes and Hosanna Jottie, who had
helped the Italians defeat Ras Imru and conquer western Ethiopia. Marraffa to MAI,
Political Office, "Information from SIM [Italian intelligence agency]" (15 Sept. 1939),
MAI/PO, busta 1, fol. 5, CSA; Teruzzi to GG of AOI (10 Nov. 1939), AMIA.
78Located in the Archives of the Ministry of Italian Africa are three different major
lists of the nobles invited to Italy for the ceremonies, each list reporting a different set of
figures. One, "List of Participants to the Second Anniversary of the Foundation of the
ITALYAND ETHIOPIANARISTOCRACY,
1937-1940 227

with their wives, children,and interpreters,representedthe Christians,
the Muslims, and peoples of indigenous religions in the empire. An
especially large delegation came from Amhara, where the duke was
particularlyinterestedin spreadingwordof Italy'smilitarypower.Many
of the exiles were also invited to attendthe ceremonies,79althoughthey
were not allowedto sit with theircountrymenfor fear they would stir up
anti-Italianfeeling among the visitors from home.
For the latter,the schedule of activitiesincludedan audiencewith the
king of Italy on 13 May and with Mussolini on 2 June 1938. The duce
and his visitors, Ras Hailu, Dejaz Gugsa, SherifaEl Morganiof Eritrea,
SultanOlol Dindle of Ogaden,SultanAbba Jiobir,the Echege, and the
head of the monks of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, Abuna
Yohannes, exchanged presents to commemorate the occasion.
Yohannes received a heavy gold Coptic cross,80a gift that symbolized
Italy's supportof the Ethiopianchurch, now independentwith Italian
help from the patriarchof Alexandria.Abuna Yohanneswas also taken
to the Churchof Saint Markin Venice,81while others of the delegates
visited the industrialcenters in Genoa, Milan, Turin, and Venice, and

Italian Empire," gives the following from the governorate general of Addis Abeba:
Abuna Johannes Tamrat, Fitaurari Dilnessau, Dejaz Johannes Hailu, Dejaz Tessemma
Johannes, Ras Hailu, Dejaz Abba Akau Burru, and nine servants. From the governorate
of Somalia came: Sultan Olol Dindle, Hugas Mumim Warfaia, Hugas Mohammed Ashi,
Sheik Mohammed, Chief Hussen Haile, Chief Ezzi Gurei (Abdullai Dirie Dinle), and
seven servants; from the Governorate of Harar: Dejaz Mellion Tedla Fitaurari Igzau
Chetema, Sultan Nur Dadi, Sheik Ussein Sude, Imam Mohammed (Sufian Emir
Abdullai), accompanied by four servants; from the Governorate of Galla-Sidamo: Sultan
Abba Jiobir Abba Dula, Sultan Abba Jiobir Gumai, Fitaurari Gebremedhin Abbaboghib,
Noble Desta (Dejaz Hosanna Jiottie, Dejaz Israel Jiottie), and five servants; from the
Governorate of Amhara: Dejaz Woldesellassie Gebre, Dejaz Joseph Burru, Dejaz
Wubinesh Sheccol, Dejaz Matabie Derso, Dejaz Mesfin Ajalu Ghemer, Fitaurari
Ghetahun Meccia, Dejaz Nugguru Hailu (Dejaz Issa Shiaraf), and eight servants; from
the Governorate of Eritrea: Dejaz Haile Selassie Gugsa, Dejaz Chidane Mariam
Chebremeshel, Dejaz Beine Barashi, Dejaz Abraha Tessemma, Dejaz Hassen Ali, Diglel
Gelani El Husein, Sherifa Aluia El Morgani, Dejaz Hagos Ghebre, with a following of
fourteen servants, four women, and three children.
79The rases already in Italy at the time were: Ras Seyum, Woiziero Atzede Asgaw,
Ras Kebbede, Ras Getachew, Woiziero Luladei Zamanuel, Dejaz Asserat, Dejaz Ajalu,
Dejaz Mekkonen Wosenie. Ras Hailu was very ill, the result of complications from
diabetes, syphilis, and pneumonia. Teruzzi nevertheless insisted on his being present in
Rome because Mussolini wanted to recognize him publicly for his services to Italy.
Teruzzi to Viceroy (18 April 1938), AMIA; Duke of Aosta to MAI (21 April 1939),
AMIA.
80Meregazzi to Teruzzi, Addis Abeba (2 June 1938), AMIA; "Notes for Teruzzi" (6
July 1938), AMIA.
8lTeruzzi to prefect of Turin (13 May 1938), AMIA.
228 ALBERTO SBACCHI

witnessed navalmaneuversin Naples. For propagandareasons, the tour
emphasized Italy's production capacity. The government hoped the
Ethiopianswould return home impressed with its booming industry,
and in reporting to their countrymen would convince them of the
futility of continuinghostilities againstcolonial control.
In Turin they visited an airplanefactory, and Alessandro Federici
della Costa, chancellorat the ministry,reportedthat the Amharaagreed
among themselves that Haile Selassiewas wrongin claimingduringthe
Italo-Ethiopianwar that Britain supplied all of Italy's aircraft.They
could see that the Italianswere capableof fulfilling their own needs. At
the Fiat factory, accordingto Federici della Costa, these same nobles
called Haile Selassie a fool for thinking he could resist so powerfulan
enemy, and cursedhim for involvingthem in a warwhichhad causedso
many Ethiopiandeaths.82
Back at home, the delegates lived up to the government's expecta-
tions. General OttorinoMezzetti, governorof Amhara,wrote that the
traditionalleaders in his province had been highly impressed with
Italy's organization, industry, and military strength. Roman monu-
ments had amazed them. Their audiences with Mussolini and the king
had made them proud to serve in the Italian government, and other
Amhara notables, intrigued by their reports, wanted to see Italy, too.83
General Guglielmo Nasi, governor of Harar, said the Harari delegates
had been bewildered by Italian culture, material progress, and industrial
capacity.They describedwhat they had witnessed as miraculous.Nor
did the stories lose in the telling. In recountingtheir trip the delegates
magnifiedItaly's powerand achievements, but their listeners received
it as accurate, in particularbecause they respected the source. Nasi
reiteratedthe advantageto the colonial government of their accepting
such propaganda.If the Ethiopians could be convinced that their
materialculture would prosperfrom belonging to the Italian empire,
they might forget about their lost independence. To further this aim,
Nasi suggested that nobles visit Italy regularly,84and Mussolini agreed
to receive smallgroupsof five each in the followingmonths.85

82Federici della Costa Alessandro (chancellor at the MAI) to Meregazzi, chief of the
Cabinet of the Minister of Africa (14 July 1938), AMIA.
83Mezzetti to GG of AOI, Gondar (7 July 1938), AMIA.
84Nasi, "Political Report of the Governorate of Harar" (July 1939), AMIA.
85Moreno, handwritten notes (July 1938), AMIA; Moreno to Teruzzi (25 April
1938), AMIA.
1937-1940
ITALYAND ETHIOPIANARISTOCRACY, 229

If these visits were politically useful, however, the presence of
Ethiopiansin Italy caused delight in the populaceand problemsfor the
authorities.The Italianpeople were little affected by racialprejudiceor
the problemsof accommodationit posed. When they saw Ethiopiansin
the streets they gathered around to greet them. In Genoa they gave
them a sincere welcome. They solicited their autographs, their
photographs,and handshakes.86The officials in charge of the visitors
had a different reaction,however. In 1924 Ras Hailu and Haile Selassie
had stayedat the GrandHotel, and laterDejaz Gugsa had stayed at the
Excelsior. These were the two best hotels in Rome. Although minor
nobles were assignedsecond-classestablishmentslike the Metropolitan
and the Milan, it was thought politically unwise to put the more
prominentvisitorsin anythingless prestigiousthan the Excelsioror the
Grand. Not only did this practiceput the Ethiopiansunder the same
roof as whites, sometimes Italianswere moved out or turned away to
make room for them. A number of Englishmen left hotels in the
fashionableVia Veneto in protest against their accommodationof the
blacks, and to add to the confusion, Muslims refused to share quarters
with Christians,and Libyanswith Ethiopians.
Moreover, the Ethiopians did not behave according to accepted
Italian standardsof etiquette and mores. They lounged in the hotel
armchairsand failed to give them up to ladies. They patronizedhouses
of prostitution and were served by Italian waiters, whom they tipped
generously, both offenses againstthe notion of racialsuperiority.They
ran up enormousbills, which the governmenttook its time paying.87At
the Hotel Milanin 1938 they left an outstandingdebt of 64,156 lire, and
a year later the accountwas not paid.The owner of the Societ'aEsercizi
Alberghi, Brazzi Fortunato, was compelled to take the Ministry of
Africa to court to collect his money.88While the Ethiopianscould not
be blamed for the government's tardiness,it hardlyendeared them to
their hosts.
In September 1938 a memorandumwent out on ways to counteract
these problems.To eliminate contactbetween Ethiopiansand whites, a
specialvillage was to be built in Rome, with an Orthodoxchurch and a
Muslim mosque.89 In the meantime, one whole floor of the Hotel

86Federici della Costa Alessandro to Meregazzi (14 July 1938), AMIA.
87Meregazzi to MAI, Political Office (20 June 1938), AMIA.
88Prefect of Rome to MAI, "Notice to Appear in Court as Requested by Hotel
Milano," Rome (19 April 1939), AMIA.
89Moreno to Teruzzi (23 June 1938), AMIA.
230 ALBERTO SBACCHI

Russia was rented for ninety thousand lire a year, the Hotel Russia
being constructedso that the Ethiopianscould use a different entrance
and elevatorthan the Italianguests.90The memorandumalso stipulated
that the visitors would be served only by Ethiopian servants.91Its
proposalswere not implemented, however. In EthiopiaItalianwaiters
served the rases at parties and feasts,92 and in 1939 the Ministry of
Africa rented the Via Scarlatti, seven miles outside Rome, at fifty
thousandlire a yearto accommodatedistinguishedEthiopianguests.93
Italian confusion over relations with the nobles extended even to
language.On 22 July 1939 Teruzzi orderedthe viceroy and his staff to
address Ethiopians of every rank as tu (you), a form which implies
disrespect.94The Duke of Aosta insistedon the more formal voi (or lei),
however, at least for the most important individuals, and Teruzzi
agreed.95The duke's victory on the question of addresswas indicative
of his success in determining a more reasonableattitude toward the
aristocracyunderhis control.By 1939 his policyhad done a greatdeal to
restore the authority and prestige of the more powerful traditional
rulers. Some he appointedhis personalcounsellors;others were given
judicial posts. IncreasinglyEthiopian opinion was heard on conflicts
between ethnic groups. Particularlyin Amhara and Shoa, where the
presence of a great many notables created the potential for an
influential and dissentient class of unemployed, the viceroy called on
these people for help and advice.96
The duke's efforts to involve the rases in the colonial structure
marked the beginnings of a radical transformationin the traditional
system of governing.No longerwould a rasrule his territoryabsolutely;
instead, he becamea representativeof the centralgovernment.97Elites,
especiallyamong the Amhara,served as advisersto the viceroy and to
governorsof regions or as regionalgovernorsthemselves. Nasi records
that an Ethiopianwas given wide administrativeandjudicialpowers in
Addis Abeba and that a young noble assumed the residency of

90MAI, "Memorandum for Dell'Armi" (16 Sept. 1938), AMIA.
91Caroselli to MAI, Political Office (6 Sept. 1938), AMIA.
92Meregazzi to GG of AOI (16 March 1940), AMIA.
93MAI, Political Office, "Memorandum for Teruzzi" (19 Aug. 1941), AMIA. The
person responsible for the villa was Major Francesco Torresani.
94Teruzzi to GG of AOI (27 July 1939), AMIA.
95Duke of Aosta to Teruzzi (5 Sept. 1939), AMIA; Teruzzi to GG of AOI (6 Sept.
1939), AMIA; Teruzzi to GG of AOI (21 Oct. 1939), AMIA.
96AzioneColoniale (12 Feb. 1942).
97A. Bertola, Storia ed Istituzionidei Paesi Afro-Asiatici(Turin, 1964), 270.
ITALYAND ETHIOPIANARISTOCRACY,
1937-1940 231

Marabatie.He also indicatesat least the intention to make Ato Abegaz
commissioner of Selale.98By 1939-1940, a conscious and innovative
structurefor governingthe empire was emerging.The sultan of Aussa,
MohammedJajaAmfari, was restoredto a positionof almost complete
autonomy, although he was technically under the supervision of the
district commissioner at Assab. In his case, however, the political
motive was extremely practical,since the sultan was the only rulerable
to control the unruly Danakil people, both in Ethiopia and in
neighboring French Somalia.99For this service to Italy he received
fifteen thousandlire a month, of which he returnedtwenty thousanda
year as a fixed tribute to Italian sovereignty.100Another influential
chief who was valuable to the colonial government was Abba Jifar, an
importantMuslimleaderwho broadcastedItalianpropaganda throughout
the Arabic-speakingworld.101He was also instrumental in fighting
oppositionin Galla-Sidamaand in namingtrustworthyrases who would
side with Italy in the event of a European war. Abba Jifar was so
valuableto the Italiansthat they allowedhim a bodyguardof ten armed
men, a privilege few Ethiopians enjoyed.102In Ogaden, Sultan Olol
Dindle was made paramountruler, and many of the chiefs in Galla-
Sidamawere restored.The Jottie family regainedtheir lands in western
Ethiopia,as did SultanMustafaGojaliof Beni Shangul.And in another
attemptto conciliatethe nobles, the viceroyconferredthe title of rason
Dejaz Ayalu Burru, even though he was not of royal blood. The new
titleholderwas sent to Amhara,whereGovernorMezzetti assignedhim
the task of arranginga reconciliationbetween the governmentand anti-
Italian Amhara leaders.103Individuals like these, whom Italy had
plannedin 1936 and 1937 to eliminate,were by 1938 becomingvaluable
tools in the governingof the empire. Not only was the duke willing to
allow indigenous leaders to rule in some areas, he also considered
experimentingwith local governingcouncilscomposedsolely of elected
Ethiopians.But implementingsuch plans took time and patience, and
the advent of WorldWar II made them impossible.

98G. Nasi, Noi Italiani in Etiopia (Rome, 1950).
99Daodiace, "Political-Administrative Report of the Governorate of Eritrea, Semester
July-Dec. 1938," AMIA.
l??Daodiace, "Political Report of the District Commissioners of Eritrea" (Sept.
1938), AMIA.
10?Alfieri (minister of propaganda) to MAI (7 June 1938), AMIA.
102Gazzera, "Minutes of the Second Meeting of the Commissars of the Governorate
of Galla Sidama," Jimma (12 June 1939), AMIA; Geloso, "Political Report of the
Governorate of Galla Sidama" (March 1937), AMIA.
103Duke of Aosta to MAI (22 Oct. 1938), AMIA; R. Di Lauro, Come Abbiamo Difeso
l'Impero (Rome, 1949), 331; Nasi, Noi Italiani in Etiopia.
232 ALBERTOSBACCHI

The most influentialof the rases was Ras Hailu, on whom the Italians
conferred extensive honors and in whom they placed an inordinate
amount of trust.104GrazianiorderedGeneral G. Belly, commanderof
Italianforces at Ambo, to respectRas Hailul05and to take his adviceon
inter-Ethiopianaffairs.106The Italiangovernment decoratedhim with
the Star of Italy and the Order of San Maurizio and Lazzaro.107
Membersof his family also received titles, decorations,and residencies
in Burie.108Many of his former headmen replacedleaders installedby
Ras Imru in 1935, and were rewardedwith salaries and positions for
their help to Italiantroopsin 1936.109Seventy of Hailu's followerswho
had taken part in the conquest of western Ethiopiareceived titles and
pensions.110In recognitionof Hailu's contribution,Grazianistayed the
execution of rebel members of his family,1ll although he also hoped
that the ras would persuadehis nephew, Dejaz Negash, his son-in-law,
Dejaz MangashaJambore,and his daughterSeblewangelto submit to
Italianforces. In addition,GrazianiwantedHailuto use his influence in
Gojam to eliminate Ras Imru's men and the patriotswho opposed the
government.112
Honored, promotedabove other nobles, the anticolonialmembers of
his family given special treatment, Ras Hailu was also rewarded
materially.His wealth and avariciousnesswere famous; he was said to
be, with the exception of Haile Selassie, the richest man in Ethiopia.113
Much of the propertythat Haile Selassie had confiscated before 1935
had been returnedto him; only that held by others loyal to the Italians

104ValentinoB. Vecchi, "Notes on the Events in Ethiopia" (3 Aug. 1942), AMIA.
G15Grazianito Geloso (2 June 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 35, CSA.
106Graziani to Duke of Aosta (25 Dec. 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 35, CSA.
107Grazianito MAI (15 Nov. 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 35, CSA; Duke of Aosta
to MAI (28 April 1938), AMIA.
N08Nasi,Noi Italiani in Etiopia.
109Pirzio Biroli, "Political Report of the Governorate of Amhara" (June 1937),
AMIA.
ll?Graziani to Duke of Aosta (25 Dec. 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 35, CSA.
1 lGraziani to Governorate of Amhara (24 Oct.
1937), Graziani Papers, busta 35, fol.
80, CSA.
112Graziani to Biroli (27 Oct. 1937), AMIA.
1l3Riccardo Astuto, "Political Report of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Amhara" (30 Sept.
1933), Carte del Primo Aiutante del Re, Carteggio Segreto, filza 135, CSA. It was
believed that Ras Hailu owned twenty-one thousand head of cattle and several thousand
head of horses and mules. From his estates and other land in Addis Abeba alone he
received thirty-five thousand Maria Theresa dollars a year as rent. Rinaldini to Morgagni,
Brussels (3 March 1936), Stefani-Morgagni Papers, busta 7, fol. 18, CSA; Ministry of
Foreign Affairs to MC, "Notes sur l'Ethiopie" (25 Nov. 1935), AMIA.
ITALYAND ETHIOPIANARISTOCRACY,
1937-1940 233

remainedwith its new owners, and the raswas compensatedfor whathe
could not repossessin the amountof 126,000 lire.114He was allowedto
build a house in the Italian district of Addis Abeba, a privilege
forbiddenany other Ethiopian.115Permittedalso to conduct business,
he bought vast tracts of land in the area of the great markets and
speculated in wheat and cereal, upsetting the prices for those
commodities in the capital and its environs. The Italian government
grantedhim a loan of four million lire, with his propertyas security.116
On the other hand, he was known to take a long time in repayinghis
debts, in particulartwenty-five thousand lire he owed to the Bar
Sabaudia.117Finally, despite a general proscriptionagainst driving in
the city becauseof a fuel shortage,Ras Hailuhad the use of his car.118
Unsatisfiedwith these successes, Ras Hailu's ultimate ambitionwas
to become negus(king) of Ethiopiaand to returnto Gojamat the head
of an army.119He discussed his goal with his fellow chiefs and Italian
authoritieson many occasions.The ItalianIntelligenceServicereported
in 1939 that Ethiopiansbelieved that, were an internationalconflict to
erupt, Ras Hailu would take command of the country. Then, after
establishingand expandinghis power, he would provoke an uprising,
drive out the Italians,and assume control of Ethiopiapermanently.120
The same source accused him of secretly supporting the revolt in
Gojam to convince the Italians that he should be nominated to the
throne, or at least be given the authorityto suppressthe revolution.121
In 1937 similar rumors were circulating. Ladislas Farago, a former
employee of the Societe Nationale d'Ethiopie,wrote that, even though
he had submittedto Graziani,Ras Hailu was planninga militaryattack

114MAI, Political Office, to Viceroy (18 May 1937), Graziani Papers, busta 35, CSA;
Teruzzi to Graziani (30 April 1940), AMIA.
115GG of AOI, Political Office to Governorate of Addis Abeba (11 Dec. 1937),
Graziani Papers, busta 35, CSA.
116MAI, "Notes for Mussolini" (10 Nov. 1939), AMIA; Marraffa to MAI
"Information from SIM" (15 Sept. 1939), MAI/PO, busta 1, fol. 5, CSA.
117Teruzzi to Graziani (30 April 1940), Graziani Papers, busta 37, fol. 86, CSA.
118A. Bonaccorsi, "Impressions on the Empire for the Viceroy," Addis Abeba (30
April 1940), AMIA.
119Duke of Aosta to MAI (28 April 1938), AMIA.
120Marraffato MAI, "Information from SIM" (15 Sept. 1939), MAI/PO, busta 1, fol.
5, CSA.
121MAI, "Notes for Mussolini" (10 Nov. 1939), AMIA; U. Presti, "Political Report"
(8 Nov. 1939), MAI/PO, busta 13, fol. 12, CSA.
234 ALBERTOSBACCHI

against him to force him out of the country.122The Ethiopianpeople
were describedas favorableto Ras Hailuas emperor;they felt he would
represent them fairly and would protect the Orthodox church.123
Graziani, too, thought he deserved the office as a reward for his
cooperation,whichcontinuedto be valuablein 1940 as the international
situationintensified.124Teruzzi, on the other hand, felt that his bid for
the throne should be discouraged.To make Ras Hailu negus would
create resentment among the other rases, who would complain of
Italianpartiality.The first to objectwould be Ras Seyum, who hoped to
regain control of Tigre.125In fact, although the colonial government
returnedhis purchasedpropertyand his rest (hereditary)land and gave
him a car, Ras Seyum never ruledhis feudalholdingsagain.126
With the entranceof Italyinto the second worldwaron 10 June 1940,
Nasi proposed that the great nobles of Shoa and Amhara be used to
resist the British invasion. Moreno approved, and Ras Seyum was
assignedthree thousandmen and sent to the northernfront. Ras Gugsa
was given responsibilityfor the defense of Enderta (Tigre), Ras Hailu
was put in chargeof western Ethiopia,and Ras Ayalu took commandof
Semien.127Ras Seyum was nominated the leader of all of northern
Ethiopiaunder the title YeEthiopiaSemianiMesfin (princeof northern
Ethiopia, includingTigre, Tembien, Lasta, Wagh, Jejjiu,Wolcait, and
Tzeghedi).128Because the viceroy had granted the office only after
partsof these territorieswere in the hands of advancingBritishtroops,
however, Ras Seyum never took actual political or military control.

122Buenos AiresHerald(7 May 1937). It was said that Ras Hailu maintainedclose
relationswith his anticolonialrelativesin Gojam,to whom he allegedlysent truckloadsof
arms.ReportsassertedthatHailuhad expressedhis resentmentto a meetingof Ethiopian
leaders for the way the Italianswere limiting his ambitions to the throne. On other
occasionshe was accusedof beingthe mainsupplierof money and armsto the anti-Italian
leader Abebe Aregai.The latterwas said to have saved Ras Hailu in 1942 when Haile
Selassie wanted to execute him. Reportof a PAI officer, "Clarificationof the Report
Broughtto Italyby the Refugees in the GuilioCesareBoat, on the Situationin Ethiopia
during May-June 1942," AMIA; Membrini (PAI inspector) to MAI, Colonial Police
Headquarters,Addis Abeba (18 Oct. 1939), MAI/PO, busta 1, fol. 5, CSA.
123Marraffa to MAI, Political Office, "Informationfrom SIM" (15 Sept. 1939),
MAI/PO, busta 1, fol. 5, CSA.
124Graziani to Teruzzi(26 Nov. 1940), GrazianiPapers,busta37, fol. 86, CSA.
125Teruzzi to Graziani(30 April1940), GrazianiPapers,busta37, fol. 86, CSA; MAI,
"Notes for Mussolini"(10 Nov. 1939), AMIA;Presti, "PoliticalReport" (8 Nov. 1939),
MAI/PO, busta 13, fol. 12, CSA.
126RasSeyum to Graziani(18 May 1937), GrazianiPapers,busta23, CSA.
127Dukeof Aostato MAI (15 Feb. 1941), MAI/PO, busta 13, fol. 6, CSA.
128Dukeof Aosta to MAI (3 Feb. 1941), AMIA.
ITALYAND ETHIOPIANARISTOCRACY,
1937-1940 235

Nevertheless, the Italianshoped his titularcommandwould move him
to resist the British invasion. The Duke of Aosta explained the
appointmentby saying that the title had real significancefor the land
occupiedby the enemy, and honorarysignificancefor that still in Italian
hands.129His statement makes it obvious that Ras Seyum would have
remaineda mesfin(prince) in name only, and that had the Axis powers
won the warhis actualauthoritywould have been limited. Thus the new
cooperationbetween the rases and the colonial government was to be
merely a transitionalarrangement.UnderscoringItaly's intentions on
this issue is a proposalas late as 1940 to eliminate the rases because
they could not be trusted. Critics countered that to do so would only
create new problems,however, since lesser chiefs would prove disloyal
on the assumption that the fate of their superiorswould be theirs as
well. Instead, the cooperationof the aristocracymust be bought with
titles and honors, which would also serve to increase their prestige
amongthe people.130
The sudden appointmentof Ras Seyum to the commandof northern
Ethiopia had the opposite effect, however. Ethiopians took Italy's
change in policy towardthe nobility to mean that it was incapableof
defending the country without the nobles' help, and from then on
Italy's prestigein Ethiopiabegan to fall.131The returnof Ras Seyum to
Tigre provoked an internal crisis in the district. Other families of the
house of EmperorYohannes IV, who like Seyum had claims to the
throne, resented his restorationand refused to accept his authority.
Their fears intensified when Seyum removed local chiefs and replaced
them with those loyal to him. As a result Tigreans, orderly until that
time under Ras Gugsa, began fighting among themselves.132In an
attemptto correctthe balanceof powerin northernEthiopia,Ras Gugsa
was made mesfinof eastern Tigre and given an army of a thousand
men.133
The appointmentcame too late to cement Ras Gugsa to the Italian
cause; by this time he was totally disillusioned with the colonial

129Teruzzito Duke of Aosta (6 Feb. 1941), AMIA. Teruzzi approvedthe viceroy's
proposalto make Ras Hailu mesfinof northernEthiopia.
130MAIto GG of AOI, "Policyto Followtowardthe EthiopianGreatChiefs" (1941),
T-586/412/005063-005064,ItalianCapturedDocuments [hereafterICD]/U.S. National
Archives, Washington,D.C. [hereafterUSNA].
131DiLauro, "Reporton the Events in AOI from June 10, 1940 to Nov. 28, 1942,"
AMIA.
132DiLauro,ComeAbbiamoDifesoI'lmpero,251.
I33Duke of Aosta to MAI (14 March 1941), MAI/PO, busta 13, fol. 6, CSA.
236 ALBERTO SBACCHI

government.Emilio De Bono, commander-in-chiefof the Italiantroops
in East Africa, had promisedhim the title of ras in 1935 and Badoglio
had done the same in 1936. Not until 1938, however, did Ras Gugsa
achieve this distinction.134He also had been assured the status of an
Italiancitizen; he was to have his traditionalfamilyrightsrecognized,to
be addressedas Highness, and to receive a generous salaryin place of
the tributehe was no longerable to collect on his lands.These promises
had been incompletelykept.135Ras Gugsa felt that not only his political
services to the colonialgovernmentbut his education,Europeantravel,
and culture had earned him the rights and privilegesof an Italian, and
he resented being treatedas a racialinferior.136The Italiangovernment
had a more pragmatic attitude toward encouraging his ambitions.
Although they could not ignore his merits, colonial officials were
reluctantto create him a mesfin,since such action would open them to
charges of preferment, especially since Gugsa would become the
superior of Ras Hailu and Ras Gabre Haywot, who were anxious to
become mesfinof Gojamand mesfinof Wollo respectively.137
Ras Hailufinallywas awardedthe title of negusof Gojam, but he held
it for a very short time. To the Ethiopiansneguswas emperor, but the
Italians gave it a lesser meaning, king or prince, one of many
designationswithout politicalor militarysignificance.138Faced with a
criticalmilitarysituationin 1941, Teruzziconsented to make Ras Hailu
delegate of the viceroy in Gojam (in Amharic, Taqlai Enderasie), with
the same authorityas that granted the sultan of Aussa, including the
collection of tributeand the administrationof justice. Teruzziwas even
willingto call him princeof princes (rasof rases) if necessary,and allow
him his traditionalpomp.139In addition,Ras Hailuwas given command
of three thousandmen, whose numbers increasedas he marchedinto
Gojam. To support his troops the government set aside six million
lire;140at a monthly expenditure of a million lire each, the armies of
Seyum, Gugsa, andHailucost three million lire every month.141

'34Meregazzi to Teruzzi (20 June 1938), AMIA.
135Duke of Aosta to MAI (25 Jan. 1940), AMIA; Mussolini to Badoglio (18 Jan.
1936), reproduced in /I Giorno (14 Nov. 1968).
136Duke of Aosta to MAI (30 April 1940), AMIA; Teruzzi to GG of AOI (10 March
1940), AMIA.
137Duke of Aosta to MAI (3 April 1940), AMIA.
138Duke of Aosta to MAI (28 Jan. 1941), AMIA.
139Teruzzito GG of AOI (28 Jan. 1941), MAI/PO, busta 13, fol. 6, CSA.
140MAI to Ministry of Finance (6 Feb. 1941), T-586/412/005061, ICD/USNA.
141Duke of Aosta to MAI (15 Feb. 1941), MAI/PO, busta 13, fol. 6, CSA; Duke of
Aosta to MAI (25 Jan. 1941), MAI/PO, busta 13, CSA.
1937-1940
ITALYAND ETHIOPIANARISTOCRACY, 237

Teruzzi's proposalto make Ras Hailu ras of rases was denied, again
for fear of resentment among the other nobles.142But the military
situationwas worseningevery day. Britishtroopswere advancingfrom
the Sudan, and Ras Hailu's forces were retreatingin the face of them.
Hopingto spurHailu to an attack,the Duke of Aosta promisedhim the
title of negus,143but Mussolini and Teruzzi made the appointment
conditional:only if Ras Hailucould establisheffective controlof Gojam
in the name of the Italiangovernmentand disperse the troopsof Haile
Selassie could he assume the throne.144They asked the impossible.
AnticolonialEthiopiantroops, armedand financed by the British,were
making fast progress towardthe heart of the country. Soon they had
occupied Woggerat,Tzeghede, Tzellmt, Wolkait, and all the lands of
Amharaalong the Sudanese border, the feudal territoryof Ras Ayalu.
Ras Ayalu was an ambitiousnoble who had received little attention
from the Italians, and as a result he felt he was not adequately
compensated for his services to the colonial government. He was
marriedto Woiziero Mannialishal,the daughterof Ras Kassa, one of
the most importantof the aristocracyin exile, and sister of Aberraand
Wondewassen Kassa, whom the Italians had executed for fomenting
revolution againstthem. Grazianiwas informed that Mannialishalwas
writingletters urging the people of Selale (Shoa), her feudal territory,
to rise up against the colonists and avenge the death of her brothers.
Even in exile in Rome, Dejaz Ayalu and his wife continued to
correspond with Ras Kassa's partisans.145Graziani, suspecting his
loyalty, had been unwilling to make Ayalu ras, but with the relaxed
policy towardthe nobles and as a recompense for his time in exile the
Duke of Aosta conferredon him the coveted title. At the outbreakof
the war he was sent to Begemeder to attractdissidents to the Italian
cause.146When the militarysituationbecame critical,the viceroy gave
Ras Ayalu the title of delegate to the viceroy in Amhara, to become
effective if he could actuallywin full military and political control of
Amharain the name of Italy.147
The effort to form a cohesive force against the British invasion by
restoring Ethiopia's traditional leadership came too late. Italy was

142Duke of Aosta to MAI (24 March 1941), MAI/PO, busta 16, fol. 3, CSA.
143Duke of Aosta to MAI (2 April 1941), MAI/PO, busta 16, fol. 3, CSA.
144Teruzzito Duke of Aosta (29 April 1941), MAI/PO, busta 16, fol. 3, CSA.
145Grazianito Duke of Aosta, Addis Abeba (4 Jan. 1938), Graziani Papers, busta 40-
A, fol. 101-5, CSA.
146Duke of Aosta to MAI (27 Jan. 1941), AMIA.
147Duke of Aosta to MAI (14 March 1941), MAI/PO, busta 13, fol. 6, CSA.
238 ALBERTOSBACCHI

willing to recognize the nobles' rights to their traditionallands only
when it had lost controlof those lands. In conferringtitles, the Italians
were giving away what they no longer had, for the rases could regain
politicalauthorityonly where they could conquerit militarily,and even
then their claims theoreticallyhad to be approvedby the government.
Colonel Luigi Talamonti,formercolonialofficer in Eritreaand political
adviser to Graziani, understood that the appointmentshad been ill-
timed. Five years earlier, immediatelyafter the fall of Addis Abeba, a
return to traditionalauthoritywould have permittedthe normalization
of the country.The aristocracywould have had time to realize that life
under Italian rule could be more beneficial than under that of Haile
Selassie. Instead, they had lost their positions, their prestige, and their
fortunes. They could hardly trust Italian motives, or accept the
relaxationin policy, without question.
Ras Seyum in particularhad no reason to thank the government. He
had not been treatedgenerously, he had received no special titles, and
in fact he had lost his office as chief of Tigre to his cousin, Ras
Gugsa.148Just before Italy entered the war, Afework Gebre Jesus
informed the general governoratethat Ras Seyum would not oppose a
British invasion.149The viceroy expressed the same opinion, saying
that in the face of the invaders Seyum would turn and run to save
himself. Their suspicions were well founded. Ras Seyum regained
control of his capital, Adowa, and made sure of the loyalty of his
fighting force, which had grown from an original three thousand to
twenty thousand. In April 1941, with these strengths behind him, he
presented himself to the British commander, and sent word to Haile
Selassie that he would help him regain the throne. In addition to his
personal animosity for the Italians, Ras Seyum owed a debt to the
Britishfor the aid LordNapierhad given his grandfather,YohannesIV,
against EmperorTewdros in 1889.150The government had little idea
how welcome the British invasion was to Ras Seyum. He was also
anxious to demonstrateto Haile Selassie that he bore the emperorno ill
feeling for abandoninghis countryin 1936, althoughhe only now had
the opportunityto express his loyalty.151Finally, Ras Seyum was the

148DiLauro, Come AbbiamoDifeso I'lmpero,251.
149Di Lauro, "Report on the Events in AOI from June 10, 1940 to Nov. 28, 1942,"
AMIA.
150DiLauro, Come AbbiamoDifeso l'Impero,252.
151Di Lauro, "Report on the Events in AOI from June 10, 1940 to Nov. 28, 1942,"
AMIA; Marraffa to MAI (8 April 1941), MAI/PO, busta 13, fol. 6, CSA; Marraffa to
MAI (25 April 1942), MAI/PO, busta 13, fol. 6, CSA; AOI, "Territories Occupied By
British Troops" (6 April 1941), MAI/PO, busta 4, fol. 13, CSA.
ITALY AND ETHIOPIAN ARISTOCRACY, 1937-1940 239

father-in-lawof Prince Asfaw Wosen,152the emperor's son; his own
chances of success consequently lay in supportingHaile Selassie and
exploiting these family ties.
Ras Seyum's defection to the Britishruined the viceroy's defensive
maneuvers at Amba Alagi; moreover, it had a significantdemoralizing
effect on the Italianforces. In an attemptto save the viceroy, beseiged
at Amba Alagi, Ras Seyum wrote him a letter offering to mediate for
him with the Britishin the hope of reachingsome kind of compromise.
He did so, he said, to prevent the bloodshed of Christians, and in
recognitionof all the duke had done for him and for his countryduring
his tenure there.153When the duke refused to negotiate, Ras Seyum
accompaniedthe Britishin stormingthe Italianposition. His men were
responsible for killing General G.B. Volpini, the viceroy's aide-de-
camp, during discussions with the British command for Amba Alagi's
surrender.
Another blow to Italy's prestigewas the loss of Ras Ayalu, who sold
his cooperation to British Major B.I. Ringrose for three hundred
thousand MariaTheresa dollars.154The government had sent him in
command of six thousand men to Dabat to build up reserves in
Wolchefit and prevent the infiltrationof anticolonialforces at the Ente
Romagna, an agriculturalcenter run by Italian immigrants which
supplied food to Gondar.155Instead Ras Ayalu proclaimed himself
leader of the resistance, and gathered Ethiopianpatriotsaround him.
He attackedthe Italianfort at Wolchefit, where he was wounded in the
legs and capturedby Italiantroops.Had Nasi not intervened, he would
have been shot.
Nasi's stay of execution was motivated by important political
considerations.Killing a wounded ras would have given Haile Selassie
and the British a powerful propagandaweapon, and might have
provoked retaliatoryexecutions among Italian prisoners held by the
Ethiopians,who until thattime had been treatedwell.156GeneralPietro
Gazzera, governor of Galla-Sidamo, advised that Ras Ayalu be
condemned in a public court martial but not executed, in order to
demonstrate that the Italian government would not tolerate treason.

152"Submission of Ras Seyum to Haile Selassie" (14 April 1941), MAI/PO, busta 4,
fol. 1, CSA; Newsweek (14 April 1941).
153Ras Seyum to Duke of Aosta (April 1941), in Di Lauro, Come Abbiamo Difeso
l'Impero, 274.
154DiLauro, Come abbiamo Difeso l'Impero,339.
55Vecchi, "Notes on the Events in Ethiopia" (3 Aug. 1942), AMIA.
156Nasito MAI, Gondar (22 June 1941), AMIA.
240 ALBERTOSBACCHI

Teruzzi agreed with Nasi, however, and advocated no trial.157A
proposalto take Ayalu to Italyand hold him as hostage was considered,
but he was too seriouslywounded to move, and in any case Wolchefit
was cut off from Gondar.158Nasi's wisdomin sparinghis life eventually
was rewarded;when Gondar fell in November 1941 for lack of food,
Nasi was able to use Ras Ayalu's presence inside the fort to persuade
the townspeopleto supplythe garrisonwith provisions.159
Ras Hailu, created negusof Gojam to increase his authorityover his
feudal lands, was not as successful as the Italians hoped. At first he
received the submissionof manyresistersto colonialrule, includinghis
cousins Dejaz Balai Zelleche, Dejaz Hailu Belau, and most of those
from eastern Gojam.160He might have been able eventually to disarm
Belai Zelleche, whose loyalty was suspect despite his formal sur-
render,161but militarypressurefrom a thirdcousin and most powerful
patriotleader, Dejaz MangashaJambore, and from advancingBritish
troops162forced his retreat to his capital, Debra Markos. The Italian
explorerGustavo Bianchihad reportedthat Ras Hailu's father, Negus
TecklaHaymanot,had ruledGojamso despoticallythat every orderwas
obeyed unquestioningly throughout the land. In 1941 the colonial
government did not realize that times had changed. Impressedby the
loyalty of some of Ras Hailu's Gojami followers, the Italiansbeguiled
themselves into thinkingthat the relative few representedthe attitude
of all of Gojam.In fact, Ras Hailu no longer commandedmuch respect
as prince of Gojam, and his people gave him little assistance in his
attempt to keep the anticolonialfighters from joining Haile Selassie's
troops.In the 1930s Ras Hailu, his son Admasu, and other membersof
his family had brutallyplundered the Gojami people, and as a result
they were unwillingto help him defend the areaagainstthe Britishnow.
In promoting Ethiopia's traditional leaders to win their military
support,Rome exhausted almost its last defense againstthe encroach-
ment of its Europeanadversaries.Nor was outright briberyany more
successful. The paper currencythe Italians tendered their supporters
was being steadily devalued by inflation, while the Maria Theresa
dollarsand gold sterlingof the Britishwere appreciatingrapidly.Fueled
by British funds and British firearms, patriots in Wolcait, Ermaccio,

157Teruzzi to Gazzera (30 June 1941), AMIA.
158MAI to Italian Supreme Military Command (5 July 1941), AMIA.
I59Vecchi, "Notes on the Events in Ethiopia" (3 Aug. 1942), AMIA.
I60Duke of Aosta to MAI (28 Jan. 1941), MAI/PO, busta 13, fol. 6, CSA.
161Duke of Aosta to MAI (27 Jan. 1941), MAI/PO, busta 13, fol. 6, CSA.
162Duke of Aosta to MAI (13 Jan. 1941), MAI/PO, busta 13, fol. 6, CSA.
ITALY AND ETHIOPIAN ARISTOCRACY, 1937-1940 241

Wagh, and Tembien revolted. Endertafell despite the presence of Ras
Gugsa in the territory.In other regions brigands,a traditionalsource of
opposition to central authority, created conflict that Ras Gugsa, Ras
Kassa, and Ras Ayalu were incapable of eliminating.163Brigand
mercenaries and nationalist fighting units were very useful to the
British, who were able to buy their services easily. From 1936 onward
the Italians reported one failed campaign against the resistance after
another.On 6 April 1941 Ras Hailuand Ras Gugsasurrenderedto Haile
Selassie, and one by one, the other rases did the same. The five-and-a-
half-year-old Italian empire, proclaimed with great fanfare in May 1936,
by November 1941 had been ingloriouslydefeated.
During its short-lived occupationof Ethiopia, Italy was hindered by
the chaotic political and military situation from formulatinga stable
policy on how best to govern its new subjects. The available
documentation suggests that Rome was beginning to appreciatethe
positive results of the Duke of Aosta's attempts to involve the
aristocracyin the administrationof the country. Despite his short
tenure and its experimental nature, the viceroy's policy was having
some effect on anticolonial feeling among Ethiopians. In general,
however, the memoryof past abuseswas strong, particularlyamong the
nobles, for whom the restorationof titles could never compensatefor
the loss of their revenue, prestige, and authority. Blindly Italy
continued to antagonizeits Ethiopiansubjects, to underestimatetheir
worth, and to overestimate its influence on them. Anticipating the
outbreak of war in Europe and Africa, the government in Rome
nevertheless refused to considermaking the friendlyovertures toward
the aristocracythat would have secured its cooperationin Ethiopia's
defense. Mussolini's ignoranceof and lack of interest in colonialaffairs
partiallyexplains this posture, as does his acceptanceof second-rate
administratorslike Attilio Teruzzi, ministerof ItalianAfrica.And after
1938 Italy embarkedon a policy of racismsecond in its ferocityonly to
that of its ally, Nazi Germany, that was to bring about the total
destructionof the Mussolini regime.

163Di Lauro, Come AbbiamoDifeso I'lmpero,125, 253.

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