For All Points-Of-The-View.
The battle of Empress Taytu Betul Taytu is a daughter of great nobility. She is of the Amhara and Oromo nations, a sister of valiant brothers with a strong aggressive character, who doesn’t like men who don’t take her orders. She has been divorced four times and follows no one but her star to the highest power. She is the founder of the city, Addis Ababa. She is the first owner and manager of a hotel where she herself trained the cooks. She encouraged the influence of Ethiopian faith in Jerusalem and reminded the world that the ancient Ethiopians had once been part of that society. Above all, she was a warrior whose contribution led to the victory of Adwa
On October 1896, Empress Taytu marched to the battle of Adwa with five thousand armed men and twenty five thousand women who served as nurses. Perhaps she is the first female who marched 895 km to face the enemy and return triumphant. Unlike the nature of most women, hers’ was to solve a problem in a battlefield with the only language the colonizer understood. While Ethiopians called her ‘The Sunshine of Ethiopia’, the Italian diplomat called her “La dona Che Rifiuta” (The Lady Who Says No).
To recount the Battle of Adwa and its victory without the name of Empress Taytu, is like describing the history of a great painting without the name of the painter.
As a war strategist for the battle of Mekele, 185 km away from the final battle of Adwa, she prearranged to seize the only water supply of the area. Ten days later, the dehydrated Italian army retreated from its stronghold and headed back to Adwa. The victory of Mekele is the victory of Taytu. On the eve of the battle of Adwa, she won the mind and heart of a native Ethiopian, Bashai Awalom, and a double agent. According to the book entitled, ምርኮኛዊቷ መለኩሴ በ እማሆይ ደስታ
(Merkogawitow Melkosia, by Emahoy Desta), a special assistant to Empress Taytu: “…over eating she told him, ‘the injera you eat and the tej you drank is like the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.’ The information she gathered from this spy, was crucial to the victory of Adwa. She used the double agent against the Italians and gave him an offer he could not refuse
During the battle with her lion cape across her shoulders, she was actively overseeing women who helped the wounded and thirsty soldiers. At the same time she scolded those who declared victory before the battle was over. She commanded they stay at the front lines until the Emperor returned. Those who brought back captives and wanted to brag about their deeds, she told to leave and go back to get more.
Taytu, meaning the sunshine, presided over the cloud of Adwa and to the enemy her approach was the heavy rain without a shelter. Before she returned to her capital victorious, she left her mark over what to do with the Eritreans who served the Italians. As it has been said, it is easier to forgive an enemy than a friend, thus forgiveness was not granted to those Eritreans who fought against their own brothers. All the Rases including the patriarch voted “yes” to amputate a leg or hand except for one, Ras Makonnen,.
A very old unpublished document was found in Ras Imeru’s library, by his daughter, Mamea Imeru, the only living the Ras’ child. This document stated, “Empress Taytu Betul wanted all the captives Eritreans to go to Asmara (Eritrean capital) with one hand or one leg so they would teach a lesson to others.”
The punishment was barbaric by today’s standards, but the lesson of Taytu reverberated throughout the coast line and the Red sea. It took another 40 years for Italy to recruit the new generation of Eritreans to once again invade Ethiopia.
In 1903 at the health of her husband, Emperor Menelik, deteriorated and he became bedridden. Empress she began making decisions concerning the nation without consulting the officials. Upon the death of Menelik, her power pendulum shifted to Lij Iyasu, a grandson of Menelik.
The next time the codetta forced Taytu to change her address from the palace to the monastery (Entoto Mariam Church, 13 km away from Addis Ababa) where in the royal custody; she spent the remaining eight years of her life. When she chose Gondar for retirement, the officials, fearing her retaliation, kept her nearby.
In 1916, Fitawrari Habte Giyorgis, minster of war, famously known by his nick name, Aba Mela (a man with a wise plan), went to get advice from Taytu. He told her that his army was defeated by King Mikael, a father of the recently overthrown leader, Lij Iyasu. She did not disappoint him; she escorted him with war script which changed the course of Ethiopia. At the battle of Segale, a loser became a winner, King Mikael was defeated and his deposed son, Lij Iyasu went in exile in the other region. Over the victory cloud of Segale, there was a large reflection of Taytu’s silhouette.
Two years later when she died, there must have been a big smile on her face because Empress Zewditu and Ras Tafari were at the pinnacle of their powers. Empress Zewditu, a frequent visitor of her, who was in custody like her by Lij Iyasu, was the queen, and Ras Tafari, who refused to collaborate with the plotters when she was in power, was a regent
Recently, there was an effort to lay a foundation stone for Taytu’s statue in Addis Ababa. However, due to vulgar Ethiopian politics the plan never proceeded. These politicians in lowering themselves also lowered the history in which Taytu has a place equal to the size of the Egypt Pyramid
123 years ago Taytu, while she was surrounded by traditionalist men, achieved numerous accomplishments that were unthinkable. What will these female ministers do while they are surrounded by only themselves in keeping her legacies? It is to be noted that today in Ethiopia, female ministers who account for 50% of the ministerial positions, including the position of ministry of defense. At least Taytu gave Ethiopia the capital city which is now the political capital of Africa, what will the nation gives her in a return?
Taytu Betul, a war general who was the first to say “No” to colonizer, as a progressive leader remained tough in her desire to separate from the norm of the social order.
As the celebration of the 123rd anniversary of the victory of Adwa, the legacies of Taytu will always challenge the nation’s political spirit to be once again on the right side of history.
Happy 123rd anniversary!
The battle of Empress Taytu Betul, Mulugeta Haile, 03/03/2019