Abyssinia Crisis
The Abyssinia Crisis was a diplomatic crisis
International crisis
An international crisis is a crisis between states. There are many definitions of an international crisis. Snyder "...a sequence of interactions between the governments of two or more sovereign states in severe conflict, short of actual war, but involving the perception of a dangerously high...

 during the interwar period
Interwar period
Interwar period can refer to any period between two wars. The Interbellum is understood to be the period between the end of the Great War or First World War and the beginning of the Second World War in Europe....

 originating in the "Walwal
Welwel, Ethiopia
Welwel , is a town in eastern Ethiopia known as the Ogaden. Located in the Werder Zone of the Somali Region, this town has a longitude and latitude of with an elevation of 570 meters above sea level...

 incident." This incident resulted from the ongoing conflict between the Kingdom of Italy (Regno d'Italia) and the Empire of Ethiopia (then commonly known as "Abyssinia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

" in Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

). Its effects were to undermine the credibility of the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 and to encourage Fascist Italy to ally itself with Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. The crisis brought an end to peace in Europe and it was clear by 1937 there were two defining sides in Europe.


Both Italy and Ethiopia were members of the League of Nations which was founded in 1919. Italy was a founding member of the League. Ethiopia joined September 28, 1923. The League had Article X, rules forbidding aggression among members
Article X of the Covenant of the League of Nations
Article X of the Covenant of the League of Nations is the section calling for assistance to be given to a member that experiences external aggression.-Text of Article X:-Republican opposition in the United States:...


On August 2, 1928, in addition to abiding by Article X, Italy and Ethiopia signed the Italo–Ethiopian Treaty of Friendship
Italo–Ethiopian Treaty of 1928
The Italo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1928, also known as the Italo–Ethiopian Treaty of Friendship and Arbitration, was a treaty signed between the Kingdom of Italy and the Ethiopian Empire on 2 August 1928....

. This treaty declared a 20-year friendship between the two nations.

On August 27 in the same year, both Italy and Ethiopia signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact
Kellogg-Briand Pact
The Kellogg–Briand Pact was an agreement signed on August 27, 1928, by the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Weimar Germany and a number of other countries.The pact renounced war , prohibiting the use of war...

. This was an international treaty "providing for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy."

The clash

In 1930, Italy built a fort at Walwal, an oasis in the Ogaden
Ogaden is the name of a territory comprising the southeastern portion of the Somali Regional State in Ethiopia. The inhabitants are predominantly ethnic Somali and Muslim. The title "Somali Galbeed", which means "Western Somalia," is often preferred by Somali irredentists.The region, which is...

. The fort was in a boundary zone with not well defined limits.
On September 29, 1934, Italy and Abyssinia released a joint statement renouncing any aggression against each other.

The Walwal incident

On November 22, 1934, a strong force of 1,000 Ethiopian militia with three fitaurari (military-political Ethiopian commanders) arrived near Walwal and requested the Dubats
Dubats was the designation given to armed irregular bands employed by the Italian Regio Corpo Truppe Coloniali in Italian Somaliland from 1924 to 1941...

 garrison (about 60 men) to withdraw. The Somali NCO leading the garrison refused to withdraw and notified the fact to the captain Cimmaruta, commander of the garrison of Uarder (20 km from Walwal).
The day after, while surveying the border between British Somaliland
British Somaliland
British Somaliland was a British protectorate in the northern part of present-day Somalia. For much of its existence, British Somaliland was bordered by French Somaliland, Ethiopia, and Italian Somaliland. From 1940 to 1941, it was occupied by the Italians and was part of Italian East Africa...

 and Ethiopia, an Anglo–Ethiopian boundary commission arrived at Walwal. The commission was confronted by an Italian force already at Walwal. The British members of the boundary commission protested but withdrew to avoid an international incident. The Ethiopian members of the boundary commission stayed at Walwal.

Between 5-7 December, for reasons which have never been clearly determined, there was a skirmish between the garrison of Somalis who were in Italian service and a force of armed Ethiopians. According to the Italians, the Ethiopians attacked the Somalis with a strong fire of rifles and machine guns. According to the Ethiopians, the Italians attacked them. The Ethiopians claimed the Italians were supported by two tanks and three aircraft. In the end, approximately 107 Ethiopians and 50 Italians and Somalis were killed.
Neither side did anything to avoid confrontation; the Ethiopians repeatedly menaced the Italian garrison with the threat of an armed attack, and the Italians sent two planes over the Ethiopian camp with some machine-gun fire.

International response and subsequent actions

On December 6, 1934, Emperor Haile Selassie
Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia
Haile Selassie I , born Tafari Makonnen, was Ethiopia's regent from 1916 to 1930 and Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974...

 of Ethiopia protested Italian aggression at Walwal. On December 8, Italy demanded an apology and, on December 11, followed up this demand with a demand for financial and strategic compensation.

On January 3, 1935, Ethiopia appealed to the League of Nations for arbitration in the Walwal incident. But the League's response was inconclusive. The following analysis of an Arbitration Committee belonging to League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 absolved both parties from any charge.

Shortly after Ethiopia's initial appeal, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister of Foreign Affairs (France)
Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs ), is France's foreign affairs ministry, with the headquarters located on the Quai d'Orsay in Paris close to the National Assembly of France. The Minister of Foreign and European Affairs in the government of France is the cabinet minister responsible for...

 Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval was a French politician. He was four times President of the council of ministers of the Third Republic, twice consecutively. Following France's Armistice with Germany in 1940, he served twice in the Vichy Regime as head of government, signing orders permitting the deportation of...

 of France
French Third Republic
The French Third Republic was the republican government of France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed due to the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, to 1940, when France was overrun by Nazi Germany during World War II, resulting in the German and Italian occupations of France...

 and Foreign Secretary
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, commonly referred to as the Foreign Secretary, is a senior member of Her Majesty's Government heading the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and regarded as one of the Great Offices of State...

 Samuel Hoare met with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...


On January 7, 1935, a meeting between Laval and Mussolini resulted in the "Franco–Italian Agreement
Franco–Italian Agreement
On January 7, 1935, the French Foreign Minister Pierre Laval and Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini signed the Italo-French agreements in Rome.Pierre Laval succeeded Louis Barthou as Foreign Minister after his assassination in Marseilles at the side of the Alexander I King of Yugoslavia on...

". This treaty gave Italy parts of French Somaliland
French Somaliland
French Somaliland was a French colony in the Horn of Africa. Established after the French signed various treaties between 1883 and 1887 with the then ruling Somali Sultans, the colony lasted from 1896 until 1946, when it became an overseas territory of France....

 (now Djibouti
Djibouti , officially the Republic of Djibouti , is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east...

), redefined the official status of Italians in French-held Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

, and essentially gave the Italians a free hand in dealing with Ethiopia. In exchange for this, France hoped for Italian support against German aggression.

On January 25, five Italian askaris were killed by Ethiopian forces near Walwal.

On February 10, Mussolini mobilized two divisions.

On February 23, Mussolini began to send large numbers of troops to Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

 and Italian Somaliland
Italian Somaliland
Italian Somaliland , also known as Italian Somalia, was a colony of the Kingdom of Italy from the 1880s until 1936 in the region of modern-day Somalia. Ruled in the 19th century by the Somali Sultanate of Hobyo and the Majeerteen Sultanate, the territory was later acquired by Italy through various...

. These were the Italian colonies that bordered Ethiopia to the northeast and southeast respectively. There was little international protest to this build-up.

On March 8, Ethiopia again requested arbitration and noted Italian military build-up. On March 13, Italy and Ethiopia agreed on a neutral zone in the Ogaden. On March 17, Ethiopia again appealed to the League due to continued Italian build-up. On March 22, the Italians yielded to pressure from the League of Nations for arbitration into the Walwal incident. But on May 11, Ethiopia again protested the ongoing Italian mobilization.

Between May 20 and 21, the League of Nations held a special session to discuss the crisis in Ethiopia. On May 25, a League council resolved to meet if no fifth arbitrator had been selected by June 25, or if a settlement was not reached by August 25. On June 19, Ethiopia requested neutral observers.

From June 23 to 24, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 attempted to quell the crisis and sent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Anthony Eden
Anthony Eden
Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon, KG, MC, PC was a British Conservative politician, who was Prime Minister from 1955 to 1957...

 to broker peace. It was a failed mission though, as Mussolini was bent on conquest. Following that, Britain declared an arms embargo on both Italy and Ethiopia on July 25. Many believe that this was a direct result of Italy's decree that supplying Ethiopia would be perceived as an act of unfriendliness. Britain also cleared its warships from the Mediterranean, further allowing Italy unhindered access to eastern Africa.

On June 25, Italian and Ethiopian officials met in the Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

 to discuss arbitration and these discussions fell apart by July 9.

On July 26, the League confirmed that no fifth member has been selected. On August 3, the League limited arbitration talks to matters except for the sovereignty of Walwal.

On August 12, Ethiopia pleaded for arms embargo to be lifted. On August 16, France and Britain offered Italy large concessions in Ethiopia to avert war and Italy rejected these offers. On August 22, Britain reaffirmed its embargo on armaments.

On September 4, the League met again and exonerated both Italy and Ethiopia of the Walwal incident since both nations believed Walwal was within its territorial borders. On September 10, Pierre Laval, Anthony Eden, and even Sir Samuel Hoare agreed on limitations to sanctions against Italy.

On September 25, Ethiopia again asked for neutral observers. On September 28, Ethiopia began to mobilize its large but poorly equipped army.

The war and occupation

On October 3, 1935, shortly after the League exonerated both parties in the Walwal incident, Italian armed forces
Armed forces
The armed forces of a country are its government-sponsored defense, fighting forces, and organizations. They exist to further the foreign and domestic policies of their governing body, and to defend that body and the nation it represents from external aggressors. In some countries paramilitary...

 from Eritrea invaded Ethiopia
De Bono's invasion of Abyssinia
De Bono's invasion of Abyssinia took place during the opening stages of the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. Italian General Emilio De Bono invaded northern Abyssinia from staging areas in the Italian colony of Eritrea on what was known as the "northern front."...

 without a declaration of war
Declaration of war
A declaration of war is a formal act by which one nation goes to war against another. The declaration is a performative speech act by an authorized party of a national government in order to create a state of war between two or more states.The legality of who is competent to declare war varies...

 leading Ethiopia to declare war on Italy beginning the Second Italo–Abyssinian War.

On October 7, the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 declared Italy the aggressor and started the slow process of imposing sanctions
Economic sanctions
Economic sanctions are domestic penalties applied by one country on another for a variety of reasons. Economic sanctions include, but are not limited to, tariffs, trade barriers, import duties, and import or export quotas...

. However, these sanctions did not extend to several vital materials, such as oil and were not carried out by all members of the League. Specifically, the United Kingdom and France did not take any serious action against Italy (such as blocking Italian access to the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...


Even actions such as the Italian use of some chemical weapons did little to change the League's passive approach to the situation.

In December 1935, Hoare of Britain and Laval of France proposed the secret Hoare-Laval Plan which would end the war but allow Italy to control large areas of Ethiopia. Mussolini agreed to the plan, but it caused an outcry in Britain and France when the plan was leaked to the media. Hoare and Laval were accused of betraying the Abyssinians, and both resigned. The plan was dropped, but the perception spread that Britain and France were not serious about the principles of the League. After the plan was dropped, the war continued and Mussolini turned to German dictator Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 for alliance.

All sanctions placed by the League were dropped after the Italian capture of the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia...

 on May 5, 1936. Ethiopia was then merged with the other Italian colonies to become Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa was an Italian colonial administrative subdivision established in 1936, resulting from the merger of the Ethiopian Empire with the old colonies of Italian Somaliland and Italian Eritrea. In August 1940, British Somaliland was conquered and annexed to Italian East Africa...

 (Africa Orientale Italiana, or AOI).

Ethiopia never officially surrendered. Italian control of Ethiopia was never total (because of guerrillas, later used by the British in WWII), but in 1940 was complete in 3/4 of the country.


The end of the AOI came quickly during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. In early 1941, as part of the East African Campaign
East African Campaign (World War II)
The East African Campaign was a series of battles fought in East Africa during World War II by the British Empire, the British Commonwealth of Nations and several allies against the forces of Italy from June 1940 to November 1941....

, Allied forces
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 launched offensive actions against the isolated Italian colony. On May 5, 1941, five years after the Italians had captured his capital
March of the Iron Will
The March of the Iron Will , or the Iron-Will Column , was a Fascist propaganda event staged during the final days of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia...

, Emperor Haile Selassie entered Addis Ababa in triumph. Italy would be defeated soon after.

See also

  • Timeline of the Second Italo–Abyssinian War
    Timeline of the Second Italo–Abyssinian War
    The following is a timeline relating to the Second Italo–Abyssinian War to the end of 1936. A number of related political and military events followed until 1942, but these have been omitted.-1930:...

  • Italo–Ethiopian Treaty of 1928
    Italo–Ethiopian Treaty of 1928
    The Italo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1928, also known as the Italo–Ethiopian Treaty of Friendship and Arbitration, was a treaty signed between the Kingdom of Italy and the Ethiopian Empire on 2 August 1928....

  • Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1929
    Kellogg-Briand Pact
    The Kellogg–Briand Pact was an agreement signed on August 27, 1928, by the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Weimar Germany and a number of other countries.The pact renounced war , prohibiting the use of war...

  • Munich Crisis of 1939
    Munich Agreement
    The Munich Pact was an agreement permitting the Nazi German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along Czech borders, mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without...

  • Second Italo–Abyssinian War
  • Freedom of the press in the Kingdom of Italy

External references

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