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The Italo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1928,[1] also known as the Italo–Ethiopian Treaty of Friendship and Arbitration,[2] was a treaty signed between the Kingdom of Italy (Regno d'Italia) and the Ethiopian Empire (Abyssinia) on 2 August 1928.

Nigiste Negest[nb 1] Zewditu I ruled Ethiopia at the time of this treaty. But it was 36-year-old Ras[nb 2] Tafari Makonnen who represented the government of Ethiopia. Tafari, while still in his minority, was heir apparent and Regent Plenipotentiary.

Within two months, on 7 October 1928, Ras Tafari would be proclaimed Negus.[nb 3] A little over two years later, on 2 November 1930, Zewditu had died and Tafari was proclaimed Nəgusä Nägäst[nb 4] Haile Selassie I.

Background[edit | edit source]

In 1926, Italy and Britain attempted a joint commercial penetration of Ethiopia. By bringing pressure jointly upon Ras Tafari, the Italians planned to exploit a railway and the British hoped to construct a mighty water works for irrigating the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. While Tafari yielded momentarily, he subsequently made a protest to the League of Nations so potent that British public opinion turned against the water works scheme and it was cancelled. This left the Italians in the lurch.[3]

Rather than give up his own plans, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini enlisted the aid of King Victor Emmanuel's cousin, the Duke of Abruzzi. In 1928, with pomp and panoply, the Duke and a suite of Royal proportions crossed the Mediterranean, sailed down the eastern coast of Africa, and then struck inland to Ethiopia and its remote capital, Addis Ababa. The Duke thawed the suspicious Tafari's reservations by giving him a large Isotta Fraschini limousine, a luxurious Italian product which at that time sold in the United States for some $18,000 (equivalent to US$247,000 in 2021) along with many other gifts.[3]

Details[edit | edit source]

The treaty declared a 20-year friendship between the two nations, access to the sea for Ethiopia, a road for Italy, and an agreement to settle future disagreements through the League of Nations.[2] Also, the treaty did this:

  • Provide a concession to Ethiopia at the Red Sea port of Asseb in the Italian colony of Eritrea.
  • Call for the two nations to co-operate in building a road between Asseb and Dessie.
  • Make the border between Italian Somaliland and Ethiopia 21 leagues parallel to the Benadir coast (approximately 57.5 mi).

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

Both sides were at cross-purposes when they approached the Italo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1928. Mussolini wanted the treaty to be a vehicle that allowed Italy to penetrate Ethiopia economically. He never intended to approach the League of Nations for arbitration. Meanwhile, Ras Tafari wanted arbitration but never intended to allow the Italian road from the sea to be built. He considered the road from Asseb to be a natural invasion route.[2]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Usually translated as Queen of Kings or Empress.
  2. Roughly equivalent to Duke.
  3. Usually translated as King.
  4. Usually translated as King of Kings or Emperor.
  1. Nicolle, The Italian Invasion of Abyssinia 1935-1936, p. 7
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Marcus, A history of Ethiopia, p.126
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Fascist New Year". Time Inc. 1928-11-05. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,723532,00.html. 

References[edit | edit source]

  • Marcus, Harold G. (1994). A History of Ethiopia. London: University of California Press. pp. 316. ISBN 0-520-22479-5. 
  • Nicolle, David (1997). The Italian Invasion of Abyssinia 1935-1936. Westminster, MD: Osprey. pp. 48 pages. ISBN 978-1-85532-692-7. 

External links[edit | edit source]

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