Tikur Sew Magedal Ba Tikur Sew (1894)
— According to historian Prouty Rosenfeld. this week in 1894 was particularly horrifying for the Walamo peoples in southern Ethiopia.
The Walamo are also known as the Welayita—which should come to light taking into account the current Prime Minister of Ethiopia traces his heritage to this small but defining people.
There are numerous variations in the spelling which is important to find when searching for material . Those variations include Wolyta, Wolayta, Wolaita, walaheta, and Wolaytta.
If these dates are accurately correct, according to Rosenfeld, it was between December 11 through December 15 when a bloody and final campaign by Emperor Menelik was carried out into the southern region, as part of the expansion of the Ethiopian Empire.
This event would appear to be also the final blow to a seven year resistance by the Welayita people, which began in 1887 according to Lovise Allen, in “The Politics of Ethnicity in Ethiopia: Actors, Power and Mobilisation under Èthnic Federalism.”
According to Allen, Menelik encountered strong resistance by the Wolayta. Allen cites sources that indicate the “Wolayta” means “to become mixed or assimilated.”
According to information provided by the book “Migration to Shashemene: Ethnicity, gender, and occupation in Urban Ethiopia”, by Gunilla Bjeren, Menelik’s campaign resulted in the death of thousands of Welayita and the enslavement of many more.
The campaign to incorporate the Welayita people lasted some seven years. Some accounts put the deathcount above one hundred thousand. And the causualities sustained by Menelik`s army were as brutally high also.
The Welayita people put up one the most furious resistances against what was regarded at the time as “Abyssinian colonialism”.
Bjeren cites both historains Chris Prouty Rosenfeld and Ulrich Braukamper on this subject.
Bjeren quotes Rosefeld who notes “Walamo are slaughtered by the thousands, many captives are brought to Addis Abeba; captured cattle are divided among the soldiers, although some were returned to the Walamo; others were abandoned to avoid contagion of rinderpest.”
Bjeren’s research adds a caption from a report: “Menelik enters capital with about 18,000 Walamo slaves.”
Quoting the work of Braukamper, Bjeren writes : “After the defeat, the Welayita suffered from merciless looting by the Amhara soldiers According to Braukamper, the number enslaved and taken to the north cannot be estimated. There are, however, indications that large numbers were indeed brought to the capital. At the beginning of the present century, the Welayita were the fourth largest ethnic group in Addis Ababa. Out of a population of approximately 65,000, 5,000 were Welayita”.
Bjeren quotes Braukamper: “Despite the brutality of the campaign, the Welayita were given relaitvely beneficial treatment following the conquest. Their king was returned as govenor of his previous kingdom, and the administrative division of the area was arranged so that the borders of the old Weyalita kingdom conincided with the new Wallamo awraja. Authors writing about the Welayita make no mention of their migration pattterns after the occupation. It is likely, however, that the massive deportation of the people to Addis Ababa opened up a channel of gration toward the north.”
As a quick conclusion, it is no secret that the Menelik legacy has mixed feelings to modern day Ethiopians. The recent music video Tikir Sew by Teddy Afro received both praise and outrage.
The Welayita legacy is just another reminder that Ethiopia, as in the history of all nations of the world—let us never forget this—has its share of dark legacies.
Reconciliation begins with awareness.
Thank you for reading. This is still a work in progress.