The Rise and Fall of Abyssinian Imperialism

“…The technique of Shoan expansion was typically African. The neighboring non-Christian peoples were periodically raided. Cattle, grain, slaves, and other useful property were seized to the accompaniment of much wanton destruction of life and property. When the Galla had been stronger, they had inflicted such treatment on the Abyssinians; now that the latter were on top, they acted in the same way, only with more devastating results because they possessed firearms. Whole regions were pillaged and depopulated. In the official chronicle of Menelik’s reign we find the description of a razzia of this sort that took place against the Galla in 1881: “He marched all night and fell upon them suddenly. He took a large amount of cattle as booty, and exterminated a great number of Galla. . . . On the following Friday he pillaged the high plateaux of the Arusi. It was impossible to count the number of cattle which were taken and that of the Galla who perished that day.” But the Galla, “who were as numerous as the sands of the sea,” returned to the attack. They were again defeated. “Not a single Galla escaped, for they were pursued to the top of their great mountain called Tchilalo and exterminated. The number of cows captured was 65,712.” [i] Even making considerable allowance for the enthusiasm of the chronicler, it is plain that these raids in grand style were very profitable adventures for Menelik and dire calamities for the Galla. They were euphemistically called “tax-gathering expeditions.” Just what services the Shoans rendered in return for these “taxes” is difficult to say. Until the late eighties they did not occupy these “colonies” permanently. The French explorer, Jules Borelli, reported that in 1887 there was not a single stable Shoan post south of the Hawash.”

More information: 1930-The Rise and Fall of Abyssinian Imperialism

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