The second unit in the Junior/Senior English & History course, A Nation’s Argument, focused on deductive reasoning. We looked more specifically at how deduction could be applied to pre-World War I Germany’s appeal for an African colony of its own. We did this by holding a trial to ratify or overturn the appeal, with representatives of various European and African nations arguing for their causes. The country I spoke for was Ethiopia, one of the few independent nations in 1914, the year our trial took place. Below is my opening statement of the trial, followed by my research on Ethiopia.
A lot of arguments for and against colonization employ the hypothetical, “what-if-it-had-never-happened” approach. Ethiopia is that hypothetical example in reality. In contrast to the “barbarians” Europeans tried to portray us as, we have had numerous kingdoms and dynasties that thrived economically and culturally practically since civilization began. When Italians tried to subject us to the colonization game you all have been playing, Emperor Yohannes made sure his army defeated the invading troops so soundly that we would be left alone. With that out of the way, the Emperor and his successor are now free to introduce land reform, modernize technology, and promote education. Meanwhile, colonizers elsewhere in the continent are working to unravel the established governments. The French, for example, replaced rulers in their territories with others more loyal to France, and created schools intending to distance children of local leaders from their families and culture. This is just a taste of the dehumanization that has been rampant in European colonization. Germany has no right to this. Neither does Belgium. Nor France. Nor Portugal, or the United Kingdom, or any other nation. I am here to represent what Africa can do on its own, and to suggest alternate relationships between European and African nations. Just in this past century, Ethiopia has worked closely with Great Britain, and the alliance was dropped when both our needs were met. As a nation Ethiopia has a history of international relations; these interactions benefited all involved, and are the model of what should be in place instead of colonization. Germany, if you want to help your country via Africa, make sure you help Africa, too, instead of exploiting wherever you can get your hands on. And that goes for every other European power here, too. You have alternatives, and there is no excuse for taking the most inhumane path.
[Image: oil painting showing the Italian army defeated by Ethiopian forces.
Unknown painter (ca. 1970). “Battle of Adwa.” Addis Ababa: Library of Congress.]