My Life and Ethiopia’s Progress Vol 1 (Ch 39)

While at Dessie We hear of the dismissal of General de Bono and the appointment of Marshal Badoglio

While Our headquarters was still at Dessie, We heard of the dismissal of General de Bono, who had been Italian Commander-in-Chief, and of the appointment of Marshal Badoglio. The reason was said to be-as We were told by some of the journalists who were with Us at Dessie-that General de Bono had not wished Italy to start the war but rather to adopt a defensive position. And when the order to start the war reached him, he did indeed start it but he did not do so gladly and is said to have neglected the conduct of hostilities.


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What proves this to be true is the account which appears in the book written by General de Bono after his return home upon dismissal from his war command. He there says: ‘When I asked how I was to act, since the Emperor was said to be engaged in prayer and fasting, being unwilling to be the initiator of the war, orders reached me to the effect that, if the Negus did not wish to start the war, I was to launch the attack and to fight him. I therefore began the war.’

Secondly, General de Bono states that, since he did not intend to open hostilities at once, he reported that he did not have enough money to begin the campaign. He received the answer that the necessary money and troops would be despatched to him. Since Mussolini signed the preface to the book which General de Bono wrote about the war, one cannot deny the account of the Italian side by arguing that it is all lies.


Black and white photo of the War in Ethiopia after the Italian invasion of  1935; General Emilio de Bono (1866-1944), commander in chief of Italian  forces in Ethiopia, consulting a map of the theatre of operations Stock  Photo - Alamy


Furthermore, according to what some people told Us, General de Bono held the view that he could beat the Abyssinians by the accustomed means of warfare, i.e. fighting them with cannons, machine guns, and rifles; and that it would destroy the history and honour of the Fascists if they were to gain victory by fighting, with smoke gas and with mustard poison, peoples who possessed no defence against this; and it would therefore be better for the Italians not to do so. It was said that the reason for his dismissal was that he expressed these views.

Later on, all communications with Our northern armies, by telephone and radio, were disrupted by bombs, and We, therefore, lacked news of the situation of Ras Kassa and Ras Seyum on the Tambien front, of Ras Emru and of Dejazmatch Ayalew on the Shire front, and of Ras Mullugeta on the Alage front; for this reason We decided to push forward. But, as We have repeatedly shown before, We found Ourselves in great difficulty over the matter of weapons, since, on one hand, We wished to maintain world peace and, on the other, We were putting Our trust in the covenant of the League of Nations; in the third place, We did not have enough money to purchase modern war equipment, and when We asked for a loan, it was withheld from Us.


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When We made requests to purchase arms with the little money obtained through support from Our own people, all the governments within the League of Nations refused Us, on the grounds that they were not permitted to sell war material from their countries to Ethiopia and Italy.

This was a matter of much astonishment to all who heard of it. Italy possessed factories in which almost all the various arms which she desired could be made. But Ethiopia did not have arms factories. It was therefore not fair for these countries to argue that neither Ethiopia nor Italy, being rivals, could buy war equipment from them.


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Moreover, prior to the war We had made an agreement in Paris with Britain, France, and Italy to purchase arms for the maintenance of internal security. For this reason there were some arms which had already been purchased, and We directed that they should now be brought to us in our present troubles. When they reached Jibuti, the Governor of French Somaliland prohibited their being loaded on the train. We asked him to make enquiries in Paris on Our behalf, but because of his delaying tactics, claim­ing that he had received no reply from his government, We were convinced that they would not get here in time for our present difficulties. We thus abandoned waiting for their arrival and proceeded to Koram where We had to be. But later on, just before the war ended, permission was given to load the arms on the train. When half the transport was still at Dire Dawa and the other half had reached Addis Ababa, it naturally fell into the hands of the Italians and thus ceased to be of any service to us.

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