Author : PAPERSPAST
Year : Evening Post , Issue 79, 2 April 1936, P
A MOSLEM CITY
THE GARDEN OF ABYSSINIA
(Written for "The Post" by W:S.R.)
The bombing of Harrar, with ruthless slaughter of civilians, adds another to the many previous indictments of the Italian conduct of the Ethiopian campaign. Swedish, American, British, Egyptian, as well as Ethiopian Red Cross stations have all been the targets of the Italian aerial offensive, according to the indubitable testimony of scores of witnesses of the highest character. One would think -that if it were not possible for. civilised nations to invoke against the aggressor oil sanctions and stop these bloody massacres, there should in the name of common humanity be a mobilisation of shame against these persistent violations of every humanitarian instinct. But the only imperative of modern warfare seems to be victory at whatsoever cost, and by whatsoever means.
The city of Harrar is beautifully situated ,on a hillside at an elevation of 5500 feet above the sea level. It enjoys an excellent climate, and is the centre of a fertile province. The landscape is said to be of surpassing beauty. Coffee plantations flourish throughout the province. These are here and there interspersed with forests of valuable timber of pine, cedar, and juniper. Its mountains rise to 9000 feet above sea level. Its beauty and fertility have earned for it the name of "The Garden of Abyssinia" The city was built several centuries ago by the Arabs. The population to-, day is about 60,000, most of whom own allegiance'to the Moslem, faith. The better class of buildings, . such as mosques, churches, consular dwellings, and the homes of Arab traders who control the commerce of the city, are of stone. The poorer houses are of rubble..The city is encircled by an ancient stone wall with twenty-four towers. The entry and exit are through five gates. At the outbreak of the war the wall was breached by the authorities in several places, to give the people readier exit in case of attack. Harrar is connected by a good motor road with Diredawa, a town mid-way between Jibuti and Addis Ababa on the railway. It is 200 odd miles distant from the capital. RAS MAKONNEN'S CONQUEST. The city and province, though once part of the kingdom now known as Ethiopia, for many centuries was under Moslem rule, and acknowledged the suzerainty of Egypt. When in 1884 the Egyptian Government was weakened through the Mahdi's conquest of the Sudan, the garrison of Egyptian soldiers was withdrawn from Harrar. This diminished the power of the ruler, the Emir Abdillah. When .in 1337 Ras MakonnSn, father of Haile. Selassie, invaded the province with 8000 Ethiopian warriors,, the 'city fell an easy prey to Ethiopian arms. The
Emir was dethroned, and the province became part of the Ethiopian Empire.
Has Makonnen, who was nephew-of Menelik, then King of Shoa, was appointed Governor. He was described as a cultured," humane, and enlightened ruler.
It was in Harrar that his son Taffari, now the Emperor Haile Selassie, was born. He was educated at a French Roman Catholic Mission there, the buJdings of which are reported as having been destroyed by the recent aerial bombardment.
On the death of Has Makonnen his son Taffari succeeded to the Governorship of the province, and it still continues under the Emperor's control. Haile Selassie owns also vast coffee plantations in the district,
During the Great War Harrar became involved in a grandiose scheme of which Lij Nasa (Joseph) was the central figure. When Menelik II died in 1913, his nephew Lij Nasa, then a youth of seventeen, succeeded to the imperial throne. He is said even then to have been a dissolute craven. The Abouna was averse to crowning him Emperor, because of his evil habits, and also because of his flirtation with Islam. After the outbreak of the Great War emissaries were sent from Turkey and the Central Powers to stir up trouble in Ethiopia against the Allies; These gained the ear of Lij Nasa, and he became obsessed with the dream of a vast North-east African Moslem Empire to embrace Egypt, the Sudan, and all Somaliland, with headquarters in Abyssinia, and himself as Khalif, or supreme head. Lij abandoned the capital, Addis Ababa, for the more congenial company of . his Moslem subjects at Harrar. While at this centre he exchanged letters arid presents with Mohammed bin Abdulla Nassau (the Mad Mullah), who was leading a Jihad, or hoiy war, against British rule in Somaliland.
On account of his Moslem proclivities, the Abouna, at the instance of Ethiopian nobles, dethroned Lij Nasa in 1916. It fell to Has Taffari Makonnen, then in his early twenties, to lead the campaign against the dethroned Emperor. The Emperor's forces were hopelessly defeated and he was taken prisoner. Summary vengeance was taken against the Harrar Moslems who were involved in the conspiracy.
The aunt of Lij Nasa, Zauditu (Judith) was declared Empress, and Ras Taffari Makonnen, Regent.
! The Mullah hoped that the execution of the Harrar Moslems by Ras Taffari would Jead to a general rising of Moslems in Harrar, Ogaden, and throughout Somaliland against their "infidel" rulers. But Moslems in general felt that their slain co-religionists deserved their fate through being fooled by such a creature as Lij Nasa. In the present deplorable strife the Moslems of Harrar and throughout the Empire have shown no disposition to favour Mussolini against Haile Selassie, and, the wanton destruction of Harrar ' will deepen the mistrust of Italy, which is general throughout all Arab lands. 'I