Causes of WWII – Italy’s invasion of Abyssinia

Italy was an ambitious nation under Benito Mussolini. It could make pacts with Germany and Japan only because of the common interest and that was expansion of the Kingdom. After the First World War, the League of Nations was formed and Italy was looked upon favourably by Britain and France. They were pitching Italy as an ally against Germany. That these plans did not fructify is what History teaches us. Second Italo- Abyssinian War, also known as Second Italo-Ethiopian War, was an unprovoked war only to colonise. Ethiopia was also known as Abyssinia.  It started in October 1935 and ended in May 1936.

Incidents that led to the War

By the Italo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1928 had designated the borders between Italy and Somaliland and Ethiopia which was twenty one leagues which is around73.5 miles. In 1930 Italy built a fort in WalWal which encroached into Ethiopia. In November 1934 Ethiopian Territorial Troops protested and accompanied Anglo-Ethiopian commission to resolve the border dispute. But Britain pulled out of the commission and allowed Italy to go ahead with its plans. This was because Britain did not want to anger Italy as it had to play its ally against Germany. Japan always had good ties with the African Empire but when Italy started the invasion Japan remained neutral. Not just that, Japan did not help Ethiopia when it approached Japan for military assistance. In many ways Abyssinia was singled out.

The War

When help was not forthcoming from any quarter, Ethiopia garnered all its men, women and children to help in the war against Italy. But the ammunitions, warfare, vehicles, artillery all were old fashioned and was in no match for the Italian forces.

  • The preparations for the war started in March 1935.
  • Significant advancements were made by Italy in October 1935.
  • In November the League condemned the invasion of Italy.
  • In December Ethiopia retaliated and to some extent they were victorious in sending the Italians back.
  • In December 1935 the Hoare-Laval Pact was proposed where Italy was allowed to economic influence over the southern part of Abyssinia.

The Hoare-Laval Pact was a representation of Britain and France. They were British Foreign Secretary Samuel Hoare and the French Prime Minister Pierre Laval. This pact also proposed to divide Abyssinia into an Italian Sector and Abyssinian Sector.  Mussolini was ready to accept the pact but he waited a few days to give his consent. By then the pact was leaked to the people of Abyssinia by French newspaper. The reaction was so strong in the African Empire and even at the international level. The British and the French were equally outraged and compelled both the leaders to resign.

Even after the resignation of the two leaders nothing drastically different happened. Italy continued to have some control over Abyssinia. The League once again could not do anything effective to contain the ambitious expansion plan of Benito Mussolini. But the few sanctions that were put against Italy were not well received by Italy and in 1937 Italy left the League. The Abyssinian war was a blot on the League and a precursor to World War II.

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