Treaty of Wuchale: The Treaty which led to European Colonialism’s Defeat in Africa

Edition of the Petit Journal of August 1896 titled: “Negus Menelik II at the Battle of Adwa”

In Africa, Ethiopia is the only country which was never colonized by a European power. This was the result of the famous Battle of Adwa on March 1, 1896, which marked the Ethiopian victory against Italian colonialism. The Battle of Adwa against Italy arose from the deceitful 1889 Treaty of Wuchale between the Ethiopian Empire and Italy, a treaty whose article 17 had two different meanings in Amharic and Italian versions: The Amharic version recognized the sovereignty of Ethiopia and its relationship with Italy as just a diplomatic partnership, while the Italian version made Ethiopia Italy’s protectorate The moment that discrepancy/trickery was uncovered, Empress Taytu Betul was the first to agitate Emperor Menelik II and other men to stand up for liberty, and dignity against Italian aggression. I am publishing here the Treaty of Wuchale. Special thanks to the Horn Affairs website for publishing the English version in its entirety. Some claim that Article 3 actually paved the way for Italians to claim Ethiopian lands (Eritrea). Well, here is the document of one of those treacherous treaties signed or rather forced upon Africans by European powers. Thank goodness for Taytu Betul, Menelik II, and their team of loyal and intelligent ministers and interpreters. I have attached the pdf version too.


Treaty of friendship and trade between the kingdom of Italy and the Empire of Ethiopia (Treaty of Wuchale)

Map of Ethiopia before 1911

His Majesty King Umberto I of Italy and Menelik His Majesty The King of Kings of Ethiopia, in order to make meaningful and lasting peace between the two Kingdoms of Italy and Ethiopia have agreed to conclude a treaty of friendship and commerce .

And His Majesty the King of Italy having delegated as his representative, Count Pietro Antonelli, Commander of the Crown of Italy, Knight SS. Maurice and Lazarus, his extraordinary posted by His Majesty the King Menelik, whose full powers were found in good and due form, and His Majesty the King Menelik concluded in his name as King of Kings of Ethiopia, agreed and concludes the following Articles:

Article 1. There will be perpetual peace and friendship between His Majesty the King of Italy and His Majesty the King of Kings of Ethiopia and between their respective heirs, successors, servants and protected populations.

Article 2. Each Contracting Party shall be represented by a diplomatic agent accredited to I’altra and may appoint consuls, agents and consular officers in the other.
Such officials shall enjoy all the privileges and immunities according to the customs of the European governments.

Map of Eritrea
Map of Eritrea

Article 3. To remove any ambiguity about the limits of the territories over which the two Contracting Parties shall exercise sovereign rights, a special commission composed of two delegates and two Ethiopians will draw on Italian soil with special signals a permanent boundary line whose strongholds are established as below:
a) the line of the plateau will mark the Ethiopian-Italian border;
b) from the region Arafali Hala, Sagan and Asmara are villages in the Italian border;
c) Adi and Adi Nefas Joannes Bogos will be on the side of the Italian border;
d) by Adi Joannes a straight line extended from east to west will mark the border between Italy and Ethiopia.

Article 4. The monastery of Debra Bizen with all their possessions will remain the property of the Ethiopian government but will never use it for military purposes.

Article 5. The caravans from or to Massawa to Ethiopian territory pay on one single law of the customs entry of 8 per cent on the value of the goods.

Emperor Menelik II, of Ethiopia

Article 6. The trade of arms and ammunition from or through Massawa to Ethiopia will be free for the only King of Kings of Ethiopia.
Whenever they want to get the passage of such kinds will make regular application to the Italian authorities, bearing the royal seal.
The wagons with load of weapons and ammunition will travel under the protection and cover of Italian soldiers until alconfine Ethiopia.

Article 7. The subjects of each of the two Contracting Parties will be free to enter, travel, go out with their merchandise and effects in the other country and will enjoy greater protection of the Government and its employees.
And, therefore, strictly forbidden to people on both sides armed contractors to meet many or few and pass their borders in order to impose itself on people and groped by force to provide food and livestock.

Article 8. The Italians in Ethiopia and Ethiopians in Italy or Italian possessions can buy or sell, take or lease and in any other manner dispose of their property no less than the natives.

Article 9. And fully guaranteed in both states the option for other subjects to practice their religion.

Article 10. Any disputes or quarrels between the Italians in Ethiopia will be defined by the Italian in Massawa or his delegate.
The fights between Italians and Ethiopians will be defined by the Italian in Massawa or his delegate and a delegate of the Ethiopian.

Empress Taytu Betul of Ethiopia

Article 11. Dying in an Italian in Ethiopia or an Ethiopian in Italian territory, the local authorities were carefully kept all his property and held at the disposal of government to which the deceased belonged.

Article 12. In any event, circumstance or for any Italians accused of a crime will be judged by the Italian.
That is why the Ethiopian authorities shall immediately deliver to the  Italians in Massawa accused of having committed a crime.
They also accused the Ethiopians of crime committed on Italian soil will be judged by the Ethiopian.

Article 13. His Majesty the King of Italy and His Majesty the King of Kings of Ethiopia is obliged to deliver criminals who may have become refugees, to escape punishment by the rulers of one on the other domains.

Article 14. The slave trade was against the principles of the Christian religion, His Majesty the King of Kings of Ethiopia is committed to prevent it with all his power, so that no caravan of slaves can cross its member.

Article 15. This Treaty shall be valid throughout the Ethiopian Empire.

Article 16. While in the present Treaty, after five years from the date of signature, one of two High Contracting Parties may wish to introduce some modifications to do so, but he must prevent the other a year earlier, while remaining firm and every single concession on territory.

The Battle of Adwa, 1896

Article 17. His Majesty the King of Kings of Ethiopia can [1] use the Government of His Majesty the King of Italy for all treatments that did business with other powers or governments.

Article 18. If His Majesty the King of Kings of Ethiopia intends to grant special privileges to nationals of third state to establish businesses and industries in Ethiopia, will always be given, under equal conditions, preference to the Italians.

Article 19. This treaty being drafted in Italian and Amharic and the two versions agree with each other perfectly, both texts shall be deemed official, and will in every respect equal faith.

Article 20. This Treaty shall be ratified.

In witness whereof, Count Pietro Antonelli on behalf of His Majesty the King of Italy, His Majesty the King of King Menelik of Ethiopia, in his own name, signed and affixed their seal to this Treaty, at the camp Uccialli of 25 miazia 1881 corresponding to May 2, 1889.

Imperial Seal of Ethiopia
For His Majesty the King of Italy Pietro Antonelli

Ratification of MS, Monza, September 29, 1889


[1] Article 17 has an obligatory sense in the Italian language version of the Treaty.

8 thoughts on “Treaty of Wuchale: The Treaty which led to European Colonialism’s Defeat in Africa

    1. So good you found key information on . Please keep visiting and commenting. And yes… we need to pay more respect to our Ethiopian ancestors and their stories.


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