“Italy’s Ethiopian Mercenaries: The Forgotten Trinbuli,”

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This paper seeks to show how the Italian government recruited Ethiopians, (from independent Ethiopia!), to fight its colonial war in Libya. Italy, after giving a short training to the new recruits in Asmara, Eritrea, shipped them—along with Eritreans—to Libya. Italy’s Ethiopianmercenaries were stationed at Benghazi and Tripoli, in addition to other Libyan cities. From their camps in Benghazi and Tripoli, Ethiopians were dispatched to fight the “Sanussi,” the Libyan resistance movement, against Italy. After their service, most of these battle hardenedEthiopians, whom their countrymen referred to as, Trinbuli, a corrupted Amharic word for tripoli, in reference to their sojourn in that city, returned to Ethiopia while some remained in Asmara, Eritrea. <br><br>While the Ethiopians’ mercenary adventures in Libya was noted in Ethiopian folklore and traditional song lyrics, such as Shegaw Trinbuli, Italy’s (the mortal enemy of Ethiopia), successful recruitment of tens of thousands of Ethiopians without the consent of the central government, the life of the Trinbuli in Libya, their role during the Ethiopian patriotic resistance against the Italian occupation (1936‐1941), their contribution in the foundation and development of Ethiopia’s police force and the military was barely mentioned. The paper also highlights why the Trinbuli, in spite of their invaluable contribution to Ethiopia and Italy alike, were almost absent from the historical discourse of both countries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-448
JournalBoston University
VolumeVol. 52
Issue numberNo.3
StatePublished - 2019


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