samedi 3 décembre 2011

Switzerland / Ethiopia: A Swiss Minister of Ethiopia in 1897.

 Born in 1854 in Frauenfeld, Thurgau, Alfred Ilig graduated at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETHZ).
To modernize his country, Emperor Menelik II to the throne 4 November 1889 called on Europeans and Indians to modernize Ethiopia. He wants for his capital Addis Ababa, bridges, pipelines, technicians and military advisors.
At 25, Alfred Iliga was attracted by the idea of ​​working as an engineer at the court of King Menelik II. He began a journey of eight months to go to Ethiopia. On his arrival, he built bridges, roads drew, took part in the construction of Addis Ababa and drew the first line of the imperial palace. He installs a variety of machines, built a munitions factory, teaches how to handle new weapons to the imperial troops, participated in the creation of the national currency and the establishment of a postal system, etc ...
Command of the Royal Amharic and having shown, he was appointed advisor to the emperor, attended by his Swiss nationality, synonymous with neutrality.
"I loved as a father," he said later, speaking of Menelik II, who appreciated "the wise counsel of Switzerland."
It was he who had made him sensitive to inconsistencies and Cooperation Treaty signed with Italy in 1889. The Italian text stated that Ethiopia became an Italian protectorate, a detail that did not appear in the text Amharic.
The case caused the crisis that led to the Italo-Ethiopian war.
"I underestimated the willingness of European imperialist" Ilig wrote in a letter. Menelik II, who was head of the only countries not yet colonized distrusted imperialism of France, Italy and Great Britain.
At the Battle of Adowa in March 1896, the Ethiopian army managed to defeat the Italian army. This had an enormous impact in the world. For the first time an African army had defeated an army of a great European power.
For the Swiss anti-colonialist, this event was a double satisfaction. First, Ethiopian independence was saved, but again, the necessary investments in Europe finally came to build the railroad that he planned.
Alfred Ilig is then the most influential adviser to the Imperial Court.
 He receives European emissaries, reflects the discussions for Ethiopians in Amharic and participated in drafting the peace treaty with Italy in particular.
In March 1897, he was raised to the rank of official "State Councillor with the title of Excellence" and awarded the country's highest honor "The Star of Ethiopia".
In 1906, when the old Emperor Menelik II became seriously ill, Alfred Ilig loses his main support and avoid meddling in the quarrels of succession. Menelik died on December 12, 1913.
Ilig returned permanently in Switzerland and moved to Zurich with his wife and four children. He died January 7, 1916 leaving about 1000 photographs of his great work has been exhibited on the occasion of the 150th anniversary at the Ethnographic Museum of Zurich

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