Yekatit 12 Square Monument
Public Art: Yekatit 12 Square Monument
Also Known As : Sidist Kilo or the Martyrs'
Sculptor : © unknown
Description: The 28m white stone obelisk stands as a
tribute to the thousands of innocent martyrs butchered by the Fascist Italian occupiers (1936-1941) , following an
attempted assassination of the Italian Viceroy Rodolfo Graziani by two young Eritreans named Abraha Deboch and
Mogus Asgedom on the 19th February, 1937. Around the base of the obelisk are bas reliefs depicting the massacre and
the Imperial funeral for the victims , in which Emperor Haile Selassie I was present. A bronze Lion of Judah, which
is the symbol of heroism and resistance to Ethiopians, also decorates the face of the obelisk. The monument once
included the story of the massacre carved on four open-book-like stones around the obelisk but they have since
Date unveiled: The Martyrs' Monument was inaugurated
on February, 1942.
Funded by : The monument was a gift to Ethiopia by
President Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia, who was himself a leader of a guerella army who fought against his country's
occupation of Ethiopia by Fascist Italy and a great friend of Emperor Haile Selassie.
Location: The Yekatit Monument is located at the
intersection of Russian Street, Entoto Avenue, King Street and George Street and Weatheral Street in Addis Abeba,
Background to the Massacre : During Ethiopia's quest
for independence in the 1930s, the country fell into war with Italy (Regno d'Italia) under orders from Italian
dictator Benito Mussolini, who had long desired Italy to expand its empire into North Africa just like Britain and
France. This resulted in the military occupation of Ethiopia by Italian armed forces in 1936 and lead to the
establishment of a new colony called Italian East Africa.
During the conflict the emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, and his family fled (on
advise) to Jerusalem and then to England where they stayed in exile.
Meanwhile the Italian commander of the southern front, Rodolfo Graziani, was made Viceroy of
Italian East Africa and Governor-General of Shewa/Addis Ababa.
On the 19th of February, 1937, two young Eritreans, Abraha Deboch and Moges Asgedom, decided to
assassinate Graziani and other leading Italians during a public ceremony on the grounds of the once Imperial
Palace. Before leaving, Deboch stabbed an Italian flag to the wooden floorboards of his home with an Ethiopian
spear and then tied the Ethiopian flag to the top end of it. Deboch and Asgeom then headed to the ceremony
armed with ten grenades. As the Italians gathered on the steps of the palace Deboch and
Asgedom threw the grenades at them, injuring Graziani and thirty other Facist officials, without killing any.
Graziani was rushed to hospital with over 200 strapnel wounds while Federal Secretary Guido Cortese gave official
orders for three days of carnage.
From Friday until Sunday men were murdered, women were raped (and in some cases disemboweled),
houses were burnt down and those attempting to escape were shot, stabbed or blugeoned to death. No one was
spared. Educated Ethiopians (estimated to be 70% of the educated elite), especially those belonging to the Black
Lion resistance group, were rounded up and slaughtered near the Little Ghebi ( now the present Addis Ababa
University building). Pregnant women, babies and the elderly were given no mercy. Witnesses describe the
streets as being literally drenched in blood.
After the three days of horror, it was estimated that 30,000 Ethiopians had been murdered.
Three months later, when Graziani had recovered from his wounds, he ordered that the 297 monks and
23 laymen from the monastery of Debre Libanos, who were rumored to have sheltered Deboch and Asgedom be shot
What became of Abraha Deboch and Moges Asgedom? Some reports say the two fled to the
western border but were caught by the Italians , tortured and then killed. Wikipedia claims they sought
safety in Sudan and were later killed in Gojjam by the locals, who were suspicious of the strangers.
Things You May Not Know About Yekatit 12 Square :
Each year on "Matyrs Day" (12th of February on the Ethiopian calendar) wreaths are laid at the
During the reign of the Dergue ((1974 to 1987) all images of the Lion of Judah and of the
Emperor Haile Selassie were removed from the city except for those that adorn the Yekatit 12 monument.
Graziani was never tried for his crimes in Ethiopia but did become known as the "Butcher of
In 2012, a small town in the Italian region of Lazio, inaugurated a Mausoleum dedicated to the
memory of the fascist Field Marshal Rodolfo Graziani.
LEST WE FORGET