Black Lions (organization)

This article is about the Ethiopian organization. For other uses, see Black Lion (disambiguation).

The Black Lions were an anti-fascist resistance movement during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia. As Bahru Zewde notes, in spite of its "marginal impact on the Resistance" the Black Lions made "eloquent attempts to give the struggle coherent ideological and political direction."[1]


The movement was founded in western Ethiopia, and included fighters such as the Shoan Ras Abebe Aregai, and a number of intellectuals who included the sons of Hakim Workneh Eshete and Heruy Welde Sellase, and Yilma Deressa.[2] Its chairman was Alemework Beyene, a veterinary surgeon educated in Britain. The organization had a constitution consisting of ten points, which included: asserting the supremacy of the political sphere over the military, injunctions against mistreating peasants and prisoners of war, forbidding its members from seeking exile and urging them to prefer death to capture by the enemy.[3]

The group was effectively disbanded following the surrender of the Ras Imru Haile Selassie 18 December 1936.[4] The majority of its members were killed by the Italians following the unsuccessful attempt on Rodolfo Graziani's life on 19 February 1937.[5] The few survivors included Alemework and Yilma.


  1. Bahru Zewde, A History of Modern Ethiopia, second edition (Oxford: James Currey, 2001), p. 174.
  2. Bahru Zewde, Pioneers of Change in Ethiopia (Oxford: James Currey, 2002), p. 203
  3. Bahru Zewde, A History, p. 175
  4. Anthony Mockler, Haile Selassie's War (New York: Olive Branch, 2003), pp. 168
  5. Bahru Zewde, Pioneers, p. 204
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