This is the caption from the photograph: “Off to the southern front. This picture, taken by H. V. Drees, Acme photographer with the Ethiopian army in the South, shows a column of troops of Ras Nassibu’s force marching out of Harar for the southern front to take up their positions against the Italian advance of Gen. Rudolfo Graziana. Ras Nassibu’s army has been operating from Harrar, Ethiopia’s second city.”
Ras Nassibu was the commander of the Ethiopian forces on the Southern Front. These troops were to face terrible odds and to be attacked with chemical weapons by the Italians, who used mustard gas against them. Addressing the international community the Ras had this to say:
“The League of Nations! We fight and die while the League talks. … If only we could fight men in the manner of men! But we are facing an invader who uses the most fiendish methods known to warfare all because he is angered that we protect our homes and land. Our lands are being laid barren by gas; our mules, sheep, and cattle are dying in the fields.” In May 1936, Ras Nasibu accompanied the Emperor and the Royal Court into exile, where he died in October 1936, possibly as a result of the gas.
General Graziana was one of the fascist’s most notorious leaders, known as the ‘Butcher of Ethiopia.’ When Addis Ababa fell, Graziana became Viceroy of East Africa and Ethiopia, a position he held from 11 June 1936 – 21 December 1937.
After an attempt on his life by two Eritreans on 19 February 1937 he carried out a series of bloody reprisals. Graziani ordered indiscriminate killings, later remembered by Ethiopians as Yekatit 12: up to thirty thousand civilians of Addis Ababa were killed indiscriminately; another 1,469 were summarily executed by the end of the next month, and over one thousand Ethiopian notables were imprisoned and then exiled from Ethiopia.