The East African Campaign is a series of battles (land, air and sea) between the Italian forces and the Commonwealth forces, which will lead to the conquest (or liberation) of the Italian East Africa Empire.
Italian East Africa consists of three territories: Eritrea, Italian Somaliland and Ethiopia. Although the first two were annexed for a long time (1890), it is quite different for the latter. Indeed, Ethiopia was incorporated as an Italian entity only in 1936 and, in practice, never experienced any real pacification. The period of Italian colonization was marked by the violence of the occupier and by the failure of his policy leading to the development of armed resistance movements. As a result, the majority of the Ethiopian regions will never be entirely under Italian control. This will have significant consequences during the forthcoming East African Campaign. Thus a telegram from Mussolini dated 5 June 1940 orders « to shoot all the resisting prisoners and to continue the use of mustard gas against the hotbeds of revolt ». Finally, Amedee II of Savoy, Duke of Aosta, judged more peaceful and diplomatic, was sent, on 21 December 1937, as Viceroy. The situation is improving slightly, thanks to the more gentle methods, but the fascist leader Arcanovaldo Bonacorsi recognizes as early as 1939 that « the empire is everywhere in a state of latent rebellion, which may have a tragic outcome, when the war breaks out with our enemies. If an English or French detachment were to come to a point, it would require little or no troops, since they would then find a large number of Abyssinians ready to join them ».
In 1939, the year of the outbreak of the war in Europe, the situation of impasse in which Italy finds itself is increasing. On the one hand the Italians fail to put an end to the resistance, on the other the Ethiopians are incapable of penetrating the opposing lines.
Moreover, in case of conflict, this Italian Empire has a particular disadvantage since it is far from its Metropolis and surrounded by enemy territories. Thus, it is bordered to the west by the Sudan (Anglo-Egyptian condominium), to the north by the French Coast of the Somalies or Djibouti, (although the French capitulation will solve the problem quickly) and British Somaliland, while on the other side of the sea, is the base of Aden (protecting access to the Red Sea) and to the south by Kenya (again British possession).
Map of Italian East Africa