In January 1936, he was defeated by the Italian General Rodolfo Graziani at the Battle of Ganale Dorya.
More DetailsHide DetailsDesta retreated back to his administrative center at Irgalem, where with the help of Dejazmach Gabremariam, he reorganized his survivors to resist the Italian advance. Desta continued to resist the Italians after the Emperor left the country.
In 1936, after the end of the rainy season, Italian General Carlo Geloso, who had been appointed governor of the Italian province of Galla-Sidamo, advanced from the north to dislodge Ras Desta and Dejazmach Gabremariam. However by the end of October, Geloso had not advanced very far or effectively. It was not until a month later when a second Italian column advanced from the south through the Wadara Forest that Ras Desta at last left Irgalem, which was occupied 1 December. With Dejazmach Gabremariam, Dejazmach Beyene Merid (Shum of Bale Province), and a dwindling number of soldiers, for the next few months Ras Desta eluded the Italians until they were trapped near Lake Shala in the Battle of Gogetti and annihilated. Wounded, Ras Desta managed to escape, only to be caught and executed near his birthplace.
In 1935, Ras Desta commanded troops along the southern border of Ethiopia during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.
In 1924, Desta Damtew married Tafari Makonnen's daughter Leult Tenagnework Haile Selassie.
More DetailsHide DetailsThey had four daughters and two sons.
Anthony Mockler describes Desta Damtew as "something of an eccentric among Ethiopian nobles", who had run away in his twenties to become a monk at Debre Libanos, as well as having a reputation "as an entrepreneur and an enfant terrible." Mockler continues that Ras Desta "had as little taste as the young progressives of inferior birth for the traditional amusements of the Amhara aristocracy, the feasting, the horsemanship, the boasting and the drunkenness." According to his obituary in The Times he was "a tall and princelike figure, ascetically handsome in face and reserved in manner. He had the soft, almost inaudible voice of the aristocratic Amhara. Although a modernizer on the Imperial pattern, he was perfectly frank about his distrust of foreigners. "The less foreigners visit Ethiopia, the better," was a remark he once made at a European gathering at the British Legation."
In 1920, Desta Damtew was in the party that captured Lij Iyasu.
Born at the village of Maskan (in the contemporary Gurage Zone), Desta Damtew was the second son of Fitawrari Damtew Ketena. His older brother was Abebe Damtew. In 1896, Fitawrari Damtew Ketena was killed at the Battle of Adwa.
More DetailsHide DetailsAs boys, Lij Desta Damtew and his brother Lij Abebe Damtew served at the Imperial Palace in Addis Ababa as pages to Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taitu Bitul. Desta Damtew went on to serve in the Dowager Empress Taitu's household at the Palace on Mt. Entoto after the death of Menelik II.
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