Grands pays, petites guerres

LONDRES – Le président américain Barack Obama s’est engagé à venger le meurtre de J. Christopher Stevens, l’ancien ambassadeur des Etats-Unis en Libye. Il n’a pas été très clair sur les moyens d’y parvenir – et les antécédents historiques ne sont pas d’une grande d’utilité.

En 1864, l’empereur d’Abyssinie avait pris en otage le consul britannique et quelques missionnaires dans la capitale de l’époque, Magdala. Trois ans plus tard, et dans la mesure où l’empereur Tewodros refusait toujours de les libérer, les Britanniques ont envoyé une force expéditionnaire de 1300 hommes, 2600 civils associés aux troupes, et 44 éléphants.

Dans son livre Le Nil bleu (The Blue Nile), Alan Moorehead décrit ainsi l’expédition: « Elle procédait, du premier au dernier, avec l’inévitable décorum d’un banquet d’état victorien, sans oublier la solennité des discours. » Ce fut pourtant une effroyable entreprise. Après un voyage de trois mois à travers les montagnes, les Britanniques atteignirent Magdala, libérèrent les otages, et réduisirent la capitale en cendres. L’empereur Tewodros se suicidât, les Britanniques se retirèrent, et leur commandant, le Lieutenant Général Sir Robert Napier, se vit attribuer le titre de Baron Napier de Magdala.

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