Ethiopia Recent History

The most ancient eras in the history of Ethiopia are a mystery. It is known that perhaps even before the Christian era in Ethiopia there was a kingdom called Axumita, with the capital Axum. During this reign San Frumenzio, called by the natives “Father Pace”, brought Christianity to Ethiopia, to which a large part of the population adhered.

According to Abbreviationfinder, an acronym site which also features history of Ethiopia, the Axumite kings made many conquests in Arab land and in the sixth century they also conquered Yemen. But these conquests ended in Arab land with the advent of Muhammad.

In the twelfth century, the Axumite dynasty ended and among those that followed, the Salomonids, who waged a long and tenacious struggle, stood out in particular.

In one of the bloodiest clashes, that of Dawaro, the Muslims were clearly defeated and their leader, “Badlay the fair”, was killed on the field.

Still the Muslims succumbed to the Ethiopians until in their ranks the leader Ahmad ibn Ibraim, called “the Left-handed”, who was one of the most bitter enemies of Ethiopia, on whose throne then reigned Lebna Dengel. The latter, including the danger represented by Mancino, asked for help from the king of Portugal.

Why the king of Ethiopia asked Portugal for help was not so easy to explain; However, it was known that a Portuguese doctor even lived in the Negus court, and it was he who brought the request for help to his sovereign.

The Portuguese promised help but for a time they did not move, and in the meantime Lebna died, and the son rose to the throne. And he would certainly have been defeated if the Portuguese aid had not arrived promptly, who, commanded by the chief Christovao de Gama, son of the great navigator Vasco, decided the fate of the war. Mancino, however, had managed to take the Portuguese commander prisoner who was killed amid enormous torture. Then, however, in turn he was killed by a blow from the Portuguese harquebus. It was 1543. And when the Muslims were finally destroyed, another danger came for Ethiopia: the people of the Galla.

Ethiopia Recent History

In the second half of the XVIII century the Galla became the “protectors” of Ethiopia; they practically ruled the country and the king was only a puppet in their hands. The period of their domination was called the “masafent”.

After this period he ascended the throne of Ethiopia with violence Theodore II, a young and cruel leader. After exterminating several populations that opposed him, he managed to antagonize even the British who were always present in the land of Africa to take turns supporting the various African sovereigns. And when Theodore imprisoned an English ambassador, he also marked his end and that of his army since all were annihilated by the mighty strength of England. It was 1868 when Theodore II killed himself. John IV arrived at the throne of Ethiopia, but this too was forced to immediately face some of his vassals, first of all the most dangerous Menelik. This, with the help of the Italians, present with commercial bases on the coast, took the crown with the name of Menelik II. It was 1889.

The new emperor signed the Treaty of Uccialli with the government of Rome which acknowledged Italy’s possession of the territories of East Africa. Later, however, relations deteriorated and often the troops sent to protect the Italian colonial interests were confronted and attacked by the Abyssinian and defeated forces.

After the death of Menelik II all situations improved and then returned to worse with the advent of the new ruler Hailè Selassiè and some border episodes provided the cause for a real war that lasted from 3 October 1935 to 9 May 1936 with the victory of the ‘Italy. Vittorio Emanuele III, king of Italy, also assumed the title of Emperor of Ethiopia.

Italy carried out significant civilization works in that country, but only about ten years later, at the end of the Second World War, it had to abandon all the African colonies and Hailè Selassiè returned to reign in Ethiopia.

He was very skilled in conducting negotiations with Britain for the evacuation of his occupation troops from the territory; the British post-war occupation ended completely in 1951 and relations between the two states were based on friendship and fairness.

In 1954 Great Britain also returned to the emperor some border areas annexed to Somalia but asked for the right of grazing for those populations and in this regard some diplomatic friction was born, immediately overcome.

On the other hand, relations with France were not too good, in particular for the borders with French Somalia and for the use of the port of Djibouti, which is its capital. Here too an agreement was reached in 1959 and all problems were solved.

Relations with Italy had already normalized through contacts made in Geneva through the United Nations and many Italian technicians were retained in Ethiopia as they were considered essential elements for the continuation of the social and economic evolution of the country.

But a controversy arose between the two nations regarding the compensation of war damages that Ethiopia asked Italy. After various events also for this reason an agreement was reached and Italy, by way of compensation, committed itself to carrying out works of public utility, with its own means and businesses, and thus the Hawas hydroelectric basin was built.

The emperor obtained considerable help from all the western and eastern powers, visited the United States, the Soviet Union, Canada and other countries.

In May 1958 the United Nations Assembly designated Addis Ababa as the seat of the Economic Commission for Africa. In 1960, with regard to the Congo crisis, Ethiopia fully supported the work of the United Nations.

The centralization of all forces, political and military, in the hands of the emperor, however, was the cause of some youth demonstrations aimed at obtaining greater freedom from state authorities. But these dissensions were not expressed only by young people, more or less westernized. There was also a trend change in other social strata. So it was that, on the occasion of a trip by the Emperor in 1960 to Latin America, the Commander of his personal guard organized a revolt which, given the surprise, achieved some success. But it didn’t last long; the rebellion was suppressed and many government figures were killed.

The purpose of the rebellion had been the liberation of the state from the feudal regime and of the same opinion were all the students of the University College of Addis Ababa.

To these joined all the students of the country and also those who studied abroad and for years and years there were rebellions, sometimes so strong that the same schools had to be closed. And in the sixties-seventies a socialist revolution was feared.

Selassiè, in the face of all these riots, very evident witnesses of a certain popular unease, tried to apply a softer government; amended part of the Constitution in order to solve more serious problems, such as that of land reform. Often the technicians had tried to bring attention to the old age of the systems not only of cultivation but also of fund management. The production was not satisfactory and the profits went largely to the owners, leaving the tenants in poverty. In the years 1966/67 there were new government provisions on this subject but the result did not change. In addition, 28% of the arable land was in the possession of the Coptic Church, and as such they were untouchable.

Another serious problem to be solved was that of Eritrea which, by concession of the United Nations, had been decreed trustee mandate of Ethiopia.

The Eritreans started protests and riots to gain independence and in this they were helped by the Arab states (Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Southern Yemen and Libya). A “Popular Liberation Front”, of Marxist inspiration, arose. And the ensuing guerrilla warfare had a huge impact on Ethiopia’s military costs, further lowering its economic and social status.

For a whole decade there were union demonstrations which, although authorized but supervised by the government, led to chain strikes in various sectors until in 1974, in addition to the economic side, they also took on a political flavor.

And precisely in 1974, with this situation, and also because of the cost of living and the increase in the world oil price, there were strong disorders directed at the overthrow of the government.

The military asked the Emperor to revise the Constitution; meanwhile, episodes of corruption led to the arrest of various government personalities and finally Hailè Selassiè was deposed and his son, parallized and abroad for treatment, Asfà Wasan was appointed in his stead.

The first proposal for a new government was to create a socialist state with the motto of “Ethiopia above all”. A provisional government was elected but on March 17, 1975 the monarchy was declared decayed because it no longer responded to the socialist aspirations of the people, the Constitution repealed as no longer relevant and the Parliament dissolved.

A hundred days after the deposition of the sovereign, the banks, insurance companies, industries and commercial enterprises were nationalized, all agricultural land with the idea of ​​forming large collective farms.

With Eritrea in February 1975 there was a real war clash with serious damage. An agreement was reached with the Coptic Church and the right to free religion was also agreed, so that Christ was represented everywhere together with Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster and Muhammad.

In foreign policy, Ethiopia continued to maintain friendly relations with the West, and in particular with the United States from which it always had considerable aid; and also with Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Egypt.

In 1977 there was a conflict over the tension of relations with Somalia, fueled by the problem of borders, especially after the creation of the Republic of Djibouti, and in January 1978 the Somali Liberation Front also achieved success.
But Ethiopia brought an offensive in March, with the help of Cuban and Soviet troops, requested by Colonel Mangestu, and the Somali Front troops returned to their territory.

Meanwhile Mangestu, who had become the undisputed head of the Military Administrative Council, after having strengthened relations with the Soviet Union, continued to face the secessionist armed movements from Eritrea, the Tigris, and also from some regions of Ethiopia itself.

And then, in 1979, also urged by the Soviet Union, he formed a Single Political Workers Party, which was to replace the military government, and which created a Commission of Ethiopian Progressive Workers, of which he was President.

This Commission, in turn, created the Ethiopian Workers Party, which in 1984 held its Constituent Congress and appointed Mangestu Secretary General.

In February 1987, through a referendum, a new Constitution was approved. In the following June, the National Assembly was appointed which, in turn, proclaimed the Democratic People’s Republic of Ethiopia, President Mangestu. The Military Council was thus abolished. The state was divided into 5 autonomous regions and 24 circumscriptions.

In April 1988 an agreement was signed between Somalia and Ethiopia, decreeing the end of hostilities; while inside there were still secessionist movements.

For foreign policy there was an ever closer collaboration with the Soviet Union, with the countries of Eastern Europe and with Cuba, which until 1989 provided military aid. On the other hand, there was a breakdown of relations with the United States, the West and Israel.

But when the political situation of the Soviet Union suffered the well-known subversion due to the “perestroika”, Ethiopia returned on good terms with the state of Israel to which it promised the release of all citizens of the Jewish religion, the Falascià, blocked on the territory, until the last man left the country.

In May 1991, from the merger of various groups of different ethnic groups, the “Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian People” was born, which forced Mangestu to flee.

In that same month Eritrea managed to reconquer Asmara and Assab and became de facto independent.

In July a provisional government was formed, chaired by Meles Zenawi, which was later reconfirmed with the elections of 24 June 1992.

Even the consultations of June 1994, which made possible the formation of the Constituent Assembly, saw the clear prevalence of the Front. In December a parliamentary constitution was approved which provided for the administrative division of the country into 9 autonomous states, within the framework of a Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Then, both for the election of the Federal Parliament and for that of the individual states, other consultations took place in May 1995 and also in them the preponderance of the Front was evident.

In the following August, Parliament appointed N. Gidada as President of the Republic, but who really exercised power was always Prime Minister Zenawi.

The West, and in particular the United States, continued to financially support Ethiopia, whose government, in addition to developing development plans in the various sectors, devoted itself more to advancing agriculture. And despite the fact that the biggest enemy in this sector, drought, was raging for long periods, there was also an improvement in the situation.


As far as foreign policy was concerned, Ethiopia maintained good relations especially with the neighboring Djibouti and Eritrea whose ports represented the vital outlets for the country.

In May 1998 there was an armed conflict with Eritrea, caused by an old question relating to the borders with Sudan, but not only; there were also reasons of an economic nature, especially after Eritrea had established, in 1997, to beat a new own currency.

The conflict drew, but without noticeable results, the attention and mediation of the United States, friends of both countries, and of the Organization of African Unity.