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Ethiopia Modern History

Dissatisfaction with corruption and lack of development contributed to the overthrow of the military by Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. He had ruled the country a lot since 1930. A military council took power and proclaimed a socialist state. Gradually, the political climate hardened. Oppression and famine caused resistance groups to take up arms. A collection of rebel movements, the EPRDF, defeated the regime in 1991 and proclaimed a democratic federal republic. Since then, the EPRDF has been in power.

Ethiopia's annexation of Eritrea in 1962 became the starting point for the Eritrean independence war that would last until 1991. Even in other parts of the country it fermented with dissatisfaction. The government's indifference to a famine disaster from 1972 to 1974 contributed to strikes, demonstrations, peasant uprisings and armed forces mutiny. In early 1974, the government was forced to resign and in September of that year, Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed. He died in captivity the following year.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Ethiopia. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The military council, derg (Amharic committee), which took over the government of the country proclaimed a socialist state. Industries and agricultural land were nationalized in 1975. Students were sent out into the countryside to teach people to read and write. Dergen had the support of many intellectuals and students, but was gradually criticized for his refusal to reintroduce civilian rule. After a violent power struggle in the military, Mengistu Haile Mariam took power in 1977.

Red terror

Mengistu launched a campaign, called Red Terror, to crush political opposition to the revolution. The campaign robbed Ethiopia of a whole generation of educated youth. Tens of thousands were killed or tortured and hundreds of thousands fled to the United States and Europe.

Contemporary History of EthiopiaThe new state big farms were ineffective and perennial drought caused famine for millions of people in 1984–1985. About one million Ethiopians died of starvation, and the government's decision to forcibly move hundreds of thousands of people did not improve the situation.

The armed resistance to the regime escalated. Despite military aid from the Soviet Union and Cuba, the army failed to crush the uprisings in Eritrea and Tigray. In 1989, the Tiger Liberation Front (TLF) merged with other regime opponents, forming the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

After a failed coup attempt in the military in 1989, military power weakened, giving the guerrilla groups an upper hand. The ravages of the war and new severe drought again put millions of Ethiopians in the face of famine. At the same time, the regime lost military and financial support from the Soviet Union, where the Communist regime fell. In 1990, Mengistu was forced to admit that the planning economy had failed. He promised market reforms, but it was too late. In May 1991, Mengistu was forced to fly the country. The EPRDF troops marched into Addis Ababa and seized power with US support.

Meles Zenawi to power

At the same time, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) entered the Eritrean capital Asmara. With the EPRDF's consent, Eritrea was able to plan its independence which was proclaimed in 1993.

The new rulers of Addis Ababa formed a transitional government with participants from several political groups. EPRDF President Meles Zenawi was appointed provisional head of state. The former Marxist partial alliance now advocated market economy and privatization of state-owned enterprises, while the land would remain state-owned.

The EPRDF soon came into conflict with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which had opposed the Mengistur regime without joining the EPRDF. Prior to the 1992 local elections, fighting between the two parties erupted. OLF, the dominant movement among the majority people oromos, left the unity government together with Ogaden's National Liberation Front (ONLF) and several other groups. OLF boycotted the elections, which contributed to a superior victory for the EPRDF.

In accordance with a new constitution that came into force in 1995, Ethiopia was transformed into a federation. Thirteen provinces were replaced by nine newly created states divided by ethnic principles (see Political system).

War on Eritrea

The 1995 parliamentary elections were boycotted by the opposition parties and the EPRDF won yet another overwhelming victory. EPRDF's strong man Meles Zenawi became prime minister.

With Eritrea, Ethiopia initially had a close cooperation. Gradually, there were rumblings about, among other things, currency and trade issues. Disagreements also existed around the unmarked border. In May 1998, Eritrea conquered the small town of Badme, whereupon Ethiopia declared war.

By the beginning of 1999, the countries had mobilized over half a million soldiers together and fierce fighting was fought. The UN launched intensive peace talks. In May 2000, Ethiopia went on a major offensive and recaptured all lost areas. By the time the ceasefire was closed in June, up to 100,000 human lives had been wasted. After mediation, the two countries signed a peace agreement in December of that year.

The UN was commissioned to monitor a buffer zone along the border through the UN mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (Unmee). The border dispute was referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague for arbitration. Despite the promise from both sides to accept the Commission's decision, Ethiopia stepped up when the 2003 decision became that Badme, where the fighting first blossomed, would fall to Eritrea. Ethiopia retained control of Badme, which resulted in Eritrea making UNME's mission impossible and the UN leaving the area in 2008 (see also Conflicts: Ethiopia-Eritrea).

Criticized election victory

In the 2000 parliamentary elections, the EPRDF again won by a wide margin. Neither the opposition nor independent observers considered the election to be correct. The opposition continued to protest against the government and the police often brutally attacked protesters. Outside the regions, various separatist groups fought for their cause. In 2003 and 2004, more than 500 people were reported killed in persecution by the Anuak people in the state of Gambella in the west. The Anuaks were accused of assaulting other, indigenous groups.

Severe droughts mainly hit eastern Ethiopia in 2002 and 2003. The economy was severely hit and millions of people became dependent on food aid from abroad for their survival.

Ahead of the 2005 parliamentary elections, a series of opposition parties formed two alliances: the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF). It soon became apparent that large sections of the population accepted promises from the government on political diversity. The climate was freer than before the previous elections; among other things, the opposition had to be spoken in state media. Unexpectedly, at least for the EPRDF, the opposition gained nearly a third of the seats in the Federal Assembly. In Addis Ababa, the CUD won a landslide victory in the regional elections and received all but one mandate. It paved the way for a first democratic shift of power in Ethiopia, albeit at a regional level.

However, the CUD management claimed that extensive electoral fraud had occurred and refused to approve the result. The party leadership called for civil disobedience and protests against the government and the electoral authority. Unrest erupted and the government quickly brought in the hard gloves to end the protests.

A strike against regime opponents

Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in the weeks following the May elections and again in the fall of 2005. Thousands were arrested during the protests and a total of around 200 were killed; many are shot to death by riot police. When Parliament convened in October 2005, many CUD members boycotted the session. One month later, the entire party leadership and over 100 others were arrested, including journalists and human rights activists. Eventually, in July 2007, 38 of them were sentenced to life imprisonment, and then immediately pardoned.

Violence outbreaks and human rights violations after the 2005 election sunk the EPRDF government's reputation internationally. Earlier, the government had been praised for introducing multi-party systems and for investing in economic development and poverty reduction.

At the end of 2006, Ethiopia joined forces in Somalia to support the so-called transitional government in fighting against Islamists (see Foreign Policy and Defense).

On April 2007, the ONLF launched an armed attack on an oil field managed by a Chinese group. Nine Chinese and 65 Ethiopians were killed in the assault, which was seen as a threat to future foreign investment in the country. The resistance movement motivated the attack by the military forcing nomadic tribes away from their pasture lands. Authorities shut out foreign observers from the region and reports of fighting, genocide and serious human rights violations appeared.

Meles Zenawi dies

Ahead of the May 2010 parliamentary elections, the opposition was divided and weakened. Since 2005, a much harsher political climate prevailed and the opposition could not gather again. The election reinforced the EPRDF's total control over the policy. A new opposition alliance formed before the election, Medrek (Forum), took a single mandate in the federal parliament while one went to an independent candidate. The rest went to EPRDF and a number of allied parties.

In August 2012, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi unexpectedly passed away at a hospital in Belgium. Concerns existed that his death would trigger a power struggle and increase instability in the country. Others harbored hopes of a more open and tolerant political climate. But Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn took power without any major course changes in any direction. However, his appointment as head of government meant a trend break, as he did not come from the traditional power-bearing peoples of Tigreans and Amharas. Hailemariam Desalegn belonged to the small folk group Wolayta from the south and was also a Protestant.

In the May 2015 parliamentary elections, the EPRDF and some allied regional parties took home all mandates; the opposition was completely without representation. Both the start of the election and the election day itself were largely calm. The two largest opposition groups, Medrek and the Blue Party, did not accept the result and said that their supporters had been harassed. Election observers from the African Union (AU) had no objections, while the EU and the Carter Center, which monitored previous elections, were not invited to attend.

State of emergency and change of course

From the end of 2015, repeated government-hostile protests in Oromia were extinguished by force. The protesters turned to plans to expand the capital into Oromia's territory. At the same time, they demanded greater influence for the Oromos and the Amharas within the ruling alliance. In October 2016, the government introduced a state of emergency in an attempt to gain control of the situation. The UN, which estimated that 600 protesters were killed in the unrest, called for an international investigation. Tens of thousands of protesters must have been imprisoned.

The state of emergency was first lifted in August 2017. The situation was then calmer, but during the autumn new protests occurred, sometimes with fatal outcome. At the same time, disputes were intensifying between Oromos and Somalis who dispute land along the border between the states of Oromia and Somali. During the fall, the conflict claimed hundreds of lives. Over a million people were reported to have escaped the unrest that continued into the new year.

At the same time, the fragmentation within the EPRDF increased. In an effort to ease the pressure, the government released hundreds of prisoners in early 2018, including several opposition leaders. In February 2018, Hailemariam Desalegn left the post of head of government "in the hope that it would contribute to a solution" to the country's problems. After his departure, a new six-month state of emergency was introduced.

The election of a new head of government came to be of great importance. In April 2018, 42-year-old Abiy Ahmed Ali was named new, young Prime Minister. Abiy was the leader of the EPRDF oromo's people. It was the first time during the party alliance's nearly 30-year reign that a person from the majority people oromos was elected prime minister. His entry would prove to be the beginning of a period of political thunderstorms and economic reforms. He would also resume the stagnated peace process with Eritrea.

 
 

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