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A Brief History of Ethiopia

The 15th century, the expansion of the Ottoman Empire proved to reverse the fortunes of Ethiopia. The Muslim kingdoms were supported by the Turks, both in terms of firearms and artillery, with the Portuguese staving off the collapse of the Christian empire. Stemming from the unrelenting warfare among existing warlords, it was in the 18th Century when the empire was separate into several provinces. In 1855, Ras Kassa crowned himself as Tewodros, the Axum emperor. Shooting himself in 1867, Tewodros was succeeded by John the 4th with the help of the British; Meneli the young vassal king of Shoa was installed as heir to the throne.

In 1916, Haile Selassie, (Prince Ras Tafari Makonnen) became Prince Regent and Heir to the throne, and proclaimed as Emperor in 1930. In 1936, he has exiled himself and lived in England when Mussolini overran the country. It was only in 1941 when he returns as Emperor. One of the principal factors suspected to have lead to the downfall of Haile Selassie was the annexation of Eritrea (which the Eritreans considered as tantamount to being colonized by another African nation) after 1952, which led to an outbreak of guerilla warfare between the Muslims and the Christians. In 1974, a wave of demonstrations, and uprisings led to the removal of Haile Selassie from power.

When a group of junior military officers imposed a form of military dictatorship, led by Mengistu Haile Miriam took over control of Ethiopia, radical reforms commenced. The Americans were thrown out, the opposition groups were jailed, the vigilante groups massacred many people, and the Eritreans stepped up the guerilla campaign, eventually the Somalis decided to claim the Ogaden dessert by force. Mengistu’s policies were highlighted by the Kebeles, or “peoples committees” which controlled everyday life for the Ethiopians.

In 1991, when matters worsened Mengistu found the people became discontented and famine spread over the population. Wars broke out in Eritrea, Ogaden, and Tigray which eventually led to his departure for Zimbabwe. This paved the way to a new government by Zenawi, Meles – a man who was eager to obtain multi-party democracy.



European University