History of Ethiopia Part II

Resolution and collection

When Emperor Fasiladas established Gondar as a permanent capital, this laid the ground for increasing regional revolts, and from the mid-18th century the empire was far from disintegrating. Local kings ruled detached provinces, and a power struggle ensued between people and peoples, especially the Amharas and the Oromans. It was not until after 1855 that Ethiopia was again united under Emperor Tewodros 2. As part of this gathering, as well as to withstand outside pressure, he turned to Queen Victoria of Great Britain for help. When this request was ignored, he took a group of British hostages. The British sent an expedition from India to release the hostages, and Tewodros committed suicide in 1868 to avoid being captured.

centuries of independence

After centuries of independence, Ethiopia was occupied by Italy in 1935, depicted in this Ethiopian painting found in the Sammlung für Völkerkunde der Universität Zürich, Switzerland.

His successor, Yohannes 4, took over the throne in 1871. He defended the country against Egyptian attacks in 1875-1876, and against the Italians who occupied the port city of Massawa in 1885. Yohannes was killed in a battle against the Mahdi of Sudan in 1889. Italy created the colony of Eritrea in 1890. At the death of Yohannes, the King of Shoa declared himself Emperor by the name of Menelik 2. During his reign (1889-1913), Italy attempted to subjugate all of Ethiopia and in 1895 invaded Eritrea. Equipped with French and Russian weapons, Menelik’s army defeated the Italian forces during the Battle of Aduain 1896. In the same year, Italy recognized Ethiopia’s sovereignty over Ethiopia’s recognition of Italy’s colonial rule over Eritrea. Menelik continued the work of expanding his kingdom, leaving new areas to the south and west under the throne. The result of this was the formation of the borders of Ethiopia as we know them today. Menelik placed great emphasis on modernizing Ethiopia, and in 1887 he founded the new capital Addis Ababa. In 1894, he introduced the country’s first currency and stamps and granted a license for the construction of a railway and a telegraph line from Djiboutito Addis Ababa. Menelik died in 1913, and Lij Iasu was appointed new emperor. He was the son of Prince Michael, who was formerly called Ali and had converted from Islam. This probably contributed to the fact that Lij Iasu began to flirt with Islam, which quickly led the church, the nobility and the army to rule over him in 1916. After power struggles, Menelik’s daughter Zawditu became empress, while Ras Tafari Makonnen became the heir to the throne. and regent; he was crowned emperor after Zawditu’s death in 1930 under the name of Haile Selassie.

Ethiopia under Haile Selassie

In 1923 Ethiopia became a member of the League of Nations, and in 1928 a friendship agreement with Italy was signed. In 1931, Haile Selassie introduced Ethiopia’s first written constitution and parliament. Despite the friendship agreement, Italy attacked Ethiopia without a declaration of war in 1935, and Haile Selassie was forced to seek exile in London. The invasion followed three years of repeated Italian border violations, and in 1934 Ethiopia complained about the situation to the League of Nations. It rejected Italy’s demand for full control over Ethiopia and labeled Italy as an attacker. However, none of the great powers were willing to join the war on Ethiopia’s side. Only with Italy’s declaration of war against France and the United Kingdom on June 10, 1940 did Ethiopia become allies. The British flew Emperor Haile Selassie to Sudan, where his men were equipped with British weapons. Ethiopian and Allied forces moved into Ethiopia from Sudan and Kenya in January 1941. On April 6, South African forces released Addis Ababa, and on May 5 the emperor returned to the capital. The British remained in Ethiopia. In 1942, an agreement was signed, in which the United Kingdom recognized Ethiopia as an independent state.

After the war, Emperor Haile Selassie continued his modernization policy, at the same time as he started the campaign to have Eritrea incorporated into the empire. In 1950, the United Nations decided that Eritrea should form part of a federation with Ethiopia, and this arrangement came into force in 1952. Ethiopia continued to work for full inclusion, and in 1962 Eritrea was annexed as Ethiopia’s 14th province. This laid the groundwork for the Eritrean liberation war, which began in 1961, which evolved into Africa’s longest-running war until it ended in 1991. It was initially led by the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), which was mainly comprised of Muslims from the lowlands. In the 1970s, Eritrean became the People’s Liberation Front(EPLF) formed, which eventually became the dominant front in the liberation struggle. In the 1950s, Ethiopia built a modern defense, based on a close relationship with the United States. Ethiopia’s geographical location on the Horn of Africa – and Eritrea’s coastline to the Red Sea – has made the country strategically important, and both the United States and the Soviet Union were interested in establishing a foothold there. The United States undertook training of Ethiopian military personnel and supplying weapons. In return, the United States was given the opportunity to establish a communications station, Kagnew, outside Eritrea’s capital Asmara. Military assistance continued until 1977, when the Americans were expelled from the communist Derg regime. Norwegian officers participated in the build-up of Ethiopia marine from 1955 to 1965.

As one of the two African countries that had never been colonized, Ethiopia gained a special status among the new, independent African states and both the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Unity Organization (OAU) – later African Union (AU) – headquartered in Addis Ababa.

Haile Selassie survived a coup attempt in 1960, but opposition to his rule grew throughout the 1960s. The dissatisfaction focused on the federal system of government, the emperor’s monotonous power and the economic situation, with a distinction between a small wealthy elite, first and foremost the rich landowners, and the broad strata of the people, who lived under difficult conditions. The resistance was led by students from the University of Addis Ababa, and the foremost requirement was a land reform that would primarily benefit the rural population. Between 1972 and 1974, Ethiopia was haunted by a severe drought, which claimed around 200,000 lives, primarily in Wello and Tigray. The emperor sought to keep the extent of the famine hidden, both for the country’s own inhabitants and for the outside world. It didn’t help, and combined with widespread corruption in the state administration, the handling of the drought led to the emperor’s fall. Another major reason that Haile Selassie was overthrown in 1974 was the dissatisfaction with the war in Eritrea among the leading military.

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