East Africa

Ethiopia History and Politics

The oldest people

People lived very early on in what is now Ethiopia. The Australopithecus afarensis was found here, which is named after Afar where it was found. He could already walk upright. On the other hand, “Lucy”, the skeleton of a 25 year old woman, was discovered here.

You can get more information about the oldest human finds and the cradle of mankind on the children’s time machine.

Legends tell of the founding time

Today we assume that Ethiopia is one of the oldest states in the world and the oldest state that still exists on the African continent today.

A legend tells us about the founding time of Ethiopia. Sun founded Menelik I, who was said to be the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, the Ethiopian empire. However, Ethiopia was actually founded by a tribe who emigrated from southern Arabia. The capital was called Axum.

The kingdom of Axum

The kingdom of Axum was first mentioned in the 2nd century AD. Under a king named Enzana, the kingdom came to Christianity because its ruler converted to Christianity. But it didn’t stop there, as Islam also gained influence in Ethiopia in the 7th century. Axum sealed itself off from the outside world, which also promoted its decline in the 9th century.

An empire called Amhara

The Solomonids, who were also Christians, ruled in the 10th century. An empire came into being called Amhara.

At the end of the 15th century, the Portuguese showed an interest in Ethiopia. They failed in the attempt to spread the Catholic faith, but in the 16th century they supported the Ethiopians against the advance of the Ottomans and thus the further spread of Islam. As a result, the empire split into several smaller empires.

Ethiopia is fighting for its independence

After Eritrea became an Italian colony (see also history and politics of Eritrea), Ethiopia was able to keep its independence despite military attempts by the Italians. After the Battle of Adwa on March 1, 1896, this was also final.

However, Ethiopia lost territories on the coast and the province of Eritrea to Great Britain, France and Italy. The Addis Ababa Treaty confirmed Ethiopia’s independence. However, there was an access to the port of Djibouti.

Haile Selassie

Haile Selassie became emperor in 1930. In 1931 there was the first constitution, which at that time was officially called the Constitution of the Empire of Abyssinia. Haile Selassie implemented reforms in his country, abolished slavery and expanded the school system. The legal system was also renewed in Ethiopia. But there was no question of freedom of the citizens. He was an autocratic ruler.

In 1936 Ethiopia became part of Italian East Africa after all, but according to Ethiopian understanding, the occupation took place only partially and only for a short time. During this time, the Italians committed many crimes against the Ethiopian people.

Ethiopia becomes a socialist people’s republic

In 1974 there was a military coup in Ethiopia. The government was overthrown and the monarchy abolished. The emperor had to abdicate and Ethiopia became a people ‘s republic on the socialist model. This ultimately led to a civil war.

In addition to the internal conflicts, there were fighting with Somalia, which the Americans supported. Ethiopia received military aid from the Soviet Union and Cuba.

Bad famine

In 1984 a bad famine broke out, which also affected other countries in the region, but Ethiopia especially because the consequences of the wars were still felt here. In 1987 Ethiopia became a People’s Democratic Republic and Mengistu Haile Marian was elected President in the same year. It was, however, a one-party rule.

Til today

This regime lasted until 1991, when it was overthrown and a new government under Mele Zenawi was established in Ethiopia. As a result, the state was reorganized and the country developed into a democracy. In 1994 there was a new constitution and with it a reorganization.

Mulatu Teschome Wirtu has been Federal President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia since October 7, 2013.

Tensions with Eritrea

In 1993 Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia. From 1998, however, border disputes returned. Soldiers from the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) created an unfortunately fragile peace. Ethiopia continues to be one of the unstable countries in the region.

Abiy Ahmed – the reformer

In 2018, Abiy Ahmed became the new Prime Minister of Ethiopia, replacing Hailemariam Desalegn, who resigned in February 2018. Immediately after taking office, he began to introduce important reforms. So he promoted the democratic development of the country and at the same time the economic. Above all, the war and the hostility to neighboring Eritrea has ended and a peace process has been initiated between the two states. In 2019 he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.

At the same time, Abiy Ahmed wants to reconcile the many ethnic groups in Ethiopia, who often fight each other again. He himself belongs to the Oromo ethnic group, an ethnic group that has not yet seen itself adequately appreciated.

However, it is not certain whether the positive development that he ultimately initiated will last and bring the poor country forward in the long term. That remains to be seen.

Ethiopia History