MODERN ETHIOPIAN HISTORY

 

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In this context by modern Ethiopia we mean the emergence of the Ethiopia as we know it today.

To bring the decentralized and lawlessness which marked the Zemene Mesafint period during Ethiopia's medieval history, a bold man was needed. That man eventually came but from an unlikely source.

Emperor Tewodros II (1855-1868)

Kassa from Quara was a child of a woman who used to sell local beverage: a proffession stigmatized in Ethiopia. His profile was nothing close to that of a king or even a lord as he was not from a royal decent.

Kassa however managed to conquer Ethiopia. In ages where nothing except military might would lead to the thrown, Kassa was a bandit with a small group of followers. Profiting from the lawlessness of the Zemene Mesafint period, he managed to amass wealth with his small crue, allowing him to increase the size and strength of his band.

His ascension to power was gradual. After being the governor of Quara, he gradually started to advance to different parts of the country, managing to subdue lords in all parts of the country. He eventually became the king of kings and was named Emperor Tewodros. He became the first king to rule a centralized Ethiopia.

Tewodros became the father of the Ethiopia as we know it today. After conquering much of the country he went on to reinforce his miltary might. He was not completely satisfied with his arsenal and went on to acquire upto date weapons particularly from the British. He was bold and ambitious enough to be the first African king who built modern military weapon. With the technical support of the Brits he built the first long range canon that he named Sebastopol.

It is the ambition that brought Tewodros to the throne which also lead to his downfall. His ascension to great hights and achievement in areas where other failed gave Tewodros the feeling of invincibility. Among others he made claims that Jerusalem was part of Ethiopia. He even made plans of invading Israel by crossing the Red sea.

It is not only that the Emperor set out to be the first African King to colonize outside his continent. His achievements lead him to denying the due respect to European powers such as Britain. He eventually over stepped a boundary when he decided to emprison British citizens in Ethiopia including the consulate just because Queen Victoria did not reply to a letter he sent her.

Several attempts were made by the British to resolve this contraversial issues through diplomacy. Tewodros declined. The British government dispatched its army to arrest the Ethiopian King.

Perhaps the mission would have been difficult for the mighty European power considering the Emperor's military strength. But the king was betrayed by his own people, notably feudal lords who were forced to pay taxes to the king due to his forceful governance. The British were therefore provided with a clear path to the Tewodros and to free their imprisoned citizens.

Although the Mission lead by the General Napier was focused on arresting the Ethiopian King things ended in a different way. Tewodros was determined not to be captured by external forces. When he knew that the army was advancing to his palace and that his capture was eminent, Tewodros took his own life.

 

 

Emperor Yohannes (1872-1889)


Successor of Emperor Tewodros, Emperor Yohannes originally from Tigray was governing an Ethiopia which caught the interest of colonial powers. His years on the throne were marked by subsequent battles, notably with the Dervishes which controlled much of the current Egypt and Sudan. His fights to maintain Ethiopia's freedom from occupation was successful but lead to his eventual death. On the 9th of March 1889 he was killed in combat, caught by enemy fire.



EMPEROR MENILIK II (1889-1913)


The successor of Yohannes was Menelik originally from Shewa district. Menelik was a king determined to introduce western modernization. After shifting his capital to Addis Ababa, He built the first hotel named after his wife Taytu , railway, the first car... which were completely new to Ethiopia.

Meanwhile the threat of colonial powers which started during his predecessor continued. The Italian army which was unsuccessful in colonizing the country was using different means to occupy Ethiopia. Menelik, who was so determined to reinforce his army, made a historic mistake of selling a significant portion of what is known as the current sovereign country of Eritrea in exchange for riffles and canons. This exchange was governed by treaty known as the treaty of Wuchale. The treaty was drafted both in Italian and Amharic which was signed by both parties. The Italians used Menelik's ignorance of foreign languages to write the Italian version of the agreement with different clauses. While the Amharic version which Menelik reviewed and signed was an endorsement of handing Eritrea and part of the Tigray, the twisted Italian version stipulated that Italy was entitled to the whole of Ethiopia. The Italians used this treaty naively signed by Menelik to make a case among the European powers to justify going to battle with Menelik. The Italian governement sent a messenger to Menelik with an ultimatum, to either surrender his country or face the consequences. Menelik declined. The contraversy of the Wuchale treaty culminated in an all out war between the powerful Italian forces and Menelik.

Menelik mobilized all Ethiopians to join forces in a battle that he himself lead. Tens of thousands marched from his new capital Addis Ababa which ended in a fierce confrontation against a well armed Italian army in the city of Adwa. The Italians were humilitated with a defeat and the battle of Adwa in 1896 was the first and significant African triumph against colonial powers.

EMPEROR HAILESELLASSIE

This section is under revision and will be uploaded soon.

Communist Derg and the legacy of Mengistu(1974-1991)

 

Emperor Hailesellassie knew that factions within the army were actually rebeling against his rule. Despite receiving intelligence about a possible coup by a limited number of military officials the Emperor did not sanction immediate response.

A day after the Ethiopian new year of 1974 a group of army lead tanks to the streets of Addis and marched into Hailesellassie's palace. They spent the night arresting the Emperor's Ministers and gathered them all at the palace on that fatefull morning. Hailesellassie was informed that he was removed from power and was detained. A council formed immediately sentenced the Emperor's officials to death as more than 80 members of his government were ruthlessly killed. The fate of the king remained unknown until, decades later, his body was recovered in the palace. His successor had him killed and buried him in his office, underneath his office chair.

The fall of Hailesellassie promissed to be the beginning of a new age as feudalism was abolished. The newly in power communist government proclaimed the land ownership of the disadvantaged peasants. Landlords were stripped of their lands and their wealth expropriated. They were entitled to only one house as the rest of their assets were taken and shared to the poor. Businesses faced the same fate, as no individual was entitled to a business with more than 500,000 ETB capital. Ethiopia became a communist country.

The regime ended out by being the opposite of what it promised to be. It was the beginning of the bloodiest period in Ethiopian history. This begun when different political movements opposed the regime of the dictator of Mengistu. Attempts on his life were made by different movements and, at a given time, in his palace by his closest advisors. He escaped the last attempt by hidding in a tank parked in the palace compound.

People close to mengistu have written in their books that this moment was the turning point. He not only stopped trusting anyone but also became hysterical. He developped significant mistrust especially against the youth. Mere suspicion was enough to kill someone in public. He put in place what are known as the guards of the revolution with full mandate to shoot anyone who opposed( or even showed sign of opposing the regime). This resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands in a bloody 17 year

This desprate attempt to ensure authority back fired on Mengistu. Some who have seen first hand the mass slaughter rebelled and took arm to liberate the people from the brutal regime. Although the movement was head speared by as few as 5 individuals, their force started to increase as more and more people were given a reason to fight back.

The little educated Mengistu felt that he could reverse this small resistance by building the biggest army in Africa. A staggering 1,000,000 soldiers were part of his military force. This was supplemented with an up to the date arsenal of fighter jets and missiles. He also went as far as building large rifle and bullet factories. 90% of the country's economy went to the army defense budget lines leading Ethiopia's economy to stagnation.

This sacrifice however was still not enough as rebels continued gaining ground. In a desprate attempt to fill in for defecting soldiers Mengistu began to forcefuly recruit unmotivated and untrained students to join the army. Young people were being caught in the street and forcefully taken to battle zones. Nothing however seems the halt or even slow the advance of the rebels to the capital.In 1991 Mengistu fled to Zimbabwe when EPRDF was only kilometers from the capital. After dark 17 years of brutal dictatorial rule, the Derg regime was finaly abolished in May.

Proceed to PRESENT ETHIOPIA ( 21ST CENTURY)

Related links

- ANCIENT ETHIOPIAN HISTORY

- MEDIEVAL ETHIOPIAN HISTORY

- HISTORICAL ATTRACTIONS

 

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