Haile Selassie (Regent 1916-1930, Emperor 1930-74) turned Ethiopia into a centralized autocracy. The process was briefly interrupted by the Italian invasion and occupation conquest of 1935-41. After Ethiopia's liberation with British help in 1941, Haile Selassie found his control of the country circumscribed by his British ‘advisers'; Britian itself came close to trying to occupy Ethiopia was able to play off the United Kingdom, which came close to occupying Ethiopia after 1941 (it only withdrew from the Ogaden in 1948 and the Reserved Area (the Haud) in 1954), and controlled Eritrea under a UN mandate until 1952. Haile Selassie therefore looked more and more to the USA as an alterantive and more powerful ally. against the USA. In 1952, Eritrea, a UN-mandated territory after the war, was federated with Ethiopia. Haile Selassie immediately dismantled its press, trade unions, political parties and its elected parliament, none of which could be found in Ethiopia and which were anathema to his own highly centralized structure of control. In 1962 Eritrea became a province of Ethiopia, which eventually achieved de facto Eritrean independence in 1991 and formal recognition in 1993.
Emperor Haile Selassie created the framework of a modern state, including, in 1955, a constitution with an elected, though powerless, parliament. However he made no real effort to change land policy, or adjust the hierarchies of power. Ethiopia remained essentially feudal, with small Amhara-dominated modern sectors in bureaucracy and industry. This provided the impetus for outbreaks of opposition among other nationalities, notably in Tigrai in 1943, among Oromos and Somalis in the 1960s and after 1961 in Eritrea. Haile Selassie himself preferred to concentrate on international affairs. Addis Ababa became the head quarters of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and Ethiopia participated in UN operations in Korea and the Congo. Its main ally was the USA, and Ethiopia provided the USA with a major communications facility at Kagnew, in Eritrea.
The long-term weaknesses of the regime, including a growing agrarian crisis, inequitable distribution of land, and lack of development, were exacerbated by the costs of the revolt in Eritrea, drought and famine in Wollo and Tigray in 1972-74 (in which at least 200,000 people died), and after 1973 by Haile Selassie's near senility and his failure to designate an heir, fuelled grievances of the military, students and workers. A series of army mutinies started in January 1974, accompanied by parallel civilian strikes, leading to the creation of an armed forces committee which began to arrest senior officials, sixty of whom were arbitrarily executed shortly after Haile Selassie was deposed in September. He died in mysterious circumstances a year later, most probably murdered. The monarchy was formally abolished in March 1975. The Imperial regime was replaced by a Provisional Military Administrative Council (PMAC), the Derg, which under the influence of left-wing politicians saw itself as the vanguard of an Ethiopian revolution. In December 1974, Ethiopia was declared a Socialist state, and a program of revolutionary reform, under the title of Ethiopia Tikdem ('Ethiopia First') was initiated. The aims of Ye-Itiopia Hibrtesebeawinet (‘Ethiopian Socialism') were defined in the program for a National Democratic Revolution. In January and February 1975, the Derg nationalized all Banks and Insurance firms and seized control of practically every important company in the country. It followed this up by nationalizing all land.
In February 1977, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, the vice-chairman of the Derg seized power in a putsch, killing a number of his rivals and declaring himself Chairman. He launched the ‘Red Terror' under which the government security forces systematically hunted down and killed suspected and alleged members and supporters of opposition groups. Tens of thousands died in Addis Ababa alone and many more all over the country. This fueled the insurgencies that had appeared in several areas, most extensively in Eritrea and Tigrai regions. In mid 1977, Somalia, against the wishes of its ally, the Soviet Union, invaded to try and take advantage of the confusion of the revolution to seize the Somali speaking areas of the country as well as a much wider area of the south. Somali forces reached the gates of Harar before being defeated in February 1978 by a greatly expanded Ethiopian army supported by Cuban troops and massive supplies of USSR weaponry. After this victory, Derg forces moved back into Eritrea which had been largely overrun by the ELF and EPLF. It recovered most of the towns but failed to win military victory, despite a series of major offensives and the defeat of the ELF by the EPLF in an Eritrean civil war. Elsewhere, despite the creation of its Workers Party of Ethiopia, the Derg also faced growing opposition, much of it ethnically based, most prominently from the Tigrai Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).
Despite large-scale political and military support from the USSR and Soviet satellites, it failed to crush these movements which played a major role, together with the EPLF, in weakening the Derg. The Derg's political failures were compounded by droughts and famine, notably in the mid 1980s, affecting millions of people and by steadily expanding opposition to its brutal campaign of resettlement and villagization. As the Soviet Union began to collapse in the later 1980s, its support for the Derg came to an end. Mengistu survived an attempted coup in 1989, but after a series of defeats at the hands of the TPLF and the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), an organization it had set up in 1989, he fled in May 1991 to Zimbabwe where he still resides. In 2006, after a long trial, Mengistu was found guilty of genocide in absentia, and he and a number of other leading members of the Derg were given death sentences. None have been carried out. The surviving members of the Derg were released in 2011, having been held in jail for 20 years.
A week after Mengistu's flight, the EPRDF took over Addis Ababa and brought an end to 17 years of communist authoritarianism and military dictatorship. It set up a Transitional Government composed of an 87 member Council of Representatives which drew up a National Charter to act as a transitional constitution. In June 1992, the OLF, dissatisfied with its role in government, withdrew its four ministers and tried to return to armed struggle. It was unsuccessful, but it has kept up some low-level anti-government activity, most recently from bases in Eritrea. In March 1993, members of another non-EPRDF party, the Southern Ethiopia Peoples' Democratic Coalition also left the government. Despite this, the process for establishment of a federal constitutional government continued successfully. Based on ethnic structuralism, the aim was to decentralize authority and provide the major ethic groups and peoples of Ethiopia with the opportunity to develop politically, economically and culturally. A new constitution was drawn up in 1993 after extensive consultations and approval from an elected constituent assembly in December 1994 and by an elected Parliament in May 1995. The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, consisting of nine states and two chartered cities, was proclaimed in August 1995. Meles Zenawi, chairman of the majority party in Parliament, the EPRDF, was elected Prime Minister, and Negasso Gidada became non-executive President. There were national and federal elections in 2000, 2005 and 2010. In October 2001, Girma Wolde-Giorgis was elected president and again in 2007.
Within a year of the establishment of the EPRDF government, more than a hundred political parties and organizations had emerged. There was a similar explosion of private media publications though numbers of both have decreased subsequently. The election for members of the 547-member constituent assembly was held in June 1994. This assembly adopted the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in December 1994, setting up a federal parliamentary democracy with an executive prime minister chosen by the party in power after legislative elections. Legislative power rests in the government and the two houses of parliament, the House of Peoples' Representatives (547 members) and the Council of Federation (110 members) whose members are designated by the elected Regional State Councils. [Picture links?? Parliament in session] There is an independent judiciary whose appointments are made by the House of Representatives on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Judicial Administrative Council. There is an Ethiopian Human Rights Council and an active Ombudsman's Office. The constitution assigns extensive power to regional states to establish their own government and democracy according to the federal government's constitution. The regional states (killil) elect regional councils which have legislative and executive power operating through an executive committee and regional sectoral bureaus. Under Article 39 of the Ethiopian Constitution the regional states also have the right to secede from Ethiopia. This structure of elected executive councils is replicated at the woreda level and at the lowest level of administration, the kebele.
Under the new constitution, the elections for Ethiopia's first popularly-chosen national parliament and regional legislatures were held in May 1995. Most opposition parties chose to boycott these elections as they did in 2000, in both cases giving the EPRDF a landslide victory. Opposition parties as a whole did finally participate in the 2005 election and the election produced a record number of voters, with 90% of the electorate turning out to cast their vote. The African Union report on the process commended the election for a "display of genuine commitment to democratic ideals ; the US Carter Center concluded that the majority of the constituency results were credible and reflected competitive conditions; the US Department of State said the elections stood out as a milestone in creating a new, more competitive multi-party political system. The EU Observer Mission, however, uncritically accepting some opposition claims, suggested the election had fallen short of international standards, though it actually classified nearly ninety percent of the polling processes as good or very good. The final results showed opposition parties had increased their seats in Parliament from 12 to an impressive 176, and that they had won all but one of the seats for the Addis Ababa City Council. Despite this, the main opposition coalition refused to accept the results, claiming against all the evidence that it had won. It called for a boycott of parliament, and organized a series of street protests in Addis Ababa at the beginning of November. These rapidly turned violent, and nearly 200 people including 7 policemen died in three days of rioting. A subsequent judicial commission of enquiry deplored the deaths but cleared the police of using unnecessary force. Thousands of people were temporarily detained. A number of opposition political leaders were convicted of various offences and jailed, but pardoned two years later.
Before the next election, in 2010, most of the parties, determined to avoid another outbreak of violence, signed an Election Code of Conduct. The exception was the largest opposition coalition, the Forum for Democratic Dialogue (MEDREK), a coalition of eight parties which included most of the groups that boycotted Parliament in 2005. When it came to the vote, the electorate proved unimpressed by the opposition refusal to take up its seats in 2005, and equally disenchanted by MEDREK's failure to sign the Code of Conduct, by the opposition's lack of alternative policies, its failure to do more than criticize the EPRDF and the public bickering and quarrelling among its leaders prior to 2010. In sharp contrast, after 2005 the EPRDF had revitalized its structures, building up extensive Women's and Youth organizations and reorganizing itself through the country. It won an overwhelming majority in local elections in 2008 and used this as a springboard for the national and federal elections in 2010. By then it also had the added advantage of presiding over significant growth and development, in infrastructure, primary education and health, and of achieving double-digit growth for the whole period between 2005 and 2010. It was hardly surprising that the results were a landslide victory for the EPRDF, including a total reversal of the Addis Ababa results of 2005 - in 2010 it was the opposition which only won a single seat, although over 40% of the city did vote for opposition parties. Elsewhere the EPRDF also achieved an almost clean sweep, with only one seat going to an independent. Overall, it won 499 of the 547 available parliamentary seats, and allied parties took another 46 seats. The opposition did just as badly in the regional state elections, with the EPRDF and parties allied to it winning all but one of the seats.
After 1991, the EPRDF redefined foreign as well as internal policies. The Foreign Policy and National Security Strategy [link here] identifies the major threats to the country and to its survival: economic backwardness, widespread poverty, the need for democracy and good governance together with the establishment of a democratic structure and democratic government at all levels. This in turn requires a commitment to peace and security, internally and regionally. In this Ethiopia has been largely successful in achieving good relations with its neighbors, with the exception of Eritrea.
In 1991, by agreement with the EPRDF, whose ally it had been in the fight against the military dictatorship, the EPLF took power in Eritrea and the region became de facto independent. In April 1993 a referendum was held in Eritrea and among Eritreans elsewhere, including Ethiopia, on taking independence or remaining part of Ethiopia. The issue of continued association through a federation or confederation was dropped from the referendum paper despite an earlier agreement to include this as an option. An overwhelming majority voted for independence which was formalized in May 1993, though an estimated 400,000 Eritreans living elsewhere in Ethiopia chose not to participate in the vote.
Relations between the new state and Ethiopia appeared close for the first few years though Ethiopia was concerned by the aggression Eritrea showed towards Sudan, Yemen and Djibouti in the mid 1990s in an apparent attempt to formalize its borders and establish a role as the major player in the region. This process culminated in May 1998 when Eritrea precipitated a shooting incident inside Tigrai regional state in northern Ethiopia and immediately invaded with two brigades to seize control of a small town, Badme, inside Ethiopia, claiming it as part of Eritrea.
The subsequent war lasted for two years although the actual fighting was confined to three relatively short campaigns, in May'June 1998, February to June 1999 and May-June 2000. These, howwever, left and led to at least 60,000 casualties, as well as the expulsion of tens of thousands of Eritreans from Ethiopia (the majority of whom had voted for an independent Eritrea in the referendum of 1993) and at least as many Ethiopians from Eritrea. Hundreds of thousands on both sides were forced to flee from the war zones all along the common border. Ethiopia recovered Badme in February 1999 and won a series of victories in May and June 2000 threatening attacks on Asmara and Assab. These defeats finally forced Eritrea to accept the Algiers Agreement, signed in December 2000. This allowed for a 25 km wide demilitarized zone inside Eritrea to be monitored by a UN force. It also set up a Boundary Commission to look into the border issue and a Claims Commission which evaluated the claims made by both sides and, inter alia, detailed Eritrea's responsibility for the conflict. The Boundary Commission reported in April 2002. Eritrea and Ethiopia, although it had some concerns about the details, have both accepted the report, but Eritrea has consistently refused to make any moves towards the dialogue necessary to allow for the demarcation of the border and the normalization of relations. It has also in effect torn up the Algiers Agreement by forcing out the UN Mission to Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE) which had been monitoring the demilitarized zone and seizing control of it. In addition, by making destabilization of neighboring countries the central element of its foreign policy, it has caused serious security problems ay various times for Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti as well as both the Sudan and South Sudan.
In December 2006, at the request of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, and in reluctant response to the calls by the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) for a jihad against Ethiopia and a renewal of Somali irredentist claims against Ethiopia (and Kenya), Ethiopia deployed some 16,000 troops to assist the TFG in its conflict with the ICU, successfully driving the ICU out of Mogadishu in a matter of days , and assisting the TFG in its efforts to deal with various extremist groups, notably Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu and other areas. The ICU, Al-Shabaab and other extremist groups received arms and funds from Eritrea. The Ethiopian forces, which after early 2007 were operating on behalf of IGAD and the AU, left in January 2009, handing over to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMSIOM), made up of Ugandan and later Burundian troops.
Ethiopia's support for peace and security in the region has been the driving force behind its role in the regeneration and revitalization of regional organizations such as the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD), covering the Horn of Africa and in the setting up of the Sana'a Forum for Cooperation (composed of Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti and Yemen). IGAD, of course, is one of the African Union's Regional Economic Communities for African integration. The organization has played an important role in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan, has been active in trying to resolve the problems of Somalia, and in setting up mechanisms for cross-border cooperation generally throughout the region.
Ethiopia was a founder member of the Organization of African Union, and is the seat of the African Union. It therefore carries a special responsibility for the AU and fully subscribes to the AU's vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent providing a dynamic force in the global arena. From its leading role in support of African liberation movements,as virtually the only independent African state, Ethiopia consistently gave aid and assistance to the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles particularly in Southern Africa [Picture links?? – New AU HQ] It has played a major role in championing Africa in global forums, with notable reference to climate change, in G8 and G20 meetings and other international bodies.
It has also shown similar interest in and cooperation with the United Nations of which it was a founding member. It has consistently discharged its obligations to the UN, cooperating in collective security and peacekeeping operations in Korea and Congo, as well as elsewhere, most recently in providing a UN peacekeeping force for Abyei in Sudan (in 2011).