Ethiopia & Eritrea; key historical events

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11/6/1998, The UN officially declared a famine in Ethiopia, as one million faced starvation.

24/5/1993, Eritrea became independent.

27/4/1993. The Ethiopian province of Eritrea voted overwhelmingly for independence.

22/5/1991, Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam escaped to Zimbabwe as rebel forces closed in on the capital, Addis Ababa. With massive spending on Soviet armaments to put down rebellions in Eritrea, Tigray and Oromo provinces, agriculture was starved of cash and the country went from being 40% forested to almost tree-less and desertified.

3/4/1988. Ethiopia and Somalia concluded a peace agreement, ending 11 years of border conflict.

14/12/1984, A group of rock stars led by Bob Geldof formed ‘Band Aid’ to raise money for Ethiopian famine victims.

25/11/1984, Bob Geldof and other rock stars recorded ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ for the Band Aid famine relief initiative in Ethiopia. All proceeds from sales of the songs would go towards famine relief.

30/6/1978, Ethiopia began a major offensive in Eritrea.

9/3/1978, Somalia left Ethiopian territory, so ending the Ogaden War.

5/3/1978. Ethiopian forces, backed by Russia and Cuba, completely retook the region of Ogaden seized by Somalia in September 1977.

21/1/1978, Ethiopian forces began expelling Somali forces from the Ogaden, see 23/7/1977 and 5/3/1978.

3/2/1977, Colonel Mengistu Haile Maram became leader of Ethiopia after killing 8 other members of the ruling council.

27/8/1975. Haile Selassie, deposed Emperor of Ethiopia, nicknamed ‘the Lion of Judah’, died in exile. In 1916 he had become Ras (Prince) Tafari, and in 1930 became Emperor of Ethiopia. He was seen as the Messiah  by Rastafarians, who saw Ethiopia as the Promised Land. He was exiled to England during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia, 1935-39, but returned to Ethiopia in 1941. He helped found the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) but faced considerable opposition within Ethiopia and was deposed in 1974.

21/3/1975, Ethiopia abolished the monarchy.

12/9/1974. In Ethiopia, President Haile Selassie was deposed by leaders of the armed forces. He was taken to prison where he died in 1975. A famine in 1972 in which 200,000 Ethiopians died had exposed the organisational inadequacies of the Ethiopian Government. From early 1974 Ethiopia saw strikes, army mutinies, demonstrations by students and peasants revolts. In June 1974 a committee of junior army officers was formed, known as the Derg, and it was this body who overthrew the President. Unfortunately rule by the Derg proved more autocratic and oppressive than under Haile Selassie.

1962, Emperor Haile Selassie, disliking the autonomous status of Eritrea, fully incorporated the region into Ethiopia as merely another province, This provoked a fierce struggle for Eritrean independence.

15/9/1952. Eritrea, having previously been under British rule since the defeat of the Italians there in 1940, was transferred as an autonomous region to the rule of Ethiopia.

19/2/1937, Italian forces pillaged Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia.

3/6/1936, Emperor Haile Selassie arrived in London in exile, after the Italian invasion.

9/5/1936. Italy annexed Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), having completed the invasion begun on 3/10/1935.

5/5/1936. The Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa fell to Italian troops under General Badoglio.  The League of Nations had signally failed in its efforts to prevent the war.

2/5/1936, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie fled Addis Ababa as Italian troops closed in, bombing Ethiopian villages with mustard gas. 100,000 Italian troops under Mussolini began an invasion of Ethiopia in October 1935, in revenge for an Ethiopian defeat of Italian forces at Adawa in 1896. Ethiopia has asked the League of Nations to apply sanctions to Italy but the UK and France wavered on denying oil to Italy; the League of Nations lost all credibility.

18/11/1935. The League of Nations imposed sanctions on Italy, because of its invasion of Ethiopia.  The sanctions ended on 15/7/1936.

8/11/1935. The Italians completed the invasion of Tigre Province, Ethiopia, occupying the capital, Makale. Both France and Britain could have opposed the invasion by closing the Suez Canal. However France was bound by treaty to Italy not to oppose the invasion, and Britain did not wish to drive Mussolini into the arms of Hitler. Events in Ethiopia seemed largely irrelevant to many Britons, although some saw ominous warnings in the invasion of a poor African country by a well-armed European state.

19/10/1935. Sanctions were imposed on Italy by the League of Nations.

2/10/1935. The Italian army invaded Abyssinia (Ethiopia) after Mussolini’s forces pounded border towns. See 9/5/1936, and 5/12/1934.

25/8/1935. Ethiopia was put on a war footing in anticipation of an Italian invasion. Mussolini did invade Ethiopia on 2/10/1935.

23/2/1935. Italian troops set sail for Ethiopia as the border dispute over the Italian post at Wal-Wal inside Ethiopia escalated.

15/1/1935. Mussolini united Eritrea and Somaliland as Italian East Africa.        

5/12/1934. Italy and Ethiopia clashed on the Somaliland border.  At the oasis of Walwal, 100 Ethiopians were killed by an Italian Expeditionary Force, which had penetrated some 50 miles beyond the borders of Italian Somaliland; the Italians suffered some 50 casualties.  Mussolini wanted to establish an Italian east African Empire, consisting of Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, and to avenge the defeat of the Italians by the Ethiopian Emperor Menelik in March 1896.  See 2/10/1935.

2/11/1930. Ras (Duke) Tafari was crowned Haile Selassie (Might of the Trinity), Emperor of Ethiopia. At this time, the only African countries with Black rulers were Ethiopia and Liberia.

3/4/1930. Ras Tafari became Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. He ruled the country for 44 years.

2/4/1930, Zanditu, Empress of Ethiopia, died

2/8/1928, Italy signed a 20 year treaty of friendship with Ethiopia.

28/9/1923. Ethiopia joined the League of Nations.

27/7/1914, Amha Selassie, last Emperor of Ethiopia, was born in Harar, Ethiopia (died 1997)

11/12/1913, Menelik II, Emperor of Ethiopia, died.

4/6/1906, Britain, France and Italy guaranteed the independence of Ethiopia.

6/2/1902, France agreed with Ethiopia to finance a railway from Djibouti to Addis Ababa. Britain and Italy both protested.

26/11/1901, Britain and Italy agreed a frontier between Eritrea and the Sudan.

13//12/1900, Britain, France and Italy signed an agreement to preserve, in Ethiopia, the integrity of the ancient empire of Abyssinia.

6/10/1896, The Treaty of Addis Ababa ended the Ethiopian War. Italy agreed to withdraw its plans for an Italian Protectorate.

1/3/1896. An Italian force invading Tigre in Ethiopia was crushed by British and Ethiopian forces under Menelik at the Battle of Adowa. 100,00 Ethiopians slaughtered 7,000 Italians. The war was essentially unnecessary for Italy; facing economic depression and anarchy at home, Crispi, the Italian Prime Minister, decided on a ‘cheap foreign war’. General Baratieri took command of an army of 16,000, and recklessly provoked Ethiopia by occupying northern Tigre. He then lingered there for a year giving the Ethiopians time to muster a large army. Menelik finally lured the Italians into a fight, but the battle was chaotic. Italian orders were misunderstood and brigades became separated, allowing the Ethiopians to cut them down one by one. This defeat ensured that Ethiopia remained independent for another forty years, until avenged by Mussolini.

23/7/1892. Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, was born in Harar Province, as Tafari Makonnen. When the Italians invaded in 1936 he went into exile but resumed full authority after Ethiopia was liberated in 1941.

1/1/1890, The Kingdom of Italy established the colony of Eritrea in Africa.

2/5/1889, Menelik II, Emperor of Ethiopia, signed a treaty of friendship with Italy, giving Italy full control over the territory of Eritrea.

25/1/1887, War broke out between Ethiopia and Italy. The Ethiopians routed an Italian army at Dogali.

12/1/1872, Yohannas IV crowned King of Ethiopia.

13/4/1868, Magdala, Abyssinia, was finally taken by the British. Theodore  Kassai 91816-68), Emperor of Abyssinia from 1855, was shot and killed.

11/2/1855, Kassa Hailu crowned as Tewodros II, Emperor of Ethiopia.

17/8/1844, Menelik II, Emperor of Ethiopia, was born.

1730, Emperor Bacaffa of Ethiopia died; he had reigned since 1721.

1682, Accession of King Iyasu I of Ethiopia.

1667, Emperor Fasilades of Ethiopia died; he had reigned since 1627.

1636, King Fasilides founded the Ethiopian capital of Giondar.

1632, Accession of King Fasilidas of Abyssinia; ruled until 1637. He expelled the Jesuits.

1/2/1563, Sarsa Dengel succeeded his father Menas as Emperor of Ethiopia.

1559, Galawdewos, Emperor of Ethiopia 1540-59, died.

2/9/1540, Dawit II, Emperor of Ethiopia, died.

7/3/1529, At the Battle of Shimbra Kure, Imam Ahmad Ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi defeated the forces of Lebna Dengel, Emperor of Ethiopia.

18/2/1332, Amda Seyon I, Emperor of Ethiopia began his campaigns in the southern Muslim province.

1270, Accession of King Yekuno Amlak of Abyssinia; ruled until 1285.

525, King Kaleb of Axum conquered southern Yemen, and built churches there.

Ca. 350, Death of King Ezana of Axum, reigned ca. 320-350.Axum was a Greek-influenced Semitic trading state founded ca. 1 AD. From its port at Adulis it traded across the Red Sea and by the 3rd C AD controlled Yemen. King Ezana converted to Christianity; Axum later became the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia.

350, Axum invaded the Kingdom of Kush.

320, Accession of Aksum King Ezana.


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