Chronography of Ethiopia & Eritrea

Page last modified 19 August 2023


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Map of geographical changes in Eritrea here

Map of geographical changes in Ethiopia and Djibouti here

Demography of Eritrea

Demography of Ethiopia


4 November 2020, Insurrection broke out in Tigray Province. The TPLF (Tigray People�s :Liberation Front) accused Eritrea of assisting Ethiopian forces in the conflict; Eritrea fought a border war with Ethiopia when the TPLF dominated the Ethiopian Govermment. From 2018 President Abiy had reduced TPLF influence over central Government, and the flashpoint for this was was the postponement of regional elections by Addis Ababa, on the grounds of the Covid pandemic.

11/2018, UN Sanctions against Eritrea ended (see 12/2009).

10/2018, Ethiopia and the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front reached an agreement. This ended a 34-year struggle.

7/2018, Ethioipia and Eritrea formally ended their State of War.

4/2018, Abiy Ahmed, ethnic Oromo, became leader of the rulimng EPRDF (Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front), and began reforms. In 5/2018 thousands of Ethiopian political prisoners were released, and the State of Emergency was lifted.

2017, Mounting anti-Government protests in Ethiopia; State of Emergency proclaimed.

6/2010, Eritrea and Djibouti settled their border dispute.

12/2009, UN sanctions imposed on Eritrea for its support of Islamic rebels in Somalia. See 11/2018.

6/2008, Border clash between Eritrea and Djibouti over the disputed Ras Doumeira area.

2007, Ethiopia sent troops into Somalia to fight Islamist forces there. Eritrea pulled out of IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) as IGAD backed the Ethiopian intervention in Somalia.

2006, The UN accused Eritrea of sending arms to a rivalIslamist administration in Somalia, whose interim government was meanwhile being sent arms by Ethiopia.

25 April 2005, The last piece of the Obelisk of Axum, looted by the Italian Army in 1937, was returned to Ethiopia.

3/2004, Ethiopia began resettling people away from the over-farmed and drought-stricken Highlands.

2003, A UN boundary commission awarded the Badme region to Eritrea; Ethiopia refused to accept this.

2001, Ethiopia withdrew its forces from Eritrea, but refused to accept the boundary commission�s decision on the Ethiopia-Eritrea frontier.

6 January 1999, Four days of border fighting began between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

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

6 May 1998, Tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia escalated into a border war. The issue was sovereignty over a small area around the border towns of Badame and Sheraro; 70,000 died in the conflict across both sides.

1994, A new Ethiopian Constitution divided the country into ethnically-based regions.

24 May 1993, Eritrea became independent. from Ethiopia, after 32 years of war between them. In 1961, to gain Ethiopia as an ally against the Soviets, Western powers had insisted on a federation of Ethiopia with Eritrea, although Eritrea was supposed to retain its own government, Shortly afterwards, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie annexed Eritrea as a mere province. However in 1974 Haile Selassie was deposed and the country became pro-Soviet. In 1991,with Soviet support ended, Eritrean rebels were making headway and they managed to capture the Eritrean capital, Asmara, in 5/1991. A referendum on independence in Eritrea produced a majority of 99.81% in favour.

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

1991, The EPLF (Eritrean Popular Liberation Front) took the Eritrean capital, Asmara.


Communism and rule of Colonel Mengistu

22 May 1991, Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam escaped to Zimbabwe as rebel forces closed in on the capital, Addis Ababa. The EPLF took the Eritrean capital, Asmara. 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.

22 March 1991. Millions of people were threatened by starvation and civil war in Ethiopia.

1990, The EPLF took the port of Massawa.

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

1987, The EPLF refused an offer of autonomy for Eritrea, and fighting intensified.

1987, Mengistu was re-elected President under a new Constitution.


Ethiopian Famine

31 May 1985. 500,000 tons of food had been delivered to alleviate a severe famine in Ethiopia, as millions starved.

14 December 1984, A group of rock stars led by Bob Geldof formed �Band Aid� to raise money for Ethiopian famine victims.

25 November 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. The famine killed one million Ethiopians.

4 November 1984, British Air Force began food airlift to famine-struck province of Tigre, Ethiopia.

24 October 1984, The Ethiopian Government appealed for Western food aid to save an estimated 6.4 million from starvation.


1982, Major campaign by Ethiopia against Eritrean secessionists, the �Red Star Campaign�; however Ethiopian forces suffered severe casualties.

30 June 1978, Ethiopia began a major offensive in Eritrea.

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

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

21 January 1978, Ethiopian forces began expelling Somali forces from the Ogaden, see 23 July 1977 and 5 March 1978.

1977, Colonel Mengistu�sRed Terror� campaign began. Thousands of po;litical dissidents died, and agriculture was forcibly collectivised. Tigray began fighting for independence, led by the TPLF (Tigrayan People�s Liberation Front).

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

27 August 1975. Haile Selassie, deposed Emperor of Ethiopia, nicknamed �the Lion of Judah�, died in exile. He was the claimed 225th descendant of the legendary son born to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, said to be the forst pof the Royal line of Ethiopia. In 1916 he had become Ras (Prince) Tafari, and in 1930 became Emperor of Ethiopia. He was seen as the Messiahby 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 March 1975, Ethiopia abolished the monarchy, and became a Socialist State.

20 December 1974, The new Ethioipian regime declared its ssocialist principles.

23 November 1974, In Ethiopia, 60 Government officials were executed.

12 September 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 (Amhharic for �committee�), and it was this body who overthrew the President. Unfortunately rule by the Derg proved more autocratic and oppressive than under Haile Selassie.

27 August 1974, The ruling Armed Forces Committee in Ethiopia ordered Emperor Haile Selassie not to leave the capital.

17 August 1974, The Commander of Haile Selassie�s bodyguard was arrested by the Ethiopian Army.

2 July 1974, In Ethiopia, Prince Eskinder Desta, grandson of Haile Selassie, was arrested by the Army.


7 March 1974, Following a strike by Ethiopian Trades Unions for better pay and conditions, Emperor Haile Selassie drove to Addis Ababa market place and personally handed out money to the poor. However this did not halt political pressure building against him.

1973, A severe famine began in Wallo Province, Ethiopia; 200,000 people died.

1970, The ELF split on ideological grounds, and the EPLF (Eritrean Popular Liberation Front) was formed, and aimed at creating a �social revolution�.


UN incorporates Eritrea with Ethiopia; start of independence struggle by Eritrea

1967, Full scale guerrilla warfare in Eritrea waged by ELF.

14 November 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, led by the ELF.

1958, The ELF (Eritrean Liberation Front) was formed, to gain independence for Eritrea.

15 September 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. This Federation was consequrnt upon a Unted Nations General Assembly vote.

2 December 1950, The UN voted for the unification of Eritrea with Ethiopia.


1945, Post World War Two, Britain now administered Eritrea as a UN Trust Territory.

1943, Rebellion in Tigre (the Woyane, or uprising). Tigre resented having lost influence to the South. The Woyane was suppressed with the help of the British RAF bombing the rebels.

5 May 1941, British forces expelled the Italians and restored Haile Selassie. Selassie set up a constitution, Parliament and Cabinet, but in practice ruled as an absolute feudal monarch.


Second Italian invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia)

25 February 1937, In Abyssinia, Italy executed \Ras Desta Demti, son in law of exiled leader Haile Selassie.

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

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

9 May 1936. Italy annexed Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), having completed the invasion begun on 3 October 1935.

6 May 1936, Marshal Pietro Badoglio nominated Giuseppe Bottai as the first Italian Governor of Addis Ababa.

5 May 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 May 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.

31 March 1936, Haile Selassie, Ethiopian Emperor, made a determined last attack against the invading Italians at the Battle of Mai Ceu. However the Italian lines held and Abyssinian forces were forced to retreat, under fire from Italian aircraft.

10 February 1936, Major offensive by the Italians in Ethiopia. Up to this point the mountainous terrain had favoured the Ethiopian defenders against the superior Italian military equipment, and monopoly of tanks and aircraft, and Italian use of mustard gas. However the Italians now shattered the Ethiopian Army and by mid-March 1936 held all of northern Abyssinia (Ethiopia).

18 November 1935. The League of Nations imposed sanctions on Italy, because of its invasion of Ethiopia.The sanctions ended on 15 July 1936.

8 November 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 October 1935. Sanctions were imposed on Italy by the League of Nations.

17 November 1935, Pietro Badoglio replaced Emilio De Bono as commander of Italian forces in East Africa.

7 October 1935, Adowa, Ethiopia, fell to the Italians after minimal resistance.

2 October 1935. The Italian army invaded Abyssinia (Ethiopia) after Mussolini�s forces pounded border towns. See 9 May 1936, and 5 December 1934.

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

25 July 1935, The UK Government banned arms sales to both Italy and Abyssinia as war tensions rose in eastern Africa.

26 June 1935, A 3-day meeting in Rome between British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and Mussolini ended. Britain was now concerned that Italy should not invade Ethiopia. Eden proposed that in exchange for Ethiopia ceding the Ogaden region to Italy, Italy would hand over the Gulf of Aden port of Zeila to Ethiopia, and a corridor of land connecting it to Ethiopia. Mussolini completely rejected this suggestion.

18 May 1935, Serfdom was abolished in Ethiopia.

17 March 1935, Abyssinia appealed to the League of Nations a second time for mediation over the threat to it from Italy. However by now the League was more preoccupied with the threat from Germany.

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

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

3 January 1935, Abyssinia demanded international arbitration between itself and Italy, and appealed to the League of Nations. Italy appeared to agree to this arbitration but meanwhile strengthened its garrison in Eritrea.

30 December 1934, Mussolini ordered his forces to prepare for a full attack on Abyssinia, scheduled to begin in autumn 1935 after the rainy season had ended.��

5 December 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 October 1935.


2 November 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 April 1930. Ras Tafari became Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. He ruled the country for 44 years.

2 April 1930, Zauditu, Empress of Ethiopia, died.

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

28 September 1923. Ethiopia joined the League of Nations.

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

11 December 1913, Menelik II, Emperor of Ethiopia, died. His son, Lij Iyasu, was deposed for converting to Islam, also for attempting an alliance with Turkey. Menelik�s daughter, Zauditu, became Empress with Ras Tafari as Regent.

4 July 1906, Ethiopia, although nominally independent, was divided up into British, French and Italian zones of influence.

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

15 May 1902, Britain and Abyssinia signed a Treaty defining the frontier between Abyssinia and Sudan. Abyssinia also agreed to allow Britain to construct a railway through its territory connecting Sudan and Uganda.

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

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

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

24 January 1900, A French-Italian convention formally settled the border between French Somaliland and the Italian colonies at Raheita, Eritrea.

15 May 1897, Britain and Abyssinia concluded a Treaty of Friendship.


First Italian invasion

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

1 March 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.

15 January 1895, Italian forces defeated the Ethiopians at Senafe, following an Italian victory (13 January 1895) at Koatit. However later in the year the Italian Army pushed too far south,and, lacking support, was defeated at Amba Alagi (7 December 1895) and then at Macalle (23 January 1896).

17 July 1894, Italian forces under Colonel Baratieri captured Kassala.

21 December 1893, Italian forces under Colonel Arimondi captured Agordat.

23 July 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 January 1890, The Kingdom of Italy officially proclaimed the colony of �Eritrea� in Africa. It was named after the Roman Erythraeum Mare.

1889, Addia Ababa was designated as the capital of Ethiopia

2 May 1889, Menelik II, Emperor of Ethiopia, signed what he saw as a treaty of friendship with Italy (Italy saw it as Ethiopia accepting a protectorate), giving Italy full control over the territory of Eritrea.

4/1888, Italy sent 20,000 troops to what they now called their colony of Eritrea. Fighting with the Ethiopian Army was averted by negotiations, and Italy retired, leaving 5,000 troops stationed in the region.

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

5 February 1885, An Italian force occupied the former Egyptian garrison at Massawa, the Egyptians having withdrawn in 1884 due to the Mahdi Rebellion. Britain signalled its concent to this move.

6 January 1885, Italian forces, with British support, consolidated their positions around Massawa, Eritrea, and began to penetrate into the Abyssinian Highlands.

29 April 1876, Empress Zauditu of Ethiopia was born.

12 January 1872, Yohannas IV (Tigrayan chieftain)was crowned King of Ethiopia. The Tigrayan region briefly regained its cultural dominance (see 1770s). Under Yohannas IV�s successor, Menelik II, from 1889, the south became supreme once more.

3/1870, An Italian company bought the port of Assab (now Eritrea) from Sultan Berehan of Raheita for �1,880. This port was then bought out by the Italian Government in 1882, after the port company had acquired more land in 1879-80.Italy then occupied the port of Beilul to the north in 1885 and in the same year took over Massawa from Egypt.This expansionist policy, and free imports of Italian goods, caused a deterioration in relations between Italy and Ethiopia. Egypt, Turkey and India were also concerned about the new Italian presence in Assab, although Britain was willing to tolerate an Italian commercial (but not political) presence there.


13 April 1868, Magdala, Abyssinia, was finally taken by the British. TheodoreKassai (1816-68), Emperor of Abyssinia from 1855, was shot and killed.

10 April 1868, Britian took military action against Abyssinia following mistreatment and detention of British missionaries and traders. Tewoderos II, Emperor of Ethiopia, committed suicide before the British reached his capital at Magdala, and freed thye British captives. The Ethioipian State now collapsed.

11 February 1855, Kassa Hailu (1816-68) crowned as Tewodros II, Emperor of Ethiopia. He was a local chieftain who had grown powerful through conquests. He rule was benevolent and capable at first but he became erratic and iunstable in later years. His nemesis came when he failed to recoieve a reply from Queen Victoria of Britain to a request he had sent for aid. He the n imprisoned several british Consular officials at his capital, Magdala. This provoked an attack by a 32,000 strong Anglo-Indian force under Robert C Napier (1810-90) in 1867.

17 August 1844, Menelik II, Emperor of Ethiopia, was born.

7 February 1842. Battle of Debre. Ras al Alula, Regent Emperor of Ethiopia, defeated warlord Wube Haile Maryam of Semien.

1770s � 1850s, Era of the Princes (Zemene Mesafint); a period of civil war with various regions of Ethiopia vying for supremacy.At this time the previously culturally dominant Tigray area, Axum heartland and origin of Ethiopia�s National Epic Kebre Negast, The Chronicle of the Glory of Kings, written by Tigratan monks, began to lose out to the southern Shoa Amharic region. See 1872.

1753, End of the reign of Iyasu II.

1730, End of the reign of Bakaffa (acceded 1682).

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. End of the reign of Sysenius (acceded 1606).

1 February 1563, Sarsa Dengel succeeded his father Menas (acceded 1559) as Emperor of Ethiopia.

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

2 September 1540, Dawit II, Emperor of Ethiopia, died.

1540, End of the reign of Lebna Dengel (acceded 1508).

7 March 1529, At the Battle of Shimbra Kure, Imam Ahmad Ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi defeated the forces of Lebna Dengel, Emperor of Ethiopia. This Islamic invasion of Ethiopia was repelled in 1543 with Portuguese assistance.

28 August 1468, Death of Ethiopian Emperor Zara Yaqub.

1434, Zara Yaqub (1399-1468) became King of Ethiopia.

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

1270, Overthrow of the Zagwe Dynasty by Amhara Princes, and start of the Solomonid Dynasty. Accession of King Yekuno Amlak of Abyssinia; ruled until 1285.

600 Islam brought to the coast of Eritrea by Arab traders.


Rise of Kingdom of Axum

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.

328, Axum adopted Christianity.

320, Accession of Aksum King Ezana.

500 BCE, Foundation of the Kingdom of Axum, which later became Ethiopia. End of the reign of King Nastasen (acceded 525).


525 BCE, End of the reign of King Harsiotf (ascceded 560).

560 BCE, End of the reign of King Pankharer (acceded 600)

600 BCE, End of the reign of King Asperta (acceded 630).

650 BCE, End of the reign of King Tandamane, son of Tirhaka (acceded 667)


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