Ethiopia & Eritrea; key historical events
Page last modified 14/6/2020
See also Africa.
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2007, Ethiopia sent troops into Somalia to fight Islamist forces there.
2006, The UN accused Eritrea of sending arms to a rival Islamist administration in Somalia, whose interim government was meanwhile being sent arms by Ethiopia.
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.
1998, Tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia escalated into a border war. The issue was sovereignty over a small area around the border towns of Badme and Sheraro; 70,000 died in thie conflict across both sides.
11/6/1998, The UN officially declared a famine in Ethiopia, as one million faced starvation.
24/5/1993, 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.
27/4/1993. The Ethiopian province of Eritrea voted overwhelmingly for independence.
1991, The EPLF (Eritrean Popular Liberation Front) took the Eritrean capital, Asmara.
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.
1987, The EPLF refused an offer of autonomy for Eritrea, and fighting intensified.
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. The famine killed one million Ethiopians.
30/6/1978, Ethiopia began a major offensive in Eritrea.
9/3/1978, Somalia left Ethiopian territory, so ending the Ogaden War.
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. 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 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, and became a Socialist State.
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, led by the EPLF.
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.
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.
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, Zauditu, 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. 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.
15/5/1902, 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.
6/2/1902, 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.
24/1/1900, A French-Italian convention formally settled the border between French Somaliland and the Italian colonies at Raheita, Eritrea.
15/5/1897, Britain and Abyssinia concluded a Treaty of Friendship.
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.
15/1/1895, Italian forces defeated the Ethiopians at Senafe, following an Italian victory (13/1/1895) at Koatit. However later in the year the Italian Army pushed too far south,and, lacking support, was defeated at Amba Alagi (7/12/1895) and then at Macalle (23/1/1896).
17/7/1894, Italian forces under Colonel Baratieri captured Kassala.
21/12/1893, Italian forces under Colonel Arimondi captured Agordat.
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 officially proclaimed the colony of ‘Eritrea’ in Africa. It was named after the Roman Erythraeum Mare.
2/5/1889, Menelik II, Emperor of Ethiopia, signed a treaty of friendship with Italy, 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.
25/1/1887, War broke out between Ethiopia and Italy. The Ethiopians routed an Italian army at Dogali.
5/2/1885, 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.
12/1/1872, Yohannas IV crowned King of Ethiopia.
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.
13/4/1868, 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. This Islamic invasion of Ethiopia was repelled in 1543 with Portuguese assistance.
1434, Zara Yaqub (1399-1468) became King of Ethiopia.
18/2/1332, 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.
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.