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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Chronology for Amhara in Ethiopia

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Date(s) Item
301 - 400 Christianity became the state religion in the ancient city-state of Aksum kingdom, which is now Ethiopia.
501 - 1000 Aksum flourished. But from the 9th century, like all the other Christian kingdoms of North Africa and the Nile, Ethiopia was threatened by Islam. Christianity managed to survive due to Ethiopia's isolation.
1101 - 1200 King Gadla Lalibela began to build grand churches in Lalibela.
1769 - 1855 Political power in Ethiopia, ruled by fifteen puppet emperors went through a process of decentralization.
1855 Emperor Teodros II consolidated his authority and reunified the Ethiopian empire.
1855 - 1908 Successive Ethiopian emperors from the Amhara and Tigre groups expanded the influence of their own peoples by securing territories occupied by other ethnic groups. Since the mid-1800s, the emperor's army had erected ketemas, garrison towns, to rule Oromo and Somali areas. Political authorities imposed the Amhara-Christian culture upon those residing in ketemas in the southern periphery and extracted resources from them.
Jan 1, 1881 - Dec 3, 1890 Italy expanded its colonial sphere to include most of what is now Eritrea.
1889 In the Treaty of Ucciali, Emperor Menelik accepted Italy’s colonization of Eritrea. During the 19th century, Ethiopia had joined the Great Powers (i.e., Britain, France, and Italy) and had expanded its territory beyond Gondar and Shoa to include the Ogaden.
1896 The war between Italy and Ethiopia (after Menelik rejected to agree to an Italian protectorate over all of Ethiopia and renounced the Treaty of Ucciali) resulted in an Ethiopian victory at the battle of Adwa.
1908 The current boundaries of Ethiopia were established. Four successive emperors (until the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie I by a military coup in 1974) built and consolidated their power.
1930 Haile Selassie I became Emperor. Under his regime, the country’s major economic resource was coffee produced mostly in peripheral Oromo areas. The relations between Amhara-Tigre landlords and Oromo tenants had become set. A similar pattern was established in the Afar and Somali-residing Ogaden region for large-scale government-run agribusiness schemes.
1936 - 1941 Italian Fascist Mussolini conquered Ethiopia. Haile Selassie was exiled.
1941 After the collapse of Mussolini, the British military administration was established in Eritrea. British armies liberated Ethiopia and restored Haile Selassie to his throne. Haile Selassie had successfully repressed ethnic sentiments for self-determination of the Oromos, Somalis, and Afar and reconsolidated his authority.
1952 Ethiopia was joined in a federation with Eritrea (former Italian colony) by the United Nations. However, Haile Selassie abrogated the federation and attempted to unify Ethiopia and Eritrea under his control within the next ten years.
1958 The Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), mostly consisting of Muslim separatist, was formed in Cairo by students and workers.
Nov 1961 The ELF launched an open rebellion in western Eritrea, armed with weapons brought in from Sudan.
1962 Haile Selassie had the Eritrean Assembly dissolve the federal executive and integrate Eritrea fully into Ethiopia.
Feb 1972 Three groups split away from the ELF and established the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF).
1973 The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) was formed. The legitimacy of the Haile Selassie regime was widely challenged as the country’s economy fell into disarray and patterns of inequality persisted.
1974 Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed by revolutionary Marxist-Leninist military leaders.
1975 The monarchy was abolished by the armed forces. Rebellion in Eritrea gathered momentum. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was established.
1976 A Marxist military regime, the Derg (Amharic for Committee) was formally established in Addis Ababa. The Derg advanced no policies to accommodate minority groups.
Feb 1977 Lieutenant Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam seized power after an internal struggle within the military leadership.
Apr 1977 Relations between Ethiopia and the United States were severed when the Mengistu regime turned to the Soviet Union for military aid. Several groups opposed the regime because of ideological and political differences. The country was severely challenged by nationalist movements and rebellions in Eritrea and in the Ogaden between 1976 and 1978.
1983 Drought and war with Eritrea caused one of Africa's worst famines. Millions died in spite of massive food and medical aid from Europe and America.
1984 The Workers’ Party of Ethiopia (WPE) was set up in order to control politics and to legitimize Mengistu’s policies. Although the WPE was declared to promote democracy and popular participation in party activities, no ethnic groups were represented among the mass organizations constituting the WPE. Those who raised nationality issues were labeled anti-revolutionaries. The feudal land tenure system was dissolved under the Mengistu regime. All rural and most urban land became the property of the state. For the first phase of the Mengistu regime, there were dramatic enhancements in formal educational opportunities (the illiteracy rate dropped from 90 percent to less than 40 percent) and health care. The country’s economy experienced slight improvement during the middle years of the Mengistu regime, but, between 1980 and 1988 agricultural production had declined by 0.4 percent per year. The last days of the Mengistu regime manifested the patterns of inequality of the imperial regime.
Feb 1987 A civilian (Marxist-Leninist) Constitution was introduced, proclaiming the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (PDRE). The PDRE was led by an 835-member National Shengo (assembly) which aided Mengistu in consolidating his power.
Sep 1987 The Shengo initiated regional reorganization by creating 24 administrative regions and five autonomous regions (Eritrea, Assab, Dire Dawa, Tigre, and Ogaden) in order to deflect nationalist discontent. The government’s genuine intention to grant autonomous status to Assab and Dire Dawa (the country’s two economic cores) was to separate them from the regions of Eritrea and Ogaden. Most nationalist movements such as EPLF, TPLF, and OLF dismissed the PDRE’s initiative and began to coordinate military strategy to increase their anti-government activities.
1988 The Mengistu regime faced another major drought and intensified ethno-nationalist movements. When Mengistu was informed that the Soviet Union would soon stop providing military aid, he declared a state of emergency.
Nov 1988 Mengistu announced reform policies to promote private sector investment.
Jan 1989 The TPLF (led by Meles Zenawi) organized the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of rebel forces against the Mengistu regime.
1989 The OLF, EPLF, and EPRDF cooperated amongst themselves. Soldiers who defected from Mengistu’s army after the abortive coup and prisoners of wars were recruited to the organizations. The EPRDF created the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), its own Oromo affiliate, and established other organizations representing various ethnic groups. The EPRDF rejected Marxist slogans, advocated pragmatic policies, and encouraged close military and political cooperation with the TPLF and EPLF.
May 1 - 30, 1989 While Mengistu was visiting East Germany in search of military aid, there was a coup attempt in Addis Ababa. Mengistu hastily returned and brutally put down the coup. Some army units defected and took their arms with them to join opposition forces.
Mar 1990 The WPE’s new economic policy aimed to end the country’s centrally planned economy and initiate a mixed economy of state, private, and cooperative. Yet it appeared to be too late to revive the country’s economy. Moreover, civil wars aggravated the quality of life. Mengistu, as did emperor Haile Selassie, failed to address the nationalities problem. The number of Ethiopian soldiers increased to more than 500,000 by 1990, but Ethiopian forces rapidly declined in military position. The TPLF and the EPRDF took over the entire Tigre region and large parts of Wollo, Gondar, and Shoa. The EPLF controlled all towns in Eritrea except Asmara, Massawa, and Assab. The United States attempted to negotiate peace between Ethiopia and the EPLF while the Italian government tried to arrange talks between Ethiopia and the TPLF.
1991 An all-parties peace conference for Ethiopia was planned in London, but the EPRDF advanced within 23 miles of the capital, Addis Ababa. The EPLF captured Massawa and closed in on Asmara.
May 21, 1991 Herman Cohen, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs, secured Mengistu’s exile to Zimbabwe. Before his flight, Mengistu had appointed a new prime minister, Tesfaa Dinka, for the London peace talks.
May 27, 1991 Herman Cohen convened peace talks in London between the rebels and the Ethiopian regime. A cease-fire agreement was reached by all parties. Prime Minister Tesfaa Dinka boycotted the talks to oppose Cohen’s approval for the rebels to enter Addis Ababa in spite of the cease-fire agreement. There was a massive airlift of 16,000 Ethiopian Jews.
May 28, 1991 The EPRDF, many of its members teenagers, captured Addis Ababa against little resistance from the government army of more than half a million. Subsidiary organizations within the EPRDF, such as the TPLF, the OPDO, the Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (EPDM), and the Ethiopian Democratic Officers Revolutionary Movement (EDORM), were expected to play a key part in the new Ethiopian state. In Eritrea, the EPLF captured the cities of Asmara and Assab.
Jul 1991 After its victory, the EPRDF (led by Meles Zenawi) held a national conference and established the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE), seeking to form a broad-based political pact. A transitional charter was adopted by a multiparty conference and was to remain in force until the general election scheduled for 1993. An 87-member Council of Representatives elected by the conference confirmed Meles Zenawi as transitional President. The OLF, the Afar Liberation Front (ALF), and several Somali organizations agreed to join the pact. But former members of the WPE and Mengistu’s followers, radical leftist groups including the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP) and the All-Ethiopian Socialist Movement, and some conservative Ethiopian nationalist groups such as the Coalition of Ethiopian Democratic Forces (COEDF), opposed the EPRDF leadership. The TGE included an ethnically mixed council of seventeen ministers representing seven ethnic groups. The EPRDF had the largest single bloc in the Council of Representatives while the OLF was the second largest. The Council was given the authority to establish a commission which would draw up a draft constitution. In Oromo areas, the OLF had expanded the ranks of its military (eight thousand in 1991) by recruiting the members from the areas heavily occupied by the Oromo and former soldiers of Mengistu’s army.
1992 In preparation for the elections, the Council declared the encampment of all armed groups, designating them (including the EPRDF) to serve as an interim national army and to provide police services. Armed conflicts erupted between the EPRDF and Oromo members in the Oromo region. The EPLF at Makele attempted to arrange talks between the EPRDF and the OLF.
Apr 1992 An encampment accord was made between the EPRDF and the OLF. The National Electoral Commission (NEC), consisting of ten multi-ethnic members drawn from the Council, was founded to establish local administrations with broad ethnic and political representation. As the date for the regional and local elections approached in the early summer of 1992, ethnic tensions intensified. Following the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Oromia (IFLO), which had withdrawn from the elections earlier, the All-Amhara People’s Organization (AAPO), the Ethiopian Democratic Action Group (EDAG), the Gideo People’s Democratic Organization (GPDO), and the OLF also withdrew. Approximately 50-60 percent of the voting-age population refused to participate in the elections. The NEC had to postpone the elections in many areas and yet the elections went ahead as planned on June 21, 1992. The OLF decamped and broke into small units which triggered the resumption of civil war.
Jun 1992 The number of registered political parties swelled to over two hundred, but only a few had a sizable number of members. The OLF withdrew from the government (the Council of Representatives).
Oct 1992 President Meles officially abolished press censorship, but several provisions in the new law allowed the government ample routes to informally censor the media and to harass journalists.
Jan 1993 The TGE made appointments to the country’s first independent judiciary. Political and economic reforms have attracted great favor from foreign donors. To reduce the nationalities problem, Meles announced that his government would form a multi-ethnic national army. Popular discontent by those opposed to the TGE’s policy and those favoring ethnically based secession for certain groups continued to run high. However, the insurrection was largely contained.
Mar 1993 President Meles confirmed that multi-party legislative elections would not take place until 1994. The transitional period scheduled to end in 1993 was extended.
Apr 1993 Eritrea declared independence following the referendum. The TGE and the Provisional Government of Eritrea (PGE) maintained cooperative relationships. Meles ousted five political groups (who called themselves the Southern Coalition and pressed for a dissolution of the Council of Representatives) from the Council.
Jul 1993 The EPRDF appeared to be experiencing its most serious internal crisis since assuming power in May 1991.
Sep 1993 The Council issued a decree relating to elections for a constituent assembly which barred members of the WPE from participating. The Council also excluded all former security personnel and ex-soldiers who had not completed the national rehabilitation program. During late 1993, the governing coalition narrowed substantially.
Dec 1993 The TGE allowed a conference on peace and reconciliation organized by approximately 50 internal and exiled opposition groups. But seven participants from abroad, including the two leading figures of the exiled OLF, were arrested (and then released in January 1994). The TGE itself boycotted the conference.
Apr 1994 The TGE attempted to implement a policy which respected the languages and cultures of historically oppressed minorities and allowed them a certain amount of regional autonomy based upon their ethnic affinities. Therefore, the TGE created fourteen new regions. A region consisted of several districts (woreda, the basic unit of national and regional autonomous government). The Oromo’s region is the largest (220 woreda out of 600 for federated Ethiopia), followed by Amhara (126), Tigre (62), and Somali (47). While the TGE controlled defense, foreign affairs, economic policy, and citizenship, the law enabled the new regional governments to have broad political powers. Still, the EPRDF clearly declared that regional autonomy should be guaranteed only within the framework of a unified, federated Ethiopia. Neither the aspirations of ethnic groups for their rights to self-determination nor ethnic tensions, however, were appeased by this new policy. For instance, some Oromo people, including members of the OLF, increased their demands for the creation of an independent state of Oromia.
Jun 5, 1994 The Constitutional Assembly was selected in an election boycotted by non-EPRDF parties. Despite the TGE’s promise to include many groups in the assembly, the Amhara and Oromos continued to be poorly represented. The charter articulated the right of each nationality to govern its own affairs within the context of a federated Ethiopia by establishing autonomous regions based upon ethnic identities. Yet, human rights violations by the TGE were continually reported. The heightened ethnic tensions (often with low-intensity civil war) slowed the constitution-making process. Multi-party elections to install a new democratic government were delayed indefinitely.
Dec 1994 A new constitution, which restructured Ethiopia into nine ethnically-based federated states with a national parliament, was ratified by the country’s constituent assembly. This was the result of long-term negotiations which began in 1991 following the collapse of the Mengistu regime. The TGE had strengthened the economy with free market policies since 1992.
Jan 1, 1995 An estimated 250,000 people staged a demonstration in Addis Ababa in support of the new constitution. However, opposition groups said that they would not approve a new constitution.
1995 The State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1995 reported Ethiopia continued on the road to democracy in 1995 with the holding of national and regional election in May and June. A new constitution was adopted in December 1994. The military continued low-level operations to counter armed attacks by the OLF and IFLO (Islamic Front for the Liberation of Oromiya) throughout the year. The military, ONLF (Ogaden National Liberation Front), al-Itihad, OLF and IFLO were all reported to have committed summary executions during clashes in parts of Oromo and Somali states. The government continued to detain persons without charge. These included several hundred Oromo youth suspected of participating in the OLF armed campaign against the government.
Feb 1995 Ethiopian authorities ordered rival Muslim groups to stop fighting after 9 people were killed and 130 wounded in the Great Anwar mosque, the largest mosque in Addis Ababa. Violence erupted between two Muslim groups both claiming to be representatives of Ethiopia’s Islamic Affairs Supreme Council. The authorities banned all marches in Addis Ababa for two weeks beginning February 24. Over 280 members of the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) had been on trial at Zeway town, which was 120 miles south of Addis Ababa. They were accused of waging war against the interim government.
Mar 24, 1995 A UN official said that more than 93,000 Ethiopian refugees living in Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya since 1991 would be repatriated this year. But the UNHCR said that no plan had been made to repatriate the 360,000 refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Djibouti, and Kenya living in Ethiopia.
Mar 30, 1995 Nine Italian tourists on a camel trek on the Eritrean border with Ethiopia (where the fierce nomadic Afar people resided) were kidnaped for ransom by desert tribesmen. Ethiopia launched an intensive search for the tourists.
Apr 6, 1995 The missing Italian tourists were released and arrived in Addis Ababa. No ransom was paid to secure their freedom. Claudio Pozzati, leader of the tourist group, thanked the Afar tribesmen who eventually handed them over to the Ethiopian military.
Apr 15, 1995 Voters began registering for Ethiopia’s first multi-party elections in May. The Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Union (SEPDU), and the TPLF, who ousted Mengistu and set up the TGE, were expected to dominate the elections. These groups had championed Eritrean independence and self-determination for all nationalities in a federal system for the multi-ethnic state.
May 1, 1995 The International Commission of Jurists accused Ethiopian leaders of suppressing political dissent and violating human rights. Between 1992 and 1994, thousands of government opponents were reported to be held without trial for expressing their political opinions.
May 1995 The ruling coalition won a landslide victory in the country’s first multi-party general election. Many opposition parties boycotted the election because they claimed they were prevented from campaigning and some of their activists were detained. The OAU and Western diplomatic missions declared the elections to be free and fair.
May 4, 1995 The leaders of Coalition of Alternative Forces for Peace and Democracy in Ethiopia (CAFPDE), an opposition coalition of more than 30 parties, including the OLF and the southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Coalition (SEPDC), boycotted and dismissed the elections as a sham. The CAFPDE refused the appeals of Western donors, particularly the United States, to join the elections, arguing that the elections only served the interests of the EPRDF. Three people were killed in the eastern town of Harar when a grenade was lobbed into a bar. Also, at least 15 people were killed and 10 wounded in the eastern town of Dire Dawa when a grenade exploded in a busy market frequented by ethnic Somalis. The eastern region of Ethiopia is a stronghold of Oromo and Ogadeni opposition parties which boycotted the polls and the site of a low intensity guerrilla war by ethnic militants.
May 5, 1995 Elections in the Somali-speaking East and the Afar-dominated Northeast were postponed until May 27 because the government said there were logistical, rather than security, problems.
May 7, 1995 Ethiopia held the first multi-party parliamentary elections in its 2000-year history. More than 15 million of Ethiopia’s 55 million people registered to vote for a 550-seat national parliament and regional councils. Most opposition parties boycotted the election. More than 280 foreign monitors were present in Addis Ababa. As expected, President Meles Zenawi’s EPRDF ruling coalition won by a landslide.
May 15, 1995 The Organization of African Unity (OAU) said that the elections held in Ethiopia were free and fair. The state-run Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) reported that the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) took 18 of the 20 constituencies for the federal parliament and regional council in the southern region of Bale and the western region of Illibabor, both Oromo strongholds.
May 17, 1995 The Ethiopian News Agency said that the OLF in the eastern town of Harar dissolved its central committee and threw out leaders in exile in order to continue to stir violence in the Ogaden region.
May 26, 1995 Elections scheduled for May 27 were delayed in the ethnic Somali and the Afar regions. External Economic Co-operation Minster Abdulmejid Hussein, the chairman of the Ethiopian Somali Democratic League (ESDL, a coalition of 14 groups), expressed disappointment over the polls delay. He observed that Somali-inhabited regions were more peaceful than Washington, D.C.
Jul 1995 Election results for the Afar and Harer (or Harar) regions were announced. In the Afar Region, APDO (Afar People’s Democratic Organization) won seats for the federal parliament in five constituencies and ALFP (Afar Liberation Front Party) in four. In the regional parliament, APDO has 24 MPS, ALF has 12, and ANLF (Afar National Liberation Front) has six. In Harer Region, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization and the Hareri National League won seats.
Aug 1995 The Council of Representatives transferred power to the newly elected government, of the EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front). President Meles Zenawi was elected Prime Minister.
Sep 1995 There were unconfirmed reports of renewed fighting between military units of the government and guerrilla units of OLF near the river Wabe. Several incidents of attacks on government troops were reported.
Dec 1995 Tigrean regional forces are believed to have operated in collaboration with Eritrean forces to invade Afar Region with the objective of pushing Afars and Ugugumo militiamen towards the desert area and away from the border region. Ethiopian authorities have appealed to Western donors for food aid to help feed about 3.2 million people who will face hunger in 1996. The Commissioner for Disaster Prevention, Simon Mechale, said most of the affected people were displaced persons from Eritrea.
Dec 16, 1995 EPRDF military units besieged the home of Ali Mirah, spiritual leader of the Afars and founder of ALF. Neither the sultan nor his son was home at the time. The EPRDF has attempted to reduce the weight of Ali Mirah’s ALF which tends to operate beyond the control of Addis Ababa in the Afar Region. Just prior to regional balloting, the ALF split allowing APDO, which is less representative of the Afars and close to EPRDF, to win the majority of seats in the regional elections.
Jan 1996 The State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1996 reported that throughout 1996, the military conducted low level operations against the OLF in parts of Oromo Regional State. Federal and regional authorities, especially in Oromo, arrested and detained hundreds of people without charge for activities allegedly in support of opposition groups. In August, Taye Wolde Semayat, the chair of the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association was arrested and charged with leading an Amhara extremist organization that carried out terrorist attacks against foreigners. There remained about 400,000 refugees in Ethiopia. Most came from Somalia and Sudan. Political participation remained closed to a number of organizations that have not renounced violence and do not accept the legitimacy of the government. They include: Medhin, Coalition of Ethiopian Democratic Forces, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party and the OLF.
Jan 23, 1996 The leader of ONLF claimed that the government killed more than 100 civilians in a punitive campaign against the local population. Sheikh Ibrahim Abdullah, while on a visit to Saudi Arabia, spoke of ongoing battles between the government and ONLF forces. In the past, Amnesty international has reported cases of arbitrary arrests, killings and torture of pro-independence elements in the Ogaden. Following the ONLF victory in regional elections in 1993, the Front called for a referendum to determine the future of the region. Ethiopia responded by removing pro-independence ONLF members from the regional assembly which triggered an armed conflict.
May 1996 ARDUF claimed that armed clashes have occurred in recent months between state security forces of the Tigre Region and Afar militia and civilians in the area bordering on Eritrea. ARDUF had previously claimed responsibility for armed operations by Ugugumo militia against Eritrean security forces last year.
Jun 21 - Sep 20, 1996 Flooding in Central Ethiopia has forced about 50,000 people to flee their homes around the Awash river.
Jul 6, 1996 One faction of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a mostly Somali organization that split in 1995, and the Oromo Liberation Front have announced their intentions to coordinate their diplomatic, political, and military activities. The joint communique does not explicitly opt for independence on their territory but expresses their desire for a referendum on this issue.
Aug 31, 1996 The Deputy Secretary General of ARDUF was arrested in Djibouti where he was undergoing medical treatment. He was in Djibouti without incident in May 1995 when the Ethiopian government was trying to negotiate a settlement with ARDUF. However, the negotiations faltered in April 1996 and government forces went on the offensive against ARDUF positions in the foothills of the Danakil Depression. The Afars had to abandon their bases in the region as the government troops pushed them back along the Sabba Valley close to the Djibouti frontier. The rebels stood up to an offensive in early June which reportedly produced many casualties on both sides. ARDUF claimed it was able to regain Hanad Eela base and reoccupy the outskirts of Aala, Buri, and Yallo in July.
Mar 1997 Agriculture reform was introduced in Amhara Regional State. The reform dispossessed Amhara farmers suspected of being opponents of the present regime. It led to a massive peasant protest march on Addis Ababa.
Apr 11, 1997 Ethiopia said more than 275,000 people in the Afar region are in need of emergency food aid due to lack of rainfall in the past year. In March, the government announced that emergency food aid was needed in three southers states to feed more than one million people. In December 1996, 34,000 quintals of grain were sent to drought stricken regions including Somali Regional State and Afar Regional State.
Apr 21, 1997 The OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) denied that its goal is to establish an Islamic state in Ethiopia. The Oromo make up 60% of Ethiopia’s population which is split about 50-50 between Christians and Muslims. There is growing fear that Ethiopia could slip into a bloody religious war, especially if its neighbors, such as Sudan, continue to encourage extremist elements within Ethiopia and the region. Both Ethiopia and Eritrea accuse Sudan of supporting Islamic rebels trying to overthrow their governments and both Ethiopia and Eritrea have given support to rebels in Sudan trying to overthrow the government of al-Bashir. After the defeat of Mengistu, the OLF joined the government of national unity led by Meles, but its representatives quit shortly after.
Apr 26, 1997 Five months after the opening of talks between the government and ARDUF, talks are stalled over ARDUF’s demand for self-rule inside Ethiopia and its relations to Eritrea. Ethiopian authorities reject any form of indirect rule.
May 28, 1997 Thirteen Oromo soldiers defected to the Islamic forces of al-Itihad which is based in Somalia. They were led by Izadin Ali Bali who was the commander of three units based along the Somali-Ethiopian border. The defectors said they had suffered ethnic and religious discrimination from the Tigray members of Ethiopia’s army. The al-Itihad, an Islamic fundamentalist organization, was blamed for a wave of terrorist attacks throughout Ethiopia during 1996-1997.
Jun 12, 1997 There were reports of heavy fighting between forces from the Ethiopian government and militiamen loyal to al-Itihad al-Islam along the Somali border region of Gedo. Early reports said Ethiopian forces captured the Somali towns of Luq and Bulo Jawo and dozens of villages.
Jun 17, 1997 Lack of rain in 5 zones of Afar Regional State has led to severe food shortages in the region. Over 260,000 people affected by the shortages are to receive food aid.
Jul 1997 The migration of Amhara farmers towards the Wollega region in Oromo State has sparked tensions between the Oromo and their Gumuz neighbors. Provoked by land shortages and March 1997 legislation introduced in Amhara which dispossesses farmers suspected of being opponents of the government, some young farmers moved into southern Oromo region.
Aug 8, 1997 An estimated 1.2 million people in Tigray, Oromia, Amhara and South Ethiopia Regional States are in need of emergency food assistance. Amhara is among the worst hit regions with food production down 24%.
Aug 15, 1997 ONLF and ARDUF signed a document in which the two organizations agreed to cooperate and to coordinate their political, diplomatic, and military efforts to reinstate the national and democratic rights of the Afar and Ogaden people. In Oromo and Somali regions, groups such as the OLF and ONLF have been suppressed as terrorists. Human rights groups have documented hundreds of disappearances in these regions.
Sep 1997 A new Islamic rebel group, the Oromo-Somali-Afar Liberation Alliance is seeking to establish an Islamic state in Ethiopia and Eritrea. It was formed in Mogadishu 31 August 1997 and comprises the United Oromo People’s Liberation Front, the Oromo Abbo Liberation Front, the Somali People’s Liberation Front, the Oromo People’s Liberation Organization, the Afar People’s Liberation Army and the Islamic Union of Western Somalia. The OSALA accuses Ethiopia’s two Semitic brothers (Amhara and Tigre) of imposing their Judeo-Christian hegemony over the country. The Oromo resumed their armed struggle in 1993, but the OLF has distanced itself from the idea of setting up an Islamic state in Ethiopia.
Oct 1997 The Horn of Africa Bulletin reported the possibility of talks between the government and the OLF. The government has been repressing OLF supporters because it is believed to be cooperating with al-Itihad.
Oct 11, 1997 According to police, three OLF members were killed and two captured while carrying illegal weapons. They had reportedly attacked a village called Jeldu in western Shewa zone in July.
Oct 18, 1997 About 350 representatives of ARDUF and APDO of Afar Regional State have ended a conference on Afar issues. Government officials proposed that ARDUF align itself with the government, prompting several representatives to quit the conference and vow to restart armed rebellion against the state. On 9 October, this group allegedly attacked the Aissaita military post and used bazooka’s to fire on the house of APDO representative Ali Sirro.
Nov 1997 Floods displaced some 2500 people in Afar after three rivers burst their banks. The Djibouti and Ethiopian joint committee of administrators of the frontier regions held their 7th meeting in Tadjurah, Djibouti. They discussed increasing cooperation between the two countries to fight smuggling and cope with Afar rebel groups. FRUD, a Djiboutian Afar rebel group, has complained that Ethiopia has been operating in Djiboutian territory in an effort to clean our Afar rebels. An ARDUF faction which refused to sign a peace agreement with the Ethiopian government has recently signed cooperation agreements with several other rebel groups. They include a faction of the ONLF which is in armed conflict with the Ethiopian government, the Sidama Liberation Movement which appeared in the 1970s, ended its operations in the mid-1980s, reappearing in June 1991, and the Kafa and Shekacho People’s United Front.
Nov 15, 1997 Over the past few weeks, Ethiopian authorities have reportedly increased police operations against Oromos suspected of being terrorists. The government blames the OLF for two recent bombings in Addis Ababa. Other observers blamed Islamic fundamentalist movements rather than the OLF. Informal negotiations between the OLF and government during the spring broke down after splitting the OLF into two positions: that of its secretary-general Gelassa Dilbo who wanted to continue the struggle against the regime and that of his deputy Lencho Letta who was more in favor of legalizing the OLF.
Dec 26, 1997 Authorities arrested seven leaders of the new Human Rights League. They were arrested over the past four weeks in a government crackdown against alleged supporters of the banned OLF. The Human Rights League was formed by Oromo in Addis Ababa in December 1996. The Oromo Relief Association, which was also shut down by the government, has gone to court to challenge its closure.
Jan 24, 1998 The two principal parties sharing power in Somali Regional State have decided to merge into a single party. The ONLF and Ethiopian Somali Democratic League agreed to set up a joint committee to prepare the merger and administer the State until the merge is complete.
Feb 1998 Epidemic cases of malaria, TB, measles, and malnutrition and diarrhoea have appeared in Afar and Somali states. Drought has affected at least five million people in Tigray and other northern regions. They are in need of food aid and some have migrated out of the drought-stricken areas. Extensive flooding since November has left many people internally displaced in the Gode and Afder zones of Somali Regional State.
Mar 23, 1998 The ONLF released and Austrian woman held after being caught trespassing February 25th on their area of control in Ogadenia.
Mar 27, 1998 Dr. Kassu Illala, Deputy Prime Minister for economic affairs said special development efforts are being made to redress regional developmental imbalances particularly seen in Gambella, Benishangol-Gumz, and Somali and Afar Regional States. Establishing schools and providing skilled manpower from the federal government are two priorities. The health service bureau of Afar region says there has been a rise in health service in the region due to an increase in the number of health professionals and institutions over the past four years.
Apr 21, 1998 Eight thousand Somali refugees from Ethiopia were repatriated. There are plans to repatriate 60,000 more in the coming months.
May 1998 Ethiopian troops crossed into Eritrea on the trail of Afar bandits and opposition groups based in the Danakil Depression. By May 20th, Ethiopian forces had reportedly occupied Sorona and Badda.
Jun 4, 1998 Over 4000 refugees have returned home from Sudan over the past 6 months. They have reintegrated into their communities in Amhara, Tigray and Oromia regions. Since 1991, over 900,000 refugees have returned home to Ethiopia.
Jun 5, 1998 Fifty people were killed when Eritrea bombed Mekele, capital of Tigray province. Eritrea and Ethiopia have been engaged in a low-intensity border war for several weeks. At issue is a 160 square mile region which Eritrea says was not fully settled when Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993.
Jun 6, 1998 ARDUF, which is fighting on both sides of the Eritrean-Ethiopian border, is respecting its self-declared cease-fire and has appealed to the two governments to resolve their border dispute.
Jun 12, 1998 Eritrea said Ethiopia had withdrawn its forces from near Badda. The Ethiopian government had sent its forces into the area in July 1997 on the pretext of warding off Afar opposition forces. Ethiopia then dismantled the Eritrean administrative institutions and replaced them with an Ethiopian administration. The Ethiopian government decided to reduce its Eritrean Embassy staff and close its consular offices in Tigray and Afar regions. The border dispute has led to 126,000 people being displaced in Tigray region. Reuters reported that 95% of the former guerrillas of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front had been mobilized and were driving towards the border.
Dec 1, 2003 - May 31, 2004 All-Ethiopia Unity Party (AEUP) alleged that government forces were responsible for the deaths of 11 supporters. They also reported detentions and beatings of their members during this time period. (US Department of State. 02/28/2005. "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices-2004: Ethiopia." Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.)
Jun 17, 2004 The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funds and operates two community multimedia centers in Amhara State to provide the isolated communities in this region access to information and communication technologies. (Africa News, 6/17/2004, "Ethiopia; UN Launches Two Multimedia Centres in the North")
Jan 19, 2005 Paramilities killed Anley Adis, a member in the Amhara All-Ethiopia Unity Party (AEUP), and Eyilegne Wenidmneh, AEUP local chairman. (US Department of State. 03/08/2006. "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices-2005: Ethiopia." Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.)
2006 The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Global fund provided funding for the provision of food, clothing, educational materials, and health services to children in Amhara State who lost their parents due to HIV/AIDS. (Africa News, 1/7/2006, "Ethiopia; Care, Support Being Extended to Victims of HIV/AIDS")


© 2004 - 2022 • Minorities At Risk Project

Information current as of July 16, 2010