Modern Ethiopia

The Abyssinian empire started to fall apart in the eighteenth century as the Gondar kings began to weaken. The last Gondar King, Yoas, was killed in 1769 and along with him went the importance of the monarch. The empire belonged to the Ras who manned the Gondar region. The country remained in a chaotic state, suffering from dissention and civil war, until the mid-nineteenth century.

The reunification of Ethiopia began with the rule of Emperor Téwodros (1855-68). He tried to abolish the feudal system and bring the fidelity of the Ethiopian church under the government. Even though Tewodros never accomplished his goals, his successors continued to lead with his precedent.

Yohannes IV claimed the Ethiopian throne on 21 January 1872. Yohannes spent most of his reign establishing his kingdom and opposing adversaries. Menelik II, who would eventually succeed him, pressured Yohannes from the south. He battled again the Egyptians from the north, the Italians from the east and the Mahdist Muslims from the west.

Menelik II (1844-1913) was the one monarch who accomplished the dreams Tewodros had for his country. Menelik took over as king of Ethiopia in 1889 after the death of Yohannes in the Battle of Matamma. Most European powers in the late 19th century were determined to secure territories in Africa. Italy was focusing its desires on particularly Ethiopia. The Treaty of Uccialli was negotiated between Ethiopia and Italy in 1890. Two copies, one in Amharic and one in Italian, were prepared. On the Italian version of the treaty, Francesco Crispi, prime minister of Italy, announced to all European nations that Ethiopia had become a territory belonging to Italy. On the Amharic version, it gave Menelik II the right to ask Italy for help in times of need, but it did not say anything about Ethiopia becoming a territory of Italy. When Menelik II discovered the misunderstanding, he immediately wrote to Britain's Queen Victoria, to the ruler of Germany, and to the president of France insisting that Ethiopia was still an independent nation. In 1893, Menelik II denounced the treaty and by 1895 Ethiopia and Italy were at war. On March 1896 Menelik's troops crushed the Italian army at Adwa, Ethiopia. Later, Italy did recognize Ethiopia as an independent nation.

After Menelik defeated the Italians at the Battle of Adwa, he expanded Ethiopia by conquest. Turmoil led to Menelik’s death, which brought his daughter, Empress Zauditu, to power in 1917. Tafari Makonnen was regent and heir apparent. Upon Empress Zauditu’s death in 1930, Tafari Makonnen was crowned Haile Selassie I as he became the 225th successor of the Solomonic dynasty. The name Haile Selassie means 'the Power of the Trinity' in Amharic, and his official titles also included 'King of Kings' and the ‘Lion of Judah.' In 1931, Haile Sellasie decreed the nation's first written constitution. Through his efforts, Ethiopia became a member of the international organization called the League of Nations (now United Nations) in 1932.

In May of 1936 Haile Selassie fled to England in exile after the Italians invaded his country half a year ago. Italy had previously controlled Eritrea, part of Somalia and with the addition of Ethiopia, it formed the Italian East Africa. With the aide of British troops, Haile Selassie was able to repossess Ethiopia in 1941.

The Provisional Military Administrative Council, or Derg, under the rule of Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, took hold of the country in 1977. From 1977 to 1991, this government fought against Eritrea, Somali rebels, and its own people. Mengistu’s government was uphelded by the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front in 1991. Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Another war ignited between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1998 over a border dispute. The matter has yet to be settled but fighting has seized for the moment.