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 A Brief History of Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a land of ancient history, and source of human civilization as described by many historians. It is the only un colonized country in African continent, and one of the oldest in the world. Ethiopia, a country beyond all imaginations, has culture and traditions dating back over 3 million years. It is home of not only to nearly a hundred different indigenous tribes, each with its own language, but also to an astonishing array of historical and world-heritage sites, much of it unique to this wonderful country. 

Ethiopia has yielded some of humanity's oldest traces. Anthropologists believe that East Africa's Great Rift Valley is the site of mankind's origins. The oldest remains of a human ancestor, dated back some 5 million years, were discovered in the Awash Rift Valley region of Ethiopia. This new discovery overshadows the discovery of a 3.2 million year old skeleton known as “Lucy” unearthed in the Afar region of Ethiopia in 1974.  “Lucy” is considered the world's most complete and best preserved adult fossil known as Australopithecus afarensis, named after the Afar region where it was found.

Historians describe Ethiopia, as ancient as the stories mentioned in the Old Testament. You can find Biblical passages which record Ethiopian episodes around 1000 BC. The Old Testament describes the Queen of Sheba's visit to Jerusalem where she met King Solomon of Israel after having heard of his great wisdom. Legends assert that King Menelik of Ethiopia - regarded as the first emperor of Ethiopia - was born from their union during the visit. Today, some remains of the Queen of Sheba’s palace can still be seen in Axum, one of the famous tourist sites in the country. Axum is home to many other historical sites, including the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant is believed to have been brought to Ethiopia by Menelik from King Salmon during his visit to Jerusalem. This story is written in one of the famous and sacred ancient books of Ethiopia known as “The Kebre Negest”.

Ethiopia has long been an intersection between the civilizations of North Africa, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Historians claim that Ethiopia’s history goes further back to ancient Egypt and the Pharaohs and the Assyrians. There is evidence of ancient places of sacrifice with slabs of carved stone, ancient burial places for ancient Kings with mummies and fine treasures in the style of the Pharaohs of Egypt. 

Ethiopia is traditionally a christen country. According to historians, missionaries from Egypt and Syria reached Ethiopia in the 4th century and introduced Christianity. In the 7th century, due to the rise of Islam, Ethiopia was then isolated from European Christianity. In 1500s, the Portuguese re-established contact with Ethiopia, and strengthened their influence to convert Ethiopia to Roman Catholicism. 

From 1700, as a result of conflicts among local feudal lords over power, on one hand, a religious conflict between settling Muslims and traditional Christians, there was no central power in Ethiopia. It is only in 1869, that Emperor Tewodros made significant efforts to unify the divided forces.  His successor Emperor Yohannes made further attempts to maintain the unified regions, and the empire began to emerge from its isolation.  

Emperor Menelik II who reigned from 1889 to 1913 Menelik II had moved his capital to what was to become Addis Ababa. He united his people to confront the European threats. He defended the Italian threat, which begun to colonize part of Eritrea in the mid-1880s. However, on 2 March 1896, Menelik II personally led his army to defeat the colonial power of Italy at the Battle of Adwa. Until now this victory is recognized as the first victory of an African nation. Menelik II continued the modernization of his country.

In 1913, Menelik’s II grandson, Lij Iyasu, reigned briefly until 1916. Iyasu was overthrown primarily for embracing Islam in violation of dynastic law. In 1917, Menelik's daughter, Zawditu, become crowned Empress. When she died in 1930, Ras Tafari Mekonnen (1892-1975) become Emperor, and adopted the name Haileselassie. He reigned until 1974 when he was deposed by a Military Provisional Council, famously known as the Derg. 

The Marxist council Derg established a socialist military government. Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam became head of state and chairman of the Derg. His brutal regime lasted for 17 years, and was marked by a totalitarian style government assisted by the former Soviet Union, Cuba, China and other communist states. Finally, the Mengistu’s regime which ruled Ethiopia with an iron hand collapsed in May 1991.

The Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) installed power in the rest of Ethiopia under difficult circumstances. At the same time, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) controlled Eritrea, and later declared independence. A transitional government was established, and formed the Ethiopian Peoples Republic Democratic Front (EPRDF) with a Council of Representatives.  In December 1994, a new constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was adopted. In 1995, the first parliament was elected. As to date, Meles Zenawi serves as an elected Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

Now days, with the rise of radical Islamism, Ethiopia again turned to the Western powers, in particular the European Union and the United States, for alliance and assistance. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Ethiopian army began to train with US forces with a joint aim of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency. Ethiopia permitted the US to station its military forces at one of its military bases.

Today, despite a more tolerant government, and its attempt to foster an economic and political strength, Ethiopia is still far from economic or political stability. It remains as one of the least developed countries in the world.