History of Ethiopia
Around 1270, the Solomonid dynasty came to control Ethiopia, claiming descent from the kings of Axum. They called themselves Neguse Negest1, basing their claims on their direct descent from Solomon and the queen of Sheba.
During the reign of Emperor Lebna Dengel (1508-1540), Ethiopia made its first successful diplomatic contact with a European country, Portugal. This proved to be an important development, for when the Empire was subjected to the attacks of the Somali General and Imam, Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi2.
Portugal responded to Lebna Dengel’s plea for help with an army of 400 men, who helped his son Gelawdewos defeat Ahmad and re-establish his rule.
However, Jesuit missionaries eventually offended the Orthodox faith of the local Ethiopians, and in the mid-17th century Emperor Fasilidos expelled these missionaries. At the same time, the Oromo people began to question the Ethiopian Christian authorities in the Abyssinian territories, and demanded to keep their own religion.
The 1880s were marked by the European colonization of Africa and some modernisation, when the Italians began to vie with the British for influence in bordering regions.
Assab, a port near the southern entrance of the Red Sea, was bought from the local sultan in March 1870 by an Italian company, which by 1882 led to the Italian colony of Eritrea. Conflicts between the two countries resulted in the Battle of Adowa in 1896, whereby the Ethiopians surprised the world by defeating the colonial power and remaining independent. Italy and Ethiopia signed a provisional treaty of peace on October 26, 1896.
The early 20th century was marked by the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie I, who undertook the rapid modernization of Ethiopia3. British and patriot Ethiopian troops liberated the Ethiopian homeland in 1941, and Ethiopia’s regained sovereignty was recognised by Britain upon the signing of the Anglo- Ethiopian Agreement in December 1944.
Haile Selassie’s reign came to an end in 1974, when a pro-Soviet Marxist- Leninist military junta, the “Derg”, deposed him and established a one-party socialist state.
The ensuing regime suffered several bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and a massive refugee problem.
In 1977 Somalia attacked Ethiopia, but Ethiopia defeated them with Cuban military assistance the following year. The Derg regime is being fought by the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPR**DF), a coalition of rebel forces.