Ethiopia in Turmoil

December 6, 1974

Report Outline
Revolution in an Ancient Society
Rise and Rule of Ethiopia's Empire
Problems and Prospects of a New State
Special Focus

Revolution in an Ancient Society

Downfall of World's Oldest Christian Monarchy

The World's Oldest Christian monarchy has come to an end. On Sept. 12, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, “Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God and King of the Kings of Ethiopia,” was taken from his palace in a blue Volkswagen and put into army custody. The military decree that formally deposed him ended more than half a century of personal rule; it was the coda for three thousand years of Ethiopian history.

The creeping revolutionary coup by an anonymous group of low-ranking army officers began in February. In fact, however, it was observed that the troubles began in October 1973, “when the full scale of the country's disastrous drought became apparent, followed by indisputable evidence that the old government was too corrupt and inefficient to save at least 100,000 Ethiopians from starving to death.” The drought brought starving refugees to the cities and inflated food prices, creating an economic and social crisis which led to demonstrations and prepared the way for militant action.

On Nov. 23, 59 former ministers, bureaucrats and intimates of the Emperor were executed, ostensibly for their role in the disaster. At least 140 others are expected to go on trial for their lives before a military tribunal from which there is no appeal. The 120-man Provisional Administrative Council now ruling the country under a shroud of secrecy named Brig. Gen. Tafari Benti as its chairman and figurehead ruler Nov. 28—just five days after his predecessor, the popular Lt. Gen. Aman Michael An-dom, was killed at his home in a gun battle with troops sent to arrest him. The executions and the arrest of Gen. Aman were said to have been instigated by 35-year-old Maj. Mengiste Haile Mariam, vice-chairman of the military government (or Dirg, as it is known in Ethiopia).

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