Four decades after Haile Selassie’s death, Ethiopia is an African success story

Ethiopia has changed beyond all recognition since the death of its last emperor, Haile Selassie, 40 years ago. Haile Selassie was surreptitiously murdered at the age of 83 by the military revolutionaries who had overthrown him a year earlier. Though t-shirts bearing his familiar features are to be seen on the streets of Addis Ababa, the days of the empire have gone and there is no move to restore it.

Gone too is the Derg, as the military regime was called. It attempted to build a communist state on the ruins of the empire, like its backers in the then USSR. Though it built what initially seemed to be an effective dictatorship, it was unable to cope with the economic incompetence of state socialism – symbolised for the outside world by the great famine of 1984 – or the resistance aroused by brutal top-down central rule.

This resistance was led by the movement for the independence of the northern province of Eritrea. One of the most effective insurgencies the world has ever seen, it brought down the Derg in the province in 1991. Eritrea has since tragically degenerated into an African North Korea, which has succeeded only in providing a massively disproportionate number of the refugees now besieging Fortress Europe. The government of the rest of Ethiopia – by far the largest part of the country – fell to an allied guerrilla movement, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

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