The Awash Valley of Ethiopia is the location of the best preserved and oldest human fossil named Lucy, who lived some 3.2 million years ago and it is now believed that the land now known as Ethiopia was the birth place of the modern day Homo Sapiens. Our earliest known records of Ethiopia date back to about 3000BC where Ethiopia is referred to as the 'Myrrh' country. (Just for the record myrrh is sap from the Commiphora species of trees known for its fragrance and healing qualities.) The land was also called Punt. During this period, ties between Egypt and Punt were strong, sometimes sharing the same ruler. By the turn of the first millennium, the Kingdom of Aksum (above) was rising, uniting much of what is now northern Ethiopia and latterly lands to the south. This kingdom was seen as advanced, minting its own coins and undertaking military expeditions into South Arabia.
Indeed, Aksum was considered on a par with China, Persia and Rome as one of the four great powers. Modern Ethiopia began after the fall of Abyssinia with the Emperor Tewodros (1855-68) and his successor Yohannes IV claimed the throne of Ethiopia on 21st January 1872. His reign saw Ethiopia emerge as an independent nation state but it probably was not until 1885 under the rule of Menelik II that Ethiopia was recognised as such after Menelik defeated the Italians at the Battle of Adwa and drove them out of the country. In 1913 Menelik died and was succeeded by his grandson, Lij Iyasu, however three years later Lij Iyasu was overthrown and replaced by Menelik's daughter Zawditu. After her death in 1930, her son ascended the throne as Emperor Haile Selassie I who ruled until the Italians invaded the country forcing him into exile in 1936 following the Italian capture of Addis Ababa.
The then king of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, made himself Emperor of Ethiopia (above) and formed Italian East Africa comprising Ethiopia, Italian Somaliland and Eritrea. During the Second World War, the allies routed the Italians in Africa in 1941 restoring Selassie to the throne and in 1962 he annexed Eritrea making it an Ethiopian province, sparking a thirty year war of independence which was finally won and confirmed by a referendum in 1993. In 1974 Salessie was overthrown in a military coup, dying in mysterious circumstances the following year ~ believed to have been strangled in his palace and his body hidden under a toilet. The monarchy was abolished and General Teferi Benti was installed as ruler. He was killed three years later and replaced by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam (below), a Marxist dictator who ruled with the Derg Junta with Soviet Union backing under a reign known as 'Red Terror' during which 500,000 to 2,000,000 Ethiopians died, mostly during the 1983-1985 famine in the country.
The Derg regime ended on 22 February 1987 shortly after a new constitution was approved with chairman Mengistu remaining in power as president until the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic captured Addis Ababa in 1991 forcing Mengistu to flee to Zimbabwe where he remains despite an Ethiopian court verdict which found him guilty of genocide in absentia. A new constitution was written giving Ethiopia a president and prime minister with elections being held in 1993. By this time the Soviet Union was no more and, with its residual influence waning (the withdrawal of its financial support leading to Mengistu's downfall), Ethiopia turned to the west for alliances and support. These ties became stronger after the 9/11 attack in New York with joint training between US and Ethiopian forces. There are however ongoing tensions in the country over Ethiopia's post 1991 ethno-federalist setlement for the governance of the country, with many Ethiopians seeing it as a guarantee of local autonomy, while others view it as an obstacle to effective central government. For the latest check out our Ethiopia news pages.
Ethiopia History: Volunteer in Ethiopia
Ethiopia History: Ethiopia News
Ethiopia History: Child Sponsor Ethiopia
Ethiopia History: Ethiopia Country Profile
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