This unit is about the Ethiopian revolution of 1974.



Ethiopia is a country in North East Africa. It`s one of the oldest African nations and the only one that escaped European colonialism.

Emperors ruled Ethiopia for almost 200yrs; the last monarchy was Emperor Haile Sellasie who came to power in 1933. The following were the causes of the Ethiopian revolution;

The government of Haile Sellasie was dictatorial and oppressive with much power concentrated in the hands of the emperor.

Wide spread poverty, ignorance and disease led to the revolution. It said that Ethiopia was at a standstill while most African countries were developing.

The declaration of Eritrea as a mere province of Ethiopia by the Emperor led to the revolution.

Furthermore by 1974 the Eritrean`s separatist war had intensified and top military officers of the Ethiopian army were in favour of a peaceful revolution rather than a continuous war which Sellasie rejected.

The Ethiopians experienced a severe drought between 1971-74, which resulted into famine claiming lives of over 200,000 peasants mainly in Gondar, Tigre, Wollo and Shoa provinces.

Emperor Sellasie was 80yrs of age in 1973, he was weak to rule Ethiopia, he refused to give up power and was over thrown on 12th Sept 1974.

Ethiopians were tired of feudalism for centuries. The monarchy`s land tenure system was unfair, unfashionable and a sign of backwardness.

Religious grievances also contributed to the coup. The Emperor declared Christianity as the official religion of the Ethiopian state.

In addition Christians who were mainly from the Amharic tribe i.e. the Emperor tribe were greatly favoured as compared to the moslems in Ogaden and Eritrea.

The influence of the educated Ethiopians led to the coup. The students whom the Emperor sponsored to study abroad witnessed democratic governance in European countries. On their return, they expressed dissatisfaction with the emperor`s dictatorship.

The desire to end rampant corruption led to the coup. Amharic officials were corrupt from top to bottom and worked for self instead of public interest.

The people were also against the growing influence of the church in politics, education and social affairs of the country.

The students and the school going youth joined the revolution because of the killings of their colleagues during the 1969 students riot in Adis Ababa in which many students were shot dead.

The unfairness of the two constitutions i.e. the 1931 and 1955 constitution had left too much power in the hands of the Emperor. 


The effects of the revolution were as follows;

  • On 12th Sept 1974 Emperor Sellasie was toppled and imprisoned. He died a year later  in prison and was quietly buried.
  • The revolution brought to an end the many wars of the emperor dictatorship in Ethiopia. The provisional military council appointed Mengistu Haile Mariar as the next leader.
  • Many people were killed as the new military rulers executed many who served under Sellasie`s regime.
  • There was expulsion of foreigner`s especially Americans, Ethiopia opened good relationship with the socialist countries. Consequently Ethiopia adopted the Socialist ideology.
  • They also instituted some new land policy reform and abolished the old land tenure system.
  • Ethiopia adopted a Nationalization policy where all industries, banks, insurance companies were Nationalized.
  • The war led to the destruction of property and untold suffering to the people.
  • Worker`s conditions remained poor. There was high unemployment, inflation, low wages etc.
  • Terror was unleashed against the opponents of government and among the persecuted was Emperor Sellasie himself..
  • Decline in food production as a result the land reforms which led to famine.
  • Unfair arrests and trials became common; anybody who was suspected of being anti-government was arrested, imprisoned and killed under unclear circumstances.
  • War with Eritrean rebels intensified. The military government which had promised to solve the Eritrean crisis by peaceful means resorted to war.
  • The Orthodox Church and the Ahmaric language lost their special status that was accorded to them by the Emperor.
  • A military government was imposed by the provisionally military, advisory council to the disappointment of many civilians who had hoped for a democratic government.
  • Ethiopia came to the brink of tearing apart due to the claims of Nationalism and autonomy from several regions.
  • Literary campaigns were launched by the government to provide education to the masses.
  • Co-operative societies and state firms were setup to help the farmers.
  • Mengistu who overthrew Sellasie turned into a dictator and was not much different from his predecessor. He was overthrown by a rebel movement within the country on 28th 1991.
  • The triumphant rebels installed Meleo Zenawi as the interim leader. Mengistu fled to Zanzibar where he still lives.


ASSIGNMENT : THE ETHIOPIAN REVOLUTION 1974 assignment MARKS : 10  DURATION : 1 week, 3 days

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