Ethiopia, a country with a population of over 100 million people and located in the horn of Africa, has been considered for decades a beacon of hope for African anti-colonialism and ‘accommodates’ the African Union headquarters in its capital, Addis Ababa. The capital ‘hosts’ within itself close to four million people and is often referred to as ‘the capital of Africa.’ This article will give a detailed introduction to the Ethiopian people’s history, myth, Famous Artists, and Leaders.
Ethiopian People in Ancient Literature
Having had one of the greatest civilizations our planet has ever seen, several references can be found among the pieces of literature of other great civilizations of antiquity. Ethiopian people have also been mentioned within the pages of the Holy Scriptures of the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament of the Christian Bible, and the Quran, with emphasis given on the kindness of the Ethiopian People.
“The Greeks and Romans called them ‘Ethiopians’, the Arabs referred to them as ‘Habeshas’, and other civilizations used their other name ‘Abyssinians’. Here’s the story of the once great land of Ethiopia from the perspective of outsider societies.”
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey
Even though admittedly not sources of historical accuracy, Homer’s literary works are essential in understanding the spirit with which the Ethiopians were considered among the Greeks. In his Iliad, Homer writes,
“Only yesterday Zeus went off to the Ocean River to feast with the Aethiopians, loyal, lordly men, and all of the gods went with him.”(Thetis speaking to Achilles)
Homer also mentions the name ‘Ethiopia’ in the Odyssey, stating:
“But now, Poseidon had gone to visit the Ethiopians worlds away, Ethiopians off at the farthest limits of mankind, a people split in two, one part where the Sun God sets and one part where the Sun God rises. There Poseidon went to receive an offering, bulls, and rams by the hundred—far away at the feast the Sea-lord sat and took his pleasure.”Homer
More instances of ‘Ethiopia’ in both the Iliad and the Odyssey can be found here.
The Ends of the World, Herodotus
Respectfully addressed as the father of history, the Greek historian Herodotus recorded extensively on things he deemed essential to be remembered. In his book, The Ends of the World, he writes about Ethiopia, saying:
“This country produces great quantities of gold, has an abundance of elephants and all the woodland trees, and ebony; and its men are the tallest, the most handsome, and the longest-lived.”
Once again, one can notice the respect and astonishment with yet another Greek writer narrating his description of Ethiopia.
What Does The Hebrew Bible Say About Ethiopian People?
The name ‘Ethiopia’ is mentioned over 40 times in the Hebrew Bible or commonly known as the Old Testament in Christian Bible, showing the country’s significance in the history of Israel.
The first time we find Ethiopia mentioned in the Bible isn’t any later than on the second chapter of the first book on the Christian Holy Book. It reads,
“And the name of the second river is Ghion: the same is it that compasses the whole land of Ethiopia.”Genesis, Chapter Two Verse 13.
The book talks about Ghion, one of four rivers that water the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve were created according to Christian Tradition. It’s the same river the Ethiopians call ‘Abbay’ and the Egyptians refer to as ‘Nile.’
In another part of the Torah, it’s written that Mosses, the Prophet that set the people of Israel free from their oppressors in Egypt, had been married to an Ethiopian girl named Zipporah. Ethiopian historians believe that Mosses learned leadership from his father-in-law.
Another part of the Bible where the name of Ethiopia has been mentioned concerning Israel, and one which almost a large percentage of the Ethiopian people recites with pride, is the ‘pilgrimage’ of the Queen of Sheba to the then King of Israel, the wise King Solomon. It’s written in those pages that the Queen, known by Ethiopians as ‘Makeda,’ after hearing the fame of King Solomon, traveled to Jerusalem to his wisdom for herself, bringing with her bare spices, very much gold, and precious stones. The King addressed all her inquiries and passed her tests, and she confesses that the reports she heard of his wisdom were accurate. According to the Bible, she then presents her gifts for him, and he does the same and the Queen returns to her country.
With Ethiopian people folklore and the Kebra Nagast (translation: “Glory of Kings”), a book that contains the deeds and history of the Ethiopian monarchs, we find more to the story of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. As stated in the mentioned sources, the Queen of Sheba was tricked into sleeping with the King, bearing his child whom she named ‘Menelik.’
The Queen also introduced Judaism in Ethiopia. There are Jews among the northern parts of Ethiopia whose ancestors are believed to have entered the country from Israel with Queen Sheba. They practice the Jewish faith and are referred to as “Falasha” (translation: foreigner) by the local people.
‘The Ethiopian kings in later ages would have to prove their bloodline descended from Menelik to show they were fir for the throne.’
What Does The New Testament Say About Ethiopian People?
In stark contrast to the books of the Old Testament, the name of Ethiopia is mentioned only once in the New Testament; however, with great significance.
Here is where we find the story of the conversion of Ethiopians to the early Christian faith. It is noted that Phillip, one among the early Christians in Jerusalem, met with a high-ranking official of the Ethiopian Queen at the time, Candace, and baptized him, thus introducing Christianity into Ethiopia.
This conversion of the Ethiopian people into Christianity would give ‘fruition’ to the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian faith that is now the predominant religion within the country’s borders.
A complete list of the country name ‘Ethiopia’ in both the Old and the New Testaments can be found here.
What Does The Quran Say About Ethiopian People?
The significance of Ethiopia for the current state of the Muslim faith is tremendous. The lives of the Ethiopian people have been tied with that of the Prophet (saw) from the start. In Sahih Muslim, a collection of hadith compiled by Imam Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj al-Naysaburi (rahimahullah), is written the following:
“She was the mother of Usamah ibn Zaid [ra] and that she was the slave-girl of ‘Abdullah ibn’ Abdul-Muttalib [the father of the Prophet (saw)] and that she was from Abyssinia. When Aminah gave birth to the Messenger of Allah (saw) after the passing of his father, Umm Ayman [ra] used to nurse him until he grew up. He later freed her and married her to Zaid ibn Harithah [ra]. She died five months after the death of the Messenger of Allah (saw).”
According to the Sahih Muslim, Prophet Mohammed (saw) was nursed by an enslaved Ethiopian as a child. It is said that He (saw) would refer to her as ‘my mother after my mother.’
The second mention of an Abyssinian that we find in the history of Islam is a man named ‘Bilal’ (ra). The first Adhan (call to prayer) in Islam history was said by Bilal (ra). Prophet Mohammed (saw) once said, “Bilal (ra) preceded the Abyssinians [to Jannah].”
Yet, another and most significant role of the Ethiopian people for the Muslim faith was in what is called the first and second Hijarat (migrations). In the 7th century, when the early followers of Prophet Mohammed (saw) and the Muslim faith were being persecuted in their homeland, Mecca, by the ruling Quraysh tribe, the Prophet (saw) sent his followers to Ethiopia to find a haven. The Christian King of the Axumite Empire, king Armah, received the emissaries (consisting of 12 men and four women) and treated them with respect and kindness, giving them refuge in the country. According to Islamic history, this was the first Hijra(migration). Later on, 83 men and 18 women would make the second Hijra into Ethiopia.
In present-day Islam, Harrar, a city in Eastern Ethiopia, is considered the fourth holiest city in the Muslim faith. The city is also known for its infamous city wall built between the 13th and 16th centuries during the reign of the Muslim Sultanates.
Here could be a good place to read further the ties between Ethiopian people and the Muslim faith during its early ages.
Myths and Legends of the Ethiopian People
Myths and Legends are instruments of every ancient and contemporary civilization on which is firmly placed critical social norms and values of a society. And having one of the most compelling cases of antique civilization, the Ethiopian people have harbored a lot of myths and legends within the community. This article covers three of the well-known myths and legends across the country.
- The Buda Myth
- The Zar Myth
- The Debtera
The Buda Myth Of Ethiopian People
In Ethiopian people’s folklore, Buda (Amharic: ቡዳ) is a name given to a person who has the power of the evil eye and can change into a hyena. According to this myth, a Buda, with the ability of the evil eye, can possess anyone they like and sicken them, sometimes even leading to death. They can also change into a hyena and attack their enemies while disguising their human identity.
One variation of this myth depicts the Buda as a cult of plural Buda’s that convene during the night rather than just one person. Another variation accuses the ‘Falasha’ (immigrant Jews living in northern Ethiopia) of being Buda.
Even though it’s widespread all across the country, this myth is prevalent in the northern parts of Ethiopia. Especially in these areas, people usually wear amulets around their neck to protect them from the Buda.
The Zar Myth of Ethiopian People
Zar (Amharic: ዛር) is what evil spirits that possess humans, primarily women, are called in Ethiopian people folklore. Usually, a person possessed by a Zar is said to shriek and hurt themselves unwillingly. Most of the symptoms of a person possessed by a Zar are similar to those undergoing mild to severe forms of mental illness. In contrast to the Zar, it’s believed there are benevolent spirits called ‘Abadir.’
The Zar ritual is where these demonic spirits are exorcised from an individual. Some believe this cult originated in Harrar, Ethiopia, by Sheikh Abadir, hence where the benevolent spirits got their names from. In the Zar ritual, cultists sacrifice a hen or goat in hopes they’d take away the ailments of the possessed.
Debtera (Amharic: ደብተራ) is the word for an excommunicated priest in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church for the use of magical powers and communication with satanic spirits. Usually, striking fear in the face of society, these people are said to produce magical powers from “Digimt” and “Asmat.”
Digimt (Amharic: ድግምት) means repetition and refers to the repetitive chants that the Debtera utter when working magic. Asmat (Amharic: አስማት) is another word for it which means ‘names,’ pointing to all the different names of demons that are believed to be summoned by the Debtera.
The Debtera can also be protective of the society and adored by their community. Some make the amulets used against the Buda and provide traditional (herbal) medicine.
Art and Literature of the Ethiopian People
With a civilization spanning over 3,000 years (some local scholars suggest as far back as 5,500 years), Ethiopia has a society prosperous with art and literature. Let’s name and talk about a few of them here.
Zera Yacob’s “Hatata”
Hatata (Amharic: ሀተታ), meaning inquiry, is the name given for two 17th century ethical and rational philosophical discourses. They’re the only surviving pre-colonial African philosophical literature. They are written primarily by Zera Yacob and his student Wolde Hiwot. The contents of this book have been primarily compared to that of Descartes, and in some degree with Hume’s and Kant’s works, even though Zera Yacob and Wolde Hiwot. Reading the pages of Zera Yacob’s Hatata, it could be noted that Zera Yacob somewhat questioned society’s views on religion and God and believed we should use our analytical capability instead of following religious leaders with blind faith.
In chapter four of his book, Zera Yacob writes the following:
“Later on I thought, saying to myself ’is everything written in the Holy Scriptures true?’ Although I thought much [about these things], I understood nothing, so I said to myself: ‘I shall go and consult scholars and thinkers; they will tell me the truth.’
But afterward, I thought, saying to myself: ‘what will men tell me other than what is in their heart?’ Indeed each one says: ‘My faith is right, and those who believe in another faith believe in falsehood and are the enemies of God.'”Zera Yacob
A Christian background, Zera Yacob suggests in the above excerpt from his book a rather heretic view on the scriptures, now termed as “hermeneutics of suspicions.”
The two Hatatas, specially Zera Yacob’s, cover issues like equality of classes and genders, meta-ethics, and moral epistemology.
Qene (Amharic: ቅኔ), roughly translated into ‘riddle’ in English, is a popular form of primarily oral literature in Ethiopia. Its origins are linked to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It is an improvised form of oral poetry where the poet orates a few (usually two to four) lines of poetry that include a word with multiple meanings inside them.
This word with multiple meanings, known as Hebre-Qal (Amharic: ህብረ-ቃል), usually has two meanings. The first and straightforward meaning of the word is the Sem (Amharic: ሰም, translation: wax) and is the easier of the multiple meanings to find. The second and hidden meaning of the word is termed the Worq (Amharic: ወርቅ, translation: gold) and usually requires some thinking to find. The poet’s goal would be to carefully improvise a well-hidden meaning or Worq (gold) under the Sem (wax), and the listeners would then try to find which word is the Hebre-Qal, the one with multiple meanings, and uncover the Worq or gold.
አዝማሪ (Translation: Azmari) is an entertainer among Ethiopian societies who sings songs and plays a particular string instrument called ‘Masinqo.’ They are believed to have given rise to the contemporary artists of Ethiopia. On occasions, They can travel in a duo, one vocalist and one playing the Masinqo, with the vocalist almost always being a female and the Masinqo player a male. They are usually present in significant social events such as weddings, but it’s also customary to see them playing at traditional singing houses at night.
Watch a video version of the above article (Ethiopia in Ancient Literature)
Popular Figures in Contemporary Art and Literature of Ethiopia
The above were the contributions of the Ethiopian people in arts and literature in the past. Now, let’s look at prominent artists and poets in contemporary Ethiopia.
Tilahun Gessesse (Famous Ethopian musician)
Undoubtedly, the greatest legend in Ethiopian music history and the most famous singer of the 20th century, Tilahun Gessesse, was born on September 27, 1940. Tilahun started working in the Hager Fikir Association (now Hager Fikir Theatre). He then joined the Imperial Bodyguard Band and became the lead singer, later arrested in the conflicts of the attempted coup d’état in 1960.
After prison, he moved to National Theatre, where his fame and popularity among the Ethiopian people continued further. Tilahun was awarded an honorary doctorate from Addis Ababa University.
Tilahun died of diabetes on April 19, 2009. Last year, in 2021, an album was released by his name consisting of his unreleased works during his lifetime. The album was named ‘Kome Limerkish.’
Tilahun’s discography includes, among many:
- Etu Gela (Album)
- Yehagere Shita (Single)
- Tiz Alegn Ye Tintu (Single)
- Ethiopiques 17: Tilahun Gessesse (Album)
- Min Libejegn (Single)
- Aykedashem Lebe (Single)
Aster Awoke (Famous Ethopian musician)
Born in Gondar in 1959, Aster is one of the prominent female figures in Ethiopian music history. Her Ethiopian New Year song ‘Abebayehush’ is one of the most played songs during the Ethiopian New Year season.
Widely recognized for her expressive and romantic songs, Aster’s latest album, ‘Chewa,’ gained incredible popularity, despite the artist’s six years stay away from Ethiopian Music before the album’s release.
An overview of Aster’s works is as follows:
- Aster (Album)
- Hagere (Album)
- Aster’s Ballads (Album)
- Checheho (Album)
- Ewedhalew (Album)
Teddy Afro (Famous Ethopian musician)
Born Tewodros Kassahun Germamo, July 14 14, 1976, in Addis Ababa, he is plausibly the most famous music artist in Ethiopia, better known by his stage name as ‘Teddy Afro.’ Commonly referred to as the pop king of Ethiopia, Teddy Afro had become to dominate the Billboard World Albums Charts with his latest album, Ethiopia, in 2017.
The artist, known for his songs that focus on the country’s internal and external political affairs, released a single in 2020 called, ‘Demo be Abay, concerning the ongoing conflict of Egypt and Ethiopia over the Nile, or Abay as Ethiopians call it.
His latest single, Armash (your emblem), talks about the conflict among the country’s people.
His albums and singles before the ones mentioned above are:
- Abugida (Album)
- Teddy (Album)
- Yasteseryal (Album)
- Tikur Sew (Single)
Teddy Afro was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Gondar last year in 2021.
Gigi (Famous Ethopian musician)
Ejigayehu Shibabaw, born in a town named Chagni in the northwestern part of Ethiopia in 1974, She’s largely known by her stage name, ‘Gigi.’ Even though she has long since mysteriously vanished from the face of Ethiopian Music, her unique and out-of-the-ordinary songs are still one of the most played songs nationwide. To name a few of the fan favorites of her songs:
- Aba Alem Lemne
- Gura Mayle
And the following is her discography:
- Tsehay (Album)
- One Ethiopia (Album)
- Gigi (Gura Mayle) [Album]
- Illuminated Audio (Album, Gigi (Gura Mayle) remix)
Professor Haile Gerima (Famous Ethopian filmmaker)
Born March 4, 1946, in Gondar, Ethiopia, Haile Gerima is an Ethiopian filmmaker that lives in the U.S. He is a prominent member of the Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers. Arguably his best work, Sankofa, won him numerous awards and brought him fame and recognition among filmmakers worldwide. His works, to name a few, are:
- Hour Glass
- Ashes and Embers
- Adwa: An African Victory
Laureate Tsegaye Gebre-Medhin (Famous Ethopian writer)
Tsegaye, arguably the greatest and most famous of Ethiopia’s late 20th century writers, was born August 17 17, 1936, and deceased February 25 25, 2006. A poet playwright, he sought to instill a sense of independence and anti-colonialist spirit in his fellow citizens, writing Amharic and English and sometimes translating English plays into Amharic.
Tewodros II, a play about emperor Tewodros of Ethiopia, and Petros at the Hour, narrates the final day of the patriotic patriarch Abune Petros during the five years rule of Italy in Ethiopia, are still in theatres long after the passing of the writer.
He translated Othello and Hamlet from Shakespeare, among others, into the Amharic language of the Ethiopian people.
His poetry book, Esat Woy Abeba (Fire or Flower), is one of the most read poetry books across the country and a standard for contemporary poets.
Bewketu Seyoum (Famous Ethopian writer)
Born and raised in Debre Markos, Ethiopia, Bewketu is a poet and writer famous for his sarcastic literary pieces. A former student of Addis Ababa University, he published his first collection of scholarly works, Newari Alba Gojowch (Unmanned Cottages), a year after graduating. His amusing short story, Megbat Ena Mewtat, has been a road for many into the world of reading, with it being an easy read. The author is known for other literary pieces such as:
- Enkilf Ena Edme
- Ke Amen Bashager
- Yemaleda Dibab
Girum Ermias (Famous Ethopian Artist)
One of the most popular film actors in Ethiopia, Girum was born and raised in Addis Ababa. Some of his notable movies include:
Hanan Tarq (Famous Ethopian Artist)
A TV star and Instagram influencer was born June 30, 1994 in Addis Ababa and gained popularity in the TV series ‘Wolafen’ that aired on EBS TV from 2015 to 2017.
In addition, she was featured in the following movies:
- Ye Fikir Kal
- Misten Darkuat
More info about the actress could be found on her website.
Selam Tesfaye (Famous Ethopian Artist)
Born October 17th, 1992 in a military camp called ‘Tolay’ near Harrar, Ethiopia, Selam is notable among the new generation of actresses and gained popularity through her protagonist roles in multiple movies and the Gumma Awards prizes she won during the peak of her acting performance. Her notable works include:
- Sost Meazen (Triangle)
- Yemechesh Yarada Lij2
Samson Tadese (Baby) (Famous Ethopian Artist)
Samson, nicknamed ‘ Baby ‘, is best known for the TV series ‘Sew-le-Sew‘, is a well-known figure in the Ethiopian film industry. He has won the Leza FM listeners’ choice awards in best actor. He has also won the best supporting role actor award of the African Movie Academy Award in 2015. Some of his widely known works include:
- Sew-le-Sew (TV series)
- Sost Meazen (Movie)
- Zemen (TV series)
Ethiopian Leaders, from Past to Present
Son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon of Jerusalem, Menelik I is the first of the kings of the Solomonic dynasty that’d follow his bloodline for 225 generations to come. Menelik meant ‘son of a king’ in the ancient language of Sheba.
According to Kebra Nagast, Menelik started inquiring about the identity of his absent father at the age of twenty. The Queen’s mother told him he was Solomon, King of Jerusalem. Menelik set towards Jerusalem to meet his father, and King Solomon greeted him with joy.
The young prince stayed for three years in Jerusalem, learning the Torah, the Hebrew language, and state administration. Upon his return to Ethiopia, King Solomon gave him 12,000 firstborns (one from the 12 tribes of Israel), the King’s brother, priests, and 22 high officials. With this Menelik, I started the Solomonic dynasty, ruling for 25 years.
Lalibela and His Architectural Genius
Centuries after Menelik I, the Axumite kingdom, which descended directly from Menelik I, collapsed and in turn gave rise to the Zagwe dynasty, a succession of kings who claimed their bloodline descended from the Solomonic dynasty. Lalibela was probably the most influential among these emperors, having built rock-hewn churches and a city named after him. Much of the information about Lalibela comes from two primary sources: the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s chronicles and a history of his reign written by the latter, 14th-century King Zera Yacob.
According to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s chronicles of Lalibela, he had angelic assistance and guidance when building the rock-hewn churches. Later on, some foreign historians would misinterpret this because the Whites built the churches for Lalibela and the chroniclers mistook the Whites for angles. However, one needs to understand this isn’t the case. It is customary among the chroniclers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to emphasize the occurrence of divine intervention even for the tiniest of accomplishments. This isn’t to mean that there was no help from God during the construction of churches of Lalibela, but instead that it probably wouldn’t have told the angels themselves carved the stones; it would mean they helped Lalibela devise a plan to carry out his task.
Besides, the claim that the Whites built the churches at Lalibela only implies a neo-colonial view of Africans as undeserving of even our civilizations.
Lalibela built ten rock-hewn churches, interconnected through internal passageways, and his wife, Meskel Kebra, built one rock-hewn church for his memorial after his passing.
To this day, these 11 rock-hewn churches of Lalibela stand upright to show the architectural genius of the King and Saint Lalibela. Among the churches, Bete Giyorgis is the most famous.
Tewodros II and His Dream of Unification
The Zagwe dynasty, after continuing the Solomonic royal family for centuries, in its turn started its decline. Following this began the time known among Ethiopian Historians as ‘Zemene Mesafint‘ (the era of warlords). It was an era where the country had no centralized command and no one king, but many of them, administrated over their territories and battled each other.
Then came Tewodros II. With a deep burning desire to unify the nation under one rule and return its greatness, he fought and defeated the warlords of his age, in effect ending the era of warlords. But, his plan of unifying the nation wasn’t accomplished yet, for there were remaining parts of the country that hadn’t yet fallen and sadly would never fall under his kingdom. It’d be his successors Yohannes IV and Menelik II that’d finish this job.
Tewodros had plans to modernize Ethiopia. He made several inquiries to Europe seeking assistance in Technology, but they refused. He once wrote a letter to Queen Victoria unanswered, leading Tewodros to feel insulted by England.
Tewodros II then imprisoned several British missionaries for the accusation of plotting against him. Great Britain sent its Navier expedition to rescue the British prisoners. Aided by rebellious warlords, the British force attacked Tewodros II at Magdala. Emperor Tewodros committed suicide, realizing his hopeless position.
Menelik II and His Leaps toward Modernization
With Menelik II started the modernization of Ethiopia. Telephones, cinema, railways, newspapers, schools, and more were introduced. The conservative wing of the society had always been a challenge for this emperor.
It’d be Menelik II who would finish the unification plans of Tewodros. It’d also be Menelik II who would defend the Ethiopian people against colonialism. The battle of Adwa, fought between fascist Italy and Ethiopia, was the deciding moment for Ethiopia’s freedom against the shackles of colonialism.
Haile Selassie I and Pan Africanism
Emperor Haile Selassie I, the last monarch of Ethiopia, would be the endpoint for the 3,000 years odyssey of the Solomonic dynasty through ashes and rubles. The emperor would also be a significant figure in the successes of pan-Africanism, leading to the OAU (Organization of African Unity), now reformed as AU (African Union).
In May 1963, Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia received delegates from 32 African nations to establish the OAU. Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, has since been the seat of the headquarters of the OAU and AU, being referred to as the Capital of Africa.
Haile Selassie also was the central figure of the Ras Tafari (Rasta) movement. Rastafarians regard Haile Selassie I as God because the ascension of Haile Selassie into power quickly followed Marcus Garvey’s prophecy that says:
“Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned, he shall be the Redeemer.”
Haile Selassie himself was never a Rastafarian. Haile Selassie, was later overthrown by the military dictator and communist Derg in 1974.
Mengistu Haile-Mariam and Communism in Ethiopia
Following the fall of Haile Selassie, the military took over control of the country under the communist committee called ‘Derg.’ The Derg overthrew not just Haile Selassie, but the oppressive feudal system that was practiced, especially during the reign of the last emperor. Despite favoring the people in accomplishing the goals of the ‘land-to-the-tiller’ movement, the Derg soon had a negative image among the people for its ruthless dictatorship. The Marxist-Leninist ideology of Derg also garnered hatred among the religious majority of fellow citizens for it viewed religion as merely the opium of the masses and advocated atheism.
However, numerous rebellion movements followed hard on the heels of the committee’s control of central power. The Derg, under the administration of President Mengistu Haile-Mariam, fought to crush these insurgent forces until its loss in 1991.
Mengistu fled the country in May of that year with asylum to Zimbabwe, where he lives to this date.
Meles Zenawi and the FDRE
Upon the fall of Derg, multiple revolutionary fronts across the nation came together to form the transitional government that lasted for four years until 1991.
In 1991, upon the formation of the new government called itself the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the TPLF, one of the many revolutionary groups that overthrew the Derg, started gaining more influence over the newly formed government. The chairman of TPLF, Meles Zenawi, became prime minister and ruled the country until he passed in 2012.
Meles was famous for his talk on climate change during the 35th G8 Summit held in Italy in July 2009. The party Meles brought to power, TPLF would later lose central power control in six years.
Haile-Mariam Desalegn and the Qeerroo Movement
Following his predecessor’s death, Haile Mariam, deputy PM until 2012, was now elected chairman of the ruling party. During Haile Mariam’s reign, a revolutionary movement in the Oromia region of Ethiopia started making things difficult for the administration. This movement, known as Qeerroo or ‘youth,’ would influence PM Haile Mariam to resign from his office in 2018.
Dr Abiy Ahmed and the Synergy Philosophy
In 2018, following the resignation of Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn, the EPRDF – the national party consisting of regional parties, with the most influential of these parties being the TPLF— convened to choose their new chairman. Things, however, went unexpected. The chairman, becoming the PM of the FDRE, was not selected from the predominant TPLF party but instead from the OPDO that represents the Oromia region. This led to an internal power struggle between the TPLF and the OPDO, with other member parties of the national EPRDF party siding towards OPDO. This tension would escalate in a few years and turn into an all-out war between the government of the FDRE and the Tigray region of Ethiopia, controlled by the TPLF.
Abiy Ahmed Ali was born in Bashasha, a small town in Ethiopia, on August 15, 1976. He received his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in 2017 at the Institute of Peace and Security Studies, Addis Ababa University.
Abiy also has a military background. He joined the struggle against the Derg regime at the age of 14 after the death of his oldest brother. After the decline of the Derg, Abiy furthered his military training formally and reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
In addition, Abiy Ahmed also served in the intelligence world inside INSA, the Ethiopian intelligence service. Among multiple positions, he served as an acting director of the Institute for two years due to the director’s leave of absence.
A year into his reign, Abiy won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. Eritrea, formerly part of Ethiopia, is located north of Ethiopia. For 20 years, since the fall of the Derg and the Eritrean secession, the state had been in a military stalemate with the government of FDRE. Abiy’s rise to power marked a change for the state of affairs of the two governments into a peaceful relation, and the PM would go on to become a Nobel Laureate for this reason.
His infamous political ideology, Medemer (Amharic: መደመር, translation: Synergy), focuses on the idea of inclusiveness, love, peace, and forgiveness. The PM wrote two books related to Medmer. The first, titled “Medemer” talks about the underlying principles of the ideology. (Click here to download the book) The second book related to this, “Yemedemer Menged” (Amharic: የመደመር መንገድ, translation: The Road to Synergy), is an account of the things that happened during the shift in political power inside the EPRDF away from the TPLF.