16. Ethiopia/Eritrea (1950-1993)

Pre-Crisis Phase (December 2, 1950-July 9, 1960):  On December 2, 1950, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution by a vote of 46-10-4, calling for the federation of Ethiopia and the British-administered UN Trust Territory of Eritrea.  Elections for a 68-member Representative Assembly were held in Eritrea on March 16, 1952.  The Eritrean Representative Assembly adopted a constitution on July 10, 1952, and Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie ratified the constitution on August 11, 1952.  Emperor Haile Selassie signed the Eritrean-Ethiopian Federation Act on September 11, 1952, and Eritrea formally joined the federation with Ethiopia on September 15, 1952.  The Eritrean Assembly elected Ato Tedla Bairu as the Chief Executive on September 13, 1952.  On September 30, 1952, Emperor Haile Selassie issued a proclamation declaring the federal Ethiopian court to be the final court of appeal in Eritrea.  The Eritrean Assembly adopted a resolution condemning “Ethiopian interference in Eritrean affairs” on May 22, 1954.  Emperor Haile Selassie forced the resignation of Chief Executive Ato Tedla Bairu in July 1955.  Emperor Haile Selassie appointed Asfeha Woldemichael as Chief Executive and Idris Mohammed Adem as President of the Eritrean Assembly in August 1955.  The Eritrean Liberation Movement (ELM) was established by Mohamed Said Nawud, Saleh Ahmed Iyay, Yasin el-Gade, Mohamed el-Hassan, and Said Sabr in Port Sudan in November 1958.

Crisis Phase (July 10, 1960-August 31, 1961):  The Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) was established by Idris Mohammed Adem, Idris Osman Geladewos, and Mohammed Saleh Hamid in Cairo, Egypt on July 10, 1960.

Conflict Phase (September 1, 1961-May 27, 1991):  Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) militants led by Hamid Idris Awate attacked government police stations in the Barka region of Eritrea on September 1, 1961.  The Ethiopian Chamber of Deputies voted to abolish the federation with Eritrea on November 14, 1962, and Ethiopia annexed Eritrea on November 16, 1962.  The governments of Syria and Iraq provided military assistance to the ELF beginning in 1963.  The Sudanese government provided military assistance to the ELF beginning in November 1964. The Chinese government provided military assistance to the ELF from March 1967 to 1970.  Government troops killed some 402 civilians in Barka district between February 11 and April 1967. Some 21 Eritreans, including teachers and government employees, were executed in Tessenei prison on February 12, 1967.  The Cuban government provided military assistance to the ELF beginning in March 1967. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) established a mission to provide humanitarian assistance to some 28,600 Eritrean refugees that had fled to Sudan beginning in March 1967.  Government troops killed some 10,000 Eritreans between April 30 and May 8, 1967.  Some 50,000 Eritreans were displaced during this period.  Government troops killed 30 Eritreans in the villages of Eilet and Gumhot on July 11, 1967.  Government troops killed some 172 individuals in Hazemo and surrounding villages on July 24, 1967.  On April 8, 1969, the World Food Program (WFP) announced that it would provide food assistance to Eritrea refugees in southeast Sudan. The Popular Liberation Front (PLF), a Marxist rebel group, separated from the ELF in 1970.  Some 60 Eritreans were killed by government soldiers in the village of Elabared on January 17, 1970.  Some 120 Eritreans were killed by government soldiers in the village of Besik Dira on November 30, 1970.  Some 625 Eritreans were killed in the village of Ona on December 1, 1970.  The Eritrean Liberation Front-Revolutionary Council (ELF-RC) was established in December 1971. The government declared a state-of-emergency in Eritrea on December 16, 1970.  The governments of South Yemen and Libya replaced the governments of Syria and Iraq as providers of military assistance to the ELF in 1970. The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) was established by Issaias Afewerki in 1970, and the EPLF received financial and military assistance from Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Syria. Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) foreign ministers expressed support for Eritrean independence on March 27, 1973.  More than 170 Eritreans were killed by government soldiers in the village of Om Hajer on July 10, 1974.  The governments of South Yemen and Libya ended military assistance to the ELF in September 1974.  Some 45 Eritrean students were executed in Asmara on December 28, 1974.  Some 500 Eritreans were killed by government soldiers in Asmara and surrounding villages on February 14, 1975.  The Ethiopian government declared martial law in Eritrea on February 15, 1975.  The ELF and PLF formed a common front on January 16, 1975, and ELF-PLF rebels were placed under the command of General Goitom Gebre-Ezghi on February 7, 1975. Government troops launched a military offensive against Eritrea rebels on January 28, 1975.  Some 100 Eritreans were killed by government soldiers in the village of Woki Duba on February 2, 1975.  President Gaafar Muhammad Nimeiry of Sudan offered to mediate negotiations between the parties on February 9, 1975, but the Ethiopian government refused the mediation offer on February 11, 1975.  President Anwar Sadat of Egypt appealed to the Ethiopian government for a ceasefire on February 9, 1975.  The Ethiopian government extended the state-of-emergency to the entire province of Eritrea on February 15, 1975.  Sheikh Saas Abdullah, the minister of defense of Kuwait, expressed support for the Eritrean independence movement, and agreed to provide military assistance to the Eritrean rebels on February 18, 1975.  Some 208 Eritreans were killed by government soldiers in the town of Agordat on March 9, 1975.  Several hundred Eritreans (est. 235 to 470) were killed by government soldiers in the village of Hirgigo on April 17, 1975.  The Cuban government deployed some 17,000 troops in support of the Ethiopian government, and the government of the Soviet Union provided military assistance to the government beginning in 1977.  President Nimeiry of Sudan ended his mediation efforts, and expressed support for Eritrean independence on January 30, 1977. The ELF-RC and EPLF began coordinating their efforts on April 25, 1978.  On February 15, 1982, government troops launched a military offensive against Eritrean rebels.  EPLF rebels captured Tessenei on January 15, 1984.  On November 16, 1984, President Mengistu Haile Mariam announced that the Ethiopian government would not negotiate with the rebel movements in Eritrea.  EPLF rebels captured Barentu on July 6, 1985, but Ethiopian government troops recaptured Barentu and Tessenei on August 25, 1985.  EPLF rebels defeated government troops in the Battle of Afabet on March 17-19, 1988.  Government troops massacred more than 400 Eritreans in She’eb on May 12, 1988.  President Mengistu declared martial law in Eritrea on May 14, 1988.  More than 400 Eritreans were killed by government soldiers in the village of She’eb on December 5, 1988.  The Cuban government withdrew its troops from Ethiopia in September 1989.  Former President Jimmy Carter of the U.S., representing the Carter Center (CC), mediated negotiations between Ethiopian government and EPLF officials between September 7 and November 20, 1989.  EPLF rebels captured Massawa on February 10, 1990.  Government military forces killed 67 Eritreans in aerial attacks against Afabet on April 3-4, 1990.  Government military forces killed 50 Eritreans in aerial attacks against Massawa on April 24, 1990.  EPLF rebels captured Assab on May 25, 1991.  On May 29, 1991, the EPLF formed a provisional government of Eritrea following the collapse of the Marxist government in Addis Ababa.  Some 575,000 individuals died, some 600,000 individuals were internally displaced, and some 450,000 Eritreans fled as refugees to Sudan during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (May 28, 1991-May 24, 1993):  Eritrean and Ethiopian government representatives discussed Eritrea’s relationship to Ethiopia during talks in Addis Ababa on July 1-5, 1991.  The government agreed to recognize the right of the Eritreans to hold a referendum regarding their status.  The UN General Assembly established the United Nations Observer Mission to Verify the Referendum in Eritrea (UNOVER), which consisted of some 110 election monitors, on December 16, 1992. Issaias Afwerki was elected president of Eritrea by the National Assembly on March 21, 1993. The referendum on Eritrean independence from Ethiopia was held on April 23-25, 1993, and 99.8 percent of Eritreans voted for independence. The Organization for African Unity (OAU) sent 18 observers headed by H. E. Papa Louis Fall of Senegal to monitor the referendum. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and League of Arab States (LAS) also sent observers to monitor the referendum. Eritrea formally achieved its independence from Ethiopia on May 24, 1993.  UNOVER was disbanded on May 31, 1993. Some 350,000 Eritreans were refugees in Sudan in 1993. The UNHCR repatriated some 25,000 refugees to Eritrea between Novmeber 1994 and May 1995. Some 200,000 refugees returned to Eritrea without repatriation assistance between May 1991 and August 1998.

[Sources: Africa Research Bulletin (ARB), March 1-31, 1973; Amate, 1986, 431-458; Arnold et al., 1991, 84-88; Bercovitch and Jackson, 1997, 122-123; Brogan, 1992, 27-39; Butterworth, 1976, 411-413; Clodfelter, 1992, 1000-1002; Facts on File, February 8, 1975, February 15, 1975, February 22, 1975, March 1, 1975; Jessup, 1998, 186-190; Keesing’s Record of World Events, March 20-27, 1971, March 24-30, 1975; New York Times (NYT), July 15, 1985, April 24, 1990; Suhrke and Noble, 1977, 127-145; Tillema, 1991, 93-98; UN Chronicle, September 1993.]

 

Selected Bibliography

Araya, Mesfin. 1990. “The Eritrean Question: An Alternative Explanation.” Journal of Modern African Studies 28 (no.1), pp. 79-100.

Iyob, Ruth. 1995. The Eritrean Struggle for Independence: Domination, Resistance, Nationalism 1941-1993. London and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Markakis, John. 1988. “The Nationalist Revolution in Eritrea.” Journal of Modern African Studies 26 (no.1): 51-70.

Pool, David. 1993. “Eritrean Independence: The Legacy of the Derg and the Politics of Reconstruction.” African Affairs 92: 389-402.