1977 Mengistu Haile Mariam takes over power
Initially, the Dergue had no real political program, but
under pressure from the left it proclaimed in December 1974
an "Ethiopian socialism ", nationalized the industry and
took over all land. The military junta was gradually heavily
pressured both from the right and left and initiated
terrorist campaigns to protect its own power. This made it
increasingly isolated from the general population. Following
a series of internal crises, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam
took power in December 1977. He succeeded in consolidating
the Dergue and ending the internal strife in the military.
See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how ET can stand for Ethiopia.
The military government nationalized the banks, insurers,
major industries owned by foreign capital, and closed US
military bases in the country. The key to the "democratic
national revolution" was the stateization of the earth and
the underground. This meant the end of the landlord class.
Already in 1976, "scientific socialism" had become the
official ideology of the state. Every opposition was crushed
with "red terror" in 1977-78. Several thousand people were
summarily executed during that period.
When the "internal" crisis was overcome, the government
turned its attention to the rebels in Eritrea and Ogaden.
Both had been growing since 1977. The Eritreans felt that
their independence struggle should not be curbed simply
because there was a declared socialist rule in Adis Ababa.
At the same time, the Somalis in Ogaden desert were taking
advantage of the Ethiopian crisis to make their own demands
for independence. Somalia supported this development, but
faced with the Somali will to annex Ogaden, the Soviet
interrupted its military agreements with Somalia's President
Siad Barre. Subsequent Soviet and Cuban support to Ethiopia
became crucial to the defeat of the Somali troops in the
armor of Ogaden. The Cuban troops were not deployed directly
against the Eritreans, but the latter were forced to retreat
following an Ethiopian major offensive in 1979. Meanwhile, a
peasant guerrilla had been deployed in Tigray Province.
The military situation was somewhat under control and
Mengistu now turned his attention to domestic policy. In
1979, the government formed the Organizing Commission for
the Ethiopian Workers Party (COPWE). In the same year, the
cultivated areas were expanded by 15%, which allowed a 6%
increase in GDP.
In 1984, the country began to feel the consequences of a
drought that had ravaged since 1982 and cost thousands of
lives as a result of hunger and malnutrition. Twelve
provinces were affected by the drought, which ultimately
killed ½ million people and threatened another 5 million.
The same year, the founding congress of the Ethiopian
Workers' Party (PWE), which adopted a program to transform
the country into a socialist state, was held. On September
12, Shengo - Parliament - proclaimed the country as
the Democratic People's Republic and reaffirmed Mengistu as
its head of state. The separatists were now not only active
in the provinces of Eritrea and Tigray, but also in Wollo,
Gondar and Oromo in the southern part of the country.
Ethiopia's new constitution involved a division of the
country into 5 autonomous regions and 25 administrative
provinces. Eritrea was given the right to develop its own
policy in all areas - except defense, national security,
foreign policy and relations with the central power. The
Eritrean rebel forces considered the proposal to be