Ethiopia History in the 1960’s

By | December 17, 2021

After 1960, the re-established ruler Ḫāyla Sellāsē could not ignore the new political atmosphere created after the attempted overthrow of his government. On the other hand, even after 1960 the attacks continued, albeit clandestine and cautiously anonymous, against the sovereign and the government he headed, and several times (1961, 1962, 1964, 1966) different plots were discovered and thwarted. In the meantime, to express lively disapproval and opposition to the re-established political line followed by the sovereign, a new sector of public life had been openly added, the freer, relatively, to give voice to one’s attitudes; the students of the University of Addis Abebà, officially created in 1961 (with the meeting in it of the previous Colleges university students), who, having entered the political life of the country with the demonstrations in support of the coup d’état of 1960, continued, throughout the period 1961-1974, to express, with gatherings and concrete demonstrations of force, which also resulted in riots violent with victims, their opposition both to the internal government of the university and to the general government action of the country (often the former offering an opportunity for the latter). Acting in this way, the student element revealed the influence, undoubtedly also direct, of ideas and movements from the European and African world, awakened under the example of the former. University students were also joined by middle school students, and the government was repeatedly forced to carry out drastic coercive and repressive measures, including the prolonged closure of schools. The unions of Ethiopian university students in Europe and the United States of America echoed the university students at home with equal spirit and with greater frankness of expression. In the mid-1960s and 1970s, the impression was given that Ethiopian students abroad, at least, were preparing to be the vanguard of a socialist revolution. For Ethiopia 2017, please check

In order to cautiously meet the need for renewal that has come forward in such a dramatic way, the sovereign Hāyla Sellāsē, apart from adhering to the economic improvement claimed by the armed forces, promoted some formal innovations. A provision granting autonomy to the local administration of the provinces, conceived in 1962 and revived in 1966, was rejected in this same year by parliamentary action. In the same year 1966 the sovereign amended the current constitution of 1955, as regards the tasks of the government, making it more autonomous and independent; but the provision remained on the surface. An attempt was also made to tackle the very thorny question of agrarian reform, also claimed by foreign experts as the only measure capable of seriously starting Ethiopia on the way to economic and social progress. The elimination of the traditional system, which returned only to the exploitation of the tenant farmer, had already been one of the cornerstones of the reform aimed at the authors of the 1960 coup. a radical change in the land regime. In 1966, and then again in 1968, a bill was presented to parliament which was supposed to significantly change the relationship between landowner and tenant, with provisions in favor of the latter; but the plan, rejected the first time, was subsequently left aside. In 1967 a new provision brought innovations in taxation, making agricultural products subject to it and abolishing other privileges imposed on the land in favor of the owner, including the payment, in kind, of the tenth of the harvest by the tenant; but in practice the arrangement did not bring any advantages, on the contrary it was resolved to the detriment of the tenant, who continued to pay even the tenth of the harvest to the owner. Furthermore, the lands owned by the Ethiopian Church, which appear to represent about 28% of the country’s arable land, were excluded from the new provisions.

Another source of political-social unease and continuous expenditure for the treasury was created with the annexation of Eritrea as a province in 1962, at the end of the decade of federation established by the UN. The annexation increased the reactions of the Eritrean exiles, who demanded the independence of that territory; and soon a clandestine movement for the liberation of Eritrea (at a certain moment the movements became two, in contrast to each other, the Front now called and the Movement or Popular Front of Liberation, of Marxist inspiration), was supported by states Arabs (Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, southern Yemen, Libya, etc.), who supplied it with financial means and weapons. The guerrilla warfare in Eritrea, with its victims, destruction and serious damage also to civilian populations,

Even in the sector of employees, in state-owned companies or companies with state control and participation, the strike has begun with greater frequency as a weapon to assert their rights, after a 1962 provision recognized workers the right to organize themselves in trade unions, although the government supervised and controlled this activity to avoid demonstrations contrary to the current situation, fomenters of possible unrest (strike of the Ethiopian air lines in 1964, made to cease by authority by the government; strike in the “Brehànenná Salàm” printing house in 1966; strikes in Wonǧì sugar factories in 1967 and 1969). Obviously these strikes, especially in 1974, also took on a political color.

Ethiopia History in the 1960's