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Analyzing Student Influence on Ethiopia’s 1974 Revolution: Unveiling Historical Impacts


Messay Kebede

In response to various interviews I recently conducted on different YouTube channels, I have encountered numerous misunderstandings that require clarification, excluding deliberate distortions from supporters of the old imperial regime. I must emphasize that denying or misrepresenting the severe flaws of the imperial regime will not help address the complex issues Ethiopia currently faces due to the aftermath of the revolution fifty years ago. It is crucial to acknowledge both the negative impacts of the revolution and the role of the imperial regime in laying the foundation for the uprising.

NB. For those interested in a detailed account of the issues raised in this paper, I invite them to read two of my books: Radicalism and Cultural Dislocation in Ethiopia, University of Rochester Press, 2008; Ideology and Elite Conflicts: Autopsy of the Ethiopian Revolution, Lexington Books, 2011.

The Radicalization of the Student Movement

To begin with, two points need to be clarified when we talk about the impacts of the Ethiopian student movement on the 1974 revolution. The first point has to do with the high level of radicalization of the student body, a level such that an African scholar, Ali Mazrui, characterized the students in 1973 as “the most radical African students [he] had ever addressed.” The second issue that needs to be dealt with is the question of knowing (1) the reasons for this high level of radicalization; and (2) whether the movement is solely responsible for the eruption of the revolution and its consequences on the Ethiopian society.

As regards the first question, most existing studies assign the revolutionary direction of the student movement and its heightened degree of radicalization to objective conditions, that is, to the grave socio-economic and political conditions of Ethiopia under Haile Selassie. They thus speak of economic stagnation, which progressively turned into deterioration subsequent to the lack of needed reforms, bringing with it youth unemployment and generalized increasing poverty. A climatic incident and adverse international events aggravated the popular frustration: on the one hand, famine exploded in the northern parts of the country; on the other hand, the closure of the Suez Canal after the Arab-Israeli war and OPEC’s dramatic rise of oil price in 1973 contributed to a significant soaring of the prices of goods. This heightened popular frustration operated against the background of an unfair treatment of the majority by a minority claiming noble privileges, especially regarding the land tenure system. Particularly alarming was the system of tenancy in the south because of the fear that it could fuel ethnic awareness and animosity. In addition to all the foregoing, scholars include as an important cause of discontent the imperial ban on political parties and autonomous civic organizations, the total lack of democracy, of freedom of speech, etc.

When we add all these factors together, we have the characteristic of a society that is badly in need of reforms, but alas, that is also deprived of the means necessary to undertake the needed reforms. It can be described as a closed society, that is, as a society that had no other way out than to explode, that offered no other alternative than a revolutionary uprising. This is the aspect that notalgics and those who see the student movement as a culprit for the destructive effects of the revolution overlook, namely, the lack of alternative courses. Sure enough, the old regime had proposed a reformist agenda under the premiership first of Endelkachew Makonnen and then of Mikael Imru. Not only both premierships were short-lived, but also palace intrigues to prevent reforms, the radical view of students who wanted to hear nothing other than a revolutionary denouement, and, more importantly, the breakup of the military hierarchy in the armed forces and its major consequence, to wit, the formation of the Derg and its open determination and maneuver to circumvent a civilian alternative changed all reformist attempts into an impossibility.

We do not stress it enough: the formation of a military committee composed of disgruntled junior officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates, led, to crown it all, by Mengistu Haile Mariam, the very personification of a narcissistic personality, is the single derailment behind all the calamities of the revolution. Though Haile Selassie is often praised for establishing a disciplined, well-trained, and patriotic army, it quickly rebelled against its senior officers. Of course, his policy in Eritrea and Ogaden as well as his habits of cementing divisions and constantly moving senior officers from one unit to another unit—all this to prevent a coup d’etat––have had a hand in the fast collapse of the military chain of command. Without the rebellion in the barracks, the student radicalism would not have gone beyond protest and skirmishes. Neither would it have had any significant impact if their Leninist ideology had not seduced members of the Derg, mostly for its advocacy of violent methods to seize and strengthen absolute power in the name of the interests of the working masses. All the more reason to insist on the impairments of the army is that they show, if there is still such a need, how fanciful was the expectation of those many people who were hoping for some form of military coup by senior officers to unblock the Ethiopian society.

Since more than any other factor, the student success in spreading and popularizing the idea of revolution and socialism has created a fertile ground for the Derg’s seizure of power, if only because it provided a legitimizing idea that disarmed the traditional classes and sources of authority and vindicated the use of political violence, any serious study of the revolution must furnish a satisfactory explanation for the radicalization of the students. For, granted that all the objective conditions enumerated by various scholars were indeed propitious for a revolutionary uprising, still without the addition of specific subjective conditions of radicalization, we fall short of explaining the heightened degree of the radicalization of students.

To this effect, various studies cite the global impact at that time of Marxist-Leninist ideology, of Maoism, and of the Soviet and Chinese attempts to spread their respective ideologies. The studies also include the revolutionary mood of the 60s and early 70s among Western youth and university campuses, notably the radicalizing fallout of the American war in Vietnam. In the Western academic world, the leftist prediction of the decline of imperialism and the spread of the global dominance of the Marxist ideology had gained considerable momentum. Naturally, the global nature of the revolutionary mood has influenced Ethiopian students, especially those who studied in Western universities. All those Ethiopians who had the chance to study at that time in European and American universities surely remember the powerful impact of these leftist ideas on them.

In combination with the blockage of the Ethiopian society under imperial rule, the global impact of the revolutionary culture goes a long way to answering the question of knowing why Ethiopian students so easily and in great numbers succumbed to the Marxist-Leninist ideology and the revolutionary mood. Even so, the explanation does not fully account for the ferocity of the revolutionary commitment. For instance, it does not say why Ethiopian students, unlike other students from third-world countries who were in comparable conditions, excelled in their degree of radicalism. To elucidate the heightened commitment, we must dwell on one particular subjective factor that most scholars missed, which is the impact of Western education on the Ethiopian youth of that time.

My study of the Ethiopian student movement brings out the extent to which Western education undermined the traditional beliefs, values, and forms of authority, including parental authority, thereby creating a generational fracture between the Westernized youth and the rest of society. For these uprooted young students, Marxism-Leninism was not just a political theory; it was also a cultural substitute for the lost system of beliefs, especially for those associated with the traditional religious culture of Ethiopia. While African students were also equally exposed to Western education, the experience of colonialism and its denigration of the humanness of black people infused some restraint into their eagerness to fully espouse Western centrality and norms. Less so with Ethiopian youth: both the prevention of colonization and the legacy of a clogged old culture and outdated socio-economic system, to the extent that they inculcated pride mixed with the belief that Ethiopia could have reached a higher scale of civilization, had it not been held back by a reactionary ruling class, agreed with the Marxist historical scheme of traditional societies being wiped out by revolutionary movements. Since Western education implanted an outward-looking mental makeup, the subsumption of Ethiopian society into the Marxist scheme of history, besides appearing logical, entrusted the Western-educated Ethiopian youth with the mission to harness the blocked society to the march of the dominant and winning ideology of the time.

The Derg’s Leadership of the Revolution

Thus explained, the radicalization of students gives enough elements to determine the question of responsibility. Most studies advance the argument that the student movement is responsible for the revolutionary direction of the social upheaval. This is so true that these studies strongly maintain that the Derg stole the leadership from the movement by violently eliminating all its organizations and leaders through a fascistic use of its ideology. My study, on the other hand, shows that the question of responsibility does not have a simple answer. True, the revolutionary direction is unthinkable with the influence of the student movement and its ideology. However, I consider the implied thesis, namely, that students overthrew the imperial regime, highly questionable. As suggested already, without the military uprising, especially the uprising of junior and non-commissioned officers, the social and the students’ unrests would have been, sooner than later, squashed. Moreover, if despite inimical conditions, a regime change nevertheless occurred, it would not have gone beyond a classical military coup by senior officers.

This state of things stresses the need to first explain the military uprising itself and, most importantly, the creation of the Derg and the fact that it completely overtook senior officers. As hinted earlier, the military uprising in general can be explained by dissatisfaction over conditions of life and the imperial government’s refusal to contemplate a different resolution than the solution to crush militarily insurgents in Eritrea, Ogaden, and in other parts of the country. The other reason for the formation of the Derg is based on a previous lesson, which is that the establishment of an elected committee appeared as the best way to avoid an internal military fight, as it happened in 1960 with the open war between the imperial bodyguard and the army. Moreover, senior officers, in addition to being perceived as too loyal to the imperial regime, were accused of corruption and of being indifferent to the well-being of their units. Add to all this Haile Selassie’s deliberate policy, as mentioned above, of placing together generals with mutual hostilities as well as moving them constantly from one military position to another and even to civilian posts, and you have all these ingredients that made senior officers incapable of having a firm grip on the units they were commanding. Their situation was such that, whatever rebellious intent they had, they were unable to materialize it.

Once the circumstances for the rise of the Derg are explained, there remains the question of why the Derg easily and quickly moved from a nationalist slogan, Ethiopia Tikdem, to socialism and Marxism-Leninism. The presence in the Derg of young officers who were exposed to student protest while they were in colleges or high schools and the impact of the rebellious mood of ordinary Ethiopians should be taken into consideration. The familiarity of military coups and of the slogan of socialism among African countries at that time should also be counted. However, the seriousness with which the Derg pursued and implemented the idea of Leninist socialism, the state of appalling violence it unleashed to pursue its revolutionary commitments, and the determination to have the exclusive and absolute control of state power demand that the explanation goes beyond circumstances.

Why, then, did the Derg quickly go from the mere slogan of socialism to the determination to implement in earnest a socialist program? Why did it become enamored with the ideology? The one reason often cited is that members of the Derg wanted to hijack the student leadership of the social protest. They knew that they could not hope to stay in power without some form of autonomous legitimacy, and this meant usurping the leadership of the social uprising from the student movement. And since the ideology mandated the exercise of dictatorial power, the overriding reason behind the Derg’s exchange of its nationalist ideology of Ethiopia Tikdem for the radical and radicalizing ideology of Marxism-Leninism is its positioning for absolute power. As alluded to above, what seduced most members of the Derg in the Marxist-Leninism idea of socialism is that it is premised on the necessity of retaining an undivided absolute power in the name of the interests of the working masses. From the adoption of a convenient tool to achieve a political goal to assuming a vocational entitlement, the road is direct and inevitable. To kill, imprison, and displace so many people as well as to put the country upside down by shattering all that has been respected for generations and passed on, one needs to believe that one has been called for such a mission. What was at first a utilitarian justification easily grows into a vocation, especially when a narcissistic personality like Mengistu Haile Mariam assumes the iron-fisted leadership of the Derg.

To conclude, any attempt to evaluate the Ethiopian revolution in terms of good or bad results and isolate the culprit is a wrong-headed undertaking. In the same way as, whether one likes it or not, the sun rises and sets, it is futile to approach the revolution with a moralistic or any other type of appraisal without first clarify the true nature of the situation back then. Obviously, those who evaluate the revolution positively and those who find nothing but negative fallouts think that they have sound and convincing arguments in favor of their position. Yet, prior to engaging in some assessment, they should ask themselves the question of whether Ethiopia had a choice between revolution and evolutionary change. Stated otherwise, understanding should precede any form of assessment.

The truth is that all the avenues leading to evolutionary change were blocked one by one by all participants: the nobility, the army, the monarchy, and the students. In addition, foreign interventions, notably the Somali invasion, convinced members of the Derg that a foreign sponsor and protector could come to the rescue only if Ethiopia allied with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. Outside the Soviet assistance, it is impossible to defend the integrity of the country, much less to ensure the victory of the revolutionary path. In short, the revolutionary denouement was the outcome of the blockage of the reformist paths by all the competing actors. As a result, the range of choices was so narrowed, in fact to the very one that suited the wishes and the competencies of lower ranks of army men, that, in the end, only the thin road of the scorched-earth policy of total revolutionary changes remained.

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6 thoughts on “Analyzing Student Influence on Ethiopia’s 1974 Revolution: Unveiling Historical Impacts”

  1. I wonder if Dr. Mesay Kebede truly grasped the societal context when discussing the impact of rising oil prices and the subsequent increase in the cost of goods and services as the main catalyst for the 1974 revolution in Ethiopia under Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign. He also criticizes the King for failing to implement necessary reforms, which exacerbated the situation. It seems somewhat ironic to attribute a mere five cents per liter increase in gasoline prices as the trigger for a revolution, especially when we witness frequent price hikes without sparking similar uprisings today. During the King’s rule, basic commodities like bread were priced at a modest 5-10 cents, and a meal like Shiro lunch could be enjoyed for just 10-15 cents. Begging was uncommon except for the severely handicapped, and widespread starvation was rare except during natural disasters. Dr. Mesay Kebede also suggests that famine was the cause of the revolution. I would say it was used to incite the revolution, as opportunistic student leaders and army officers exploited the crisis to foment unrest. However, in contemporary times, despite widespread hunger and massive displacement, we do not witness revolutions on the same scale.
    In reality, Emperor Haile Selassie sought constitutional reforms to transition to a ceremonial monarchy akin to the British model, but his plans were thwarted by a group of disgruntled military officers known as the Derg, who seized power for their own gain. General Abebe Gemeda urged the King to arrest the Derg officers gathering at Meshualuikia, but the King’s reluctance allowed the uprising to progress. The 1974 revolution lacked broad public support and was driven by a small faction of elites, students, army officers and agitators, as the King remained popular among the masses. Dr Mesay Kebede even praises the 1960 coup orchestrated by the Neway brothers, despite the extrajudicial killings of prominent figures like Mekonen Habtewold and Abebe Aregay. The slogan “land to the tiller” is criticized for its adverse impact on agricultural productivity, as it forced landowners to relinquish their holdings, hindering output despite Ethiopia’s vast arable land. The uprising’s architects, predominantly students from the north, avoided ethnic divisions and instead mobilized students, particularly Amharas, with the support of university professors and government officials. Emperor Haile Selassie’s miscalculation in underestimating the Derg’s ambitions, rooted in their impoverished backgrounds, led to his downfall.
    Dr Mesay Kebede also highlights economic stagnation as a factor in the revolution, overlooking the progress made under Emperor Haile Selassie’s rule. The Emperor initiated modernization efforts, established key institutions like Ethiopian Airlines, the Road Authority, and the National and Commercial Banks, and expanded education and infrastructure across the country. The so-called universities we know today were, in fact, colleges established by his majesty’s administration (e.g., Awassa, Jimma, Ambo, Wendo Genet Bahir Dar, etc.). He established provincial capitals and roads linking them with the capital city, Addis Ababa. His diplomatic acumen secured strategic partnerships and territorial access, including plans for a sea outlet in Djibouti. The portrayal of the Eritrean conflict is disputed, with Eritrean accounts suggesting minimal rebel activity due to the Emperor’s adept handling of the situation. Dr. Mesay attempts to dismiss well-intentioned critiques as a nostalgic view simply for appreciating the imperial governance. Perhaps this is because no leader since has matched the caliber of Emperor Haile Selassie, who, despite having little modern education, possessed profound wisdom and judgment and dedicated everything he could to his country. Haile Selassie literally built Ethiopia from the ground up.

    Dr. Mesay is being dishonest when he discusses the issue of unemployment during Haile Selassie’s reign. Unemployment was virtually non-existent under the Imperial rule. It was not a significant problem even during the Derg regime, let alone during His Majesty’s reign. Clerical jobs and tax collection roles were often filled by 8th graders, while elementary school teachers had only completed high school. They received training starting from grade 10, and the quality of education was so high that an 8th grader performed better than a 12th grader does today.
    Dr. Mesay Kebede criticizes the imperial regime of Haile Selassie for banning political parties and autonomous civic organizations, the lack of democracy, and freedom of speech. However, there has been little improvement in these areas over the past 50 years. Haile Selassie governed during a time when monarchies were common, and even today, there are countries ruled by kings. What Dr. Mesay Kebede fails to understand is that no leader like Haile Selassie engaged in negotiations with his people. Following the 1960 coup, His Majesty introduced a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system elected at the Wereda and Awraja levels. Elections were free and fair, unlike today, and the parliament was vibrant. In the face of any opposition from the public, His Majesty made reforms to satisfy the people. This was his longstanding approach.
    Dr Mesay Kebede’s critique appears biased, echoing anti-monarchy sentiments, and fails to acknowledge Emperor Haile Selassie’s contributions to Ethiopia’s development. It would be enlightening to hear Dr Mesay Kebede’s perspective on his role as a communist ideologist during the Derg era, particularly his interactions with EPRP members released from prison at Yekatit 66 School of Politics when he was giving them the Derg’s Tehadisso course.

  2. ቆቅ አዚህ ቅዝምዝም ወዲያ!

    To Prof Messay and his like PhDs
    When your house is in fire, you should not talk about old fairy tales and confuse people.

    You should call the people to rise up and extinguish the fire.

    Now, our house Ethiopia is in fire because of the ongoing war to eradicate Amhara!
    But you and your likes talk about trash history, economy, blah blah! instead of standing with Amharas who are fighting for survival.

    This worse than the act of bandas, who assisted fascist during the invasion of the Italian fascists.

  3. Thank you Prof Mesay for your insightful article, which provided much-needed clarity on the topic discussed during the YouTube debate. I also appreciate your decision not to engage in debate with those attempting to muddy the issues.

    I agree with your assessment regarding the tendency of a few individuals to romanticize aspects of the imperial era. It’s essential to consider the broader context of that time, including the blocking of popular fiction and the presence of undercover security personnel (ነጭ ለባሽ) even in tella and katikala bet. I believe it is important to highlight the importance of examining historical periods on their own merits, rather than through the lens of later interpretations or consequences in the latter period.

    As you barely touched it, there is a resurgence of idolization of the old imperial era, which has now become fashionable and even coupled with religious fervor to garner widespread support and stifle dissent. This trend towards imperial fanaticism risks inciting mob mentality, where anyone who opposes it risks losing their dignity, freedom, or even their life. Just as during the student struggle and the Kinijit (CUD) movement, dissenting voices were silenced and labeled with derogatory terms, leading to periods of White and Red terror. Today, any attempt to criticize Emperor Haile Selassie is met with vehement opposition, with individuals facing accusations of betrayal and irresponsibility. This blanket condemnation of the entire generation involved in the student uprising as illiterate or sellouts is both unfair and unfounded.

    It’s important to acknowledge that cherry-picking positive or negative aspects of historical periods or figures, whether it’s the Derg era or Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign, is not a productive approach. While it’s true that there were moments in the Derg’s history where development efforts were made and positive statements about the importance of development, prosperity, and peace were uttered by its leaders, this does not erase or justify the numerous human rights abuses and atrocities committed during that time. Similarly, highlighting positive actions or speeches of Emperor Haile Selassie does not absolve him of criticism for his shortcomings or the negative aspects of his rule.

    Rather than selectively focusing on isolated incidents or statements to paint a rosy picture of historical figures or periods, it’s essential to take a balanced and nuanced approach. This means acknowledging both the positive and negative aspects of their legacies and critically examining their overall impact on society. By doing so, we can gain a more comprehensive understanding of history and learn valuable lessons for the future.

    I agree with your perspective regarding the Derg’s adoption of socialist ideals from the students. While I wasn’t personally present during the revolution, I have some recollections from the later stages of the Derg regime. In May 1990, the Derg executed the generals involved in a coup, prompting peaceful nighttime protests (an attempt to hide faces from observation) over two consecutive days in AAU, main campus. On the third evening, the students, emboldened by their actions, set fire to the main campus’s Workers Party Office, leading to the intervention of military officers stationed nearby. Subsequently, 420 students were detained and transported to Sendafa Police College, picked up from a few buildings.

    The following day, few students remained on campus, and I recall a visit from Ato Endale Tesema, the WPE (workers party?) representative of Addis Ababa, who issued warnings to us. His words stuck with me. He questioned our connection to those killed generals, emphasizing our origins as offspring of poor farmers. He questioned the necessity of our actions, asking if three days of class closures and mourning were insufficient to express our grievances. Furthermore, he questioned our newfound disdain for socialism, reminding us that it was the students who introduced socialist ideas to the Derg.

    He argued that the Derg’s adoption of socialism was aimed at appeasing the students and fostering their support. The last funny thing he said is that you are complaining about the military leading the country. He warned that any subsequent government would definitely be a military, and assured us with “ከምላሴ ፀጉር ይነቀላል”።

    Your analysis of the revolution offers a compelling perspective on its origins and development. In my opinion, it appears that the revolution emerged not as a revolution per se, but by a convergence of various small grievances within Ethiopian society. In other words, not body has seen through the likely course of actions. This confluence of discontent culminated in significant events in the month of Yekatit, which ultimately catalyzed the revolution’s momentum. I further believe that addressing the seemingly smaller issues facing the country under the Haile Selassie government could have potentially averted the revolution is thought-provoking. Obviously, there was no proactive governance and responsiveness to the needs and concerns of the populace to prevent unrest and upheaval.

    Honestly, I seek clarification on a matter of historical significance. Have there been instances in Ethiopian history where the populace at large were required to kneel and bow en masse before the emperor, akin to the practices associated with Haile Selassie? Did such occurrences take place during the reigns of Tewodros, Yohannes, or Menelik? Notably, Haile Selassie’s era was marked by modernization, extensive international travel, and exposure to various forms of governance. Given his broad experiences and authority, why did he allow these customs to persist instead of issuing a decree to halt them? Was there a sense of self-glorification associated with his acceptance of such reverence? Some sources suggest he was revered almost as sacredly as a ‘tabot’ in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. How did the modern and educated youth of that time perceive this, considering their contemporary values and beliefs?

    One criticism of the student movement is an attempt to disparage the revolutionary youth as ignorant, alleging that they lacked a substantive understanding of literature beyond fragments gleaned from foreign sources. This raises an important question: Were the youth of that generation not avid readers, even of the tiniest scraps of printed material, such as the newspapers used to wrap sugar and salt purchased from shops? Moreover, how many books focusing on Ethiopian history were available to the public at that time? Are these critics comparing the current abundance of literature on the streets of Addis to the scarcity of reading material in the past? It seems somewhat ironic to blame the older generation for not engaging with texts, social media, or the internet when these resources were not readily accessible during their time.

    One last observation is the language used by some scholars, which doesn’t resemble academic discourse. Academics typically use probabilistic language, such as “evidence suggests” or “leans towards,” to convey uncertainty. However, contemporary discourse often employs militaristic or dictatorial rhetoric and simplistic categorizations. If one were to conceal their identity and credentials, it would be challenging to discern whether the author is Colonel Mengistu or someone else. It’s imperative for scholarly discussions to maintain academic integrity and adhere to the standards of intellectual discourse.

  4. Prof.
    On the revolutionary direction and heightened radicalization of the student movement.
    “……most existing studies assign the revolutionary direction of the student movement and its heightened degree of radicalization to objective conditions, that is, to the grave socio-economic and political conditions of Ethiopia under Haile Selassie”

    Rather than the objective conditions of Haileselassie’s Ethiopia, the revolutionary direction and heightened radicalization of the student movement is owed to the energy and strategy of the Eritrean independence movement. The Eritrean independence movement predates the Ethiopian revolution by a solid 15 years. ELM was established in 1959, while the Ethiopian revolution took place in 1974. Besides Western agents, the Eritrean independence movement had financers, advisors and trainers from all over the Arab world. China and the Soviet Union had also their fair share of support to this movement.
    All this was happening in the background while Ethiopian students from regions other than Eritrea were leading a mostly clueless existence regarding revolution etc. Secessionist Eritreans radicalized Tigrayan and Oromo students as well as a few Amhara students. After waging war with the imperial soldiers for over a decade, they realized that the only way to force a breakaway of Eritrea was to weaken the center. Most effective tools for this project were selected to be socialism, with its track record of destroying a monarchy from within, and Stalinism, with its unflinching support of secession.
    Most veterans of the Ethiopian student movement reject the above analysis on the grounds that it attributes a superior role to the Eritreans. The only superiority that is suggested comes from the Eritreans having been organized dozens of years prior as well as having waged a war of independence for over a decade already. The university was rife with ELM, ELF and EPLF agents who were busy recruiting, organizing as well as spreading propaganda against the Ethiopian state.
    This truth is borne by the fact that Tigrayans who speak the same language and are next of kin to Eritreans were the first to be radicalized. In fact, Tigrayans became the leaders of the most powerful political groups that splintered off the student movement. Tesfay Debesay, Berhanemeskel Redda, Zeru Kishin, Sebhat Negga, Aregawi Berhe, Muse Baraki, Meles Tekle, Meles Zenawi are only a few names.
    To totally ignore this and act as if the Ethiopian student movement was an organic movement is not supported by the conditions on the ground. Rather the radicalization and desire to implode the country came from the long-organized Eritrean movements that, on the eve of the Ethiopian revolution, have grown to such a scale that they had encircled Asmara, the capital of Eritrea.

    If “grave socio-economic and political conditions of Ethiopia” had the power to radicalize and create a revolutionary zeal in Ethiopia, the extremely hopeless socio-economic and political conditions of today would have produced such a generation. There is no sign of the conditions producing such a generation. That is why the zeal and radicalization of the student movement of pre-revolutionary Ethiopia is more accurately ascribed to external than internal organic causes.

  5. Dear Professor, Messay
    Thank you so much for your very balanced narration of the generation where I was at the end of my teen age involved to some extent and a living witness for it(ማን ይመስክር የነበረ ማን ያርዳ የቀበረ)
    Some writers here I doubt they participate in that great movement either side are very biased, and they blindly condemn the student progressive movement and advocate for the imperial government that was the main responsible for the decline of Ethiopian modernization that was a pioneer nation in Africa but disgraced by the hidden hunger, ownership pf the land by the few feudal lords and the Ethiopian Orthodox church (ሲሶ መንግስት)that never use it appropriately that was the main cause of that revolution.
    The emperor was doing some things while young and unable to reform land ownership and the central government that was very outdated and the modern bureaucrats like the ten prime minster Aklilu Habtewold could not implement the basic civil government administration whereas emperor’s daughter Tenagnework and the other royal families interfered and finally due to the growing popular resistance began removing the emperor by a bloody oppressive military regime.
    The military junta was borrowing Marxist ideology from the east that was the only alternative for those oppressed people of Africa, Asia and Latin Amerca like ANC of South Africa adopted it for emancipation of South Africa from apartheid regime while the west led by Thatcher of UK and Regan of USA labelled Mandela and his team him as terrorist that was on file until recently.
    We could not deny the deterioration of Ethiopian politics under the emperor and his own cousin Ras Imeru gave him advice and lately others from prince Asrate kassa families also confirmed the emperor was not willing to reform the nations exploitive land ownership and that outdated feudal system.
    Organizing African unity giving his own palace to former Haileselassie university helping Ethiopia joined league of nations and UN and founding with other African leaders’ African union by the emperor considered good values, but he was considered as as divine leader without blame including by Ras Tefreians.

    Our concern should be the next generation especially those patriotic Amara Fano from Amhara people who are sacrificing to reverse state sponsored human crime of ethnic cleansing subject to annihilation by the consecutive Ethiopian evil rebel groups including Eritrean ELF/EPLF by insult name war lord (ነፍጠኛ )never dream or restoration of monarchy that is against the choice of the majority of Ethiopian people instead they target abolishing of the current evil apartheid regime along with other Ethiopian ethnic groups removing the so called Ormomuma that never keeps the interest of our own Oromo people.
    Let us learn from our past history as those who learn from their past mistakes may can avoid failure as the wisdom of successful nations verify in history.
    Degone Moretew,pastor

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