Ethiopia's history has been a turbulent and brutal one. Never colonized by the European
powers, the country was ruled by emperors until 1974, and the ethnically diverse feudal
society was often characterized by regional, territorial and religious discord. Nevertheless,
despite the numerous local dialects and more than eighty ethnic groups represented
throughout the nation, one man governed Ethiopia for forty-four years (Mayfield 1995).
In 1930, Haile Selassie was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia and established a more modern
state by creating a structured, central bureaucracy, a judicial system with codified laws, and
a constitution (IRBDC Apr. 1990, 11). Despite these accomplishments, however, revolts,
rebellions, droughts, and famine marked Haile Selassie's reign. The Emperor's
unresponsiveness to the economic development of the country and the political needs of his
people, specifically his methods of dealing with (and concealing) the widespread famine that
plagued the nation in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, is what most scholars believe ultimately led to
his downfall. Although the Emperor ordered the importation of grain into Addis Ababa, other
portions of the country such as Wollo and Tigray were neglected and hundreds of thousands
of peasants were left to starve. By early 1974, strikes, protests, and demonstrations against
the imperial government were staged throughout the country by many different groups
including students and a wide-range of Marxist intellectuals, taxi drivers, Moslems, labor
unions, and military units. The government's unwillingness or inability to respond to these
demands eventually led to the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie and the accession to
power of the Provisional Military Administrative Committee (PMAC) also known as the
Dergue (Mayfield 1995).
When the Dergue, a committee of nearly 120 military officers, assumed leadership, it
"abolished Parliament, suspended the Constitution and arrested Emperor Haile Selassie and
former members of the imperial government for alleged crimes against the Ethiopian
people...All land, industries and institutions were nationalized" (DIRB Apr. 1990, 13). During
the initial transformation, the Dergue still honored the revolution's slogan "without blood;"
overall the transition was relatively peaceful and without casualties. However, power struggles
within the new ruling elite led to the rise of a new leader, Mengistu Haile Mariam, and the
phrase "without blood" was soon forgotten (Mayfield 1995
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