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The Ethiopian Revolution and the Derg Regime

Date

Event

1974 Ethiopian Revolution toppled the Haile Selassie Monarchy.

On September 12th, 1974, the Military Coordinating Committee (Derg) proclaimed itself as the Provisional Military Administration Council (PMAC) and took over the state and government power.

At the end of 1974, to weaken and eliminate the major opposition groups in the urban centers, the Derg sent all university and high school students and teachers to rural areas on what was called "Development Through Cooperation Campaign" - Zamacha.

Nov 1974

to 

Feb 1977

General Tefer Banti was appointed Chairman of PMAC and head of state.  This was done to mislead the Oromo people and to gain time to further consolidate their position.
April 1976 The Derg issued a major policy directive on the 'nationalities question' and other issues in a document called the "National Democratic Revolution" (NDR).  The NDR declared the right to self-determination of all nationalities will be recognized and fully respected.  It went farther and suggested regional autonomy as a solution to existing political problems, thus severely limiting the exercise of self-determination.  But even these declarations remained empty promises and the regime completely failed to fulfill its own pledges, however limited they were.

The Derg brought together the five left-oriented rival groups MEISON, Waz League, Malerid, Abyotawi Seded and Ichat working closely with them and created the Provisional Office for Mass Organization Afairs (POMOA), which soon transformed into Ethiopian Marxist-Leninist Organizations (EMALD.) 

Sept 1976 In Sidamo region Arero Province, Agara Mariam district in the Soyama Sorro sub-district, 176 women, children and old men were massacred at one spot at one time by a visiting Derg member.  Individual Derg members enjoyed unlimited power and had functioned as the ultimate authority.
1977 EMALD was divided on the issue of the nationalities question.  One group favored the implementation of the principle of self-determination up to independence while those opposing opted for regional autonomy.  This led to the disbandment of the EMALD, and many of its members and a few Derg members who supported self-determination in its true sense for nationalities issue were either shot, imprisoned or exiled.
Feb 1977 Mengistu Haile Mariam shot his own way to the top in one bloody purge after another.  Almost single handedly he has brought about the imprisonment, massacre and death by starvation and war, of millions of the empire's population during his 14 years in power until he was removed in 1991.
1977-1978 Mengistu and his clique after consolidating their position in the Derg turned against the very forces and groups who brought about the revolution by unleashing their infamous "Red Terror."  The streets of Addis Ababa and other cities and towns were littered with the dead bodies of youths, workers and intellectuals, victims of the Derg's "Red Terror" campaign.

During the "Red Terror," thousands of Oromo youths and intellectuals were slain mercilessly.  Often it was enough to be an Oromo to be suspected which led to arrest and death.

Thousands of young peasants, students, workers from the army, etc. joined the OLF.  Many of them fled the infamous "Red Terror" from the towns and cities.  The peasants fled from the advancing Ethiopian and Somali armies.  At one time, in early 1978, the number of the OLF fighters was estimated at several thousands.  By this time, the OLF influence reached large areas of Hararge and Arsi, northeastern Baale and Shawa bordering northeastern Arsi area, such as Awash National Park.  

Ibsituu Margaa joined the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) as a guerrilla regular and fought on the front line of eastern Oromia.

Juukii Bareentoo joined the OLA and fought at many battles on the front line of eastern Oromia.

1977-1978 The Ethio-Somali War was, mainly, fought in eastern Oromia.  The War affected the Oromo national struggle in many ways.  In 1977 the OLF and Oromo peasants obtained large numbers of arms and ammunitions that the Ethiopian army had abandoned in its fight before the advancing Somali and Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) armies.  Then in 1978, the OLF gained more weapons from WSLF fighters and the Somali army fleeing from the attacking Soviet and Cuban forces.  On the other hand, the armies of both regional powers and WSLF have tried their utmost to eliminate the nascent OLF guerrilla force.

Saartu Yusouf was among the Oromo combatants who were killed during a battle between retreating Ethiopian soldiers and an OLF guerrilla unit.  

Nov 1978 The Derg proclaimed what it called a "National Revolutionary Development Campaign," whose aims were to increase agricultural production for local consumption by increasing the size of state farms and by agitating and pressuring revolution, meaning the Amharization of the dominated nations under a socialist blanket, and to serve as part of the over-all military and political strategy aimed at keeping the Oromo people and other in perpetual servitude.
1978 The Derg embarked on the villagization program immediately after the Ethio-Somali war was over.  Using war as a pretext, the army was deployed into the countryside in Baale to burn houses, cut down green crops, confiscate property, and kill farm animals and those who resisted.  
1979 Settlement of Abyssinians in Oromia has been used by consecutive Ethiopian regimes as an effective way to suppress, exploit and control the Oromo population.  The major settlement involved in the large scale movement of people from the north to Wallagga, Baale and to other parts of Oromia and adjacent areas.
1979 The commission for organizing the Party of the Workers of Ethiopia (COPWE) was set up.  Members of the commission were hand-picked by Mengistu.  It was set up for the single task of organizing a single, would be, ruling party.
1980 "Oromia: An Introduction to the History of the Oromo People" first issued.
1982 The villagization program was extended to Arsi, Arba Guugu province, where 600,000 persons were affected by the program in this region only.
April 1983 Mandatory national military service was proclaimed.  Continued conscription of peasants and workers through the peasant associations and urban neighborhood associations (Qabale) by force or trick was met with stiff resistance until it became difficult to fill the required quota.
1983 The military junta established the "Institute of Ethiopian Nationalities Study" by proclamation.  The content of this proclamation did not differ from that of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) of 1976.  In both documents, the Derg's policy on the national question was narrowed down to regional autonomy.
1983 The political, military, diplomatic and economic benefits of cooperation or unity by the various political forces opposing the Derg regime were self-evident.  Based on this understanding, the formation of a united or solidarity front of forces opposing the Ethiopian regime was proposed by various groups.  Unfortunately, some of the forces were sticking to their dogmatic views and their intransigence and intolerance continue to be a serious obstacle for the cooperation and progress. 
1984 Five years after its creation, COPWE was transformed into the Workers' Party of Ethiopia (WPE) at a lavish celebration of huge cost.  The Derg members discarded the military attire for civilian garb.  They forfeited their military titles for comradeship and gradually transformed themselves into civilian Marxists. Among the WPE Central Committee members of 200, there were 118 Amharas, 23 Oromo and the remaining 68 from 85 or so remaining nations and nationalities. 

Famine seriously threatened some 10 million inhabitants of the Empire. This famine was perhaps the worst experienced by the peoples of this region.  The ruthless exploitation of the backward peasantry was and still is the major cause of the chronic food shortage and the most significant contributing factor to the creation and exacerbation of famine in the Empire.

1984 The villagization program started in Hararge as part of full scale military campaign against the OLF.  The villagization program affected about 50% (2 million) of the Oromo population living in the eight highland provinces of Hararge.
5 March, 1986 The Kenyan paper, "Daily Nation," reported on the magnitude of the villagization program: "The biggest forced migration of people in modern history coupled with persistent government neglect of agriculture is threatening to plunge Ethiopia into a new, man-made famine."
13 March, 1986 The "International Herald Tribune" reported that "Western diplomats day one motive for the government program [villagization program] is to cut off peasant support for anti-government separatists, such as the Oromo Liberation Front."

The Italian government gave 200 million dollars for the implementation of the controversial settlement and villagization program.  

1986 The junta came up with a highly publicized draft constitution for the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (PDRE.)
1987 The new constitution was presented for referendum and declared accepted.  Then, deputies to the National Shango (Ethiopian People's National Assembly), hand-picked by the party cadres and presented to the population, were endorsed.  Mengistu Haile Mariam was now President of the Republic.

Following the creation of the National Shango, the Derg declared itself dissolved.

1988 "Oromia: An Introduction to the History of the Oromo People" second-edition published, author: Gadaa Melbaa
May 1991 The London Conference was attended by the Derg, Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), but the Derg officials withdrew from the end of the meeting after hearing the news that Mengistu Haile Mariam fled to Zimbabwe.  The Mengistu regime was finally deposed.