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History, The Later Reign of Haile Selassie

Organization of African Unity, Eritreans, Haile Selassie, secessionists, Italian Somaliland

According to the terms of the Allied peace treaty with Italy, signed in 1947, agreement was to be reached within a year on the disposition of the former Italian colonies of Eritrea, Italian Somaliland, and Libya. In the absence of such an agreement, however, the decision was left to the United Nations (UN). The UN General Assembly voted for the federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia, to be completed by September 1952.

In 1955 Haile Selassie issued a revised constitution, which was a half-hearted attempt to move the country into the 20th century. For example, it gave certain limited powers to the parliament. Progressive elements in the country, however, felt it was insufficient. After an unsuccessful attempt by members of the imperial guard to overthrow Haile Selassie in December 1960, the emperor increased government efforts toward economic development and social reform.

As the 1960s progressed, Haile Selassie became increasingly preoccupied with foreign affairs. In 1963 he played a leading role in the formation of the Organization of African Unity, which located its secretariat at Addis Ababa. During the following year a long-standing border dispute between Ethiopia and the Somali Republic erupted into armed warfare. A truce, agreed to in March, established a demilitarized zone along the border, but hostilities recurred sporadically. Trouble also arose in 1965 with Sudan, which Ethiopia accused of abetting an Eritrean independence movement. The conflict intensified when 7,000 Eritreans fled to Sudan in 1967 because of Ethiopian military reprisals against the secessionists. In December 1970 the government declared a state of siege in parts of Eritrea. The move failed, however, to end the guerrilla warfare.

In the early 1970s Haile Selassie continued to play a major role in international affairs, helping to mediate disputes between Senegal and Guinea, Tanzania and Uganda, and northern and southern Sudan. Nevertheless, he largely ignored urgent domestic problems: the great inequality in the distribution of wealth, rural underdevelopment, corruption in government, rampant inflation, unemployment, and a severe drought in the north from 1972 to 1975.



Article key phrases:

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