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19 Wars that Made Today's Ethiopia


19 Wars of Ethiopia


Wars throughout history have been the sole cause for mass destruction of both property and precious life.

Unfortunately, almost every nation in the world today was forged by the conflicts and wars fought by their forefathers.

Wars have come to define the fate of nations and the peoples inhabiting the lands.

Be it a war of aggression, war of expansion, a religious war, a civil war, a war for cessation, a world war, a genocidal war, a revolutionary war or any other form of warfare; inevitably the results will have life changing consequences for both the combatants.

A country's boundaries could increase, freedom from tyranny could be attained, wealth through resource acquisition could be claimed, but the death and destruction remain constant.

While some of the wars fought by the Ethiopians were solely in self defense, others were fought to subjugate and expand.

The following are 19 wars of Ethiopia that has made it what it is today.

We sincerely hope there will not be a 20th.


1. Abyssinian-Adal War


abyssinian adal war
image credit: wikipedia.org

The Abyssinian-Adal war was between the Ethiopian Empire and the Adal Sultanate that lasted for 14 years (1529-1543).

During this time, a Somali military leader named Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi defeated several Ethiopian emperors and embarked on a conquest referred to as...

The country was looted by the Ahmad's forces, who destroyed several Christian monuments and oppressed the non-Muslim Amhara and Tigray...

In 1543, Ethiopian guerrillas were able to defeat the Somalis with the help of the Portuguese navy, which brought 400 musketeers led by Cristovao da Gama...


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2. Zemene Mesafint War


zemena mesafint war

The "Age of Princes" (1769- 1855) as it is also called was a period in Ethiopian history when the country was divided within itself into several regions with no effective central authority.

It was a period in which the Emperors were reduced to little more than figureheads confined to the capital city of Gondar.

The Zemene Mesafint, which in a span of eighty-six years saw twenty-three emperors occupy the throne (some were placed on and removed from the throne numerous times) came to an end with the rise of Kassa Hailu or better known by his later throne name of Tewodros II of Ethiopia.


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3. Abyssinia-British War


abyssinia british war

The Abyssinia-British War was not an expansionist war but a rescue mission. The Emperor Tewodros II was holding European hostages.

As a Coptic Christian regularly engaged in warfare with Muslim neighbors, he wanted British support and expertise both to help him control his own kingdom and to block the spread of Islam in the Horn of Africa.

He wrote a letter to Queen Victoria asking for help, but, for reasons unknown, the letter remained unanswered.

Angered by the lack of response, Emperor Tewodros was...


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4. Ethiopian-Egyptian War


ethiopian egyptian war

As much of sub-Saharan Africa was being colonized by European powers, North African leaders sought to expand and solidify their power on the continent.

The Khedive of Egypt, Ismail Pasha, aspired to expand his kingdom's reach over the entire Nile region and Red Sea coast, and began slowly encroaching on Ethiopia's borders.

The Egyptians invaded from their coastal possessions in what is now Eritrea. The armies of Yohannes and Isma'il met at Gundat on the morning of 16 November 1875.

The Egyptians were vastly outnumbered and their forces were completely...


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5. Ethiopian-Mahdist War


ethiopian mahdist war

Emperor Yohannes IV was crowned in January 1872, and not long after this, the Egyptians had began an expansion from the north of Ethiopia and extending it towards the city of Harar.

Meanwhile, the Mahidists were attacking to the west and were attempting to reach the city of Gojam.

As the Emperor was heavily engaged with the Egyptians, the Prince Tekle Haimanot of Gojam took up an army and fought the Sudanese Mahadists.

He would be joined by King Menelik. In time and against the advise of his counselors, Emperor Yohannes joined the fight against the Mahidists.

He went to battle leading the charge and...


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6. Battle of Dogali (precursor to Adwa)


battle of dogali

The Italians (after their unification in 1861) wanted to create their own colonies in Africa and started to occupy coastal Eritrea. Soon they were at war with the Ethiopians in 1885.

The battle had been started in the ambiguous uncertainty of the government's instruction by the occupation of Saati and Ua-a` in order to consolidate the Italian position at Massaua.

The action in itself was a betrayal to the peaceful declaration of intents which accompanied the Italian landing in Massaua.

Angered, and on his own initiative, the Ethiopian governor of the district under Emperor Yohannes IV, Ras Alula Engida, after requesting the Italian to withdraw from Saati, attacked the fort with a large force...


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7. First Ethiopian-Italian War


first ethiopian italian war

The First Italo-Ethiopian War was fought between Italy and Ethiopia from 1895 to 1896.

It originated from a disputed treaty which, the Italians claimed, turned the country into an Italian protectorate.

Full-scale war broke out in 1895, when Ethiopian troops counterattacked Italian positions and besieged the Italian fort of Mekele, forcing its surrender.

Virtually alone, on 17 September 1895, Emperor Menelik issued a proclamation calling up the men of Shewa to join his army at Were Ilu.

As the Italians were poised to enter Ethiopian territory, the Ethiopians underwent mass mobilization all over the country.

As a result, a hastily mobilized army of 196,000 men, in which more than half were armed with...


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8. Somaliland Campaign


somaliland campaign

The Somaliland Campaign, also called the Anglo-Somali War or the Dervish War, was a series of military expeditions that took place between 1900 and 1920 in the Horn of Africa, pitting the Dervishes led by Mohammed Abdullah Hassan (nicknamed the "Mad Mullah"), against the British.

The British were assisted in their offensives by the Ethiopians and Italians.

The first offensive campaign was led by Hassan against Ethiopian encampment at Jijiga in March 1900.

The Ethiopian General Dejazmach Bante reportedly repulsed the attack and inflicted great losses on the Dervishes.

In 1901, the British joined with the Ethiopians and attacked the Dervishes with a force 17,000 strong.

The Dervishes had previously defeated British forces at the Battle of Dul Madoba in 1913.

Four subsequent British expeditions against Hassan and his soldiers had also failed...


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9. Second Ethiopian-Italian War


second ethiopian italian war
image credit: wikipedia.org

The Second Italo-Ethiopian War, also referred to as the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, was a colonial war that started in October 1935 and ended in May 1936.

The war was fought between the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy and the armed forces of the Ethiopian Empire (also known at the time as Abyssinia).

The war resulted in the military occupation of Ethiopia.

In early December 1934, the tensions on both sides erupted into what was known as the "Wal Wal incident." The resultant clash left approximately 110 Ethiopians and between 30 and 50 Italians and Somalis dead and led to the "Abyssinia Crisis" at the League of Nations.

...By 5 May, the Emperor and an army of Ethiopian Free Forces entered Addis Ababa.

Following the Italian defeat, the victorious forces faced a guerrilla war carried out by remnants of Italian troops and their allies that only ended in the last quarter of 1943 after the formal surrender of Italy...


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10. East African Campaign


east african campaign

The East African Campaign was fought in East Africa during World War II by Allied forces, mainly British Empire forces, against Axis forces, primarily from Italy of Africa Orientale Italiana (AOI, Italian East Africa), between June 1940 and November 1941.

In July, the British recognized Selassie as emperor and in August, Mission 101 entered Gojjam province to reconnoiter.

Gaining control of Gojjam required the Italian garrisons to be isolated along the main road from Bahrdar Giorgis south of Lake Tana, to Dangila, Debra Markos and Addis Ababa to prevent them concentrating against the Arbegnoch.

In response to the rapidly advancing British and Commonwealth forces and to the general uprising of Ethiopian Patriots, the Italians in Ethiopia retreated to the mountain fortresses of Gondar, Amba Alagi, Dessie and Gimma...


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11. Ethiopia in the Korean War


korean war, with ethiopians

During the Korean War, sixteen nations sent combat troops to support the Republic of Korea against the North Korean invasion.

The United States was by far the largest contributor to the United Nations force, but among the other fifteen nations was an Ethiopian contingent known as the Kagnew Battalion.

The troops for the battalion were volunteers from the Imperial Guard, which consists of the military's best trained and loyal men.

Officially, the U.S. Army spoke highly of the Kagnew's inclusion into their forces.

...Another distinction was that the Kagnew never left their dead behind.

Chinese and North Korean troops were never able to find any corpses of the soldiers they killed.

Individual Ethiopian soldiers volunteered regularly to retrieve the bodies of fallen comrades, even if they had to face heavy fire from the enemy.

Rumors began to spread among the Chinese and North Korean troops that the Ethiopians were possibly super-human or even cannibals...


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12. Ethiopia in the Congo Crisis


congo crisis with ethiopians

The day that the First Republic of the Congo became an independent state was the beginning of one of its saddest times in the country's history.

Dubbed the 'Congo Crisis', this turmoil lasted from Independence Day in 1960 until Joseph Mobutu (Mobutu Sese Seko) became the president of the country in 1966.

An army mutiny against its almost entirely Belgian officers was the igniting spark.

Ethiopia was among the countries that contributed to the UN troops that were sent to the Congo.

The troops came from the 'Tekil Brigade'. Its first job of the day was to establish order, security and confidence amongst the people of the Orientale Province - which it accomplished in a relatively short time.

Even when violence broke out, in and around the city on Januray 13th, 1961, the brigade managed to control and calm things down.

The achievements of the Ethiopian troops in the most chaotic of times have been written on the annals of posterity. But to mention a few of their many heroic achievements...


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13. Ethiopian-Somali War


ethiopian somali war

As Somalia gained military strength, Ethiopia grew weaker.

In September 1974, Emperor Haile Selassie had been overthrown by the Derg (the military council), marking a period of turmoil.

The Derg quickly fell into internal conflict to determine who would have primacy. Meanwhile, various anti-Derg as well as separatist movements began throughout the country.

The regional balance of power now favoured Somalia.

...the country remained in chaos as the military attempted to suppress its civilian opponents in a period known as the Red Terror (or Qey Shibir in Amharic).

The Somali National Army committed to invade the Ogaden at 03:00 on July 13, 1977 (5 Hamle, 1969), according to Ethiopian documents.

According to Ethiopian sources, the invaders numbered 70,000 troops, 40 fighter planes, 250 tanks, 350 armoured personnel carriers, and 600 artillery, which would have meant practically the whole Somali Army.

By the end of the month 60% of the Ogaden had been taken by the...


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14. 1982 Ethiopian-Somali Border War


1982 ethiopian somali border war

The 1982 Ethiopian-Somali Border War occurred between the months of June and August 1982, when Somali rebels with Ethiopian military support invaded central Somalia and captured several towns.

On June 30, 1982, Ethiopian army units, together with SSDF guerrillas, struck at several points along Ethiopia's southern border with Somalia.

They crushed the SNA unit in Balumbale and then occupied that village.

After the United States provided emergency military assistance to Somalia, the Ethiopian attacks ceased.

The fighting was a catalyst for U.S. military assistance in Somalia, which brought a...


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15. Eritrean War of Independence


eritrean war of independence

Eritrea was made a British protectorate from the end of World War II until 1951.

However, there was debate as to what should happen with Eritrea after the British left.

The British proposed that Eritrea be divided along religious lines with the Christians to Ethiopia and the Muslims to Sudan.

This, however, caused great controversy. Then, in 1952, the UN decided to federate Eritrea to Ethiopia, hoping to reconcile Ethiopian claims of sovereignty and Eritrean aspirations for independence.

About nine years later, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie dissolved the federation and annexed Eritrea, triggering a thirty-year armed struggle in Eritrea.

The war started on 1 September 1961 when Hamid Idris Awate and his companions fired the first shots against the occupying Ethiopian Army and police.

...After that, using the considerable manpower and military hardware available from the Somali campaign, the Ethiopian Army regained the initiative and forced the EPLF to retreat to the bush.

The referendum was held in April 1993 and the Eritrean people voted almost unanimously in favour of independence and this was verified by the UN Observer Mission to Verify the Referendum in Eritrea...


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16. Ethiopian Civil War


ethiopian civil war
image credit: wikipedia.org

In March 1975, revolutionaries abolished the monarchy.

The Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen settled permanently in New York City, where several other members of the Imperial family lived.

The other members who were still in Ethiopia at the time of the revolution were imprisoned.

In 1975 his father, Emperor Haile Selassie, died in detention. In 1977 his daughter, Princess Ijigayehu, died in detention. Members of the Imperial family remained imprisoned until 1988 (for the women) and 1989 (for the men).

During the revolution the Derg fulfilled its main slogan of "Land to the Tiller" by redistributing land that once belonged to landlords to the peasant tilling the land.

Mismanagement, corruption and general hostility to the Derg's violent rule was coupled with the draining effects of constant warfare and the separatist guerrilla movements in Eritrea and Tigray, resulting in a drastic decline in general productivity of food and cash crops.

Insurrections against Derg rule sprang up particularly in the northern regions of Tigray and Eritrea.

Hundreds of thousands were killed as a result of the Red Terror, forced deportations or from the use of hunger as a weapon under Mengistu's rule.

The Derg continued its attempts to end the rebellions with military force...


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17. Insurgency in Ogaden


insurgents in ogaden ethiopia
image credit: wikipedia.org

The Ogaden region was conquered by the Ethiopian Empire in the middle of the 19th century, making it a buffer zone between the state and expanding European interests in the region. Unlike the rest of Ethiopia it is populated by the Ogadeni people, a subgroup of Somalis.

For most of its history under Ethiopian administration Ogaden was regarded as an inhospitable land, inhabited by uncivilized people who did not adhere to Christianity.

Isolated military garrisons were erected through the land, exacting taxes from the local herders.

The 1969 and 1974 Coup d'etats in Somalia and Ethiopia respectively led to an unsuccessful Somalian invasion of Ogaden.

Ethiopia emerged victorious from the war, turning Ogaden into a militarized zone and conducting population transfers in order to quell any signs of sedition.

Tensions between the TPLF and ONLF escalated in 1994, as ONLF split into a moderate wing willing to cooperate with TPLF and a radical secessionist wing led by Ibrahim Abdallah Mah that initiated armed struggle.

The outbreak of the conflict soon attracted the attention of jihadist elements in the region. The Somali militant group Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, established a training camp in Luuq, while portraying the war as a clash of Christianity and Islam.

Al-Qaeda agents had previously infiltrated Ogaden, investing $3 million in smuggling foreign fighters into the region...


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18. Ethiopian-Eritrean War


ethiopian eritrean war

In 1991 the EPLF-backed transitional government of Eritrea and the TPLF-backed transitional government of Ethiopia, agreed to set up a commission to look into any problems that arose between the two former wartime allies over the foreseen independence of Eritrea.

The border between the two states became a major irritant, and in November 1997 a border committee was set up to try to resolve that specific dispute.

However, on independence the border became an international frontier, and the two governments could not agree on the line that the border should take along its entire length, and they looked back to the colonial period treaties between Italy and Ethiopia for a basis in international law for the precise line of the frontier between the states.

Problems then arose because they could not agree on the interpretation of those agreements and treaties, and it was not clear under international law how binding colonial treaties were on the two states.

After a series of armed incidents in which several Eritrean officials were killed near Badme, on 6 May 1998, a large Eritrean mechanized force entered the Badme region along the border of Eritrea and Ethiopia's northern Tigray Region, resulting in a firefight between the Eritrean soldiers and the Tigrayan militia and security police they encountered.

Surveying the extensive trenches the Eritreans had constructed, Ethiopian General Samora Yunis observed, "The Eritreans are good at digging trenches and we are good at converting trenches into graves.

They, too, know this. We know each other very well"...


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19. Ethiopian/Kenyan Intervention in Somalia


ethiopian and kenyan intervention in somalia

The War in Somalia was an armed conflict involving largely Ethiopian and Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces and Somali troops from Puntland versus the Somali Islamist umbrella group, the Islamic Court Union (ICU), and other affiliated militias for control of the country.

The war officially began shortly before July 20, 2006 when U.S. backed Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia to prop up the TFG in Baidoa.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, said Ethiopia entered hostilities because it faced a direct threat to its own borders. "Ethiopian defense forces were forced to enter into war to protect the sovereignty of the nation," he said.

The outbreak of heavy fighting began on December 20 with the Battle of Baidoa, after the lapse of a one-week deadline the ICU imposed on Ethiopia (on December 12) to withdraw from the nation.

Ethiopia, however, refused to abandon its positions around the TFG interim capital at Baidoa. On December 29, after several successful battles, TFG and Ethiopian troops entered Mogadishu relatively unopposed.

The UN also stated that many Arab nations including Egypt were also supporting the ICU through Eritrea.

enya's incursion into southern Somalia started after the kidnapping of two Spanish women, who were working for Medecins Sans Frontieres at the Dadaab refugee camp.

The abductions were allegedly carried out by Al Shabaab militants...