Ethiopundit posts excerpts from an interview with South Korea’s ambassador to Ethiopia that appeared in The (Ethiopian) Reporter in March of 2003.
The interviewer questioned him about the prospects for increased economic ties between the two countries and the Ambassador gave some frank responses.
The headline in The Reporter says a lot: “You have lost four decades. When Koreans were working hard what did you do?”
Ethiopundit compiles his own summary of the past four decades of conflict, with extended commentary
The link between peace and development seems to be an obvious one but it always needs emphasis. Tragically, modern Ethiopian history is largely defined by war and rumors of war. Here is a partial list of just the bloodiest internal ones and their aftermath that have consumed the past four decades and caused a steady erosion of per capita GNP.
Eritrean War of Independence 1961-1993 After a long colonization by Italy that Ethiopia was spared, Eritrea was federated then absorbed by Ethiopia. Many Eritreans resented the strictures of the reunion early on. However, it was the coming of the Marxist military dictatorship, the Dergue, and its bloody depridations from 1974 on, that pushed the conflict from one of occasional banditry to a full scale war for independence.
Ethiopian Civil War 1974-1991 The current Ethiopian government, an ostensibly ethnically based group adherent to Marxism, was allied with the regionally based Eritrean rebels and together they overthrew the Dergue.
Now for a list of the external wars being fought in the same time period.
The Greater Somalia Movement and Ethiopian-Somalian Border Clashes 1960-2004 The Somali flag chosen upon independence in 1960 held a five pointed star. Each point represented a ‘Somali’ region but only two of them were in Somalia. Thus from birth Somali governments were dedicated above all to the conquest of all of Djibouti (now independent and under French protection, then a colony of France), North-Eastern Kenya and almost a third of Ethiopia covering large swathes of territory in the Ogaden region and the South. Under the guise of liberation movements Somali irregulars and the Somali army began a campaign of continous destabilization of Ethiopia (which was apparently given the honor of first place on the list of star points to color in on the Somali flag). Somalia’s current chaos is largely due to its flawed national mission decided upon by its leaders at birth. The border conflict continues today as occasional Somali Islamist groups with designs on Ethiopia are often pursued across the border.
The Ogaden War 1977-1978 Somalia figured its moment had come in 1977 when an Ethiopia weakened by the disruptions of Dergue misrule and the Eritrean war was attacked. This led to a game of international musical chairs. Although well on the way to becoming a strategic enemy of the U.S., the Dergue turned solidly towards the Soviet camp by expelling American military advisors and signing deals for billions in arms with Moscow. The Soviets who had bankrolled and encouraged the Somali aggressions since the early 1960s did not mind when Somalia expelled them fron their bases. Attempts by the Somalis to reach out to the Carter Administration were not successful. Along with massive shipments of Soviet arms came up to 15,000 Cuban clients of Moscow who along with a mobilized Ethiopia solidly defeated the Somali invaders.
Ethiopian-Eritrean War 1998-2000 This fierce border war ended in an Ethiopian victory on the battlefield and afterwards both parties agreed to arbitration on the common border. Through arbitration Eritrea gained a victory at the conference table that the Ethiopian government has (not surprisingly) refused to accept. The conflict can also be partially understood as a contest between the erstwhile partners, the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments, over control of Ethiopia.
At one point in 1977-1978 Ethiopia was fighting two of the bloodiest wars in the world. To this ignoble list must be added the war that the Dergue was fighting against its own people to remain in power. A Civil War raged in the cities between the White Terror and the Red Terror (aptly named after the same period in Russian history) that consumed much of a generation of educated youth in an ongoing orgy of mass killings and perpetual violence. Rural uprisings against the dictatorship, famine as an instrument of state policy and genocidal resettlement programs add to the toll.
The human cost of all of this conflict was staggering. The excellent site Death Tolls for the Major Wars and Atrocities of the Twentieth Century (scroll down to Ethiopia section 11) attempts to quantify the losses that along with war related famine and political murders number into the millions.