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Eritrean war of independence (1961–91)

Subject History

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


Defeated in the Second World War, Italy lost most of its colonies. Instead of independence, which the Muslim majority of Eritrea desired, the US (which wanted to keep the Red Sea outside Russian influence) engineered a decision at the united nations which joined Eritrea with Ethiopia in a federation, with internal self-government. When haile selassie ended the federation, and in effect annexed Eritrea in 1962, the UN did nothing. A year earlier the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) began an armed struggle against Ethiopia. In 1972 the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), a Marxist organization, was formed. When Haile Selassie fell from power in 1974, the Dergue (the ruling military committee) continued the war, but by 1978 Ethiopia was losing the conflict and held only four towns in Eritrea. The balance of power changed when the Soviet Union backed Ethiopia, providing massive firepower and logistical superiority. mengistu , leader of the Dergue, at first was successful in driving the EPLF (which had supplanted ELF) out of the towns, but as Soviet support declined in the 1980s the EPLF won spectacular victories, coming within 70 miles of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in 1989 and in 1990 capturing Eritrea's main port Massawa. In 1991 the EPLF gained control of the Eritrean capital Asmara and established a provisional government until a referendum was held in 1993 which ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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