People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
The People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (PDRE) was the official name of Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 from 1987 to 1991, as established by the Communist
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 government of Mengistu Haile Mariam
Mengistu Haile Mariam
Mengistu Haile Mariam is a politician who was formerly the most prominent officer of the Derg, the Communist military junta that governed Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987, and the President of the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia from 1987 to 1991...

 and the Workers' Party of Ethiopia
Workers' Party of Ethiopia
The Workers' Party of Ethiopia is a Communist party in Ethiopia that was, from 1984 to 1990, the only legal political party in the country.-The Commission to Organize the Party of the Workers of Ethiopia:...

 (WPE). Its creation led to the dissolution of the Derg
The Derg or Dergue was a Communist military junta that came to power in Ethiopia following the ousting of Haile Selassie I. Derg, which means "committee" or "council" in Ge'ez, is the short name of the Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, Police, and Territorial Army, a committee of...

, the Communist military dictatorship
Military dictatorship
A military dictatorship is a form of government where in the political power resides with the military. It is similar but not identical to a stratocracy, a state ruled directly by the military....

 formerly in charge of the country, and established a one-party state
Single-party state
A single-party state, one-party system or single-party system is a type of party system government in which a single political party forms the government and no other parties are permitted to run candidates for election...

 with the WPE as supreme authority, though several ex-Derg officials retained posts in the new government.

The PDRE officially came into existence 22 February 1987 three weeks after the national referendum
Ethiopian constitutional referendum, 1987
A constitutional referendum was held in Ethiopia on 1 February 1987. The new constitution would make the country a one-party state with the Workers' Party of Ethiopia as the sole legal party. It was approved by 81% of voters, with a 96.3% turnout, and was promulgated on 22 February.-Results:...

 which approved the 1987 constitution
1987 Constitution of Ethiopia
The 1987 Constitution of Ethiopia was the third constitution of Ethiopia, and went into effect on 22 February 1987 after a referendum on 1 February of that year. Its adoption inaugurated the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia .-Contents:...

, although the Derg remained in power as late as September, long after the 14 June general elections
Ethiopian general election, 1987
General elections were held in Ethopia on 14 June 1987 for seats in its Shengo. This was the first election since Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed in the Ethiopian Revolution as well as the first election under the 1987 constitution, which established the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia...

 which elected the membership of the Shengo.

Throughout its brief life, the PDRE's authority was challenged not only by an armed militants
Eritrean War of Independence
The Eritrean War of Independence was a conflict fought between the Ethiopian government and Eritrean separatists, both before and during the Ethiopian Civil War. The war started when Eritrea’s autonomy within Ethiopia, where troops were already stationed, was unilaterally revoked...

 in Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

 which had been annexed to Ethiopia several decades earlier, but also by internal resistance groups
Ethiopian Civil War
The Ethiopian Civil War began on September 12, 1974 when the Marxist Derg staged a coup d'état against Emperor Haile Selassie, and lasted until the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front , a coalition of rebel groups, overthrew the government in 1991. The war overlapped other Cold War...

, foremost of which was the Tigrayan Peoples' Liberation Front.

The PDRE came to an end in May 1991, when Mengistu fled Ethiopia and military units of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front
Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front
The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front is the ruling political coalition in Ethiopia. It is an alliance of four other groups: the Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization , the Amhara National Democratic Movement , the South Ethiopian Peoples' Democratic Front The Ethiopian People's...

 entered Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia...



Following the demise of imperial rule, the feudal socioeconomic structure was dismantled through a series of reforms which also affected educational development. By early 1975, the government had closed Haile Selassie I University
Addis Ababa University
Addis Ababa University is a university in Ethiopia. It was originally named "University College of Addis Ababa" at its founding, then renamed for the former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I in 1962, receiving its current name in 1975.Although the university has six of its seven campuses within...

 and all senior secondary schools, then deployed the approximately 60,000 students and teachers to rural areas to promote the government's "Development Through Cooperation Campaign". The campaign's purposes were to promote land reform
Land reform in Ethiopia
The problem of Land reform in Ethiopia has hampered that country's economic development throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries. Attempts to modernize land ownership by giving title either to the peasants who till the soil, or to large-scale farming programs, have been tried under imperial...

 and improve agricultural production
Agriculture in Ethiopia
Agriculture in Ethiopia is the foundation of the country's economy, accounting for half of gross domestic product , 83.9% of exports, and 80% of total employment....

, health
Health in Ethiopia
Metrics of health in Ethiopia are among the world's worst. According to the U.S. government, Ethiopia's health care system is wholly inadequate, even after recent improvements. The Ethiopian government has launched a campaign to improve the health care system....

, and local administration and to teach peasants about the new political and social order.

Primary school enrollment increased from about 957,300 in 1974/75 to nearly 2,450,000 in 1985/86. There were still variations among regions in the number of students enrolled and a disparity in the enrollment of boys and girls. Nevertheless, while the enrollment of boys more than doubled, that of girls more than tripled. However many critics say most of the statistics provided by the PDRE are inaccurate since no neutral body or international organization was allowed to validate them and there was a political aim for the regime to appear productive in general. With most of the rebel controlled northern Ethiopia regions as well as parts of Somali and Oromo regions out of the government's control, most of its claims were not perceived to be comprehensive.

The number of senior secondary schools almost doubled as well, with fourfold increases in Arsi
* Arsi Province, a former province of Ethiopia* Arsi Zone, a zone within the Oromia region of Ethiopia* Arsi Oromo, an Ethiopian clan of the Oromo people* Arsi language, a dialect of Oromo language* Arsi language, an extinct Tocharian language...

, Bale
Bale Province, Ethiopia
Bale is the name of two former polities located in the southeastern part of modern Ethiopia.- The medieval dependency of Bale :...

, Gojjam
Gojjam was a kingdom in the north-western part of Ethiopia, with its capital city at Debre Marqos. This region is distinctive for lying entirely within the bend of the Abbay River from its outflow from Lake Tana to the Sudan...

, Gonder, and Wollo
Wollo was a historical region and province in the northeastern part of Ethiopia, with its capital city at Dessie. The province was named after the Wollo Oromo, who settled in this part of Ethiopia in the 17th century...

. The prerevolutionary distribution of schools had shown a concentration in the urban areas of a few administrative regions. In 1974/75 about 55 percent of senior secondary schools were in Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

 and Shewa
Shewa is a historical region of Ethiopia, formerly an autonomous kingdom within the Ethiopian Empire...

, including Addis Ababa. In 1985/86 the figure was down to 40 percent. Although there were significantly fewer girls enrolled at the secondary level, the proportion of females in the school system at all levels and in all regions increased from about 32 percent in 1974/75 to 39 percent in 1985/86.

Among the PDRE's successes was the national literacy
Literacy has traditionally been described as the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently and think critically about printed material.Literacy represents the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning from print...

 campaign. The literacy rate, under 10 percent during the imperial regime, increased to about 63 percent by 1984. In 1990/91 an adult literacy rate of just over 60 percent was still being reported in government as well as in some international reports. As with the 1984 data, it several wise to exercise caution with regard to the latest figure. Officials originally conducted the literacy training in five languages: Amharic
Amharic language
Amharic is a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia. It is the second most-spoken Semitic language in the world, after Arabic, and the official working language of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Thus, it has official status and is used nationwide. Amharic is also the official or working...

, Oromo
Oromo language
Oromo, also known as Afaan Oromo, Oromiffa, Afan Boran, Afan Orma, and sometimes in other languages by variant spellings of these names , is an Afro-Asiatic language, and the most widely spoken of the Cushitic family. Forms of Oromo are spoken as a first language by more than 25 million Oromo and...

, Tigrinya
Tigrinya language
Tigrinya , also spelled Tigrigna, Tigrnia, Tigrina, Tigriña, less commonly Tigrinian, Tigrinyan, is a Semitic language spoken by the Tigrinya people in central Eritrea , where it is one of the two main languages of Eritrea, and in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia , where it...

, Wolaytta, and Somali
Somali language
The Somali language is a member of the East Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Its nearest relatives are Afar and Oromo. Somali is the best documented of the Cushitic languages, with academic studies beginning before 1900....

. The number of languages was later expanded to fifteen, which represented about 93 percent of the population.

A number of countries were generous in helping the PDRE meet its health care needs. Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

, the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, and a number of East European countries provided medical assistance. In early 1980, nearly 300 Cuban medical technicians, including more than 100 physicians, supported local efforts to resolve public health problems. Western aid for long-term development of Ethiopia's health sector was modest, averaging about US$10 million annually, the lowest per capita assistance in sub-Saharan Africa. The main Western donors included Italy and Sweden. The UN system led by UNDP
United Nations Development Programme
The United Nations Development Programme is the United Nations' global development network. It advocates for change and connects countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP operates in 177 countries, working with nations on their own solutions to...

 and including such agencies as FAO
Fão is a town in Esposende Municipality in Portugal....

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

United Nations Industrial Development Organization
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization , French/Spanish acronym ONUDI, is a specialized agency in the United Nations system, headquartered in Vienna, Austria...

World Health Organization
The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. Established on 7 April 1948, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health...

, continued to extend assistance as they had to the Emperor's regime. In the early 80s, at least one UNDP representative, a former minister in a Caribbean country, had the credibility to get access to Mengistu, and may have moderated his excesses in some instances. The World Bank also continued to provide assistance during his rule doubtless recognising the surprisingly conservative and prudent fiscal discipline the regime tried to follow.

Failures and collapse

Ethiopia had never recovered from the previous great famine of the early 1970s, which was the result of a drought that affected most of the countries of the African Sahel
The Sahel is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition between the Sahara desert in the North and the Sudanian Savannas in the south.It stretches across the North African continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea....

. The famine was also caused by an imbalance of population which was concentrated in the highland areas, which were free of malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 and trypanosomiasis
Trypanosomiasis or trypanosomosis is the name of several diseases in vertebrates caused by parasitic protozoan trypanosomes of the genus Trypanosoma. Approximately 500,000 men, women and children in 36 countries of sub-Saharan Africa suffer from human African trypanosomiasis which is caused by...

. Both the Emperor's and Mengistu's regimes had tried to resettle people in the lowlands, but the Mengistu regime came in for heavy international criticism on the grounds that the resettlements were forced.

There has been an approximately decade long cycle of recurrent droughts in this part of east Africa since earlier in the 20th century and by the late 1970s signs of intensifying drought began to appear. By the early 1980s, large numbers of people in central Eritrea, Tigray, Welo, and parts of Begemder and Shewa were beginning to feel the effects of renewed famine.

A drought that began in 1969 continued as dry weather brought disaster to the Sahel and swept eastward through the Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa
The Horn of Africa is a peninsula in East Africa that juts hundreds of kilometers into the Arabian Sea and lies along the southern side of the Gulf of Aden. It is the easternmost projection of the African continent...

. By 1973 the attendant famine had threatened the lives of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian nomads, who had to leave their home grounds and struggle into Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya, and Sudan, seeking relief from starvation. By the end of 1973, famine had claimed the lives of about 300,000 peasants of Tigray and Welo, and thousands more had sought relief in Ethiopian towns and villages.

The PDRE's limited ability to lead development and to respond to crises was dramatically demonstrated by the government's reliance on foreign famine relief between 1984 and 1989. By 1983 armed conflict between the government and opposition movements in the north had combined with drought to contribute to mass starvation in Eritrea, Tigray, and Welo. Meanwhile, drought alone was having a devastating impact on an additional nine regions. This natural disaster far exceeded the drought of 1973-74, which had contributed to the downfall of Emperor Haile Selassie. By early 1985, some 7.7 million people were suffering from drought and food shortages. Of that number, 2.5 million were at immediate risk of starving.

As it had in the past, in the mid-1980s the international community responded generously to Ethiopia's tragedy once the dimensions of the crisis became understood, although the FAO had been warning of food security problems for several years before the famine hit. Bilateral, multilateral, and private donations of food and other relief supplies poured into the country by late 1984. In 1987 another drought threatened 5 million people in Eritrea and Tigray. This time, however, the international community was better prepared to get food to the affected areas in time to prevent starvation and massive population movements. According to library of Congress studies, "many supporters of the Ethiopian regime opposed its policy of withholding food shipments to rebel areas. The combined effects of famine and internal war had by then put the nation's economy into a state of collapse." Also according to Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

's reports and research, the counter-insurgency strategy of the PDRE


  • Mengistu Haile Mariam
    Mengistu Haile Mariam
    Mengistu Haile Mariam is a politician who was formerly the most prominent officer of the Derg, the Communist military junta that governed Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987, and the President of the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia from 1987 to 1991...

     (September 10, 1987 – May 21, 1991)
  • Tesfaye Gebre Kidan
    Tesfaye Gebre Kidan
    Tesfaye Gebre Kidan was an Ethiopian general who was President of Ethiopia for one week in late May 1991.Tesfaye was a student at Holetta Military Academy, where he met Mengistu Haile Mariam; according to Gebru Tareke, along with Legesse Asfaw and Gebreyes Wolde Hana Tesfaye was part of Mengistu's...

     (acting; May 21, 1991 – May 28, 1991)

Prime ministers

  • Fikre Selassie Wogderess
    Fikre Selassie Wogderess
    Fikre Selassie Wogderess was the Prime Minister of the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia from 10 September 1987 to 8 November 1989....

     (September 10, 1987 – November 8, 1989)
  • Hailu Yimenu
    Hailu Yimenu
    Hailu Yimenu was acting prime minister of the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia from November 8, 1989 until May 1991....

     (acting; November 8, 1989 – April 26, 1991)
  • Tesfaye Dinka
    Tesfaye Dinka
    Tesfaye Dinka Yadessa was Minister of Foreign Affairs , and acting Prime Minister of Ethiopia.Born in Ambo, Tesfaye is an ethnic Oromo. He attended high school in Ambo....

    (acting; April 26, 1991 – June 6, 1991)
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