May 28

This Day in History

General Interest

May 28, 1991:

Ethiopian capital falls to rebels

Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, falls to forces of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), formally ending 17 years of Marxist rule in the East African country.

In 1974, Haile Selassie, the leader of Ethiopia since 1930, was deposed in a military coup. Ethiopia's new rulers set up a Marxist regime, executed thousands of their political opponents, and aligned themselves with the Soviet Union. War with Somalia and severe droughts during the 1980s brought famine to the Ethiopian people, leading to considerable internal strife and independence movements in the regions of Eritrea and Tigre.

In early 1991, the EPRDF, a Tigrean-led coalition of rebel organizations under the leadership of Meles Zenawi, began to achieve real successes and defeated the Ethiopian army, forcing military dictator Haile Mariam Mengistu to flee the country. On May 28, 1991, in the midst of cease-fire talks, EPRDF tanks entered Addis Ababa virtually unopposed. Soon after, a transition government was formed, with Meles Zenawi as its president. In July, a new democratic constitution was drafted, and Eritrean independence was acknowledged without incident.

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