Northeast Africa, 1977–1982


Map Code: Ax01049

Following severe famine between 1972–74, civil unrest began to mount against Emperor Haile Selassie. A group of military officers known as the Derg staged a coup in 1974 and instated Communist rule; meanwhile a number of opposition groups formed. This instability catalyzed widespread conflict in the region, beginning with the 1977–78 Ogaden War in which the Somali National Army and an ethnic Somali separatist group called the Western Somali Liberation Front launched attacks to claim the Ogaden region. Russia and Cuba subsequently withdrew support for Somalia and backed the Communist Derg. After deep Somali incursions, Ethiopia regained all lost territory by 1978. Meanwhile, civil war raged in northern Ethiopia as the Derg fought the conservative Ethiopian Democratic Union and the separatist Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The Derg was simultaneously fighting an Eritrean independence movement by the Eritrean Liberation Front and Eritrean People’s Liberation Front who were also engaged in a civil war between 1980–81.

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