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By John Young

Nearly overlooked, within the wake of the overthrow of Emperor Haile-Selassie, the arrival to energy of the army, and the continuing independence fight in Eritrea, a band of scholars introduced an rebel from the northern Ethiopian province of Tigray. Calling themselves the Tigray People's Liberation entrance (TPLF), they equipped shut family members with Tigray's poverty-stricken peasants and in this foundation liberated the province in 1989, and shaped an ethnic-based coalition of competition forces that assumed nation strength in 1991. This booklet chronicles that heritage and focuses specifically at the dating of the revolutionaries with Ethiopia's peasants.

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Extra info for Peasant Revolution in Ethiopia: The Tigray People's Liberation Front, 1975-1991 (African Studies)

Sample text

Led by students, it was the petit bourgeoisie with the support of workers and soldiers that brought down the Haile-Selassie government, and the peasants only became revolutionary later as a result of mobilisation by Peasants and revolutions 27 outside forces. And it was primarily students and teachers from the towns who not only led the Tigrayan revolution, but also numerically dominated it in the early years. Moreover, while the collapse of the old regime and the initial weakness of the Derg encouraged many revolutionary bands to go to the countryside and attempt to gain the support of the peasantry, the failure of most of them makes it clear that more than a favourable structural context is necessary to forge a bond between the revolutionary party and the peasants that will culminate in the capture of state power.

In this political context the Derg's announced agrarian reforms were treated with suspicion by peasants who feared that the elimination of their traditional system of land tenure would allow the government to gain control over their land. Moreover, unlike southern Ethiopia where land reform was welcomed by the indigenous population who saw it as a means of acquiring land lost to outside interlopers, in Tigray landlordism was limited, there were virtually no non-indigenous landholders, and in the highlands there were few large concentrations of land.

Chapter 5 covers the period 1978 to 1985 and focuses on the problems of mobilising peasants, developing a social and administrative infrastructure in the liberated territories, advancing the war against the government, and confronting the challenge posed by the famine of 1984. Chapter 6 examines internal leadership struggles, the capture of most of the province's towns in 1988, the expulsion of the military from Tigray in 1989, and briefly summarises the military and political developments in the lead-up to the Derg's final defeat in May 1991.

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