With the overthrow of the military regime in 1991 and the end of the Cold War, the Ethio–US relationship was again normalized. A civilian government with guerilla fighting experience replaced the military. The core of the new government is the Tigre People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
After seventeen years, the military regime of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, despite commanding the largest military power in sub-Sahara Africa (except for South Africa), collapsed in 1991. The rebel forces of the Tigre People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) coordinated their efforts on the military front and skillfully undermined the government from within and without. The military regime also faced an economic crisis and was almost out of hard currency as it presided over a virtual war economy. The rank and file of the military lost its zeal to fight. Morale declined, corruption of the higher military hierarchy escalated, and Mengistu’s regime brutally murdered some of the most capable military leaders after an attempt to overthrow Mengistu in 1989. The situation also emboldened the TPLF and the EPLF. Some members of the army defected and joined forces that fought against the military regime.1
After USSR cut its military support, Mengistu turned to Israel for weapons in exchange for the emigration of Ethiopian Jews (Bete Israel). The Israeli’s nominal support failed to shore up Mengistu’s power. Mengistu’s government was ultimately weakened and subsequently collapsed. Mengistu had been the sole ruler of Ethiopia since 1977, after eliminating all his contenders for power such as Colonel Atnafu Abate, the vice-president, and Generals Teferi Bante and Michael Andom, both of whom served as presidents and were part of the force that overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. He secretly fled to Harare, Zimbabwe, on May 21, 1991, as rebels advanced on Addis Ababa. The rebel groups, a month before his departure and before
1 Ruth Iyob and Edmond J. Keller, “The Special Case of the Horn of Africa,” in Donald Rothchild and Edmond J. Keller. 2006. Africa–US Relations: Strategic Encounters, Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, pp. 105-106.