United in Blood: Cuban Influence in the Ethiopian Empire, 1969–78

Friday, January 5, 2018: 11:10 AM
Virginia Suite A (Marriott Wardman Park)
Beatrice Tychsen Wayne, New York University
This paper examines Cuban influences on Ethiopian politics in the lead-up to and aftermath of the Ethiopian Revolution in 1974. It looks at the ideological influences, as well as the material support that Cuba provided to Ethiopian student activists in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the effect of this on the trajectory of the Ethiopian Student Movement. Specifically, the paper engages with the role that Cuban revolutionary texts played in the articulation of Ethiopian student demands for change, the importance of Cuban land as a physical space for training Ethiopian radical activists away from Ethiopian government supervision, and the military aid provided to young revolutionaries, particularly those engaged in the Eritrean Liberation Front. The paper contrasts the relationship between Ethiopian and Cuban youth activists to Fidel Castro’s relationship with Mengistu Haile Mariam and the military junta that came into power after the Revolution. The paper is based on oral histories collected across Ethiopia, as well as government records, memoirs, and newspaper reports. This research clarifies the importance of south-south transnational exchanges in the revolutionary change that swept the Horn of Africa in the 1970s and brings light to the rich history of Cuban and Ethiopian relations during the Cold War, which has been largely absent in the historiography of Cuba’s significance in Africa.