African Journal of
History and Culture

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Hist. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6672
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJHC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 187


A shift from peasant to intellectual-led political opposition in Tigray during the imperial regime (up to 1974)

Atsbha Gebreigziabher Asmelash
  • Atsbha Gebreigziabher Asmelash
  • History and Heritage Management, College of Social Science and Humanities Debre Markos University, Ethiopia.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 24 April 2014
  •  Accepted: 06 August 2014
  •  Published: 31 October 2014


This paper examines how the educated people of Tigray took over the illiterate ones to fight against the imperial government. Local songs, poems and sayings used against Emperor Haileslasie are discussed. Following the liberation of Ethiopia from the Italian occupation in 1941, Emperor Haileslasie introduced a number of reforms, many of which were rejected by the people of Ethiopia. The imperial government used different measures including force to implement its policies. This created resentment in the people over whom repressive actions were undertaken. What happened in Tigray in 1942/43 is a good example. The Qedamay (First) Woyane Rebellion of 1942/43 broke out due to high taxation, maladministration, corruption, political feud etc. Although the rebellion failed because British Royal Arms intervened, the people did not remain submissive to the regime. A number of Tegaru University students from different Awrajas of Tigray joined Hailslasie I University at different times. The university served as an academic and political school where they agreed on how to save their communities from miserable lives. They formed an organization called Tigrean University Students Association (TUSA) that served them as an umbrella and binding pot. Members and supporters of this association were ready to pay any sacrifices for the betterment of their people. They made the society fight against the feudal regime and did everything to solve the problem of their people. With time, TUSA supporters increased. The association was renamed MAGEBT, then TNO and finally TPLF. Many Tegaru University students paid with their golden lives, time and properties in their struggle against the feudal regime. Finally, they successfully toppled the imperial regime. However, their struggle continued after the end of the imperial regime. Due to the absence of well organized civil government, another oppressive government, the Derg, assumed power.


Key words:  First Woyane, TUSA, MAGEBT, TNO, university students, political opposition.