After World War II, Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie took pains to ‘modernize’ Ethiopia and bolster higher education. Selassie’s control of Ethiopia was total. As ‘supreme ruler,’ he abolished all political parties and banned groups from forming cohesive organizations. Selassie was surrounded by a small group of social elites that supported him, and although the government had a Parliament, it wielded very little power. Well into the 1950’s, Ethiopia lagged behind other African nations in education and many of the social elites sent their children overseas for higher education.
For seven years prior to 1974 university students initiated protests against specific policies of the government of Emperor Haile Selaisse, protests which grew into a campaign for democracy. (See in this database "Ethiopian students protest against Emperor Selaisse's regime, 1967-1974.") The government responded with violent repression and opposition grew to the point that the student movement more or less merged with a broader campaign against dictatorship led by the workers.