Soil and root samples were collected from major tomato growing areas of Ethiopia during the 2012/2013 growing season to identify root-knot nematode problems. DNA-based and isozyme techniques revealed that Meloidogyne incognita and M. javanica were the predominant Meloidogyne species across the sampled areas. The aggressiveness of different populations of these species was assessed on tomato cultivars Marmande and Moneymaker. The two most aggressive populations of each species were selected and further tested on 33 tomato genotypes. The resistance screening and mechanism of resistance was performed after inoculation with 100 freshly hatched (< 24 h) second-stage juveniles (J2). Eight weeks after inoculation the number of egg masses produced on each cultivar was assessed. For the resistance mechanism study, J2 penetration and their subsequent development inside the tomato roots were examined at 1, 2, 4 and 6 weeks after inoculation. On both cultivars Marmande and Moneymaker all M. incognita and M. javanica populations formed a high number of egg masses indicating highly aggressive behaviour. Populations from 'Jittu' and 'Babile' for M. incognita and 'Jittu' and 'Koka' for M. javanica were selected as most aggressive. None of the 33 tomato genotypes were immune for these M. incognita and M. javanica populations. However, several tomato genotypes were found to have a significant effect on the number of egg masses produced indicating possible resistance. For M. javanica populations there were more plants from cultivars or breeding lines on which no egg masses were found compared to M. incognita populations. The lowest number of egg masses for both populations of M. incognita was produced on cultivars Bridget40, Galilea, and Irma while for M. javanica it was on Assila, Eden, Galilea, Tisey, CLN2366A, CLN-2366B and CLN-2366C. Tomato genotypes, time (weeks after inoculation) and their interaction were significant sources of variation for J2 penetration and their subsequent development inside the tomato roots. Differential penetration was found in breeding lines such as CLN-2366A, CLN-2366B and CLN-2366C, but many of the selected tomato genotypes resistance for the tested M. incognita and M. javanica populations were expressed by delayed nematode development. Therefore, developing a simple screening technique to be used by local farmers or extension workers is crucial to facilitate selection of a suitable cultivar.