(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)
|Introduction||Unique among African countries, the ancient Ethiopian monarchy maintained its freedom from colonial rule with the exception of the 1936-41 Italian occupation during World War II. In 1974, a military junta, the Derg, deposed Emperor Haile SELASSIE (who had ruled since 1930) and established a socialist state. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and massive refugee problems, the regime was finally toppled in 1991 by a coalition of rebel forces, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). A constitution was adopted in 1994, and Ethiopia’s first multiparty elections were held in 1995. A border war with Eritrea late in the 1990’s ended with a peace treaty in December 2000. The Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission in November 2007 remotely demarcated the border by geographical coordinates, but final demarcation of the boundary on the ground is currently on hold due to Ethiopian objections to an international commission’s finding requiring it to surrender territory considered sensitive to Ethiopia.|
Human settlement in Ethiopia dates back to ancient times. Fossilized remains of the earliest ancestors to the human species, discovered in Ethiopia, have been assigned dates as long ago as 5.9 million years. Together with Eritrea and the southeastern part of the Red Sea coast of Sudan (Beja lands), it is considered the most likely location of the land known to the ancient Egyptians as Punt (or “Ta Netjeru,” meaning land of the Gods), whose first mention dates to the twenty-fifth century BC.
Dʿmt and Axum
Around the eighth century BC, a kingdom known as Dʿmt was established in northern Ethiopia and Eritrea, with its capital at Yeha in northern Ethiopia. Most modern historians consider this civilization to be a native African one, although Sabaean-influenced due to the latter’s hegemony of the Red Sea, while others view Dʿmt as the result of a mixture of “culturally superior” Sabaeans and indigenous peoples. However, Ge’ez, the ancient Semitic language of Ethiopia, is now thought not to have derived from Sabaean (also South Semitic). There is evidence of a Semitic-speaking presence in Ethiopia and Eritrea at least as early as 2000 BC. Sabaean influence is now thought to have been minor, limited to a few localities, and disappearing after a few decades or a century, perhaps representing a trading or military colony in some sort of symbiosis or military alliance with the Ethiopian civilization of Dʿmt or some other proto-Aksumite state.
After the fall of Dʿmt in the fifth century BC, the plateau came to be dominated by smaller successor kingdoms, until the rise of one of these kingdoms during the first century BC, the Aksumite Kingdom, ancestor of medieval and modern Ethiopia, which was able to reunite the area. They established bases on the northern highlands of the Ethiopian Plateau and from there expanded southward. The Persian religious figure Mani listed Aksum with Rome, Persia, and China as one of the four great powers of his time.
In 316 AD, a Christian philosopher from Tyre, Meropius, embarked on a voyage of exploration along the coast of Africa. He was accompanied by, among others, two Syro-Greeks, Frumentius and his brother Aedesius. The vessel was stranded on the coast, and the natives killed all the travelers except the two brothers, who were taken to the court and given positions of trust by the monarch. They both practiced the Christian faith in private, and soon converted the queen and several other members of the royal court. Upon the king’s death, Frumentius was appointed regent of the realm by the queen, and instructor of her young son, Prince Ezana. A few years later, upon Ezana’s coming of age, Aedesius and Frumentius left the kingdom, the former returning to Tyre where he was ordained, and the latter journeying to Alexandria. Here, he consulted Athanasius, who ordained him and appointed him Bishop of Aksum. He returned to the court and baptized the King Ezana, together with many of his subjects, and in short order Christianity was proclaimed the official state religion again. For this accomplishment, he received the title “Abba Selama” (“Father of peace”).
At various times, including a fifty-year period in the sixth century, Aksum controlled most of modern-day Yemen and some of southern Saudi Arabia just across the Red Sea, as well as controlling southern Egypt, northern Sudan, northern Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and northern Somalia.
The line of rulers descended from the Aksumite kings was broken several times: first by the Jewish (unknown/or pagan) Queen Gudit around 950 (or possibly around 850, as in Ethiopian histories). It was then interrupted by the Zagwe dynasty; it was during this dynasty that the famous rock-hewn churches of Lalibela were carved under King Lalibela, allowed by a long period of peace and stability.
Around 1270, the Solomonic dynasty came to control Ethiopia, claiming descent from the kings of Aksum. They called themselves Neguse Negest (“King of Kings,” or Emperor), basing their claims on their direct descent from Solomon and the queen of Sheba.
Restored contact with Europe
In the early fifteenth century Ethiopia sought to make diplomatic contact with European kingdoms for the first time since Aksumite times. A letter from King Henry IV of England to the Emperor of Abyssinia survives. In 1428, the Emperor Yeshaq sent two emissaries to Alfons V of Aragon, who sent return emissaries that failed to complete the return trip. The first continuous relations with a European country began in 1508 with Portugal under Emperor Lebna Dengel, who had just inherited the throne from his father.
This proved to be an important development, for when the Empire was subjected to the attacks of the Adal General and Imam, Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi (called “Grañ”, or “the Left-handed”), Portugal responded to Lebna Dengel’s plea for help with an army of four hundred men, who helped his son Gelawdewos defeat Ahmad and re-establish his rule. However, when Emperor Susenyos converted to Roman Catholicism in 1624, years of revolt and civil unrest followed resulting in thousands of deaths. The Jesuit missionaries had offended the Orthodox faith of the local Ethiopians, and on June 25, 1632 Susenyos’ son, Emperor Fasilides, declared the state religion to again be Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, and expelled the Jesuit missionaries and other Europeans.
All of this contributed to Ethiopia’s isolation from 1755 to 1855, called the Zemene Mesafint or “Age of Princes.” The Emperors became figureheads, controlled by warlords like Ras Mikael Sehul of Tigray, and later by the Oromo Yejju dynasty. Ethiopian isolationism ended following a British mission that concluded an alliance between the two nations; however, it was not until 1855 that Ethiopia was completely reunited and the power in the Emperor restored, beginning with the reign of Emperor Tewodros II. Upon his ascent, despite still large centrifugal forces, he began modernizing Ethiopia and recentralizing power in the Emperor, and Ethiopia began to take part in world affairs once again.
By the 1880s, Sahle Selassie, as king of Shewa, and later as Emperor Menilik II began expanding his kingdom to the South and East, expanding into areas that hadn’t been held since the invasion of Ahmed Gragn, and other areas that had never been under Ethiopian rule, resulting in the borders of Ethiopia still existing today.
European Scramble for Africa
The 1880s were marked by the Scramble for Africa and modernization in Ethiopia, when the Italians began to vie with the British for influence in bordering regions. Asseb, a port near the southern entrance of the Red Sea, was bought in March 1870 from the local Afar sultan, vassal to the Ethiopian Emperor, by an Italian company, which by 1890 led to the Italian colony of Eritrea. Conflicts between the two countries resulted in the Battle of Adwa in 1896, whereby the Ethiopians surprised the world by defeating Italy and remaining independent, under the rule of Menelik II. Italy and Ethiopia signed a provisional treaty of peace on October 26, 1896.
The early twentieth century was marked by the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie I,who came to power after Iyasu V was deposed. It was he who undertook the modernization of Ethiopia, from 1916, when he was made a Ras and Regent (Inderase) for Zewditu I and became the de facto ruler of the Ethiopian Empire. Following Zewditu’s death he was made Emperor on 2 November 1930.
The independence of Ethiopia was interrupted by the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and Italian occupation (1936–1941). Some of Ethiopia’s infrastructure (roads most importantly) was built by the fascist Italian occupation troops (not by corvee) between 1937 and 1940. Following the entry of Italy into World War II, the British Empire forces together with patriot Ethiopian fighters liberated Ethiopia in the course of the East African Campaign (World War II) in 1941, which was followed by sovereignty on January 31, 1941 and British recognition of full sovereignty (i.e. without any special British privileges) with the signing of the Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement in December 1944. During 1942 and 1943 there was an Italian guerrilla war in Ethiopia. On August 26, 1942 Haile Selassie I issued a proclamation outlawing slavery.
In 1952 Haile Selassie orchestrated the federation with Eritrea which he dissolved in 1962. This annexation sparked the Eritrean War of Independence. Although Haile Selassie was seen as a national and African hero, opinion within Ethiopia turned against him due to the worldwide oil crisis of 1973, food shortages, uncertainty regarding the succession, border wars, and discontent in the middle class created through modernization.
Haile Selassie’s reign came to an end in 1974, when a pro-Soviet Marxist-Leninist military junta, the “Derg” led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, deposed him, and established a one-party communist state.
The ensuing regime suffered several coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and a massive refugee problem. In 1977, there was the Ogaden War, but Ethiopia quickly defeated Somalia with a massive influx of Soviet military hardware and a Cuban military presence coupled with East Germany and South Yemen the following year.
Hundreds of thousands were killed due to the red terror, forced deportations, or from using hunger as a weapon. In 2006, after a long trial, Mengistu was found guilty of genocide.
In 1993 a referendum was held & supervised by the UN mission UNOVER, with universal suffrage and conducted both in and outside Eritrea (among Eritrean communities in the diaspora), on whether Eritreans wanted independence or unity with Ethiopia. Over 99% of the Eritrean people voted for independence which was declared on May 24, 1993. In 1994, a constitution was adopted that led to Ethiopia’s first multi-party elections in the following year. In May 1998, a border dispute with Eritrea led to the Eritrean-Ethiopian War that lasted until June 2000. This has hurt the nation’s economy, but strengthened the ruling coalition. On May 15, 2005, Ethiopia held another multiparty election, which was a highly disputed one with some opposition groups claiming fraud. Though the Carter center appreciated the preelection conditions, it has expressed its dissatisfaction with postelection matters. The 2005 EU election observers continued to accuse the ruling party of vote rigging. Many from the international community are divided about the issue with Irish officials accusing the 2005 EU election observers of corruption for the “inaccurate leaks from the 2005 EU election monitoring body which led the opposition to wrongly believe they had been cheated of victory.” In general, the opposition parties gained more than 200 parliament seats compared to the just 12 in the 2000 elections. Despite most opposition representatives joining the parliament, some leaders of the CUD party are in jail following the post-election violence. Amnesty International considers them “prisoners of conscience”.
September 12, 2007 on the Gregorian calendar marked the beginning of the year 2000 on the Ethiopian calendar.
|Geography||Location: Eastern Africa, west of Somalia
Geographic coordinates: 8 00 N, 38 00 E
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 1,127,127 sq km
land: 1,119,683 sq km
water: 7,444 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly less than twice the size of Texas
Land boundaries: total: 5,328 km
border countries: Djibouti 349 km, Eritrea 912 km, Kenya 861 km, Somalia 1,600 km, Sudan 1,606 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: tropical monsoon with wide topographic-induced variation
Terrain: high plateau with central mountain range divided by Great Rift Valley
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Denakil Depression -125 m
highest point: Ras Dejen 4,620 m
Natural resources: small reserves of gold, platinum, copper, potash, natural gas, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 10.01%
permanent crops: 0.65%
other: 89.34% (2005)
Irrigated land: 2,900 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 110 cu km (1987)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 5.56 cu km/yr (6%/0%/94%)
per capita: 72 cu m/yr (2002)
Natural hazards: geologically active Great Rift Valley susceptible to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions; frequent droughts
Environment – current issues: deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; water shortages in some areas from water-intensive farming and poor management
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea
Geography – note: landlocked – entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the de jure independence of Eritrea on 24 May 1993; the Blue Nile, the chief headstream of the Nile by water volume, rises in T’ana Hayk (Lake Tana) in northwest Ethiopia; three major crops are believed to have originated in Ethiopia: coffee, grain sorghum, and castor bean
|Politics||Politics of Ethiopia takes place in a framework of a federal parliamentary republic, whereby the Prime Minister is the head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Federal legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament.
On the basis of Article 78 of the 1994 Ethiopian Constitution, the Judiciary is completely independent of the executive and the legislature. The current realities of this provision are questioned in a report prepared by Freedom House (see discussion page for link).
According to The Economist in its Democracy Index, Ethiopia is a “hybrid regime” situated between a “flawed democracy” and an “authoritarian regime”. It ranks 106 out of 167 countries (with the larger number being less democratic). Cambodia ranks as more democratic at 105, and Burundi as less democratic at 107, than Ethiopia.
The election of Ethiopia’s 547-member constituent assembly was held in June 1994. This assembly adopted the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in December 1994. The elections for Ethiopia’s first popularly-chosen national parliament and regional legislatures were held in May and June 1995 . Most opposition parties chose to boycott these elections. There was a landslide victory for the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). International and non-governmental observers concluded that opposition parties would have been able to participate had they chosen to do so.
The current government of Ethiopia was installed in August 1995. The first President was Negasso Gidada. The EPRDF-led government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi promoted a policy of ethnic federalism, devolving significant powers to regional, ethnically-based authorities. Ethiopia today has nine semi-autonomous administrative regions that have the power to raise and spend their own revenues. Under the present government, some fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press, are circumscribed. Citizens have little access to media other than the state-owned networks, and most private newspapers struggle to remain open and suffer periodic harassment from the government. At least 18 journalists who had written articles critical of the government were arrested following the 2005 elections on genocide and treason charges. The government uses press laws governing libel to intimidate journalists who are critical of its policies.
Zenawi’s government was elected in 2000 in Ethiopia’s first ever multiparty elections; however, the results were heavily criticized by international observers and denounced by the opposition as fraudulent. The EPRDF also won the 2005 election returning Zenawi to power. Although the opposition vote increased in the election, both the opposition and observers from the European Union and elsewhere stated that the vote did not meet international standards for fair and free elections. Ethiopian police are said to have massacred 193 protesters, mostly in the capital Addis Ababa, in the violence following the May 2005 elections in the Ethiopian police massacre. The government initiated a crackdown in the provinces as well; in Oromia state the authorities used concerns over insurgency and terrorism to use torture, imprisonment, and other repressive methods to silence critics following the election, particularly people sympathetic to the registered opposition party Oromo National Congress (ONC).
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 43.4% (male 16,657,155/female 16,553,812)
15-64 years: 53.8% (male 20,558,026/female 20,639,076)
65 years and over: 2.7% (male 953,832/female 1,149,986) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 18 years
male: 17.8 years
female: 18.1 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.272% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 37.39 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 14.67 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population
note: repatriation of Ethiopian refugees residing in Sudan is expected to continue for several years; some Sudanese, Somali, and Eritrean refugees, who fled to Ethiopia from the fighting or famine in their own countries, continue to return to their homes (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.006 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.996 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.829 male(s)/female
total population: 0.995 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 91.92 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 101.57 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 81.99 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 49.23 years
male: 48.06 years
female: 50.44 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 5.1 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 4.4% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 1.5 million (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 120,000 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria
respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis
animal contact disease: rabies
water contact disease: schistosomiasis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Ethiopian(s)
Ethnic groups: Oromo 32.1%, Amara 30.1%, Tigraway 6.2%, Somalie 5.9%, Guragie 4.3%, Sidama 3.5%, Welaita 2.4%, other 15.4% (1994 census)
Religions: Christian 60.8% (Orthodox 50.6%, Protestant 10.2%), Muslim 32.8%, traditional 4.6%, other 1.8% (1994 census)
Languages: Amarigna 32.7%, Oromigna 31.6%, Tigrigna 6.1%, Somaligna 6%, Guaragigna 3.5%, Sidamigna 3.5%, Hadiyigna 1.7%, other 14.8%, English (major foreign language taught in schools) (1994 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 42.7%