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Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Yeltyop'iya Federalawi

CAPITAL: Addis Ababa

FLAG: The national flag is a tricolor of green, yellow, and red horizontal stripes with a blue disk and a yellow outlined star and rays in the center.

ANTHEM: Traditional "Ityopia, Ityopia" is in use at the present time. A new anthem will be designated in the near future.

MONETARY UNIT: The birr (b) is a paper currency of 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, and notes of 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 birr. b1 = $0.11468 (or $1 = b8.72) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is used, but some local weights and measures also are employed.

HOLIDAYS: Holidays generally follow the Old Style Coptic Church calendar. National holidays include Christmas, 7 January; Epiphany, 19 January; Victory of Adwa (1896), 2 March; Victory Day, 6 April; May Day, 1 May; New Year's Day, 11 September; Feast of the Holy Cross, 27 September. Movable Muslim holidays include 'Id al-Fitr and 'Id al-'Adha'.

TIME: 3 pm = noon GMT.


Situated in eastern Africa, Ethiopia (formerly called Abyssinia) has an area of approximately 1,127,127 sq km (435,186 sq mi), with a length of 1,639 km (1,018 mi) ew and a width of 1,577 km (980 mi) ns. Comparatively, the area occupied by Ethiopia is slightly less than twice the size of the state of Texas. It is bounded on the n by Eritrea, on the ne by Djibouti, on the e and se by Somalia, on the s by Kenya, and on the w by Sudan, with a total boundary length of 5,328 km (3,311 mi). The Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia is claimed by Somalia and has been the subject of sporadic military conflict between the two nations since 1961; the southeastern boundary has never been demarcated. Ethiopia's capital city, Addis Ababa, is located near the center of the country.


Ethiopia contains a variety of distinct topographical zones. It is a country of geographical contrasts, varying from as much as 116 m (381 ft) below sea level in the Danakil depression to more than 4,600 m (15,000 ft) above in the mountainous regions. Ras Dashen, with an altitude of 4,620 m (15,158 ft), is the fourth-highest peak in Africa. The most distinctive feature is the northern part of the Great Rift Valley, which runs through the entire length of the country in a northeast-southwest direction, at a general elevation of 1,5003,000 m (4,9009,800 ft). Immediately to the west is the High Plateau region; this rugged tableland is marked by mountain ranges.

East of the Great Rift Valley is the Somali Plateauarid and rocky semidesert, extending to the Ogaden, which covers the entire southeastern section of the country. In the north, the Denakil Desert reaches to the Red Sea and the coastal foothills of Eritrea. The western boundary of Ethiopia follows roughly the western escarpment of the High Plateau, although in some regions the Sudan plains extend into Ethiopian territory. Also part of Ethiopia is the Dahlak Archipelago in the Red Sea.

Ethiopia's largest lake, Lake T'ana, is the source of the Blue Nile River. This river, which winds around in a great arc before merging with the White Nile in the Sudan, travels through great canyons, which reach depths of more than 1,200 m (4,000 ft). Several rivers in the southwest also make up a system of tributaries to the White Nile.


Ethiopian climate varies according to the different topographical regions. The central plateau has a moderate climate with minimal seasonal temperature variation. The mean minimum during the coldest season is 6°c (43°f), while the mean maximum rarely exceeds 26°c (79°f). Temperature variations in the lowlands are much greater, and the heat in the desert and Red Sea coastal areas is extreme, with occasional highs of 60°c (140°f). Heavy rainfall occurs in most of the country during June, July, and August. The High Plateau also experiences a second, though much milder, rainy season between December and February. Average annual precipitation on the central plateau is roughly 122 cm (48 in). The northern provinces receive less rainfall, and the average annual precipitation in the Ogaden is less than 10 cm (4 in). The westernmost region of Ethiopia receives an annual rainfall of nearly 200 cm (80 in). Severe droughts affected the country in 198284,198788, 1991, and 2002.


Ethiopia has a large variety of indigenous plant and animal species. In some areas, the mountains are covered with shrubs such as pyracantha, jasmine, poinsettia, and a varied assortment of evergreens. Caraway, carcade, cardamom, chat, coriander, incense, myrrh, and red pepper are common. The lakes in the Great Rift Valley region abound with numerous species of birds, and wild animals are found in every region. Among the latter are the lion, civet and serval cats, elephant, bush pig, gazelle, antelope, ibex, kudu, dik-dik, oribi, reed buck, wild ass, zebra, hyena, baboon, and numerous species of monkey. As of 2002, there were at least 277 species of mammals, 262 species of birds, and over 6,600 species of plants throughout the country.


Overgrazing, deforestation, and poor agricultural practices have contributed to soil erosion so severe, particularly in the Tigray and Eritrea regions, that substantial areas of farmland have been lost to cultivation. As of 1994, 600,000 acres of arable land were washed away each year. The combined effects of severe drought and a 17-year civil war have also added to Ethiopia's environmental problems.

Ethiopia's forests are endangered. Each year, the nation loses 340 square miles of forest land. Its forests and woodland decreased by 3.4% between 1983 and 1993. From 19902000 the rate of deforestation was at about 0.8% per year. In 2000, only about 4.6% of the total land area was forested. The government did not begin afforestation and soil conservation programs until the early 1970s.

The nation's water supply is also at risk. Access to safe drinking water is available to 11% of the rural population and 81% of city dwellers. Ethiopia has 110 cu km of renewable water resources with 86% used in agriculture.

Agencies responsible for environmental matters include the Ministry of Agriculture, the Forestry and Wildlife Development Authority, and the Ministry of National Water Resources. In 2003, about 16.9% of Ethiopia's total land area was protected. Simien National Park is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 35 types of mammals, 20 species of birds, 1 type of reptile, 9 species of amphibians, 3 types of mollusks, 3 species of other invertebrates, and 22 species of plants. Endangered species in Ethiopia included the simian fox, African wild ass, Tora hartebeest, Swayne's hartebeest, Waliaibex (found only in Ethiopia), waldrapp, green sea turtle, and the hawksbill turtle.


The population of Ethiopia in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 77,431,000, which placed it at number 15 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 44% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 99 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 2.5%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 118,354,000. The population density was 70 per sq km (182 per sq mi), with the area of greatest density being the High Plateau, with more than 70% of the population.

The UN estimated that 15% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 4.27%. The capital city, Addis Ababa, had a population of 2,723,000 in that year. Other urban centers include Dirē Dawa, Dese, Hārer, Jima, Nazrēt, and Gonder.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on the population of Ethiopia. The UN estimated that 6.5% of adults between the ages of 1549 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001. The AIDS epidemic causes higher death and infant mortality rates, and lowers life expectancy. Life expectancy in Ethiopia was 45 years.


Internal migration is from rural to urban areas. In the 1970s and early 1980s, up to 4.5 million people were displaced as a result of occasional drought, civil strife, and border fighting. In 198485, over 600,000 northern peasants were resettled, forcibly in some cases, in 77 sites in the more fertile west and south. Meanwhile, over 2.8 million rural inhabitants, mostly Oromo, were moved to collective villages. As the war for control of Ethiopia intensified between 1989 and 1991, more people were displaced.

After the change of government in 1991, 970,000 Ethiopian refugees returned home from neighboring countries. By November 1995, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had repatriated 31,617 Ethiopian refugees from Djibouti. Between 1993 and 1996, the UNHCR repatriated 62,000 from Sudan. In 1997, UNHCR had started planning the airlift of around 4,400 Ethiopian refugees remaining in Kenya.

As of 1997, there were still 70,000 Ethiopian refugees in neighboring countries. There were 60,000 in eastern Sudan, 5,700 in Kenya, 2,500 in Djibouti, and 450 in Yemen. As of March 1997, Ethiopia was home to more than 338,000 refugees, settled in 12 camps and urban areas. Of these, 285,000 were from Somalia, 35,500 from Sudan, 8,000 from Djibouti, and 8,600 from Kenya. In February 1997, the UNHCR started to repatriate Somalis; 2,600 refugees had returned to northwestern Somalia by the end of March. Repatriation of Somalis and Sudanese continued in 2002. As of 2004 the total of internally displaced people numbered 321,000, most residing in the Gambella region. As of the end of 2004, Ethiopia was home to more than 115,980 refugees, while 63,105 Ethiopians sought refuge elsewhere. Ethiopia had a total of 2,252 asylum applications in 2004, as over 13,000 Ethiopians sought asylum in 16 countries, mainly South Africa, Kenya, the United States, Eritrea, and Yemen. In 2003 remittances to Ethiopia were $60.8 million.

In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as zero migrants per 1,000 population for Ethiopia, a significant change from 3.5 per 1,000 in 1990.


Ethiopia is a composite of more than 77 ethnic groups. The Oromo (Galla) group represents approximately 40% of the population and is concentrated primarily in the southern half of the nation. The Amhara and Tigrean groups constitute approximately 32% of the population and have traditionally been dominant politically. The Sidamo of the southern foothills and savanna regions account for 9%, while the Shankella make up about 6% of the population and reside on the western frontier. The Somali (6%) and Afar (4%) inhabit the arid regions of the east and southeast. Nilotic peoples live in the west and southwest along the Sudan border. The Gurage account for 2% of the population; the remaining 1% is made up of other groups. The Falasha (who call themselves Beta Israel, and are popularly known as "black Jews") live in the mountains of Simen; they were reportedly the victims of economic discrimination before the 1974 revolution and of religious and cultural persecution after that time. Some 14,000 were secretly flown to Israel via the Sudan in 198485. About 14,000 more were flown out of Addis Ababa in 1991. Another 4,500 are believed to remain. The Beja of the northernmost region, the Agau of the central plateaus, and the Sidamo of the southern foothills and savanna regions are the remnants of the earliest known groups to have occupied Ethiopia.


At least 77 different languages are spoken in Ethiopia. Most of these belong to the Semitic, Cushitic, and Omotic divisions of the Afro-Asiatic linguistic family. Amharic, the official national language, is a Semitic tongue, the native language of perhaps 30% of the people. Tigrinya and Tigray, also Semitic, are spoken in the north. Orominga, a Cushitic tongue, is widely spoken in the south, perhaps by 40% of all Ethiopians. Somali and Afar, also Cushitic languages, are spoken in the east. Omotic tongues are spoken in the southwest. Nilo-Saharan language speakers live in the far southwest and along the western border. English is the principal second language taught in schools.


Until 1974, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, a Christian confession associated with the Coptic Church and incorporating elements of Monophysite Christianity, was the established church, with the emperor as its titular leader. After the deposition of the emperor, the church lost most of its property (including an estimated 20% of all arable land) and political influence. In 2005, about 4050% of Ethiopians were Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Islam is practiced by about 45% of the population, most of whom inhabit the Somali, Afar, and Oromia regions of Ethiopia. About 10% of the population are Evangelical or Pentecostal Protestants, which is the fastest growing religion in the country. Prominent Protestant churches include Mekane Yesus (4.03 million members, associated with the Lutheran church) and Kale Hiwot (4.6 million members, associated with Service in Mission), both of which are Evangelical. There are about 7,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in the country and about 500,000 Roman Catholics (Oriental and Latin Rite). Other Christian denominations include Baptists, the Lutheran-Presbyterian Church of Ethiopia, Emnet Christos, Messeret Kristos (associated with the Mennonite mission), and Hiwot Berhan Church (associated with the Swedish Philadelphia Church. Animism, and other traditional indigenous religions are represented by small groups.

Although of Afro-Asiatic stock, the Falasha practice a form of Judaism that is of great antiquity and is traditionally attributed to ancient Arabian-Jewish or Egyptian-Jewish immigration. Few Falasha remain after massive immigration and evacuation to Israel in 198485 and 1991. The Feles Mora consists of a individuals who claim that their ancestors were Jews who were forced to convert to Ethiopian Orthodox. Many of these individuals are currently pursuing immigration to Israel. There are a large number of missionary groups working within the country.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and this right is generally respected in practice. Though religious tolerance is generally widespread among established faiths, there have been instances of interfaith discrimination concerning newer religions. For instance, some tension has existed as both Orthodox Christians and Muslims have complained about the proselytizing of Jehovah's Witnesses and the Pentecostals. In some regions, there have also been incidents of violence between Orthodox Christians and Muslims. Religious groups, and all other nongovernmental organizations, must register with the Ministry of Justice and renew their membership every three years. Certain Christian and Muslim holidays are recognized as national holidays. The government mandates a two-hour lunch break on Fridays to allow for the Muslim obligation of prayer.


It has been estimated that more than half of Ethiopia's produce is transported by pack animals, reflecting the inadequacy of the country's road network and the rugged terrain. About 75% of Ethiopian farms are more than a one-day walk to the nearest road. The road system in 2003 comprised an estimated 33,856 km (21,058 mi), of which 4,367 km (2,716 mi) were paved. The number of passenger cars in use in 2003 was 63,200, and the number of commercial vehicles was 48,900. As of 2003, there was only one vehicle registered for every 1,101.7 inhabitants. Bus services link provincial centers to the capital.

Railways consist of a narrow gauge line from Djibouti to Addis Ababa that is 880 km (547 mi) long, of which 681 km (423 mi) are in Ethiopia, and is owned jointly by Djibouti and Ethiopia. Ethiopia's merchant fleet of eight ships of 1,000 GRT or over, totaled 81,933 tons as of 2005. Neighboring Djibouti also serves as a depot for Ethiopian trade. Only one river, the Baro, is used for transport.

There were an estimated 83 airports in 2004, only 14 of which had paved runways as of 2005. The Addis Ababa airport handles international jet transportation. Before the civil war, the national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, flew to numerous African, Asian, and European cities, and had sole rights on domestic air traffic. In 2003, about 1.147 million passengers were carried on domestic and international flights.


Humanlike fossils have been found in the Denakil depression dating back 3.5 million years; in 1981, the 4 million-year-old fossil bones of a direct ancestor of Homo sapiens were discovered in the Awash River Valley. Evidence of cereal agriculture dates back to about 5000 bc. Homer refers to the Ethiopians as a "blameless race," and Herodotus claims that they were known in his time as the "most just men"; to the Greeks, however, Ethiopia was a vague and semimythical area that did not exactly correspond to the modern country. Ethiopia first appears in written history as the Aksumite (or Axumite) Empire, which was probably established around the beginning of the Christian era, although national tradition attributes the foundation of the empire to Menelik I, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Christianity was introduced in the 4th century by Frumentius of Tyre, who was appointed bishop of the Ethiopian diocese by Patriarch Athanasius of Alexandria. The rise of Islam in the 7th century and the subsequent conquest of Egypt created a crisis for the Coptic Christian communities of northeast Africa. Ethiopia alone met the challenge, surviving until the 1970s as a Christian island in a Muslim sea.

The Aksumite dynasty suffered a slow decline. In 1137, the ruler of Lasta (now Lalibela), Tékla Haimanot, overthrew the Aksumite emperor, Del-Naad, and established the Zagwe dynasty. In 1270, the throne was again restored to the Solomonic dynasty, with the accession of Yekuno Amlak in the province of Shewa. Subsequently, Emperor Amda-Seyon 1 (r.131444) reestablished the Ethiopian suzerainty over the Muslim principalities along the Horn of Africa. The Muslim penetration of the highland regions resumed in the early 16th century and, from 1527 to 1543, the Muslims threatened to overrun the entire empire. In 1541, Ethiopia enlisted the assistance of several hundred Portuguese musketmen against a jihad led by Imam Ahmad (known as Gragn, or "the lefthanded"). With these superior weapons, Ahmad was defeated and killed in battle in 1543.

The 18th and 19th centuries formed a period of political decentralization and incessant civil war; this period is called the Zamana Masafint ("Era of the Princes"). A young general named Lij Kassa Haylu established a powerful army, which defeated the forces of his rivals. He was crowned Emperor Tewodros (Theodore II) in 1855 and succeeded in reunifying the empire, but he was defeated and killed by a British expeditionary force under Gen. Robert Napier in 1868. Italy occupied the Eritrean ports of Aseb (1869) and Mits'iwa (1885) and annexed Eritrea in 1890. The Italian advance was stopped by the defeat and total rout of a large Italian army by the Emperor Menelik II at Adwa in 1896, an Ethiopian victory that is still commemorated as a national holiday. Italy, however, maintained control of Eritrea and also occupied the coastal region of Banadir (Italian Somaliland) in 1900. Meanwhile, France and the United Kingdom had obtained Somali coastal enclaves through purchase and a series of protectorate treaties concluded in the past with local tribal chieftains.

Menelik died in 1913. Three years later, his grandson and successor, Lij Yasu, was deposed in favor of his aunt, Empress Zauditu (Judith). Ras Tafari Mekonnen of Shewa was selected as heir apparent and head of government. On 2 November 1930, he was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I. Italy invaded and conquered Ethiopia in 193536. Forced to flee the country, the emperor returned in 1941 with the aid of British forces. By a UN decision, Eritrea, which had been under British administration since 1941, was federated to Ethiopia in 1952 and was incorporated into the empire 10 years later. By this time, an Eritrean secessionist movement was already stirring.

After an abortive coup in 1960, the emperor's political power began to lessen as political opposition increased. Guerrilla activity in Eritrea increased noticeably between 1970 and 1973; student and labor unrest also grew. After an official cover-up of catastrophic drought and famine conditions in Welo and Tigray provinces was uncovered in 1974, the armed forces overthrew the government. From 28 June to 12 September 1974, the emperor was systematically isolated and finally deposed. The monarchy was officially abolished in March 1975. Haile Selassie was killed while in the custody of security forces on 27 August 1975.

The new Provisional Military Administrative Council, also called the Dergue, came under the leadership of Maj. (later Lt. Col.) Mengistu Haile Mariam. The economy was extensively nationalized in 1975. Mengistu declared himself a Marxist-Leninist in 1976 and established close relations with Moscow. Perhaps 10,000 Ethiopians were killed in 197678, as the Dergue suppressed a revolt by civilian leftists that involved urban terrorism.

The war with Eritrean secessionists continued inconclusively until 1991. In mid-1977, Somalia invaded the Ogaden area to support the claims of ethnic Somalis there for self-determination. The assault was repulsed with the assistance of Soviet arms and Cuban soldiers in early 1978, when a 20-year treaty with the USSR was signed. Close links with Libya and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen were established in 1981. In 1982, Ethiopian troops attempted without success to topple the Somali government by mounting an invasion of some 10,000 Ethiopian troops in support of the insurgent Somali Salvation Democratic Front. Hostilities with Somalia later eased and diplomatic relations were reestablished in 1988. But relations with the Sudan soured, as each country supported insurgent movements in the other.

A devastating drought and famine struck northern Ethiopia during 198284, taking an unknown toll in lives. Between November 1984 and October 1985 an international relief effort distributed 900,000 tons of food to nearly eight million people. Food aid continued on a reduced scale, while the government launched massive resettlement programs that critics said were really intended to hamper the operations of armed insurgents and to collectivize agriculture.

The Worker's Party of Ethiopia (WPE) was established as the sole legal political party in 1984. Two years later, a constitutional document was unveiled for discussion; after minor changes it was approved by 81% of the voters in a referendum held on 1 February 1987. Later that year, another devastating drought struck northern Ethiopia, continuing into 1988.

Despite mobilizing one million troops and receiving massive Soviet bloc military aid, the government was not able to defeat the Eritrean and Tigrayan insurgencies. Led by the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) and the Tigre People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which is part of a larger coalition, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) triumphed.

On 21 May 1991, Mengistu was forced to resign as president and fled to Zimbabwe. His vice president surrendered to EPRDF forces on May 27. The next day, Meles Zenawi, leader of the EPRDF, established an interim government. In July, delegates from the three victorious guerrilla groups agreed on a structure of an interim coalition government and to grant Eritrea the right to hold an internationally supervised referendum on independence.

In 1992, the multiparty government split sharply. The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), the second-largest partner, withdrew from the coalition on 23 June. It claimed that the regional elections held on 21 June had been rigged by the EPRDF. The OLF and five other political groups had boycotted the elections. Some OLF forces took up arms against the government.

Amid the turbulence, the transitional government pledged to oversee the establishment of Ethiopia's first multiparty democracy. During 1993, a new constitution was drafted. For the transitional government, a 65-member Council of Representatives was created by the four constituent parties of the EPRDF, which was dominated by the TPLF, a Tigrayan ethnic party.

In June 1994, elections were held for the newly established Constituent Assembly. The EPRDF won 484 of 547 seats in a contest judged free and fair by observers. However, the majority of opposition candidates boycotted the elections under the banner of the Coalition of Alternative Forces for Peace and Democracy in Ethiopia (CAFPDE). The OLF also boycotted the election. The Assembly's first order of business was to draft a new constitution. When completed, the document called for the establishment of a bicameral legislature, a directly elected president, regional autonomy, including the right to secession, and the division of the country into nine states. Elections were held in 1995 for the Federal Parliamentary Assembly, consisting of the directly elected Council of People's Representatives and the Council of the Federation. Opposition parties again boycotted the elections resulting in a commanding majority for the EPRDF483 of 548 seats.

The political opposition's refusal to participate in elections has been a major problem for Ethiopia's fledgling democracy. Western governments and representatives of the OAU engaged the parties in talks prior to the 1995 balloting in the hopes of expanding participation, but opposition leaders insisted the government was impeding their efforts to fairly participate in the electoral process.

The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), the armed wing of the OLF, has continued armed struggle against the Ethiopian government. Fighting intensified with a series of battles between May and August 1999. Both sides claimed victory, giving conflicting figures for the dead and injured. Over 2,000 OLA and government soldiers may have died in the fighting. Military forces also intensified operations against the Somali-based Al'Itthad terrorist organization, rebel elements of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, and Tokuchuma (another terrorist group operating in eastern Ethiopia), both in the country and southern Somalia and in Northern Kenya. Ethiopia accused Eritrea and Somalia of financially supporting and training the OLF and Al'Ittihad.

Simmering tensions over border alignment with Eritrea came to a boil in 1998. Between 2 and 6 May 1998, Eritrean soldiers invaded and occupied Badme, in northeastern Ethiopia. Other areas were subsequently occupied in Tigray State. Ethiopia later recaptured Badme, but fighting continued, interspersed with periods of inactivity. A US- and Rwanda-sponsored peace plan proposed in early June 1998 failed; so did arbitration efforts by the then OAU. Each side claimed to accept an OAU framework agreement while accusing the other of making impossible preconditions to its implementation. The two and a half year war claimed the lives of an estimated 70,000 people on both sides, and cost both countriestwo of the world's poorestan estimated $1 million a day, according to the United Nations. The bloody war formally ended on 12 December 2000 with a peace treaty, the Algiers Agreement.

Under the Algiers Agreement, some 4,200 UN soldiers commanded under the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) remained on the border by July 2003. Their task was to monitor the so-called Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) that separates the two countries. Meanwhile, as part of the treaty, the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) demarcated the internationally recognized boundary. The EEBC, which was based in The Hague and comprised five international lawyers chosen by both countries, was established to resolve boundary claims between the two neighboring countries. In its ruling of 13 April 2002, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration awarded the key town of Badme, where the war first flared up, to Eritrea. Ethiopia labeled the ruling "unjust and illegal," refused to accept it, and would not withdraw from Badme. Legally, the ruling is binding and final. Rejection of the ruling resulted in five years of no war and no peace between the neighbors since formal cessation of hostilities in 2000; this stalemate raised concerns over a possible relapse in fighting.

Ethiopia's second multiparty elections took place on 14 May 2000, but were marred by irregularities and violence at a number of polling stations requiring the rescheduling of voting in certain constituencies. Voting was postponed in Somali regional state because of severe drought. The results gave parties the following number of seats: OPDO, 177; ANDM, 134; TPLF, 38; WGGPDO, 27; EPRDF, 19; SPDO, 18; GNDM, 15; KSPDO, 10; ANDP 8, GPRDF 7, SOPDM 7, BGPDUF 6, BMPDO 5, KAT 4, other regional political groupings, 22; and independents, 8. Forty-three seats were unconfirmed. On 8 October 2001, the Council of People's Representatives elected Woldegiorgis Girma president. Girma received 100% of the vote for a six-year term.

By July 2003, Ethiopia suffered yet another drought and food shortfalls in 200304. During the previous 30 years, rainfall levels gradually fell by as much as 23 mm a year, leaving some $12.6 million in need of food aid in 2003, or one in five of the populationat a cost of around $800 million. In 2004, the government began a program to move more than two million people away from the arid highlands of the east as a strategy to reduce vulnerability to drought and reduce food shortages.

Since rejection of the border ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration by Ethiopia, Eritrea and Ethiopia have sent mixed messages and traded accusations as to which side is stalling implementation of the Algiers Agreement. For instance the Ethiopian Government announced in November 2004 that it finally accepted the EEBC ruling and urged Eritrea to accept its full implementation, but the Prime Minister Meles Zenawi later said he would accept border demarcation only in undisputed areas. Amidst rising tensions and international concerns over a military build-up on both sides of the border, the Eritrean government on 5 October 2005 banned UN flights in the 25 km demilitarized TSZ and UN night patrols by vehicle on its side of the TSZ. This action forced the UN mission in Eritrea (UNMEE) to vacate 18 of its 40 posts.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution in November 2005 imposing a one-month deadline for compliance, and demanding that Eritrea rescind its flight and vehicle ban on the UN mission, or face unspecified sanctions. Instead, Eritrea escalated the situation on 6 December 2005 by expelling 180 North America, Russian, and other international military observers, UN volunteers and international civilian personnel. No reason was given for the action. Eritrea has repeatedly accused the international community, in particular the UN, of failing to enforce the EEBC boundary ruling. The same UN Security Council Resolution 1640 required both Ethiopia and Eritrea to withdraw their troops to the levels of 16 December 2004, and to both take immediate steps to start demarcation of their disputed boundary in accordance with the 2002 EEBC ruling, by 23 December 2005.

On 22 December 2005, the EEBC ruled that Eritrea had caused the war with Ethiopia and violated international law when it invaded its neighbor in May 1998, and was "liable to compensate Ethiopia for damages caused by that violation of international law." However, both countries were likely to receive compensation from the other for breach of various international laws and for human rights abuses. This ruling did not change the separate EEBC ruling on boundaries between the two countries.

Ethiopia held its third multiparty elections on 15 May 2005. The elections resulted in the EPRDF's disputed return to power. The EPRDF retained its control of the government with 327 of the 547 parliamentary seats, or 59 % of the vote, while opposition parties shared 174 seats, or 32 % of the vote. The opposition charged that the ruling EPRDF coalition had rigged the vote and engaged in acts of voter intimidation and violence, necessistating the rescheduling of voting in certain constituencies. On 8 June 2005 demonstrations, mounted by unarmed university students in Addis Ababa protesting the alleged electoral fraud and demanding investigations or a rerun, turned violent when police opened fire killing some 42 people. At least one of the international observer groups, the European Union Election Observation Mission concluded that the election and electoral process had been below international standards. Both the Ethiopian government and electoral commission dismiss the report as biased, self-contradictory and lacking credibility. With the controversy surrounding the elections, final official election results were not released until nearly four months later on 5 September. By the end of December 2005, the main opposition party, CUD, was still boycotting the legislature.

Announcement of the final 2005 election results was followed by more violence starting November 1 when the opposition Coalition for Democracy and Unity led protests of the results and at least 46 people were killed when security forces opened fire. More than 60,000 arrests are reported to have resulted, and Prime Minister Zenawi announced that 3,000 of them would face charges. On 28 December 2005, a Federal High Court judge remanded 129 opposition leaders, journalists, civil society members and a 15-year-old boy on charges related to violent demonstrations. The defendants claimed they were political prisoners, but the state charged the 129 with crimes ranging from treason to genocide, and blamed opposition leaders for the deaths of 34 people and damages allegedly worth $110 million.

As of 29 December 2005, neither Eritrea nor Ethiopia had met their obligations under the UN resolution 1640, except for a partial withdrawal of troops from the border by Ethiopia. The military situation along the border remained tense and potentially volatile, and the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict unresolved. The UN Security Council was to meet to review compliance in January 2006.


In name, Ethiopia was a constitutional monarchy between 1931 and 1974, but sovereignty was vested solely in the emperor, a hereditary monarch. The ruler appointed the prime minister, senators, judges, governors, and mayors. The emperor was assisted by the Council of Ministers and the Crown Council, whose members he appointed.

After the military takeover in 1974, the parliament was dissolved and the provisional military government (PMG) established. The PMG assumed full control of the government and continued to rule through its provisional military administrative council, also called the Dergue, whose chairmanship Mengistu seized in February 1977. Government decisions were made by Mengistu on an ad hoc basis, sometimes in consultation with members of the Dergue's Standing Committee. Control over government ministries was maintained by assigning Dergue representatives to oversee their operations. The Commission for Organizing the Party of the Working People of Ethiopia acted as the Dergue's political arm.

The constitution approved by referendum on 1 February 1987 declared Ethiopia to be a people's democratic republic. A national assembly (Shengo), with 835 members chosen by proportional representation for the various nationalities, theoretically had supreme power. The president, who was elected to a five-year term by Shengo, acted as chief executive and commander-in-chief of the armed forces and nominated and presided over the cabinet and the state council, which had legislative power when the Shengo was not in session. The president also appointed top officials of the Worker's Party of Ethiopia (WPE), which was called the leading force in the state and society. The assembly held its first meeting on 9 September; the next day, it elected Mengistu president. It also redrew the political map, creating five "autonomous regions" in order to weaken the appeal of the independence movements; it failed. Despite the trappings of representative government, all power remained in Mengistu's hands. He was head of state and government, leader of the only party and commander of the armed forces.

After Mengistu's defeat in May 1991, a transitional government was established, under the leadership of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, a coalition of parties opposed to the Dergue and led by President Meles Zenawi. Elections for a constituent assembly were held in June 1994. A new constitution was drafted, providing for a directly elected president, a bicameral legislature, regional autonomy with the right to secede, and a nine-state national structure. Elections to the newly established Federal Parliamentary Assembly were held in 1995; they resulted in a huge victory for the EPRDF owing to opposition boycotts. In the May 2000 elections, Zenawi's coalition gained 368 of the 548 seats in the Council of People's Representative. The next presidential elections were scheduled for October 2007.

The Federal Parliamentary Assembly has two chambers. The Council of People's Representative (Yehizbtewekayoch Mekir Bet), the lower chamber, has 547 members, elected for a five-year term in single seat constituencies. The Council of the Federation (Yefedereshn Mekir Bet) or upper chamber has 117 members chosen by state assemblies to serve five-year terms.

The third multiparty parliamentary elections were held on 15 May 2005. These elections were marred by allegations of vote rigging, voter intimidation, and the death of at least 88 people in postelection violence during two major demonstrations to protest the results. The elections brought Zenawi's EPRDF coalition to power with 327 of the 547 parliamentary seats while opposition parties shared 174 seats. Meles Zenawi began his third five-year term as prime minister. The main opposition party, CUD, won 109 seats in the 547-member parliament but by the end of December 2005, was still boycotting the legislature. The EPRDF won state council elections in 5 of the 10 states.


In the past, there were no established political parties, although political factions existed on the basis of religion, ethnicity, regionalism, and common economic interests. In the 1970s, a number of illegal separatist groups became active militarily. They included the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO), Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), and Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF). Eventually, EPLF defeated the ELF in Eritrea.

Two civilian left-wing parties, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party and the All-Ethiopian Socialist Movement, were crushed by the Dergue in 1976 and 1977, respectively. In 1979, the Dergue established the Commission for Organizing the Party of the Working People of Ethiopia (COPWE), in order to lay the groundwork for a Marxist-Leninist party along Soviet lines. The Worker's Party of Ethiopia (WPE) was established in 1984 as the sole legal political party. Its 11-man politburo was headed by Mengistu.

The separatists successfully defeated Mengistu's forces and after Mengistu fled in May 1991, they established a transitional government under their coalition banner, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The TPLF is the most prominent member of the EPRDF, which also includes the Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (EPDM) and the Afar Democratic Union. The OLF is not part of the coalition. There are also numerous small, ethnic-based groups and several Islamic militant groups. Following 1994 elections to a transitional national assembly, 30 opposition groupsnot including the OLFformed the Coalition of Alternative Forces for Peace and Democracy in Ethiopia (CAFPDE), and began pressing for electoral reform. New elections were held in 1995 for a newly created Federal Parliamentary Assembly (consisting of two chambers). The elections, despite being overseen by international observers, were boycotted by the opposition and were won by the EPRDF, which secured substantial majorities.

The main parties contesting the 14 May 2000 elections were: Afar Democratic Association, Afar Democratic Union, Amhar National Democratic Movement, Ethiopia People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), Ethiopian Democratic Officers' Revolutionary Movement, Oromo People's Democratic Organization, and Tigre People's Liberation Front. There were approximately 58 national and regional parties, 29 of them belonging to the four-party coalition of the ruling EPRDF.

The People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) ruling coalition were returned to power in the contested elections of 15 May 2005 amidst opposition charges of widespread vote rigging and intimidation. A total of 10 parties and coalitions and one independent won the 547 parliamentary seats, which were split as follows: Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), 327; the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), 109; United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) Alliance, 52; Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement, (OFDM) 11; Afar National Democratic Party (ANDP), 8; Gambela People's Democratic Movement (GPDM), 3; Sheko and Mezenger People's Democratic Unity Organization (SMPDUO), 1; Somali People's Democratic Party (SPDP), 24; Hareri National League (HNL), 1; Argoba Nationality Democratic Organization (ANDO), 1; and Independent, 1.


According to a 2006 CIA report, Ethiopia has nine ethnically based states and two self-governing administrationsAddis Ababa and Dirē Dawa. Until 1987, Ethiopia was divided into 15 administrative regions, which in turn were subdivided into 103 sub-regions and 505 districts. In 1976, peasant associations were empowered to collect taxes and form women's associations, cooperatives, and militias. In the mid-1980s, an estimated 25,000 such peasant groups were in existence. Urban dwellers' associations were established for a variety of functions, including law and order.

In 1987, at its first sitting, the Shengo redrew the political map. It created five "autonomous regions" (Eritrea, Assab, Dirē Dawa, Ogaden, and Tigre). The remaining provinces were further subdivided into 24 administrative zones.

The establishment of regions was altered with the creation of the transitional government in 1991. In 1993, Eritrea gained its independence. The new regime called for 14 regional governments, but the June 1992 elections for 11 of the 14 regional assemblies were challenged and widespread fraud was alleged. In the May 2000 elections, 3,300 regional and national seats were to be contested. Results of the third multiparty elections of 15 May 2005 were equally protested. The EPRDF alliance won half of the 10 state councils. According to the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia, a total of 1,920 Regional Council and City Administration seats were contested in 10 of the 11 regions. Results for the Dirē Dawa Region were still outstanding by the end of 2005.


The government of Ethiopia is now putting into place a decentralized federal system of courts consisting of regional and district courts consistent with the 1994 constitution. Each region has district (woreda), higher, and supreme courts. There are also local Shariah courts that hear religious and family cases involving Muslims. The Federal High Court and Federal Supreme Court have jurisdiction over cases involving federal laws, transregional issues, and issues of national import. The president and vice president of the Federal Supreme Court are recommended by the prime minister and appointed by the House of People's Representatives; for other federal judges, the prime minister submits to the House of People's Representatives for appointment candidates selected by the Federal Judicial Administrative Council.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary; trials are public. Defendants have a right to legal counsel and a public defender's office provides counsel to indigent defendants. The law, however, does not allow the defense access to prosecutorial evidence before the trial, and the current judiciary suffers from a lack of trained personnel and financial constraints. In 1995, the government began training new judges and prosecutors. However, it is estimated that the creation of a fully independent and skilled judicial system will take several decades.

In 1992, a special prosecutor's office was established. In 1994 this office began trying defendants charged with crimes against humanity during the Mengistu regime. As of 1997, approximately 1,300 detainees were charged with war crimes. Up to 5,198 persons had been charged with war crimes by the end of 1999.

The Council of People's Representatives in October 1999 passed enabling legislation to meet the constitutional requirement for the creation of a human rights commission and office of the ombudsman. The commission has full powers to receive and investigate all complaints of human rights violations made against any person. By the end of 1999, neither entity was operational.


In 2005, Ethiopia had 182,500 active armed forces personnel. The Army, which was in the process of being organized into three military regions, was equipped with more than 250 main battle tanks and over 460 artillery pieces. The Air Force had an estimated 2,500 members and was equipped with 48 combat capable aircraft, including 31 fighters and 15 fighter ground attack aircraft. The service also had 25 attack helicopters. The military budget for 2005 was $229 million.


Ethiopia is a charter member of the United Nations (UN), having joined on 13 November 1945; it belongs to the ECA and all the nonregional specialized agencies. A participant in the African Development Bank, G-24, and G-77. The former Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, was a founder of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which is now known as the African Union (AU). The AU secretariat and the UN Economic Commission for Africa are located in Addis Ababa. The nation has observer status in the WTO. It is part of COMESA, the ACP Group, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a Horn of Africa regional grouping.

Ethiopian troops fought under UN command in the Korean conflict and served in the Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in the early 1960s. The nation also supports the UN Operation in Burundi (est. 2004). A border dispute with Eritrea resulted in war from 19982000.The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) was established in 2000 to monitor the cessation of hostilities agreement made between the two countries, both of which later accepted a 2002 Boundary Commission delimitation decision. Ethiopia has received UN technical assistance in the fields of public administration, telecommunications, vocational training, agriculture, animal husbandry, education, civil aviation, and health. Ethiopia is a member of the Nonaligned Movement and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

In environmental cooperation, Ethiopia is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.


Ethiopia's economy has undergone major reforms since May 1991, when a market-oriented government came to power. Droughts, civil war, and cross-border conflicts have devastated the economy as much as socialist-style totalitarianism. The government continues to institute economic reforms designed to liberalize the economy and increase the role of private capital. Land, however, as of 2002 remained firmly in the hands of the government. A large trade deficit hampers economic development.

Agriculture, hunting, forestry, and fishing engaged 85% of the Ethiopian population and in 2002 accounted for over half of GDP and almost all exports. The agricultural sector is diverse, producing maize, sorghum, millet, other cereals (barley, wheat, and teff), tubers, and sugarcane. Coffee generated $175 million in exports in 2001 (down from $262 million in 2000), which was 60% of export earnings. Livestock production is also important, responsible for around 20% of export earnings.

The manufacturing sector, centered around Addis Ababa, produces construction materials, metal and chemical products, and basic consumer goods including food, beverages, leather, clothing and textiles. Over 90% of large-scale industry is state owned.

Ethiopia produces gold and has additional undeveloped deposits of platinum, marble, tantalite, copper, potash, salt, soda ash, zinc, nickel, and iron. Natural gas is found in the Ogaden.

To break the cycle of famine, the government has promoted extension services and fertilizers in the hope that farmers could realize their potential and poverty would be reduced. After the border war with Eritrea ended in 2000, however, bumper crops were offset by farmers' inability to find markets for their goods. The progress in the country's economic fortunes that began in the 1990s was largely quashed by the 19982000 war and a sharp decline in international coffee prices. Nonetheless, new building projects were due to begin in the early 2000s; dams, a new airport building, and a $15 million sugar-processing factory numbered among them. Reforms are needed in the financial sector, telecommunications, land ownership, and a cumbersome bureaucracy. The World Bank granted Ethiopia $450 million for postwar reconstruction, and the EU was an equally large contributor of development aid in 2003.

Economic growth was modest in 2002 (only 1.2%), and negative in 2003 (-3.8%), but by 2004 the economy recovered expanding at a whopping 11.6%; for 2005 the GDP growth rate is expected to be 5.7%. The yoyo effect that has plagued the Ethiopian economy is largely due to the finicky weather patternsdroughts in late 2002 led to the economic recess of 2003, whereas normal weather patterns in late 2003 helped the economy recover in 2004. The inflation rate fluctuated in previous years (with the economy), growing from 1.5% in 2002, to 17.8% in 2003, and down to 3.2% in 2004.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Ethiopia's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $59.9 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $800. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 6.5%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 11.6%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 40.1% of GDP, industry 12.7%, and services 47.2%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $46 million or about $1 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.7% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $1,504 million or about $22 per capita and accounted for approximately 22.8% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Ethiopia totaled $5 billion or about $73 per capita based on a GDP of $6.7 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003, household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 5.1%. It was estimated that in 2004 about 50% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


In the latest years for which data was available, government estimates in 1998 indicated that about 26 million Ethiopians were economically active. This figure is subject to fluctuation because of the seasonal nature of much of the activity. In 1999, about 85% of the total were engaged in agriculture and livestock raising. In 1997, about 34,570 persons were classified as unemployed.

The 1993 Labor Law provides workers with the right to form and join unions and engage in collective bargaining. This right however, excludes many categories of employment, including teachers and civil servants. The right of workers to strike (and the employer's right to lockout) is also somewhat restricted. Both sides must seek conciliation efforts, provide 10 days' notice and give reasons for the strike or lockout. The government may refer labor disputes to arbitration, which is binding on the parties. As of 2005, about 300,000 workers were members of a union. Estimates by labor experts indicate that over 90% of union members were covered by collective bargaining agreements in that same year.

The legal minimum age for employment is 14, with special provisions for these workers up to age 18. However, child labor is widespread, in both rural and urban areas. As of 2005, Ethiopia did not have a national minimum wage rate, although some public enterprises and government institutions had set there own minimum wage rates. For that same year, employees in the public sector had a minimum wage of $23 per month, while those in the insurance and banking sector had a rate of $27 per month. In neither case were these wage rates sufficient to provide a decent standard of living to a worker and family. The standard legal workweek was 48 hours with a 24 hour rest period. In addition there was premium pay for overtime, while compulsory and/or excessive overtime was prohibited.


It has been estimated that nearly 70% of Ethiopia's land mass is cultivable, yet only 12% of the land is under cultivation and permanent crops. Agricultural and pastoral pursuits supported over 80% of the population and formed 42% of the GDP in 2003. Subsistence farming and livestock grazing, both inefficient, are the rule. Field crops account for 40% of gross agricultural output, cash crops for 20%, and livestock for the rest.

The coffee variety known as arabica may have originated in Ethiopia, and the word coffee is derived from Kaffa (Kefa), the region in the southwest that is still the largest coffee-producing area of the country. Coffee is the most valuable cash export crop, accounting for 10% of foreign exchange earnings. Coffee production was an estimated at 260,000 tons in 2004, the highest in Africa. Qat, the leaves from a shrub that are used to make tea and which have a mild narcotic effect, is another important cash export crop.

The most commonly produced cereal is teff (Eragrostis abyssinica ), which is used to make the Ethiopian unleavened bread called injera. Corn and barley are the next most important grains, with an annual gross production of at least 1 million tons each. Sorghum, wheat, millet, peas, beans, lentils, and oilseeds are produced in substantial quantities; sugarcane and cotton are also grown. Production in 2004 included corn, 2,744,000 tons; wheat, 1,618,000 tons; sorghum, 1,784,000 tons; barley, 1,087,000 tons; dry beans, 175,000 tons; potatoes, 400,000 tons; yams, 310,000 tons; millet, 305,000 tons; and sugarcane, 2,454,000 tons.

The agricultural sector suffered severe damage from the civil war and its aftermath. Forced recruitment into the military led to a shortage of farm labor. Reforms aimed at introducing market-based incentives have been implemented, including freeing agricultural marketing and farm labor hiring practices. Emergency provisions of seeds, fertilizer, and other inputs have also been vital in rebuilding Ethiopia's agriculture. Since 1999, however, the border war with Eritrea and reduced harvests have caused Ethiopia to rely heavily on food donations from international organizations in order to ward off starvation.


Ethiopia has the largest livestock population in Africa, and this subsector accounts for 40% of gross agricultural output. In normal years, animal husbandry provides a living for 75% of the population. The number of cattle (zebu type) was estimated at 38.5 million in 2005; about three-fifths of them primarily work animals. The country lacks facilities for fattening cattle brought in to slaughter, an adequate veterinary service, and breeding herds. Meat production was estimated at 606,500 tons in 2005. Milk production from cows was an estimated 1,500,000 tons in 2005; from sheep, 42,500 tons; and from goats, 17,250 tons. The number of sheep and goats was estimated at 17 million and 9.6 million, respectively, but periodic drought may have made the actual number much lower. The number of horses was estimated at 1,500,000, mules at 325,000, donkeys at 3,800,000, and camels at 470,000. These were primarily pack animals.

Hides and skins constitute the country's second-largest export item and generally command high prices on the world market. In 2005, production of cattle hides was 65,100 tons; sheepskins, 10,800 tons; and goatskins, 16,100 tons. In 2005, Ethiopia produced 39,000 tons of honey, more than any other nation in Africa.


With the secession of Eritrea, Ethiopia lost access to an estimated 1,011 km (628 mi) of Red Sea coastline. In 1992, the Ethiopian and provisional Eritrean governments agreed to make Assab a free port for Ethiopia. Most Ethiopians do not eat seafood; hunting and fishing accounts for only a tiny fraction of the GDP. The catch was 9,213 tons in 2003, up from 5,318 tons in 1994.


In the 1930s, more than 30% of Ethiopia consisted of forests, but that total has fallen to 13%. Boswellia and species of commiphora produce gums used as the basis for frankincense and myrrh, respectively. A species of acacia is a source of gum arabic. Eucalyptus stands, introduced in the 19th century, are a valuable source of firewood, furniture, and poles. Roundwood production was an estimated 94 million cu m (3.3 billion cu ft) in 2003; all but 2.5 million cu m (87 million cu ft) was for fuel.


Ethiopia's main mineral export is gold, but the country has also been a producer of silver, tantalite, talc, soda ash, brick clay, feldspar, gemstones, diatomite, granite, anhydrite and gypsum, limestone, pumice, kaolin, salt, sand and scoria. The country also has metal deposits of manganese, iron ore, platinum and nickel. Despite this, little of Ethiopia's expected mineral potential has been exploited, although foreign investment was increasing. Gold mine output in 2003 was estimated at 5,300 kg, unchanged from 2002. Silver mine production in 2002 and 2003 each totaled 1,100 kg. Cement was the most important mineral industry in value and quantity. In 2003, hydraulic cement output totaled 1,200,000 metric tons, up from 900,000 metric tons the previous year. Substantial iron ore deposits were discovered in the Welega region in 1985. Other undeveloped resources included copper, semiprecious gemstones (agate, aquamarine, chalcedony, chrysoprase, emerald, garnet, jasper, obsidian, ruby, sapphire, spinel), molybdenum, mercury, palladium, rhodium, tungsten, zinc, apatite, bentonite, dolomite, potash, and quartz sand. Expected improvements in the general economic situation and the need to rebuild infrastructure were likely to increase demand for building materials and the viability of Eritrea's metals and industrial minerals deposits.


Hydropower accounts for the bulk of Ethiopia's electric power generating capacity and output. In 2002, the country's generating capacity stood at 0.501 million kW, with hydropower accounting for 0.451 million kW, and conventional thermal at 0.050 million kW. Electricity production for that same year stood at 2.024 billion kWh, of which 2.003 billion kWh and 0.020 billion kWh came from hydroelectric and conventional thermal plants, respectively. Electric power consumption in 2002 totaled 1.882 billion kWh. However, Ethiopia's heavy reliance upon hydropower to supply its electric power has made the country vulnerable to lengthy droughts.

Ethiopia has small reserves of oil and natural gas. As of 1 January 2003, the country's crude oil and natural gas reserves were placed at 0.428 million barrels and 880 billion cu ft, respectively. Ethiopia has no crude oil refining capacity and must import all refined petroleum products. Imports of refined petroleum products totaled 24,910 barrels per day, with consumption was an estimated 23,000 barrels per day in 2001. In 1997, due to high maintenance and operating costs, Eritrea and Ethiopia agreed to shut down their joint operations at the petroleum refinery at Assab and import refined petroleum products. In 2001, Ethiopia signed an agreement to import petroleum products from Sudan, which began in January 2003. Although Ethiopia has few proven hydrocarbon reserves, it is estimated to have considerable potential for oil and gas exploration.


While Ethiopia's industrial sector engages primarily in food processing, it also produces sugar, alcohol and soft drinks, cigarettes, cotton and textiles, footwear, soap, ethyl alcohol, and quicklime. Cement production is also significant. Industrial facilities are concentrated around Addis Ababa, depend heavily on agricultural inputs, and primarily serve the domestic market.

Since 1991, privatization of Ethiopia's industry has been a major objective of the government. In 1995, the government established the Ethiopian Privatization Agency to help privatize companies. By 1999, about 180 government enterprises had been privatized, including Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola bottling plants, the St. George Brewery, and the Lega Dembi Gold Mine. Other companies for sale included the Kenticha Tantalum Mine, the Calub Gas Company, and the Wonji-Shoa Sugar Factory, hotels, tanneries, textile mills, and garment factories.

Ethiopia has few proven oil and natural gas reserves, although the potential of these industries is seen as promising. Hydrocarbon exploration began in the Ogaden Basin in the 1920s, and in 1994, the World Bank approved a $74 million loan to develop natural gas fields in the Ogaden Basin. As of 2002, there were plans to build an oil refinery.

One of the key components of Ethiopia's industrial success is its access to ports. Two-thirds of Ethiopia's goods passed through the Eritrean port of Assab prior to the 19982000 border war. Ethiopia subsequently shifted its trade to Djibouti, but Port Sudan and Berbera in Somaliland were targeted as future outlets for trade.

Industry made up 12.4% of the economy in 2004, and it employed only a fraction of the labor force; agriculture is by far the biggest employer and also the biggest contributor to the GDP (47%); services come in second with a 40.6% participation in the GDP. Whereas agricultural growth rates were influenced by the weather, industry has managed to register stable growth rates5.8% in 200102, 4.6% in 200203, and 6.9% in 200304. Agriculture remained the country's main wealth producer.


Scientific societies and research institutes in Addis Ababa include the Association for the Advancement of Agricultural Sciences in Africa, the Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa, the Ethiopian Mapping Authority, the Ethiopian Medical Association, the Ethiopian Institute of Geological Surveys, the Geophysical Observatory, the National Herbarium, the Institute of Agricultural Research, and the International Livestock Center for Africa. Another Institute of Agricultural Research is located in Sidamo. The University of Addis Ababa, founded in 1950, maintains faculties of science, technology, and medicine, a college of agriculture, and a school of pharmacy. The Alemaya University of Agriculture, founded in 1952, has faculties of agriculture and forestry and a division of natural and social sciences. Also in Ethiopia are the Jimma Junior College of Agriculture and the Polytechnic Institute at Bahir-Dar. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 26% of college and university enrollments.


Addis Ababa is the paramount commercial and distribution center. Most of the economy is monetary, but transactions are still conducted by barter in some of the more isolated rural sectors. Underdeveloped transportation systems prohibit domestic trade, particularly in agriculture. As of 2001, about 75% of all farms were more than half a day's walk from the nearest all-weather road. Even so, about 80% of the work force is employed in agriculture, which accounts for about 52% of the GDP. The 19992000 war with Eritrea and recurring droughts have severely effected the economy. Growth in the industrial sector has been further prohibited by the land tenure system, through which the government owns and leases all land.

In general, business hours are from 8:30 or 9 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 5 or 6 pm, Mondays through Fridays. Shops are open until 8 pm. The national language, Amharic, is spoken along with English, the second official language. Credit cards are not widely accepted.


Coffee exports generate more than half of Ethiopia's export returns (53%), but the country's coffee production only accounts for 2.2% of the world's coffee exports. Leather, animal hides, and skins also bring in export revenues (9.9%). Other agricultural products,

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 512.7 2,686.0 -2,173.3
Djibouti 99.4 26.8 72.6
Germany 57.6 89.0 -31.4
Japan 43.7 195.8 -152.1
Saudi Arabia 35.4 131.4 -96.0
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 31.7 246.0 -214.3
Somalia 28.9 28.9
United States 22.7 384.4 -361.7
Yemen 16.1 5.8 10.3
Switzerland-Liechtenstein 16.1 14.1 2.0
United Kingdom 15.6 150.6 -135.0
() data not available or not significant.

including vegetables, oil seeds, and cotton reflect the remainder of major exports (10%).

Ethiopia is heavily dependent on imported manufactures. Machinery, petroleum, and petroleum products represent the leading import items.

In 2004, exports reached $563 million (FOBfree on board), while imports grew to $2.1 billion (FOB). The bulk of exports went to Djibouti (13.3%), Germany (10%), Japan (8.4%), Saudi Arabia (5.6%), the United States (5.2%), the UAE (5%), and Italy (4.6%). Imports included food and live animals, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, machinery, motor vehicles, cereals, and textiles, and mainly came from Saudi Arabia (25.3%), the United States (5.8%), China (6.6%), and India (4.0%).


Ethiopia's balance of payments has been significantly affected by weather conditions, terms of trade, and emergency drought relief efforts provided by the international community.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2000 the purchasing power parity of Ethiopia's exports was $442 million while imports totaled $1.54 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $1.098 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Ethiopia had exports of goods totaling $433 million and imports totaling $1.63 billion. The services credit totaled $523 million and debit $526 million.

Exports of goods and services reached $1.5 billion in 2004, up from $1.2 billion in 2003. Imports grew from $2.4 billion in 2003, to $3.2 billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative in both years, reaching -$1.3 billion in 2003, and -$1.7 billion in 2004. The current account balance was also negative, deteriorating from -$402 million in 2003, to -$620 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (including gold) grew to $1.4 billion in 2004, covering more than five months of imports.

Current Account -199.0
     Balance on goods -1,417.7
         Imports -1,922.0
         Exports 504.3
     Balance on services 46.5
     Balance on income -24.2
     Current transfers 1,196.4
Capital Account
Financial Account 264.8
     Direct investment abroad
     Direct investment in Ethiopia
     Portfolio investment assets
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets 68.8
     Other investment liabilities 196.1
Net Errors and Omissions -275.0
Reserves and Related Items 209.1
() data not available or not significant.


All banking institutions were nationalized after the government's formal Declaration of Socialism on 20 December 1974. The country's three private commercial banks were placed under the management of the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) and, in 1981, under the state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (established in 1963), which had 170 branches and $3 billion in total assets as of July 1999. It also holds $1.4 in deposits. Other banks included the Agricultural and Industrial Development Bank and the Housing and Savings Bank. A proposal to deregulate the banking sector, giving greater autonomy to the NBE, was introduced by the Council of Ministers in September 1993. Legislation allowing for the establishment of private banks and insurance companies; but not the privatization of existing institutions, or the foreign ownership of such companies; was passed in January 1994. The first private bank, Awash International, started operations at the end of 1994, and had eight branches by 1999. Five other private banks have opened, including Dashen Bank, The Bank of Abyssinia, Wegagen Bank, NIB International, and United Bank. There are no securities exchanges, and Ethiopians are legally barred from acquiring or dealing in foreign securities. A private-sector initiative plans to establish a market for buying and selling company shares by 2000.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $1.4 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $2.8 billion.


In January 1976, the 13 insurance companies operating in Ethiopia were nationalized and fused into an inclusive national insurance organization, the Ethiopian Insurance Corp. In 1994, the insurance industry was deregulated. Seven private insurance companies opened between 1994 and 1997: United, Africa, Nile, Nyala, Awash, National, and Global.


The Ethiopian fiscal year begins 8 July, in the Ethiopian month of Hamle. Ethiopia's public finances are under great budgetary pressure, as years of war and poverty have taken a heavy toll on the countryside, population, and infrastructure.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Ethiopia's central government took in revenues of approximately $2.3 billion and had expenditures of $2.8 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$542 million. Total external debt was $2.9 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 1999, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues were b9,707.3 million and expenditures were b12,993.7 million. The value of revenues in US dollars was us$1,222 million and expenditures us$1,689 million, based on a official exchange rate for 1999 of us$1 = b7.9423 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 14.2%; defense, 33.0%; public order and safety, 4.3%; economic affairs, 29.2%; housing and community amenities,

Revenue and Grants 9,707.3 100.0%
     Tax revenue 6,295.8 64.9%
     Social contributions 0.2 0.0%
     Grants 429.3 4.4%
     Other revenue 2,982 30.7%
Expenditures 12,993.7 100.0%
     General public services 1,846 14.2%
     Defense 4,285.1 33.0%
     Public order and safety 552.7 4.3%
     Economic affairs 3,796.5 29.2%
     Environmental protection
     Housing and community amenities 264.8 2.0%
     Health 638.3 4.9%
     Recreational, culture, and religion 119.5 0.9%
     Education 1,702.8 13.1%
     Social protection 206.5 1.6%
() data not available or not significant.

2.0%; health, 4.9%; recreation, culture, and religion, 0.9%; education, 13.1%; and social protection, 1.6%.


Ethiopia has a standard corporate tax rate of 30%. However, companies in the mining industry (excluding oil shale, petroleum and natural gas) are taxed at rates of 35% for small-scale mining operations, and at 45% for large-scale mining operations. Income generated from petroleum, oil shale and natural gas operations are subject to the 30% rate. Capital gains derived from the sale of buildings in municipal areas that are used for a business are subject to a 15% tax. Gains from the sale of company shares are taxed at 30%. A 5% tax is levied on royalties paid to residents and nonresidents, and a 2% ad valorem turnover tax on domestic sales. On 1 January 2003, Ethiopia replaced its sales tax with a value-added tax (VAT). As of 2005, the standard rate was 15%. Exempt from the VAT were food and pharmaceuticals.


The primary purpose of the tariff system is to provide revenues rather than to protect Ethiopian industry or to prohibit the importation of certain commodities. However, there are restrictions on importing certain goods that compete with domestically produced goods. Excise tax brackets range from 10% for textiles to 100% for vehicles with engines larger than 1,800 cc. Taxes on imports are based on the cost, insurance and freight (CIF) value. Imports of certain agricultural and industrial tools and parts and many raw materials are duty-free.


Since May 1991, the climate for foreign investment has improved dramatically. Private investment policies are more liberal, commercial performance standards have been applied to public enterprises, tax and tariffs have been reformed, and the currency has been devalued by 58%. The devaluation was the policy action required for the rescheduling of Ethiopia's foreign debt in 1992. Foreign exchange is now auctioned.

In 1996, a revised investment proclamation was approved that created additional incentives for foreign investors. Major provisions included duty-free entry of most capital goods and a cut in the capital gains tax from 40 to 10%. In addition, the government opened a number of previously closed sectors of the economy to foreign investment, although financial services, large-scale power production, telecommunications, and other public utilities remain off limits. Official estimates are that as of June 1996, 52 foreign investors had been given licenses. In 1998, amendments to the 1996 investment proclamation allowed Ethiopian expatriates and permanent residents the ability to invest in industries that had previously been reserved for nationals only.

The inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) peaked in 1997 at $288.5 million and has declined sharply since. In 2000, FDI inflow was $134 million and in 2001, grew to $349 million. Subsequent years brought with them significant levels of capital inflow ($255 million in 2002, $465 million in 2003, and $545 million in 2004), but not enough for a country the size of Ethiopia. At the end of 2004, total FDI stocks amounted to only $2.5 billion.


The policy of the Ethiopian government is to create the conditions necessary for sustained economic growth. Farmers have reacquired the economic freedom of price, of production, and of settlement. The government aspires to an agriculture-led industrialization and focuses its attention on food security, rural savings, and labor formation issues. The government holds all land and issues long-term leases to tenants. The 1996 economic reform plan promoted free markets and liberalized trade laws as essential to economic growth. Increased military expenditures during 1999 and 2000 largely due to the war with Eritrea threatened stability.

Ethiopia's per capita income is the second lowest in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), at about $100. In 2001, Ethiopia reached its decision point under the IMF/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, and was to receive $1.9 billion in debt relief. Also in 2001, Ethiopia negotiated a three-year $115 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement with the IMF, due to expire in March 2004. Although there was a bumper crop in 200001, the prices of coffee and cereals fell in 200102, and agricultural output was lower. Since July 2002, a severe drought affected Ethiopia; over 15 million people in Ethiopia and Eritrea alone were at risk of starvation in 2003.

The economy recovered well in 2004 and continued to grow substantially in 2005, due to a good performance of the agriculture sector. Since weather patterns were stable and favorable in 2005, analysts expected 2006 to be another good year for the Ethiopian economy. However, rising oil prices were expected to tone down the positive effect of the weather. The fact that the government owns all of the land in the country, which it leases to interested tenants, means that economic growth is seriously hindered because entrepreneurs cannot use that land as collateral for loans.


Other than modest government allocations for pensions, labor and social welfare for public employees, Ethiopia has no comprehensive public welfare or social security programs. Retirement is set at age 55 for public employees. Retired employees receive 30% of their average monthly salary during the last three years of employment. Most of the population depends on subsistence agriculture in deprived rural areas and therefore falls outside the scope of this limited retirement system.

Women have traditionally been restricted to subordinate roles in society. In rural areas, women are burdened with most of the strenuous agricultural and domestic work, while in urban areas, women are limited in their job opportunities. The civil code discriminates against women in family law and property issues. Domestic abuse is pervasive; societal norms inhibit most women from seeking intervention from the authorities. However, in 2004 a court was created to try cases of sexual abuse. Young women are still abducted for the purpose of marriage. The majority of girls are subject to female genital mutilation.

Human rights abuses persist, including arbitrary arrests, lengthy pretrial detention, and mistreatment of prisoners. However, the government encourages international human rights groups to send observers.


The availability of modern health services has been greatly extended since 1960, but these services still reach only a small portion of the population. Free medical care for the needy was introduced in 1977; however, in 1993, only 55% of the population had access to health care services. Ethiopia built a new hospital at Gore and a 500-bed hospital in Hārer was completed. The tuberculosis center in Addis Ababa was expanded and five new leprosariums were built in the provinces. Mental hospitals were built in Hārer and Asmera and the one in Addis Ababa was renovated. As of 2004, there were fewer than 3 physicians per 100,000 people, one of the lowest number of doctors per capita in the world. Additionally, there were only 19 nurses and 2 midwives per 100,000 people.

The wars, drought, political turmoil, and population pressures of the 1970s and early 1980s left their mark on the Ethiopian health situation. Between 1974 and 1992, there were 575,000 warrelated deaths. Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians died during a famine in 1973 and as many as one million may have died between 1983 and 1985. Only 4% of women used any form of contraception. The fertility rate in 2000 was 5.6. Average life expectancy in 2005 was estimated at only 48.83 years; infant mortality was estimated at 95.32 per 1,000 live births.

Widespread diseases include malaria, tuberculosis, syphilis, gonorrhea, leprosy, dysentery, and schistosomiasis. In 2000, 24% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 15% had adequate sanitation. In 1999, there were 373 reported cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 people. Ethiopia made an effort to vaccinate children up to one year old against tuberculosis, 90%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 63%; polio, 64%; and measles, 52%. As of 2000, an estimated 51% of all children under five years old were moderately or severely malnourished. Public health care expenditures were estimated at 4.1% of GDP.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 4.40 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 1,500,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 1,200 deaths from AIDS in 2003. Ethiopia is one of several African countries in which female genital mutilation is performed. About 90% of all Ethiopian women undergo the ritual; no specific law in the country prohibits it.


Except in Addis Ababa, Hārer, Dirē Dawa, and a few other urban centers, most houses are built of mud or mortar and have thatched or tin roofs. In the rural areas the traditional thatched hut (tukul ) is still the most common dwelling. A 2005 Habitat for Humanity report indicated that about 85% of all houses are made with mud, sticks, and thatch. Only about 8% of all housing units are built with stone walls. Housing shortages and overcrowding were still major concerns as of 2005. Only about 27% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 10% had access to sanitation facilities. Homelessness is a big problem in urban areas; it has been estimated that 80% of the residents in Addis Ababa are homeless or in substandard housing. The housing deficit for urban areas alone has been estimated at over 699,000 units, about 42% of the total housing stock in the nation.

Housing development and finance are the joint responsibility of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and the Housing and Savings Bank, which was established in November 1975. The government has developed the Ethiopian Housing Cooperative to encourage Ethiopia emigrants to return and build homes.


After the 1974 revolution, emphasis was placed on increasing literacy in rural areas. Practical subjects were stressed, as was the teaching of socialism. Public education is compulsory and free at the primary level, which covers eight years of study. The first cycle of secondary studies covers an additional two years. After this, students may choose another two years of preparatory studies or three-year technical or vocational studies. The academic year runs from September to July.

Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 47% of age-eligible students; 52% for boys and 42% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 17% of age-eligible students; 21% for boys and 12% for girls. It is estimated that about 39% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 67:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 48:1.

Addis Ababa University (formerly Haile Selassie I University) has extension centers in Alemaya, Gonder, Awasa, Bahir-Dar, and Debre Zeyit. The University of Asmara is a Roman Catholic institution. In 2003, about 2% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 41.5%, with 49.2% for men and 33.8% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.6% of GDP, or 13.8% of total government expenditures.


The Addis Ababa University Library contains 550,000 volumes. The National Library, established in 1944, holds 164,000 volumes. The Alemaya University of Agriculture in Dirē Dawa holds 47,000 volumes. The first children's library in Ethiopia opened in 2003 in Addis Ababa. Addis Ababa is also the site of the Ethiopia Public Information Center, a depository library of the World Bank.

Addis Ababa is home to the National Museum, which houses a general collection of regional archaeology, history, and art; the Ethnographic Museum at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, which includes collections of religious art, musical instruments, and ancient coins; the archaeological museum; the Natural History Museum; the Museum at the Holy Trinity Church; and the War Museum. There are regional museums in Harar, Makale, Wollamo Sodo, and Yirgalem. Many provincial monasteries and churches, as well as municipal authorities, maintain collections of documents, art, and antiquities.


All telephone and telegraph facilities are owned by the government and operated by the National Board of Telecommunications. The principal population centers are connected with Addis Ababa by telephone and radio circuits, and there is an earth-satellite station. In 2003, there were an estimated 6 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 146,100 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there was approximately 1 mobile phone in use for every 1,000 people.

Radio and television stations are run by the government. The Voice of Ethiopia radio service broadcasts mostly on AM in Amharic, but also in English, French, Arabic, and local languages. Ethiopian Television broadcasts about four hours daily. In 2001 there were eight radio stations and one television station. In 2003, there were an estimated 189 radios and 6 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 2.2 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 1 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There was one secure Internet server in the country in 2004.

The two major daily newspapers (with estimated 2002 circulations) are Addis Zeman (40,000; Amharic) and the Ethiopian Herald (37,000; English), both published by the government at Addis Ababa. There are also several weeklies published by the government. There were about 28 private Amharic-language weeklies and 1 independent Tigrinya-language weekly. Most independently owned newspapers are printed at government-owned presses.

All newspapers are strictly censored by the Ministry of Information and National Guidance. A 1992 Press Law, along with the constitution of Ethiopia, provide for free speech and a free press. The government is reported to use legal mechanisms to repress press rights in practice.


Since the 1974 revolution, peasants' and urban dwellers' associations, encouraged by the government, have been the chief voluntary societies. Ethiopia has a national chamber of commerce as well as regional and local ones. Trade unions are encouraged and supported through the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions. The African Economic Community has an office in Addis Ababa.

The Institute of Ethiopian Studies promotes interest and research in the nation's history and culture. The Association for Higher Education and Development is a multinational organization formed in 1999 to promote education in the country. The Ethiopian Medical Association promotes research and education on health issues and works to establish common policies and standards in healthcare. There are also several associations dedicated to research and education for specific fields of medicine and particular diseases and conditions, such as the Ethiopian Diabetes Association.

The Ethiopian Youth League is a primary organization promoting education and job training. The National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students serves as an umbrella organization that develops local youth groups interested in promoting traditional culture and values. The Ethiopian Scouts Association is also active. There are several sports associations throughout the country. Branches of the YMCA/YWCA are also active. The African Center for Women is a multinational organization encouraging women's participation in development programs and providing various educational and training programs.

There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, UNICEF, and Habitat for Humanity.


All visitors are required to have a valid passport and visa. Exit visas are required for visitors who stay more than 30 days. The chief tourist attractions are big-game hunting, early Christian monuments and monasteries, and the ancient capitals of Gonder and Aksum. There are seven national parks. In 2003, about 180,000 foreign visitors arrived in Ethiopia, a 15% increase from 2002. There were 3,497 hotel rooms with 5,419 beds and an occupancy rate of 60%. Tourism receipts totaled $336 million. The average length of stay in Ethiopia was three nights.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Addis Ababa at $216.


The most famous Ethiopian in national legend is Menelik I, the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, regarded as the founder of the Aksumite Empire. This tradition is contained in the Kebra Negast, or Book of the Glory of Kings. The most famous Christian saint of Ethiopia is Frumentius of Tyre (b.Phoenicia, d.380?), the founder of the Ethiopian Church. The 15th-century composer Yared established the Deggua, or liturgical music, of the Ethiopian Church. A 13th-century monarch, Lalibela, is renowned for the construction of the great monolithic churches of Lasta (now called Lalibela). Emperor Amda-Seyon I (r.131344) reestablished suzerainty over the Muslim kingdoms of the coastal lowland regions. During the reign of King Zar' a-Ya'qob (143468), a ruler renowned for his excellent administration and deep religious faith, Ethiopian literature attained its greatest heights. Emperor Menelik II (18441913) is considered the founder of modern Ethiopia. Emperor Haile Selassie I (18911975) was noted for his statesmanship and his introduction of many political, economic, and social reforms. Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam (b.1937) led the 1974 coup and was head of state from 1977 to 1991. Legesse ("Meles") Zenawi (b.1955) became prime minister in 1995.


Ethiopia has no territories or colonies.


Clapp, Nicholas. Sheba: Through the Desert in Search of the Legendary Queen. Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

Crummey, Donald. Land and Society in the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia: From the Thirteenth to the Twentieth Century. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.

Ethiopia: Accelerating Industrial Growth through Market Reforms. New York: United Nations Industrial Development Organization, 1996.

Grierson, Roderick. Red Sea, Blue Nile: The Civilisation of Ancient and Medieval Ethiopia. London, Eng.: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2002.

Henze, Paul B. Layers of Time: A History of Ethiopia. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Kamoche, Ken M. (ed.). Managing Human Resources in Africa. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Marcus, Harold G. A History of Ethiopia. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1994.

McCann, James. People of the Plow: An Agricultural History of Ethiopia, 18001990. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995.

McPherson, E. S. P. Ethiopian Sovereignty and African Nationhood: Voice from the Ethio-Diaspora Call. Brooklyn, N.Y.: AandB Publishers, 2000.

Morell, Virginia. Blue Nile: Ethiopia's River of Magic and Mystery. Washington, D.C.: Adventure Press, 2001.

Shinn, David H. and Thomas P. Ofcansky. Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2004.

. Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Boulder, Colo.: netLibrary, 2000.

Woodward, Peter. The Horn of Africa: Politics and International Relations. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2003.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ityop'iya Federalawi Demokrasiyawi Ripeblik



Located in the Horn of Africa the pointy peninsula-like landmass that emanates out of the eastern part of the continentEthiopia has a total area of 1,127,127 square kilometers (935,183 square miles), rendering it slightly less than twice the size of Texas. A landlocked country completely surrounded by other states, Ethiopia has a total border length of 5,311 kilometers (3,300 miles). Ethiopia is bordered by Kenya to the south, Somalia to the east, Djibouti and Eritrea to the northeast, and Sudan to the west. The capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, is located in the heart of the country.


In 1975, the population of Ethiopia was approximately 32.2 million. With a relatively high growth rate of 2.7 percent between 1975 to 2000, the population of Ethiopia doubled during this period, reaching a total of 64,117,452 by July 2000. Currently, the population growth rate remains high (2.76 percent), and it is forecasted that the population will reach 90.9 million by 2015 (July 2000 est.). In order to restrain the growth process, the Ethiopian government recently included a population control component in its overall development program. The death rate was estimated at 17.63 deaths per 1,000 people, and the birth rate was 45.13 births per 1,000 people (2000 est.). In terms of the age structure of the population, 47 percent of Ethiopians are younger than 15 years of age, 50 percent are between the ages of 15 to 64, and only 3 percent are older than 65 years of age. Only 16.3 percent of the population live in urban areas.

Ethnically, the population of Ethiopia is extremely heterogeneous (diverse). The country's principal ethnic groups are the Oromo (40 percent), the Amhara and Tigre (32 percent), Sidamo (9 percent), Shankella (6 percent), Somali (6 percent), Afar (4 percent), and Gurage (2 percent). The remaining 1 percent belong to various other ethnic groups. In total, there are more than 80 different ethnic groups within Ethiopia. Islam is the predominant religion with 45 to 50 percent of the population identifying as Muslim, 35 to 40 percent as Ethiopian Orthodox (a distinct denomination of Christianity), and 12 percent as animist (a term used to delineate a wide range of native African religious belief systems). The remaining 3 to 8 percent are adherents of various other religions.

Many languages are spoken by the inhabitants of Ethiopia, including Amharic, Tigrinya, Orominga, Guaraginga, Somali, and Arabic. Numerous other local languages and dialects also are spoken. Many of the languages are from the Semetic or Cushtic linguistic groups. Amharic is the country's only official language, while English is the major foreign language taught to Ethiopians in the educational system.

Like many African countries, one of the most daunting prospects that Ethiopia faces is a massive HIV/AIDS epidemic. By the end of 1997, conservative estimates stated that 2.6 million Ethiopians were living with HIV/AIDS, while the adult prevalence rate was 7.4 percent. In addition to causing considerable suffering, HIV/AIDS places a large burden on health care expenditure and diminishes the ability of the poor to save and invest, due to the high cost of treating the disease. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the efficacy of the government's plan to curb the epidemic will depend on its ability to address the structural factors that facilitate the spread of the disease, such as poverty and gender inequality.


The Ethiopian state consists, territorially, of the only area in Africa that was never colonized by a European power, with the exception of a brief Italian occupation from 1936 to 1941. Indeed, Ethiopiaor Abyssinia, as the area was once calledis one of the oldest independent countries in the entire world. Modern Ethiopia, characterized by political centralization and a modern state apparatus, emerged in the mid-19th century. Throughout much of the 20th century, Ethiopia was presided over by the emperor, Haile Selassie, who ruled the state autocratically (single-handedly and dictatorially), until he was overthrown and subsequently executed in the revolution of 1974.

Under Selassie's rule, the Ethiopian economy relied primarily on agriculture, particularly coffee production. During this time, agricultural production resembled a feudal system since land ownership was highly inequitable, and the vast majority of Ethiopians were obliged to till the fields of the wealthy landowners. Much of the marginal amount of industry that did exist was concentrated in the hands of foreign ownership. For example, by 1962, the Dutch H.V.A. Sugar Company, which commenced operations in Ethiopia in the early 1950s, employed 70 percent of the Ethiopian workforce involved in the industrial food-processing sector. The food-processing sector, in turn, employed 37 percent of all workers involved in manufacturing and industry.

Spouting anti-feudal and anti-imperialist (anti-foreign dominance) rhetoric, an administrative council of soldiers, known as the Derg, overthrew Selassie in 1974, ushering in a lengthy period of military dictatorial rule. The Derg regime, in turn, vocally promoted a Marxist -Leninist system, though according to Ghelawdewos Araia, author of Ethiopia: The Political Economy of Transition, it was only ostensibly (superficially) based on socialist principles. The Derg introduced substantial land reform and nationalized almost all of the country's important industries. The Derg regime, however, known for its particularly brutal suppression of opposition forces, failed to solve Ethiopia's many economic problems. In 1991, massive discontent led by the student movement, declining economic conditions caused by drought and famine, and provincial insurrections led by ethnic separatist groups forced the Derg chairman and Ethiopian president, Mengistu Haile Mariam, to flee the country. Following a period of transitional rule by the Transitional Government of Ethiopia, free elections were held in 1995, resulting in a victory for the Ethiopian's People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

Since its democratic assumption of power, the EPRDF has supported a process of economic reform based on the privatization of state-owned enterprises, promotion of agricultural exports, and deregulation of the economy. By 1999, the Ethiopian Privatization Agency had already overseen the privatization of more than 180 parastatals , including most state-owned retail shops, hotels, and restaurants.

Since the fall of the Derg regime, the economy has experienced several positive economic developments. In 1992, for example, the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Staff Country Report No. 98/6 stated that 62,941 persons were registered as unemployed, whereas in 1996, the figure of officially unemployed fell to 28,350 persons. Of course, for both years, many unemployed Ethiopians, and perhaps even the majority, did not register themselves as such. Nonetheless, it would be fair to deduce that a considerable amount of formerly unemployed Ethiopians have found jobs throughout the 1990s. At the same time, however, the UNDP estimates that the annual growth rate in gross national product (GNP) per capita between 1990 to 1998 was 1.0 percent, while the average annual rate of inflation during the same period was 9.7 percent. This means that Ethiopians were having an increasingly difficult time purchasing the commodities, such as food, that are essential for human existence.

The Ethiopian economy remains highly dependent upon coffee production, with 25 percent of the population deriving its livelihood from the coffee sector. Indeed, from 1995 to 1998, coffee accounted for an average of 55 percent of the country's total value of exports. Gold, leather products, and oilseeds constitute some of the country's other important exports. Major export partners include Germany, Japan, Italy, and the United Kingdom, while import partners include Italy, the United States, Japan, and Jordan. Ethiopia's imports include food and live animals, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, machinery, and motor vehicles.

Since Ethiopia mostly exports agricultural products and imports higher valued capital goods , the country runs a severe balance of trade deficit. This deficit, in turn, means that Ethiopia must borrow heavily to finance its imports, a factor that has led to the development of a significantly sized external debt (owed to both foreign-owned banks and international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the IMF). In 1997, the total debt stood at US$10 billion. The frequent droughts that plague the country also prevent the creation of a self-sufficient agricultural economy. Consequently, as many as 4.6 million people rely on annual food assistance provided by the wealthy industrial countries. Indeed, Ethiopia is the largest recipient of U.S. aid in sub-Saharan Africa. Notwithstanding (not including) emergency food aid, in 1996 Ethiopia received a total of US$45 million in Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the United States alone.


The executive branch of the Ethiopian government consists of both an elected president, who is the chief of state, and a prime minister, who is the head of government. Cabinet ministers are selected by the prime minister and approved by the House of People's Representatives, the lower chamber of the bicameral parliament. Members of the lower chamber are directly elected by popular vote, while members of the upper chamber, the House of Federation, are chosen by the various state assemblies. The president and vice president of the Federal Supreme Court, the chief institution of the judicial branch of government, are recommended by the prime minister and appointed by the House of People's Representatives.

In June 1994, the first democratic multiparty elections in Ethiopia's history took place, ending a 3-year transitional period that commenced following the overthrow of the Derg regime. During the transitory phase, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) assumed control of Eritrea and established a provisional government in the Ethiopian province. In April 1993, the EPLF administered a separatist referendum under the auspices of the United Nations (UN), which subsequently formed the basis of a declaration of independence at the end of that month. Thereafter, Eritrea was recognized internationally as an independent sovereign nation. Since 1998, Ethiopia and Eritrea have officially been engaged in a border war as a result of territorial disputes.

The June 1994 national elections resulted in an overwhelming victory for the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of numerous ethnically based Derg-opposition movements led by the Tigrayan Peoples' Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF initially entered politics as a Marxist guerrilla movement bent on overthrowing the Derg regime. As the leading party in the EPRDF, however, the TPLF has officially adopted a pro-democracy and pro-free market stance, as its economic and political policies clearly make manifest. Nonetheless, the U.S. Department of State argues that the EPRDF displays certain residual (left-over) control-oriented tendencies, which result from the party's quasi-authoritarian guerrilla past (during the insurgency, the TPLF was directed necessarily as a military unit). The recently held 2000 national elections saw the EPRDF return to power, and Meles Zenawi, the leader of the party, is serving his second term as prime minister. Most observers have agreed that Zenawi's government has pursued sound policies, which have contributed to economic growth and reductions in unemployment.

Several other parties also add to the plurality of Ethiopian political life, including the Coalition of Alternative Forces for Peace and Democracy (CAFPD); the Ethiopian Democratic Union (EDU); The Ethiopian Movement for Democracy, Peace, and Unity (EMDPU); the Ethiopian National Democratic Party (ENDP); the Oromo Liberation Front; and the All-Amhara People's Organization (AAPO), not to mention dozens of other smaller parties. While most parties are more or less prodemocracy and pro-free market, several Ethiopian parties, including the last 2 listed above, represent the specific interests of particular ethnic groups.

Import duties , which ranged from 0 to 50 percent and averaged approximately 20 percent in 1997, are the most significant contributor to government tax revenue. Income tax on employment, in turn, is the second most important source of tax revenue, while taxation of business profits is the third most important. There are 5 income tax brackets, with the highest marginal tax rate set at 40 percent for monthly incomes above 3,301 birr, and the lowest marginal tax rate set at 10 percent for monthly incomes between 121 to 600 birr. The profits of incorporated businesses are taxed at a uniform rate of 35 percent. Excise taxes are also quite important, and the tax rates of many products, including pure alcohol (150 percent), perfumes and automobiles (100 percent), dishwashers (80 percent), and tobacco and tobacco products (75 percent), are set at exceptionally high rates. Since most of these items are luxury products, the high tax rates do not affect poor consumers. However some of the more essential commodities, such as petroleum and petroleum products (20 percent), are also taxed quite heavily. The government's total revenue stood at US$1 billion in 1996.


According to the U.S. Department of State's Country Commercial Guide 2000, Ethiopia's surface and transport infrastructure is exceedingly poor and underdeveloped. Indeed, the country has the lowest road density in the world, and only 13.3 percent of all roads are paved (1999 est.). There are few interconnecting links between nearby regions and large parts of the country are isolated and dependent upon pack animals for transportation. The main highway route is from Addis Ababa to the port of Djibouti, which Ethiopia uses extensively since it is a landlocked country without ports and harbors of its own. The only train network consists of the 681-kilometer (423-mile) long segment of the century old Addis Ababa-Djibouti railroad.

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Ethiopia 1 195 5 N/A 0 0.0 N/A 0.01 8
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Dem. Rep. of Congo 3 375 135 N/A 0 N/A N/A 0.00 1
Eritrea N/A 91 14 N/A 0 0.4 N/A 0.01 1
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Since May 1998, Ethiopia has expended considerable effort to repair and maintain the railroad lines. Moreover, with the help of various donors, including the World Bank, the European Union (EU), and the African Development Bank (ADB), the government has implemented a US$3.9 billion Road Sector Development Plan designed to expand the road network by 80 percent for 2007. In 1998, the World Bank approved a US$309 million loan to be used for the project, a welcome contribution even though the loan will contribute significantly to Ethiopia's overall debt.

As for air transport, there are a total of 85 airports in Ethiopia, 11 of which have paved runways. All passenger and cargo flights are provided by Ethiopian airlines. The airlines' international services link the country with 43 cities on 3 continents, while domestic services link 38 airfields and 21 landing strips with Addis Ababa.

The government-owned Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) provides the population with telephone services. However, with only 3.1 telephone mainlines per 1,000 people, very few Ethiopians actually have telephone access (1999 est.). The situation compares unfavorably with most other sub-Saharan African nations, to say nothing of the wealthier industrialized nations of the world. In the United States, for example, there are 640 phone lines per 1,000 people (1996 est.).

Almost 90 percent of Ethiopia's electricity is derived from hydropower, which is exclusively provided by the parastatal Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation. In 1999, the country's total electric capacity was 400 megawatts. Over the next several years, the government plans on tripling this capacity to reach 1,200 megawatts. Although doing so would satisfy current electrical needs, Ethiopia has an untapped natural potential to generate over 30,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power. Ethiopia neither exports nor imports electricity, though it does heavily import oil.


Like most of the countries of the African continent, Ethiopia's economy is dominated by agricultural production. For many similar countries, this dominance is the direct result of the colonial period, which encouraged policies of agricultural exportation at the expense of industrial development. African territories were forced to export primary crops to their colonizing countries and to import higher value-added manufactured commodities. For Ethiopia, however, which was never a European colony, the agricultural predominance is in part a historical legacy of the feudalistic policies that prevailed throughout most of 20th century. These policies consisted of onerous (oppressive) obligations on the part of the peasantry, who were expected to provide high taxes and agricultural surplus to sustain the livelihoods of the ruling classes (consisting of the royal family, government officials, and lords and nobles). In this system, which lasted until the mid-1970s, the government was more concerned with maintaining the rule of the status quo (the existing order) than in fostering industrial development, which resulted in the foreign domination of industry.

Industry still remains a relatively small aspect of the Ethiopian economy, though there is potential for growth in both manufacturing and mining. The service sector, which has become extremely important in terms of contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP), is characterized by a strong financial system. Tourism is one area of the service sector that is currently marginal, though there is significant potential for commercial development.


Agriculture, which constituted 46 percent of GDP and more than 80 percent of exports in 1998, is by far the most important economic activity in the Ethiopian economy (1998 est.). An estimated 85 percent of the population are engaged in agricultural production. Important agricultural exports include coffee, hides and skins (leather products), pulses, oilseeds, beeswax, and, increasingly, tea. Domestically, meat and dairy production play an integral role for subsistence purposes.

Socialist agricultural reforms conducted by the Derg included land reforms that led to relatively equitable patterns of land tenure. The state maintained complete ownership of land, and state marketing boards were created with monopolistic rights to purchase and sell agricultural commodities. Currently, the government retains the right of ultimate land ownership in the agricultural sector, though most marketing boards have been abolished. While marketing boards enabled farmers to sell their crops to the highest bidder, they also required the dissolution of minimum prices for agricultural commodities. Since the government normally purchased agricultural commodities at low prices, however, the abolition of marketing boards may prove to be a positive development.

With 25 percent of all Ethiopiansapproximately 15 million peoplegaining their livelihoods from coffee production, the coffee sector is the most important agricultural activity. According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook 2000, coffee production, Ethiopia's largest source of foreign exchange, contributed US$267 million to the economy in 1999, with export volumes equaling 105,000 metric tons. Coffee has long held a central role in Ethiopia's export economy and, as early as the mid-1970s, about 55 percent of the nation's total export earnings derived from coffee exports. This percentage share remained more or less constant until the mid-1990s, when it increased to an average of 63 percent of total export earnings between 1995 to 1998.

With the export economy so heavily dependent upon the exportation of a single crop, the Ethiopian economy is structured into a precarious (insecure and dangerous) position. If annual production declines as a result of a bad harvest (due to natural factors, such as droughta constant threat), export earnings will suffer considerably, exacerbating (making worse) the country's already negative balance of trade. Similarly, if all coffee producing countries produce large amounts of coffee in a given yearresulting in an excessive supplyinternational prices for coffee will decline and Ethiopia's export economy will accordingly suffer. Such was the case in 1998, when a glut in the world supply of coffee reduced Ethiopia's coffee earnings by 22 percent from the previous year.

With 75 million heads of livestock, Ethiopia has the largest concentration of livestock on the African continent. According to the Country Commercial Guide 2000, however, it is difficult to calculate the cattle sector's exact value, since a substantial amount of meat and dairy production is for subsistence consumption. In certain regions, such as the highlands, livestock is utilized only to support farming. Still, hides and leather products are Ethiopia's second most important export, though the Commercial Guide states that the sector's huge potential remains largely untapped, as a result of weather conditions (drought), diseases, and the lack of a coherent government plan for the development of the sector. In 1996, Ethiopia produced 8,500 metric tons of leather and leather products for exportation, thereby earning a total of US$6.5 million.

Ethiopia is also the continent's leading producer and exporter of beeswax and honey. The country has approximately 7 million bee colonies. Other important agricultural activities include tea production, which has reached approximately 4,000 metric tons of output in recent years, and cotton and sugar production. Moreover, there are opportunities for expanding cultivation and export of dried fruits, cut flowers, and canned vegetable products.

While the agricultural export economy is constantly subjected to the caprices (whims) of the weather, so too is agricultural production geared towards domestic consumption. In 1992, for example, IMF statistics indicate that Ethiopia produced 51,850 quintals of cereals, mostly for domestic consumption, whereas the following year the cereals output dropped to 47,404 quintalsa decline of 8.6 percent. The decrease was largely the result of drought. The fact that Ethiopia has an extremely poor infrastructure for agricultural production does not help the matter. Though there is the potential for Ethiopia to become self-sufficient in grain production, the country must currently continue to import grains in addition to receiving food aid in order to feed the population.

Like many African countries, Ethiopia confronts several environmental issues that are particularly problematic for the agricultural sector of the economy. Such issues include deforestation (depletion of forests), over-grazing (depletion of pastures), soil erosion (depletion of quality soil), and desertification (extensive drying of the land). Since only 12 percent of all Ethiopian land is arable, 1 percent is used for permanent crops, and 40 percent is comprised of permanent pastures, it is essential for Ethiopia to address these environmental problems in order to maintain the land so fundamental for agricultural activities. Moreover, according to Girma Kebbede, the author of The State and Development in Ethiopia, it is precisely these environmental problemsrather than just the shifting weather patternswhich contribute primarily to the chronic famines that so frequently plague the country. Quite simply, limited arable land as a result of soil erosion and other environmental difficulties mean that in times of drought, there are very few available methods to prevent widespread famine.


Ethiopian industry, including both mining and manufacturing, constitutes approximately 12 percent of the GDP, while providing employment for 8 percent of the country's labor force (1998 est.). Under the Derg regime, almost all of the major industries were owned exclusively by the state. With a marginal average annual growth rate of 3.8 percent between 1980 and 1987, the state's policies of industrial control did not fare well. According to Kebbede, the failure of such policies can be attributed to "bureaucratic mismanagement, inefficiency, and corruption." State bureaucracies were costly and wasteful because they were not held responsible to any section of the society and because political and ideological questions took precedence over questions of efficiency or practicality. At the same time, however, one must remember that for many impoverished African countries fearful of foreign domination and eager to create more or less equitable societies, state control of industry seemed to be the most reasonable form of economic organization throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The country's first democratic government, formed in the early 1990s, made privatization of Ethiopia's industrial sector a major objective to promote economic growth, but progress remained slow at the beginning of 2000.


Regarding the exploitation of natural resources, gold, marble, limestone, and small amounts of tantalum are the major minerals mined in Ethiopia. Of these minerals, gold, which provided US$12.5 million to the economy in 1996, is the most significant contributor to export earnings. Gold mining output has oscillated (wavered) considerably throughout the 1990s, fluctuating, for example, from 3,500 metric tons in 1992 to 1,800 metric tons in 1994 and 5,100 metric tons in 1996. Traditionally, the mining industry, which remains under state domination, has played a marginal role in Ethiopia's economy. Resources with potential for future commercial development include potash (recently found in large deposits), natural gas, iron ore, and possibly coal and geothermal energy.


Manufacturing as a percentage of the GDP only marginally increased throughout the 1990s.

In 1992, for example, manufacturing constituted 3.9 percent of the GDP, whereas its percentage share had slightly increased to 4.3 percent by 1998.

The manufacturing sector of the Ethiopian economy produces construction materials, metal, and chemical goods, in addition to basic consumer goods such as food, beverages, clothing, and textiles. Despite massive privatization campaigns, the industrial sector remained dominated by the state, with 150 public (state) enterprises accounting for more than 90 percent of the entire sector's value in 1999. Production by state-owned enterprises is centered on food and beverages, textiles, clothing, leather products, tobacco, rubber, plastic and cement. In 1999, there were also 165 private sector manufacturing firms involved in producing goods such as bakery products, textiles, footwear, and furniture.

Though certain areas of manufacturing are now open to participation by foreigners with permanent residence status as a result of legislation passed in 1998, still other areas, such as garment factories, are restricted from foreign participation. In 1998, there were a total of 163 foreign investment projects with total projected capital investment of US$1.2 billion. Of these projects, 90 were wholly foreign owned while 73 were joint ventures with local partners. Major foreign investors include the United States, with investments worth US$9 million in 1999, as well as Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Kuwait, and Italy. U.S.-based manufacturing companies that have a significant presence in Ethiopia include Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola, Caterpillar, General Motors, Xerox, and John Deere. Numerous other U.S. firms also operate in Ethiopia, albeit in different sectors of the economy.


Accounting for 42 percent of the GDP, services are an extremely important component of Ethiopia's economy (1998 est.). At the same time, however, with only 12 percent of the labor force engaged in services and government employment, a relatively small percentage of Ethiopians work in the service sector. The large contribution of services to the GDP stems mostly from the government and the strong financial sector.


According to the aforementioned Country Commercial Guide 2000, the tourism industry in Ethiopia is negligible, though there is great potential for commercial development. With many unique indigenous plant, bird, and mammal species, the country has an enormous diversity of wildlife, exotic landscapes, and architectural ruins of prehistoric, historical, and religious significance. As such, Ethiopia is an ideal location for foreign and local visitors embarking upon historic, cultural, or ecotourism expeditions.


Following the 1974 revolution, the banking and financial sector in general came under the domination of the state. In 1994, legislation was passed that permitted the establishment of private banks and insurance companies but prohibited foreign ownership of such companies.

Ethiopia's central bank, the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE), seeks to foster monetary stability and a sound financial system by maintaining credit and exchange conditions perceived to be conducive to the balanced growth of the economy. All transactions in foreign exchange must be carried out through authorized dealers under the control of the NBE. The Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), whose assets totaled over US$3 billion in 1996, is a government-owned bank with 167 branches in operation and over US$1.5 billion on deposit (1996 est.). The CBE, the largest bank in Ethiopia, offers credit to investors on market terms, though the 100 percent collateral requirement limits the ability of small entrepreneurs with limited resources to capitalize upon business opportunities.

Ethiopia's first private bank, Awash, commenced operations in 1994 and now boasts 6 branches in Addis Ababa and 2 in the Oromiya Regional State. In addition to Awash, 5 other private banks now operate in Ethiopia, including Dashen Bank (with a total of 12 branches), the Bank of Abyssinia (2 branches), and Wegagen Bank (5 branches). The 2 newest private banks in operation are NIB International and United Bank. Since the banking and financial reforms of 1994, there are also 7 private insurance companies in operationUnited, Africa, Nile, Nyala, Awash, National, and Global. Ethiopia does not have a securities market, although the U.S. Department of State reported that a private sector initiative to establish a mechanism for buying and selling company shares was expected to begin by the year 2000.


Ethiopia's retail sector consists mostly of small shops, local markets, and roadside stands, many of which are part of the informal sector of the economy, which remains unregulated and untaxed. Investment legislation passed in September 1998 also allows foreigners with permanent resident status to participate in retail and wholesale trade.


Ethiopia has chronically run a negative balance of payments , rendering the country highly dependent upon foreign aid and loans to finance imports. Throughout the 1990s, the situation has shown little sign of improvement. Indeed, the balance of trade deficit was US$829.4 million in 1992 anddespite a brief amelioration in 1994 when the deficit declined to US$609.5 millionit remained approximately the same in 1998, when it

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Ethiopia
Exports Imports
1975 .240 .313
1980 .425 .716
1985 .333 .993
1990 .298 1.081
1995 .423 1.145
1998 .560 N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

reached US$830.0 million. The constant deficit ensures Ethiopia's perpetual indebtedness to the commercial banks of the rich industrial countries and international financial institutions, such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the ADB. In 1997, Ethiopia's total external debt stood at US$10 billion.

Ethiopia's major exports include coffee, gold, leather products, beeswax, canned vegetables, tea, sugar, cotton, and oilseeds. Purchasing approximately 22 percent of Ethiopia's exports in 1997, Germany is Ethiopia's largest trading partner. Along with many other countries of EU such as Italy, France, and the United KingdomGermany has steadily increased its quantity of Ethiopian imports. In 1992, for instance, the countries of the EU purchased approximately Br203.3 million worth of Ethiopian exports, whereas this figure increased dramatically to Br1,351.5 million in 1996. Similarly, the United States has increased its quantity of Ethiopian imports from Br19.6 million in 1992 to Br169.9 million in 1996. This major increase in trade with the Western countries can be explained primarily by the fall of the Derg and the subsequent liberalization policies pursued by the EPRDF. Other major importers of Ethiopian products include Saudi Arabia, China, and Japan, the latter of which purchased 12 percent of all Ethiopian exports in 1997. Ethiopia's largest trading partner in Africa is Djibouti, a neighboring country through which Ethiopia must conduct all of its importing and exporting since Ethiopia is landlocked and thus lacks a port of its own.

Ethiopia's major imports include food and live animals, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, machinery, civil and military aircraft, transport and industrial capital goods, agricultural machinery and equipment, and motor vehicles. Ethiopia's imports have followed the same pattern as its exports in the 1990s, with the percentage of imports from the countries of the EU and the United States steadily increasing. In 1991, imports worth Br364.7 million were purchased from the countries of the EU, while this figure increased to Br2,006.7 million in 1995. In the same year, a similar value (Br2,300.7 million) of imports came from various countries of Asia and the Middle East, including Japan, Saudi Arabia, and China. With imports to Ethiopia equaling Br146.8 million in 1995, Djibouti is Ethiopia's number-one regional exporter, while Kenya is second.

Ethiopia's balance of trade deficit can be largely explained by the unequal terms of trade between agricultural commodities (the country's major exports) and capital goods (Ethiopia's major imports). International markets accord a higher price to commodities that are manufacturedor "value-added"than to those that are in their raw form. Recognizing the uneven terms of international trade, many countries, including Ethiopia, pursued policies of protectionism throughout the 1960s and 1970s to develop national industrial capacity or import-substitution . In many cases, where the state pursued policies of complete industrial control, they failed miserably. For others, however, such as the economies of Southeast Asia, the policies were more successful, enabling these countries to eventually partake in liberalized free trade at the global level.

Ethiopia's policies of import substitution were largely disastrous. This does not mean, however, that the country should necessarily abandon all forms of protection in favor of free trade, which is theoretically designed to increase the efficiency of national industries through competition with the outside world. Instead, such liberalization may lead to the inability of Ethiopian industries to compete at all, thereby further assuring the dominance of the agricultural sector. To date, Ethiopia has proceeded with the liberalization process relatively cautiously, maintaining an average tariff rate of approximately 20 percent (1997 est.), though there are plans to reduce this figure to 17 to 18 percent. Ethiopia is considering application to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and it is already a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). Regional trading arrangements such as the latter may offer member countries the opportunity to profit from increased trade while competing from a more level playing field. There has been little trade increase between the members of COMESA, however.


Prior to 1993, the official rate of the Ethiopian birr was pegged (fixed) to the U.S. dollar at US$1:Br5.000. Since a pegged exchange rate does not necessarily represent a currency's true market value, the EPRDF replaced the fixed exchange rate system with a floating exchange rate system. The value of the birr is thus determined in an inter-bank market where the national bank sells foreign currency to private banks, the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, and large corporations at weekly auctions.

Exchange rates: Ethiopia
birr (Br) per US$1
Dec 2000 8.3140
2000 8.3140
1999 8.1340
1998 7.5030
1997 6.8640
1996 6.4260
Note: Since May 1993, the birr market rate has been determined in an interbank market supported by weekly wholesale auction.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

In this way, the official exchange rate is auction-determined. The purchasers of foreign exchange, in turn, are free to establish their own exchange rates.

The value of the birr in relation to the U.S. dollar has steadily depreciated since the implementation of the floating exchange system. In 1995, for instance, the exchange rate was set at US$1:Br6.3200 while, 3 years later in 1998, the rate had decreased to US$1:Br7.5030. As of January 2000, the rate was determined at US$1:Br8.2.

According to the Country Commercial Guide 2000, the Ethiopian currency has remained relatively stable, especially in comparison to the currencies of most other sub-Saharan African nations, as a result of conservative monetary policies and considerable foreign exchange reserves . Nonetheless, the steady depreciation of the currency means that it takes a growing amount of Ethiopian birr to purchase imports from abroad. While this can help the export economy, since fewer U.S. dollars are needed to purchase Ethiopian exports, it also renders valuable imports, such as food for the population, more expensive. In 1998, incidentally, food imports constituted 14 percent of all merchandise imports.


Under the rule of Haile Selassie, Ethiopian society was characterized by gross inequality between the largely aristocratic eliteconsisting of landowners, lords, nobles, the royal family, government officials, and elements of the clergyand the impoverished peasantry. Indeed, according to Kebbede, the massive famines of the 1960s could have been avoided if the obligations on the part of the peasantry towards the elite (in terms of providing agricultural produce) had not been so oppressive. The Derg regime subsequently abolished feudal obligations and titles of privilege, even going to the extreme of executing numerous members of the high-ranking nobility (the socalled "red terror"). Despite the egalitarian rhetoric of the Derg, however, high-ranking government officials

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Ethiopia N/A N/A 91 100 110
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Dem. Rep. of Congo 392 313 293 247 127
Eritrea N/A N/A N/A N/A 175
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

retained privileged economic positions. Today, Ethiopia's elite continues to consist of government officials, in addition to a small upper class of highly skilled managers and professionals.

Like all the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, poverty is rampant in Ethiopia. The UNDP's Human Development Index (HDI) listings, which arranges countries according to their overall level of human development, ranks Ethiopia 171st out of a total of 174 nations. The HDI is a composite index (one that assesses more than one variable) that measures life expectance at birth, adult literacy rate, school enrollment ratio, and the GDP per capita . It is indicative of a country's general social and economic well-being. As such, Ethiopia's HDI ranking demonstrates that the country is one of the poorest and least developed in the world. Fortunately, the situation has shown small signs of improvement, and the Ethiopian HDI score increased from a dismal 0.265 in 1985 to a slightly better 0.309 in 1998 (the highest possible rank is 1.0, and Canadathe highest ranking HDI country scored 0.935 in 1998).

The Ethiopian government spends relatively little on education and health. In 1998, for example, public expenditure on health and education as percentages of the GDP equaled 1.6 percent and 4.0 percent respectively. Though these expenditures displayed marginal increases,

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Ethiopia
Lowest 10% 3.0
Lowest 20% 7.1
Second 20% 10.9
Third 20% 14.5
Fourth 20% 19.8
Highest 20% 47.7
Highest 10% 33.7
Survey year: 1995
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

they are nowhere near the percentage level of industrialized countries, such as the United States, which spent 5.4 percent of the GDP on education and 6.5 percent on health in 1998. Moreover, the Ethiopian government spends a significant amount on military expenditure, largely as a result of the border war with Eritrea, though such expenses have decreased substantially from 10.4 percent of the GDP in 1990 to 3.8 percent in 1998. The fact that the Ethiopian government must continually service a large debt does not help the social expenditure cause.

The vast majority of Ethiopians spend their meager incomes on the basic necessities of life, such as food, rents, clothing, fuel, and transportation. Very little is spent on entertainment and recreation, which are considered luxuries for those that live in considerable poverty. To make matters worse, in the past 10 years, the increase in the GNP per capita has been grossly outweighed by mounting inflation, which means that Ethiopians are having an increasingly difficult time purchasing the commodities essential for human existence. The UNDP estimates that the annual growth rate in GNP per capita between 1990 to 1998 was 1.0 percent, while the average annual rate of inflation during the same period was 9.7 percent.


Since 85 percent of Ethiopia's workforce engages in subsistence farming in the countryside, only a very small percentage of the population is involved in wage labor. The Ethiopian constitution and the 1993 labor law provide wage laborers with the right to form and belong to unions, though employees of the civil and security services (where most wage earners work), judges, and prosecutors are denied these rights. The Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU), established after the fall of the Derg regime in 1993, includes 9 federations organized by industrial and service sector. There is no requirement that unions belong to the CETU. Approximately 250,000 Ethiopian workers are unionized.

Workers who provide an "essential service," such as those who work in air transport, railways, bus service, police and fire services, post and telecommunications, banks, and pharmacies, are denied the right to strike. Other workers are granted the right to strike, though the unions involved must follow certain detailed procedures before doing so. The same applies for the right of an employer to lock out workers. Both sides must make efforts at reconciliation and provide at least 10 days notice to the government before the commencement of an action.

The minimum age for wage labor is 14 years, and various laws protect children between the ages of 14 to 18 years, including restrictions that they may not work more than 7 hours per day. The U.S. Department of State maintains that there are some efforts to enforce such regulations within the formal industrial sector, though there are large numbers of children of all ages that grow and harvest crops outside government regulatory control in the countryside or work as street peddlers in the cities. The harsh reality is that many impoverished parents depend on the work contributions of their children to ensure the survival of the household.

While there is no minimum wage in the private sector, a minimum wage in the public sector has been in effect since 1985. According to the U.S. Department of State, however, the minimum wage in the public sector, which equaled about US$16 per month in 1996, is insufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. The Office of the Study of Wages and Other Remunerations, for instance, reports that a family of 5 requires a monthly income of US$61 in Ethiopia. Even with 2 minimum wage earners, therefore, a family receives only about half the income needed for adequate subsistence. These factors result in the family's reliance upon the children to contribute to the household income.

Most employees in Ethiopia work a 40-hour week, and the government, industry, and unions negotiate occupational health and safety standards. The Inspection Department of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs cannot enforce these standards effectively, however, due to a lack of human and financial resources.


5TH CENTURY B.C. Ethiopia becomes one of the first countries in Africa. Ethiopia is described by the Greek historian Herodotus, and the Old Testament records a visit by the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba to Jerusalem.

4TH CENTURY. Missionaries from Syria and Egypt introduce Christianity to the country.

1493. The Portuguese establish contact with Ethiopia, prompting a lengthy conflict between Roman Catholic converts and adherents of Ethiopian Coptic Christianity.

1630s. All foreign missionaries are expelled from Ethiopia, and the country subsequently remains isolated from the West until the mid-19th century.

MID-19TH CENTURY. Under the Emperors Theodore (1855-68), Johannes IV (1872-89), and Menelik II (1889-1913), Ethiopia becomes a modern state characterized by political centralization.

1930. Adopting the throne name Haile Selassie, Ras Tafari Makonnen is crowned emperor, commencing a lengthy period of rule that witnesses the perpetuation of a quasi-feudal system, albeit with marginal reforms.

1936-42. The Italians occupy Ethiopia despite Selassie's plea to the League of Nations for intervention. The Italians are expelled by British and Ethiopian forces, and Selassie returns to rule after a period of forced exile.

1974. Following a period of civil unrest, Selassie is deposed, and a military administrative council known as the Derg declares a military dictatorship supposedly based on socialist principles. The Derg, which pursues abhorrent policies of political repression (the "red terror"), nationalizes the land and most of the economy.

1991. Ethnic insurrection, a collapsed economy, and recalcitrant (rebellious) students cause the final collapse of the Derg regime. The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is democratically voted into office.

1993. Eritrea establishes its independence under a UN-monitored referendum. Ethiopia and Eritrea commence a border war that continues to restrain the development of both countries.


Despite the pervasive poverty, marginal growth rates, and tumultuous political and economic history of Ethiopia, there are several signs indicative of hope and improvement. For the first time in the country's history, for instance, an effective democracy has been institutionalized. While this will most certainly not solve Ethiopia's deeply embedded economic difficulties overnight, it is, if nothing else, a huge step forward in the direction of the establishment of a responsive and stable government. Moreover, the economy has experienced an unprecedented degree of stability since the mid-1990s, though this is, admittedly, counterbalanced by a precarious agricultural dependence and a chronic balance of payments deficit.

While there are undeniably positive developments, there remain severe impediments that prevent the assurance of a sustained path towards economic development. Perhaps the most significant question that the Ethiopian government must address is the specific policy framework that must be implemented over an extended period of time to surmount these impediments. Privatization and the absolute rule of the free market currently reign supreme in the international neo- liberal economic environment. Rather than accepting the virtues of neo-liberal ideology at face value, however, Ethiopia must adopt policies that are relevant to its particular circumstances. To its credit, this is precisely what the EPRDF seem to be doing. Though the government has pursued policies of trade liberalization, they have not promoted unobstructed free trade. Similarly, while many state-owned enterprises have been privatized, the government retains a considerable role in certain areas of the economy, such as telecommunications, infrastructure provision, and electricity. Moreover, foreign dominance, which can be nationally unprofitable, has been entirely excluded from certain segments of the economy, such as the finance sector. The EPRDF must continue along this path, withstanding international pressure to create a complete free market economy that may not be appropriate at this stage of Ethiopia's economic development.


Ethiopia has no territories or colonies.


Araia, Ghelawdewos. Ethiopia: The Political Economy of Transition. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1995.

Hansson, Gote. The Ethiopian Economy 1974-1994: Ethiopian Tikdem and After. London: Routledge, 1995.

International Monetary Fund. "IMF Staff Country Report, Ethiopia: Statistical Appendix." <>. Accessed May 2001.

Kebbede, Girma. The State and Development in Ethiopia. NewJersey: Humanities Press, 1992.

United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Report 2000. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed May 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Ethiopia. < _bgn.html>. Accessed May 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Ethiopia. <>. Accessed May 2001.

World Bank Group. Ethiopia: Competitiveness Indicators. <>. Accessed May 2001.

Neil Burron


Addis Ababa.


Ethiopian birr (Br). One Ethiopian birr equals 100 cents. Notes come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 birr, and coins come in denominations of 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents.


Coffee, gold, leather products, oilseeds.


Food and live animals, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, machinery, motor vehicles.


US$33.3 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$420 million (1998 est.). Imports: US$1.25 billion (1998 est.).

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Major City:
Addis Ababa

Other Cities:
Asmara, Axum, Dire Dawa, Gondar, Harar, Jima, Mekele, Nazret


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 2001 for Ethiopia. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


An assignment to Ethiopia offers an opportunity to live and work in a country with a rich and diverse culture and a heritage and history of independence among the longest and proudest on the African continent.

The seventeen years of revolution under the cruel, dictatorial Mengistu regime ended in 1991. Since then the Transitional Government has been working toward the creation of a democratically-based government and a free market economy. Much progress remains to be made, infrastructures created, and habits changed. Western donors, including the United States, are encouraging the Transitional Government through assistance programs directed toward food security, democracy and governance, and extensive privatization.

Ethiopia is a very poor country which suffers from recurring droughts and famines. The international community attempts to assist the government to alleviate and, increasingly, to prevent these natural and human disasters. The U.S. remains one of the largest donors in this effort.


Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa, or "new flower", with an estimated population of over 3 million, spreads over a large hilly area in the mountains of the central highlands. The climate is temperate and pleasant most of the year. This high mountain settlement, a relatively new city, became Ethiopia's capital in 1890.

Its architecture is a confusion of older buildings in the Italian style, modern offices and apartments, Western-style villas, and mud-walled, tin-roofed dwellings. There are slum areas scattered about the city, as there are attractive and well-groomed villas.

Only a few of the main streets have names that are generally known or used. Street signs are rare, and although businesses and residences have house numbers, these appear to be in random order and difficult to locate. The main streets are paved, but many side streets are rocky and, in the rainy season, very muddy. All streets suffer from neglect and large pot holes. Traffic is impaired not only by road conditions, but also by unruly drivers, animals and pedestrians walking on the roadway, and very poor street lighting. Road accident rates in Addis Ababa are very high, fatalities frequent, and medical care very poor.

Addis Ababa is often called the "Capital of Africa" because the Organization of African Unity (OAU) makes the city it headquarters. In addition, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UN ECA) was established here in 1958, and many international conferences are held in its very impressive Africa Hall.


Vegetables, such as potatoes, onions, garlic, leeks, carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, leaf lettuce, spinach, beets, artichokes, and avocados are abundant all year on the local economy, though the quality varies with the season. Fresh fruits, such as bananas, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, papayas, melons, man-goes, pineapples, plums, and strawberries are usually good and plentiful. A variety of meats (beef, lamb, veal, fish, pork, fish, and chicken) is available, but the quality is uneven. The variety and availability of locally-available food has been improving over the past several years.

Fresh milk and dairy products are sold locally, but the milk must be boiled before use. Full-fat powdered milk is available at local shops. Bread can be purchased locally. European-style grocery stores are opening throughout Addis Ababa, with an increasingly wide variety of products, mostly imported from Italy. Availability is quite good and prices are very high.

A cookbook with recipes for high altitude cooking is useful, and several are included in the Recommended Reading.


Addis Ababa has some reliable local dressmakers, but fabric quality is not to U.S. standards. Local tailors are available, but the workmanship tends to be poor.

You will need two or three pairs of sturdy walking shoes since sidewalks are few, and roadways are general unpaved. "Shoesaver" or a similar water repellent helps to protect shoes during the rainy season. The secret of dealing with the often wide-range of daily temperatures is clothes layering.

Men: Spring-and fall-weight woolen business suits, sport coats, and slacks will fulfill your needs in Addis Ababa. Summer suits are also comfortable during daytime much of the year. Jackets, sweaters, and raincoats are advisable. Sun hats and warm weather clothes are needed if you plan to spend time outdoors during the dry season or to travel in lower, warmer areas.

Women: Light fall or spring wool suits and dresses combined with a limited number of wool skirts and sweaters will provide a basic wardrobe. Cotton or silk can be worn midday. Layered dressing such as sweaters or vests over blouses or dresses are often worn since homes and offices are cool. Both wool and cotton slacks can be worn here. Shorts are acceptable for tennis or jogging. A light daytime jacket and wool shawls are useful on occasion. A coat, jacket, or shawl is always needed at night. Raincoats, umbrellas, and rainboots are essential.

Children: Children need a good supply of pants, long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, light jackets, sturdy shoes, socks, raincoats, rain-boots, warm pajamas, and bathrobes; include warm clothing. Bring cotton sunhats or caps as they are not available and sunburn is frequent at this altitude. Jeans are acceptable for school and particularly suitable for play clothes since weather permits outdoor play much of the year. Shorts and T-shirts are worn during warm weather.

Supplies and Services

While it is becoming easier to find many of the desired supplies in Addis Ababa, the quality is uneven and the prices very high. Some European products are appearing in the newer grocery stores.

Tailors are adequate for minor repairs and fittings. Seamstresses can reproduce a dress from a picture, pattern, or sketch to your measurements; however, the result may not be exactly what you want.

Men's and women's shoe repair is adequate and inexpensive. Dry cleaning and laundry service is satisfactory. Beauty shop prices are reasonable; however, the quality of service is not always good. Many barbershops are clean, and haircutting techniques are acceptable.


Children's Education: The International Community School (ICSformerly the American Community School) opened in Fall 1966. It became the International Community School in May 1980. Classes are offered from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. ICS offers the International Baccalaureate Program (IB) and the Advanced Placement Program (AP). Enrollment was 320 students in the spring 2000, including Ethiopian and third-country nationals from some 50 different countries.

Bingham Academy is a nondenomi-national missionary-sponsored American school, which admits international students who can pass an English proficiency test. Bingham operates an American curriculum from kindergarten through grade 8.

The Sandford English Community School, which follows a British curriculum, offers instruction in English, and has begun to offer the IB program. Other national groupsGerman, Italian, French, and Swedishalso maintain good schools.

None of the schools have cafeterias, so children must bring their own lunches.

Several nursery schools in Addis Ababa accept children from age 3.

Special Educational Opportunities

Classes at Addis Ababa University are taught in English. Various cultural centers offers courses in French, Italian, German, Russian, and other languages.

Recreation and Social Life

Among the most difficult adjustments to Addis Ababa is its isolation, high altitude, lack of amenities, and socio-cultural complexity. You must often rely on your own resources to find necessary stimuli for a full and satisfying tour.


Weekend picnics, horseback riding, camping, hunting, and fishing are possible. Volleyball, softball, and basketball are popular sports activities in Addis Ababa.

Riding enthusiasts who prefer Western saddles should bring their own, since only English saddles are available here. A riding horse can be purchased and boarded. Horses can only be leased on an hourly basis from stables.

The Hilton Hotel has a sports club with a naturally heated outdoor pool, tennis courts, miniature golf, and a sauna. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Zebu Club has tennis courts, squash courts, swimming pool, restaurant, and bar. Some fees may apply.

The five-star Sheraton Addis opened in 1998. It has all the amenities that a five-star hotel has to offer. There are five restaurants and a 24-hour business center. Its Health Club has a swimming pool, tennis and squash courts, steam bath, and sauna. Annual membership fees are expensive and vary based on facilities used. Daily fees are available.

A private, small 6-hole golf course is operated on the British Embassy compound. The season runs from October to June. and you have to apply in advance for membership. Bring clubs, balls and tees. There also is a public course used by many expatriate players.

Addis Ababa also has two bowling alleys. Local equipment is satisfactory.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Gardening is popular because results are almost immediate, and the growing season is year round. Flower and vegetable seeds are available on the local market although sometimes past their expiration date.

Overland travel in Ethiopia is difficult, due to the poor condition of roads and the questionable quality of many of the rest stops. In addition, roadside banditry occurs with some regularity in various parts of the country, and sensible precautions need to be taken.

The Grand Hotel (or Ras Hora) in Debre Zeit, 30 miles southeast of Addis Ababa, is perched on a hill overlooking a lovely crater lake. It has several in-door dining areas with European cooking. Its Sunday afternoon buffets are popular and prices are moderate. Campsites can be rented for a small fee. Some people water ski and swim in the lake, but this is not recommended as the bilharzia snail has been found in the water.

The Adama Ras Hotel in Nazareth, about 2 hours from Addis Ababa, has a swimming pool and is a good place to spend a weekend. A Sunday buffet emphasizes Italian specialties.

Sodere, about 2-hours from Addis Ababa, has hot mineral springs. Two swimming pools (one olympic size), a small restaurant, bungalows, and camping facilities make Sodere a pleasant weekend resort or day trip.

A 4-hour drive northwest of Addis Ababa takes you to the Blue Nile Gorge and to some of the most spectacular scenery in Ethiopia. Debre Libanos, a historic monastery, is located on the rim of a tributary canyon along the route. Nearby is a 400-year-old Portuguese bridge, where a spectacular view of the canyon can be seen, as well as baboons and monkeys.

The Ras Hotel at Ambo (2-hour drive) is 78 miles west of Addis Ababa on a good road that passes through beautiful countryside and the Menagesha Forest Preserve. It has a large outdoor pool filled by a warm mineral-water spring. Camping sites are available for a modest fee near the pool.

Ghion, also called Welisso, is a small resort town 71 miles (2-hour drive) southwest of Addis Ababa. The Ras Hotel at Ghion has water from hot mineral springs piped into large sunken baths in the hotel rooms. In addition, hot indoor and outdoor swimming pools are filled by warm mineral springs.

The Awash Game Park, about 140 miles from Addis Ababa, is another interesting point to visit. It offers an excellent opportunity for lucky camera buffs to photograph game of the Awash River valley. Overnight trailer accommodations are available in the heart of the park near the Awash River Falls. Fees are high and conditions are poor. However, the camping enthusiast can enjoy roughing it at a campsite for only a few dollars a night. Whitewater rafting trips, organized by expatriate guides, are offered from July to September on the Awash river. Cost for such weekend outings is about $150 per person.

Favorite spots for Ethiopians and foreigners alike are the chain of lakes in the Great Rift Valley. Lake Awassa is a 4-hour drive from Addis Ababa. It abounds with fish (catfish and tilapia) and is an excellent spot for relaxation. Three motel-type hotels with cafes are located here. Lake Chamo at Arba Minch offers the thrill of fishing for Blue Nile perch and watching crocodiles move about. The fish is outstanding for eating and weighs up to 200 pounds. Excellent camping is offered on virtually all of the lakes.

A favorite weekend spots is Lake Langano (the only bilharzia-free lake for swimming), which is a 3-hour drive from Addis Ababa. Fishing for catfish and tilapia, using light tackle and baited small hooks instead of artificial bait, is excellent. Two hotels with restaurants are also found at Lake Langano for those who prefer not to camp. Nearby is a game reserve where ostriches and other bird life is abundant.

If you are interested in ancient civilizations, you should visit the towns of the "historic route", comprised of Gonder, Bahir Dar, Axum, and Lali-bela. Gonder was the seat of government in the 16th and 17th centuries and has several interesting castles. Near Bahir Dar, on the Blue Nile river, is located the spectacular Tis-Esat falls. Lalibela is the site of the fabulous below ground monolithic stone churches hewn out of solid stone during the 12th and 13th centuries.

Dire Dawa and Harar are two interesting cities east of Addis Ababa and may be reached by car (10 hours), rail (10 hours), or air (35 minutes). Harar, a walled city, is the birthplace of the former Emperor and the site of the Harar Military Academy. It is considered by many to be the fourth most holy city in Islam. Road travel in this area can be hazardous.


Americans patronize several restaurants and the dining rooms of main hotels. Foreign cuisine includes Chinese, Italian, Greek, Indian, Middle Eastern, French, and Armenian. A number of restaurants serve Ethiopian food. The number, variety and quality of restaurants has increased markedly over the past year or two, yet usual precautions must be exercised to avoid intestinal difficulties.

Several embassies have cultural centers offering a variety of programs, from music and dance to art exhibitions and films.

The ethnological and archaeological museums are interesting. Various special interest groups are active, including drama and music groups and a wildlife club.

Social Activities

Rotary and Lions have chapters in Addis Ababa. The International Women's Club is a social and charitable organization for foreign and Ethiopian women. It is not limited to the diplomatic community, but provides contact with the foreign business community as well.

Many churches have their own denominational clubs, and numerous opportunities exist for extracurricular activities.


AXUM (or Aksum) is a small city in the northern highlands, and capital of the old Axumite Kingdom which, before and during the early part of the Christian era, extended over parts of present-day Sudan and Ethiopia. Mysterious stelae are all that remain of Axum's days of glory. The city's cathedral, the Church of St. Mary of Zion, is the repository of many of the crowns of Ethiopian emperors. Legend says that the Ark of the Covenant was brought to this spot from Jerusalem (after the fall of the city in 586 B.C.) by a descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Today, Axum is a tourist town noted for its antiquities. Tall granite obelisks, 126 in all, stand or lie broken in the central square. One measuring 110 feet, now fallen, is said to be the tallest obelisk ever built. A museum in town has a rich display of crosses, jewels, vestments, and ceremonial swords.

DIRE DAWA , with a population over 150,000, is a commercial center second in importance to the capital. Located east of Addis Ababa, the city is a traditional caravan center situated at the intersection of roads leading to Addis Ababa, Harar, and the Republic of Djibouti. Soil in the area is extremely poor, thus food must be shipped in. The city has textile and cement factories, and coffee-and meat-canning plants. Caves decorated with prehistoric drawings are located near Dire Dawa.

Dire Dawa is really two towns: new and old. New Dire Dawa is a wide-avenued, tree-lined settlement with its jacarandas and flamboyance. Here there are numerous small marketplaces, busy with vendors in colorful dress with their spices, fruits, baskets, and silverware laid out before them. Old Dire Dawa is a place of narrow, meandering streets and square buildings which is the site of the traditional Afetissa market. Well-stocked with a variety of goods, Afetissa is a melting pot for all the peoples of the region.

The city population is composed mainly of Somalis, Oromos, Afars, and Arabs.

GONDAR , in northwestern Ethiopia, was the seat of government in the 16th and 17th centuries. The ruins of its castles and royal buildings show evidence of Portuguese and Arabian influence. Gondar is inhabited by Christians, Muslims, Falashas (Ethiopian Jews). The city's economy is based on subsistence agriculture, although textiles, jewelry, leatherwork, and copper-ware are produced here. Gondar (including Azeso) is a city of about 166,000 (1994), and is capital of the Begemdir and Simen province, which is home to 2.2 million people.

HARAR , a medieval walled city, is the gateway to the Ogaden Desert and the birthplace of the former emperor Haile Selassie. The modern citizens of Harar live almost entirely within the walls that have encircled this city for more than 300 years, maintaining their own language, customs, and crafts. Harar is famed for its basket weaving and the work of its silversmiths who craft beautiful anklets, necklaces, arm bands, silver chains, bangles, and earrings out of the precious metal. The city is also known for the excellent coffee grown in the surrounding mountains.

Harar has many ancient monuments dominated by the 16th century Grand Mosque with elegant twin towers and slender minaret. Other points of interest include the palace of the city's 1890s governor, Ras Makonnen; stained glass windows by Ethiopia's greatest living artist, Afewerk Tekle, in the Harar Military Academy; the city's cathedral Medkane Alem ("Redeemer of the World"), which houses a gallery with traditional religious art works; the tomb of Abu Said, an early Muslim ruler; and the colorful Shoa Gate Market. One of the city's most unique attractions is its Hyena Men, who make their living by collecting garbage and bones which they feed to the wild hyenas that live in the surrounding hills. Answering to a name, they dart forward to snatch their supper from the hands of the Hyena Men. There's a small charge for those who wish to see this spectacle. The city's population is composed of Hareri, Amharas, Oromos, and Somalis. Harar's 1986 population was approximately 68,000.

JIMA (also spelled Jimma and Gimma) is the capital and largest town of Kefa province, 220 miles (353 kilometers) southwest of Addis Ababa. It is in a heavily-wooded area known for coffee production. The name of the province may be the origin of the term coffee. Jima is a regional commercial zone with an agricultural school and nearby airport. Potassium and sodium nitrates are mined to the northeast. It has a population of over 120,000 (1994).

In the north-central area is MEKELE (also spelled Makalle), capital of Tigre province. It has a population of about 115,000 (1994). The city is noted for the ancient castle of Emperor Yohannes IV; a similar building has been converted to a hotel. Expeditions to area rock churches are arranged from Mekele. Mekele is the principal center of Ethiopia's inland salt trade. Newer industries include the production of incense and resin.

Situated 62 miles southeast of Addis Ababa, NAZRET is a growing agricultural and commercial center. It has a rapidly expanding population of 150,000 (1994). Rail lines and roads converge on the town, making it an excellent transport hub. Near Nazret, a huge sugar plantation and factory provide jobs. One of Ethiopia's chief exporters of oil cakes, oil seeds, and pulses has its headquarters in Nazret. Hot springs are also in the vicinity.


Geography and Climate

Ethiopia, part of the Horn of Africa, borders Eritrea, Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, and Djibouti and has an area of 1,127,127 square kilometers, slightly less than twice the size of Texas. Only 12 percent of the total land area is arable land, with about 85 percent of the people dependent on agriculture or animal husbandry for subsistence.

The terrain consists of high plateau, mountains, and dry lowland plains. Ethiopia has some of the world's most rugged and beautiful scenery. Changes in foliage and terrain offer striking differences and are readily apparent when travelling in any direction from Addis Ababa. Fertile farmland, high mountains with crater lakes, deep canyons and abysses, low-lying savannas, and desert are some of the many aspects of Ethiopia's topography.

The climate is temperate to cool in the highlands and hot in the lowlands. Addis Ababa's altitude is above 8,000 feet. So three weeks or more are required to acclimate. Addis Ababa has two primary seasons: a dry season from October to February, and for the rest of the year, a rainy season, divided into "small rains" and "big rains." The small rains, February through April, are generally intermittent showers. The big rains, June through September or longer, usually bring daily precipitation. The big rains are rarely continuous, and sunny mornings or afternoons can be expected on many days. Average annual rainfall in Addis Ababa is 50 inches (while by comparison, Washington DC has 41 inches).

Daytime temperatures are fairly constant throughout the year. The dry season has bright sunny days with moderate to cool temperatures; nights are chilly. The average daily temperature in Addis Ababa is 62.9°F. Daytime temperatures are rarely over 80°F. Sharp drops in temperature occur in late afternoon, sometimes making outside entertainment uncomfortable after 5 pm. Night temperatures drop to the low forties from November to January, and are warmer in the period from February to May.


Ethiopia's population of about 61 million is growing by more than 2% annually. Per capita income is roughly $120 a year, one of the world's lowest. Major ethnic groups include Oromo (40%), Amhara (20%), Tigrayan (12%), and Sidama (9%). Other groups include Shankella, Gurage, Welaita, Somali, and Afar.

The official language is Amharic. English is spoken by the educated elite and trades people, and some older people also speak Italian. Other languages spoken are Tigrigna, Oromiffa, Afara, Somali, Arabic, and French.

The eye-catching dress of the Amhara men, which, nowadays is seen only on festive occasions, consists of jodhpur-type trousers worn with a white cotton "shamma" (toga) thrown over the shoulders. Western style suits are worn for business. Women wear a loose, flowing shamma over a long, white, full-skirted dress, usually with colorful embroidered borders on both the dress and shamma.

The main food of the highland people is a spicy dish called "wot," which is eaten with "injera," a thin, large, flat, spongy bread, made from a grass-like grain called "teff," and having a somewhat sour taste. (Teff is a range grass known in the U.S. as lovegrass.) Wot is a highly spiced stew prepared with meat, fish, poultry, lentils, chickpeas, vegetables, or a combination, and is eaten by hand spooning with pieces of injera. The local beverages include "tedj" (mead) made from a honey base, and "tella" (beer). Both are intoxicating. Ethiopian coffee, an intense brew, is served as a drink of hospitality and after every meal.

Ethiopian custom is to name persons to emphasize their individuality. Family names and groups are identified by their surnames through only one generation. A child receives a given name from its parents and adopts the first name of the father as a second or surname.

When a woman marries, she does not change her name to that of her husband. Her title changes from "Woizerit" (Miss) to "Woizero" (Mrs.). Persons are universally addressed by their first name rather than their surname, with "Ato," (Mr.) Woizero or Woizerit preceding the name.

The Ethiopian calendar varies from the Gregorian in that it has 12 months of 30 days and a 13th month of 5 days (or 6 in leap year). The new year begins on Meskerem 1 (September 11). The Ethiopian 24-hour day begins at sunrise (6 a.m.). Therefore, 7 a.m. by the Western standard is called 1 o'clock. However, business is usually conducted by European time and calendar.

Major religions are: Ethiopian Orthodox 45%, Muslim 45%, and the remainder divided among ani-mists, Protestants, and Roman Catholics. Many Ethiopians are deeply religious and observe fasting and feasts throughout the year, but Easter is by far the most important holiday for the Orthodox. The gayest and most spectacular festivals are Timket or Epiphany (in January) and Meskel (in September), the latter commemorating the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena.

Christianity came to Ethiopia in the fourth century. The established Ethiopian Orthodox Church, formerly linked administratively to the Egyptian Coptic Church headquartered in Alexandria, became autonomous in 1948. The Orthodox faith, traditionally associated with the Ethiopian (Abyssinian) culture of the highlands, was, until the overthrow of the Emperor, the official state religion. Ethiopia is now a secular state.

Islam first came to Ethiopia around 622 in Aksum in the far north of the country, when the Prophet Mohammed's disciples sought refuge. An Islamic military conquest of most areas of Ethiopia occurred in the mid-16th century, and it was only under Menelik II that religious freedom was restored in the late 19th century.

Public Institutions

Under its Constitution, adopted in 1994, Ethiopia has a parliamentary form of government, headed by a Prime Minister. The bicameral parliament, comprised of the 545-member House of Peoples Representatives (elected) and the 11-member House of Federation (appointed by the regional state councils), is made up largely of members of the ruling political coalition, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Some opposition and private candidates were elected in May 2000. The EPRDF includes a large number of primarily ethnically based component parties, the most influential of which by far is the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF), led by a politburo of which the Prime Minister and his most trusted advisers are members. Ethiopia's government is structured as a federalist system, ethnically based. The 1994 Constitution redrew regional borders along ethnic lines, to the extent possible, and on paper devolved significant authority to regional governments. Ethnic federalism remains an experiment to date, but the regions do have some autonomy in areas of governance.

The EPRDF swept to power in 1991 by overthrowing the totalitarian Communist regime, known as the Derg, of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. The Derg, which seized power in 1974 from Emperor Haile Selassie, was marked by brutality, especially during the "Red Terror" of the late 1970s, and massive militarization largely funded by the Soviet Union and Cuba. The Derg's strength was undermined by droughts and famine in the mid-1980s, but its collapse was hastened by several internal insurgent groups, including the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), which sought Eritrea's independence from Ethiopia, and the TPLE As the struggle against the Derg continued, the TPLF allied itself with other ethnically based insurgent groups, forming the EPRDF.

Following the fall of the Derg, the EPRDF, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF-the Oromo are Ethiopia's largest ethnic group) and others formed a transitional government, which governed until national elections in 1995. During that period, the OLF left the government, and members of some other political groupings were expelled. Eritreans, including many resident in Ethiopia, voted in favor of independence in a 1993 referendum, and Eritrea became a sovereign state. The May 1995 elections were boycotted by most groups in opposition to the EPRDF, and were marred by allegations of fraud and misconduct; nonetheless, they were found to be generally free and fair by international observers. General elections were held again in May 2000 and opposition parties scored great success.

Following his overthrow in 1991, Derg dictator Mengistu went into exile in Zimbabwe, where he remains. Some 2,500 other Derg officials also took refuge outside Ethiopia. The current government established a Special Prosecutor's Office (SPO) in 1991, to investigate and try cases of Derg extrajudicial killing, torture, detention without charge and other forms of brutality. As of the end of 1999, charges had been brought against over 5,000 persons, about half of whom were in detention.

Ethiopia has diplomatic relations with more than 90 countries, some 75 of which maintain missions in Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian capital is the home of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). Numerous other international organizations are also represented here.

Arts, Science, and Education

One of the goals of Ethiopia's transitional government was to broaden access to education. Results of these efforts are yet to show obvious results, but overall there has been a significant increase of budgetary allocations in the educational system throughout the country.

The government, many donor countries and organizations have committed enormous resources to upgrading educational standards in Ethiopia. USAID has a major program to improve the quality and equity of primary schooling as the system expands. Efforts are underway to accommodate demand for schooling at all levels. Despite the overwhelming problems educational opportunities are expanding, but unfortunately not enough to keep abreast of population growth.

The Peace Corps began an active teacher-training program in fall 1995, but withdrew from the country in 1999.

Expansion efforts have been targeted at sectors of the population traditionally deprived of access to education, primarily girls, the rural and less sedentary populations. Current policy aims at universal primary education, although it will take decades to achieve this. As of 1999, more than 5.8 million children attended primary (grades 1-8) school. Instruction for primary students is in the local or regional language, but changes to English at grade 7. Participation rates for primary schools have dramatically increased since 1994, from 24% to 45.8%. Government policies strongly favor female participation in primary education, but girls lag boys in attendance significantly in many areas of the country. Junior and secondary schooling share many problems with primary, but the largest present concern is with issues of access, quality, and relevance of education.

The Ethiopian Government has encouraged community participation in the expansion of education The Ministry of Education faces monumental problems in trying to provide education for all Ethiopians, particularly given severe budgetary constraints and its efforts to install a decentralized system of education. Expansion needs to accelerate, and the challenge will be to ensure that quality is not to be sacrificed for quantity.

Opportunity for higher education also has expanded in Ethiopia, but entrance into institutions has become extremely competitive. The number of high school graduates far exceeds the number of places available in the institutes of higher learning, which now include six public universities, 11 specialized colleges, and a number of teacher training colleges and institutes, offering 2-, 3-, and 4-year programs. The Addis Ababa University celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2000. Many students go abroad each year to study in the West and India.

The Ethiopian artistic community is small but active. Many artists derive their inspiration from the ancient Ethiopian Christian paintings that decorate churches and monasteries. A substantial effort is underway to collect and preserve valuable paintings and manuscripts gathered from Ethiopian Orthodox churches. The Institute of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University has a recently renovated museum that includes a wide-ranging collection of Ethiopian church paintings and manuscripts. Ethiopia is also famous for its unique crosses, some of which are quite old. The National Museum has an interesting archeological collection, including the famous fossilized "Lucy," the oldest primate skeleton; and also a collection of imperial objects taken from the various palaces following the revolution.

Ethiopia has a rich musical heritage; encompassing a wide variety of styles derived from the country's many ethnic groups. Ethiopians are very proud of their traditional music and dance, and most theaters have regular cultural shows. Popular musicians and singers also perform in small bars throughout Addis Ababa and have an enthusiastic following among young and old. Western classical music is not especially popular among Ethiopians, and is generally performed only for foreign audiences, yet is part of the basic curriculum at the country's major music school.

Commerce and Industry

After the downfall of the Marxist Derg regime in 1991, Ethiopia began moving away from central planning for the economy and implementing open market policies. The government passed legislation to allow private banking and insurance companies, established incentives to attract foreign investment, and reduced bureaucratic hurdles and delays in registering businesses. The government also has opened up the power and telecommunications sectors to permit foreign investment. The exchange rate is determined by a weekly auction. Over the 12 months ending in May 2000, the value of the birr fell from 7.65 to the dollar to 8.20 to the dollar.

The macroeconomic picture for Ethiopia in mid-2000 after eight years of steady growth is uncertain because of border hostilities with Eritrea and drought. Business has slowed enormously since May 1998 and inflation exceeds 10%. A significant amount of government expenditure goes to support the military, reducing the amount of funds available for other projects.

Ethiopia's infrastructure is one of the most underdeveloped in all Africa, which has hampered economic growth. However, this situation is beginning to change. The World Bank is providing $350 million to upgrade Ethiopia's road network as part of the government's Road Sector Improvement program. Ethiopia's lone railway, stretching from Addis Ababa to the port of Djibouti, is also undergoing renovation. Ethiopia is committed to increasing the number of telephone lines by 700,000 over the next decade and has awarded contracts for the development of cellular telephone services. The national air carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, provides quality service to 37 domestic and 42 international destinations throughout Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America utilizing primarily Boeing aircraft.

Agriculture is Ethiopia's most promising sector, contributing half of the country's GNP, more than 80% of its exports, and three-fourths of the country's employment. The country has a strong potential for self-sufficiency and even export development in grains, livestock, vegetables and fruits. This sector, however, is plagued by periodic drought, soil degradation caused by overgrazing, deforestation, and high population density, and a poor road network that makes it difficult for farmers to get their goods to market. The major export crop is coffee, which generates over 60% of Ethiopia's foreign exchange earnings. Other traditional agricultural exports are hides and skins, textiles, fruits and vegetables, flowers, honey and beeswax, pulses, oil-seeds and "khat," a leafy shrub with mild narcotic qualities when chewed.

Gold, marble, limestone and tantalum are mined in Ethiopia. Other resources with potential for commercial development include potash, natural gas, iron ore, coal, and possibly oil and geothermal energy. Ethiopia has vast hydroelectric potential that remains untapped. At present, however, Ethiopia is totally dependent on imports of oil for its manufacturing industries, vehicles and other petroleum needs. New hydroelectric projects are expected to triple the country's power generation by 2005. A landlocked country, Ethiopia uses the port of Djibouti for international trade.



Taxi and bus service is inadequate and considered dangerous due to the high frequency of accidents, many of them serious or fatal.


Ethiopian Airlines connects with the major cities in the country and along with other regional airlines, serves Nairobi, Djibouti, and other African cities regularly.


International flights are currently available from Addis Ababa to Europe on Ethiopian Airlines (Rome, Athens, Frankfurt, London), and Lufthansa (Frankfurt). In addition, flights are available to a variety of locations in Africa and the Middle East, as well as Bombay, Bangkok, Beijing and the U.S.


Telephone and Telegraph

Although telephone service is affected by the heavy rains, it is dependable most of the time. Long-distance telephone calls to the U.S. are via satellite and can be dialed directly. The cost is about $3 per minute and reception is usually good. It is less expensive to place a collect call from Addis Ababa to the U.S.; the least expensive method is direct dial from the U.S.

Internet service is poor and limited, but there are plans to expand service providers beyond the current state monopoly sometime in the future. Currently, those wanting internet service must spend months on a waiting list.

Radio and TV

A short wave radio is useful in Ethiopia, and reception is fair for the Voice of America and BBC.

The Voice of Ethiopia Radio, which broadcasts on AM, FM, and short-wave stations, carries daily 1-hour broadcasts in English. Programming is good and includes news and various magazine-style shows.

Ethiopian Television broadcasts 4 hours daily, including a 1 hour news program in English. Telecasts are in the 625 PAL format, which is used throughout most of Europe and Africa. Programming is about 50 percent in local languages, the remainder being films and documentaries. An increasing amount of programming is being received from the U.S. and the West, but the majority is locally produced.

Well-stocked video stores have opened in Addid Ababa, and cassettes are generally VHS or PAL; bring a VCR, preferably a multisystem multivoltage one.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Personal subscriptions to the International Herald Tribune and overseas editions of Time and Newsweek can be ordered, and occasionally may be purchased locally. The Tribune arrives regularly, usually 10 to 12 days later than its publication date. Delivery of U.S. magazines generally takes about 2 weeks.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Have all routine and necessary dental work done before arrival. Orthodontia, root canal treatments, prostheses, etc., are not available, and local procedures are not advisable. Prescription glasses are rarely available. Acute eye conditions can be treated, but chronic diseases should be taken care of before arrival. If you need continued medication, bring a supply.

Community Health

Common diseases in Ethiopia include malaria, trachoma, tuberculosis, hepatitis, schistosomiasis, venereal diseases (including HIV/AIDS), influenza and common colds, parasitic and bacillary dysentery, and eye, ear, and skin infections. However, the Addis Ababa area is free of malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Domestic animals face a serious problem of tick fever for dogs and distemper for cats.

Preventive Measures

The 8,300-feet altitude in Addis Ababa can cause dizziness, insomnia, fatigue, and shortness of breath. The symptoms usually subside after a few weeks.

When traveling to lower altitudes, take malaria suppressants weekly to improve prophylaxis. Note: Too many people think that these pills are 100 percent effectivethey are not. Even if taken, they need to be supplemented by mosquito netting, insecticides, repellents, etc.

Incidence of infectious hepatitis among Americans has been small, but it is widespread in the local community. Alternatives such as vaccination for hepatitis A & B can be obtained.

To minimize the risk of amoebic and bacillary dysentery, you must demand scrupulous cleanliness and proper food care, hard to do when eating out. Domestic help who handle food should have periodic stool examinations. In restaurants, order well-cooked food and avoid salads, milk products, and ice cubes. Always order bottled water.

Tap water is unsafe and must be boiled and filtered before drinking. Powdered or canned milk is recommended over fresh milk or milk products, although milk can be boiled and filtered as well. Long-life sterilized milk is often available in local stores.

Fruits and vegetables must be cooked or peeled before eating. Leafy vegetables must be treated by soaking with bleach or an equivalent to kill bacteria. All local meats must be cooked thoroughly to avoid tapeworm.

The danger of severe sunburn cannot be overlooked. The high altitude of Addis and most surrounding areas make exposure to the sun more dangerous than at lower altitudes. Use of sun screen and sun hats is strongly recommended.


Passage, Customs and Duties

The most direct air route from the U.S. to Addis Ababa is on U.S. flag carriers to Frankfurt, London, or Rome, connecting with Ethiopian Airlines and Lufthansa.

A passport and a valid Ethiopian visa are required to enter or transit Ethiopia. Due to animosity stemming from the recent border conflict with Eritrea, U.S. citizens of Eritrean origin who travel to Ethiopia may experience delays in the processing of their visa applications because all such applications must be cleared through the main Ethiopian immigration office in Addis Ababa. Laptop computers must be declared upon arrival and departure. Tape recorders require special customs permits. Individuals intending prolonged stays should check, prior to travel, with the Ethiopian Embassy, 3506 International Dr., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008; telephone (202) 364-1200; fax (202) 686-9857; web site Inquiries overseas may be made at the nearest Ethiopian embassy or consulate.

Current yellow fever immunizations are needed for entry into Ethiopia and must be recorded on the vaccination certificates with the vaccination date, signature of the medical officer administering the vaccination, and an official seal. The record for yellow fever inoculations must also have the name of the serum manufacturer and the batch number. Yellow fever shots are not valid until 10 days after date of initial vaccination.

Quarantine authorities in Ethiopia are exacting in these matters, and people have been subjected to long delays and embarrassment when certificates have not been filled out. Polio (oral), tetanus-diphtheria, and typhoid immunizations are strongly recommended.

Tick fever and intestinal parasites are a special problem with pets, and rabies is common in Ethiopia. Bring a good supply of flea and tick collars and shampoos. African tick fever has killed several American-owned dogs. Rabies and puppy vaccines are available only sporadically. There are American and European veterinarians working in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopian law strictly prohibits the photographing of military installations, police/military personnel, industrial facilities, government buildings and infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams, airfields, etc.). Such sites are rarely clearly marked. Travel guides, police, and Ethiopian officials can advise if a particular site may be photographed. Photographing prohibited sites may result in the confiscation of film and camera.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Ethiopia. The U.S. Embassy is located at Entoto Avenue, P.O. Box 1014, in Addis Ababa, tel. [251] (1) 550-666, extension 316/336; emergency after-hours tel. [251] (1) 552-558; consular fax [251] (1) 551-094; web site:


Authorization from the Ministry of Agriculture is required in advance of the arrival of pets. A certificate of good health showing valid rabies vaccination and freedom from communicable diseases is required when bringing pets into Ethiopia. No quarantine period is imposed provided these health certificates are in order.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

The present official currency unit is the Ethiopian birr. There are 100 cents to the birr, with coins of 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 cent. Bills are in the denominations of birr 100, 50, 10, 5, and 1.

The metric system of weights and measures is used.

Visitors must declare foreign currency upon arrival and may be required to present this declaration when applying for an exit visa. Official and black market exchange rates are nearly the same. Penalties for exchanging money on the black market range from fines to imprisonment. Credit cards are not accepted at most hotels, restaurants, shops, or other local facilities, although they are accepted at the Hilton and Sheraton Hotels in Addis Ababa. Foreigners are generally required to pay for hotel and car rental in foreign currency.

Disaster Preparedness

There is a high risk of earthquakes in Ethiopia. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at


Jan. 7 Christmas (Coptic)

Jan.19 Timkety (Epiphany)

Mar. 2 Victory of Adwa

Apr/May Good Friday*

Apr/May Easter*

May 1 May Day

Apr/May Patriot's Victory Day*

May 28 Downfall of the Dergue

Sept. 11 Coptic New Year

Sept. 27 True Cross Day

Id al-Adha*


Id al-Fitr*

Mawlid an Nabi*



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country.

Beckwith and Fischer, Angela. African Ark. Harry A. Abrahams: New York, 1990.

Buxton, David. The Abyssinians. Thames & Hudson: London, 1970. A good concise historical overview through 1970.

Clapham, Christopher. Transformation and Continuity In Revolutionary Ethiopia. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1988.

Gerster, Geog. Churches in Rock: Early Christian Art in Ethiopia. Phaidon: London, 1970. A beautiful book about the rock churches of Lalibela.

Gilkes, Patrick. The Dying Lion: Feudalism and Modernization in Ethiopia. St. Martin's Press: New York, 1978. A history of modern Ethiopia up to the 1974 revolution.

Giorgis, Dawit Wolde. Red Tears. Red Sea Press: Trenton, NJ, 1989.

Hancock, Graham. The Sign and the Seal. Simon and Schuster: New York, 1992.

Harbeson, John W The Ethiopian Transformation: The Quest for the Post-Imperial State. Westview Press: Boulder, CO and London, 1988.

Henze, Paul B. Ethiopian Journeys, Travels in Ethiopia 1969-72. Ernest Berm Ltd.: London, 1977. A good source of ideas for in-country trips.

Kane, Thomas L. Ethiopian Literature in Amharic. Otto Harassowitz: Wiesbaden, 1975. A comprehensive review of what is written in Amharic.

Kaplan, Robert D. Surrender or Starve. Westview Press: Boulder, CO and London, 1988.

Kapuscinski, Ryszard. The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat. Vintage Books: New York, 1984. Really about Poland, but also a very telling evocative account of the waning days of Haile Selassie's court.

Keller, Edmond J. Revolutionary Ethiopia: From Empire to People's Republic. Indiana University Press: Bloomington: 1991.

Korn, David A. Ethiopia, The U.S. and the Soviet Union. SIU Press: Carbondale, IL, 1986.

Levine, Donald H. Wax and Gold. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1968. Culture and a social structure with a historic perspective, the "classic" about Amhara culture, a must-read.

Marcus, Harold. A History of Ethiopia. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1994.

Marcus, Harold. Ethiopia, Great Britain and the United States, 1941-1974: The Politics of Empire. University of California Press: Berkeley, 1983. Ethiopia's relations with the U.S. and U.K. up to the 1974 revolution.

Markakis, John. National and Class Conflict in the Horn of Africa. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1987.

Mockler, Anthony. Haile Selassie's War. The Italian-Ethiopian Campaign, 1935-41. Random House: New York, 1985. A highly readable account of the war against and occupation of Ethiopia.

Ottoway, Marina. Soviet and American Influence in the Horn of Africa. Praeger: New York, 1982. An analysis of superpower rivalry and policies.

Ottoway, Marina and David. Ethiopia: Empire in Revolution. Africana Publishing: New York, 1978.

Pankhurst, Helen. Gender, Development and Identity: An Ethiopian Study. Zed Press: London, 1992.

Pankhurst, Richard. Economic History of Ethiopia. Haile Selassie I Press: Addis Ababa, 1968.

Pankhurst, Richard. A Social History of Ethiopia. Red Sea Press: Trenton, NJ, 1992.

Parfitt, Tudor. Operation Moses. Werdenfeld and Nicolson: London, 1985.

Prouty, Christ. Empress Taytu and Menilek IL Ethiopia 1883-1910. Raven's Educational and Development Services: London, 1986.

Sorensen, John. Imaging Ethiopia. Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, 1993.

Spencer, John H. Ethiopia at Bay. Reference Publications Inc.: Algonac, MI, 1984. Memoir and history covering the period from 1935 to 1974 by an American adviser to Emperor Haile Selassie.

Tessema, Mammo, Richard Pankhurst, and S. Chojnacki. Religious Art of Ethiopia. Institut fiir Auslandsbeziehunger: Stuttgart, 1973. Many pictures in color.

U.S. Government, Department of the Army. Ethiopia-A Country Study. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, DC, 1993.

Williams, J. G. A Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa. Collins: London, 1980. A must for birdwatchers.

Williams, J.G. A Field Guide to the Mammals of East Africa. Collings: London, 1980. Recommended for wildlife enthusiasts.

Wolde-Mariam, Mesfin. Ethiopia's Vulnerability to Drought. Vikas Publishing House: New Delhi, 1984. A geographer's analysis of the climate and policies affecting cyclical droughts in Ethiopia.

Zewdie, Bahru. A History of Modern Ethiopia, 1855-1974. Ohio University Press: Athens, 1991.

Cookbooks for High Altitude Cooking

Cassell, Elizabeth Dyer. Mile-High Cakes. Colorado State University, Colorado Agricultural Experimental Station: Fort Collins, CO.

Cassell, Elizabeth Dyer. Deep Fat Frying at High Altitudes. Wyoming Agricultural Experimental Station: Laramie, WY.

Kennedy, Lillian. Altitude Recipes. More Mercantile Company: Denver, CO.

Swanson, Alice. Cake Mixing at High Altitude. St. Paul, MN.

Thiessen, Emma. High Altitude Vegetable Cookery.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Ethiopia
Region: Africa
Population: 64,117,452
Language(s): Amharic, Tigrinya, Orominga, Guaraginga, Somali, Arabic, English
Literacy Rate: 35.5%
Number of Primary Schools: 10,256
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 4.0%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 4,007,694
  Secondary: 819,242
  Higher: 42,226
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 43%
  Secondary: 12%
  Higher: 1%
Teachers: Primary: 92,775
  Secondary: 25,984
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 43:1
  Secondary: 35:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 30%
  Secondary: 10%
  Higher: 0.3%

History & Background

Ethiopia is the oldest independent nation in Africa. The current Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is located on a massive rugged mountainous plateau in Eastern Africa. Ethiopia is a large country, twice the size of Texas or about the size of Spain and France combined. It covers 435,071 kilometers or 1,127,127 square miles in area and is the tenth largest of Africa's 53 countries. Ethiopia's mountainous terrain discouraged many foreign invaders; however, this natural fortress posed difficulties for communication and travel, thus contributing to the slow spread of education.

Ethiopia has Africa's fourth largest population at 58,733,000. This number is despite millions who die periodically from some of the world's most devastating famines caused by prolonged cycles of drought. Millions of Ethiopians have fled natural and man-made disasters and live as refugees in Sudan, Kenya, Italy, Great Britain, and the United States. The population is increasing at an annual rate of about 3 percent, and is expected to double in the next 14 years. Almost 73 percent of the population is under 18 years of age. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital city, has 2,431,000 inhabitants and is growing rapidly. The need for new schools increases with the rising youthful population. Ethiopia has a high infant mortality rate of approximately 121 infant deaths per 1,000 births. There is only 1 doctor for every 36,000 Ethiopians. Access to modern medicine outside of the major cities is a problem. Consequently, many people depend upon traditional ethnic medicine. The life expectancy for males is only 45, and for females it is 48 years. High death rates have moderated a massive population explosion. Because they depend on their children to support them in their old age, and, because there is no social security system, Ethiopians typically have large families.

Ethiopia has an ethnically diverse population. Some 40 percent of its population is Oromo, the Christian Amhara and their Tigre allies are 35 percent of the population, 9 percent are of Sidamo descent, and the remaining 19 percent come from small indigenous groups, such as the Mursi, Hamar, Konso, Karo, Surma, and Bumi. A wide variety of physical types are evident, along with many very different languages, religious affiliations, and beliefs. Some observers believe that this diversity holds back modernization and threatens to plunge the nation into divisive conflict. Other observers believe that this diversity is Ethiopia's strength and has enabled it to resist onslaughts from Europe and Asia. For millennia, the monarchy united Ethiopians in loyalty to the emperor, just as it has held Great Britain together.

Amharic (Amarigna) is the language of the dominant Amhara ethnic group. It was the language of the imperial rulers for many centuries and is still widely spoken throughout Ethiopia. This is the principal language of instruction in most Ethiopian schools today. Millions of Ethiopians also speak Tigrinya, Oromo, Somali, Arabic, Italian, or English. The English language is growing in importance as the main language of instruction, especially in universities. Arabic is widely spoken in the north and east, and 40 to 45 percent of the Ethiopian population is Muslim. These people must learn Arabic to read their holy book, the Koran, which is written in ancient Arabic. The latter is very different from modern spoken Arabic, thus many Ethiopians cannot speak modern Arabic fluently. Approximately 35 to 40 percent of Ethiopia's population is Coptic Christian.

For many centuries Muslims refused to attack or invade Christian Ethiopia. Today Muslims are converting four new converts for every one converted to Christianity. They are zealous in their pursuit of converts all over Africa. By contrast, Christians seem to have lost their missionary zeal. Muslims traditionally attend Koran school, rather than state sponsored schools. This puts them at a disadvantage on national examinations for civil service jobs, as well as exams used to select government workers. These national examinations are often written in either English or Amharic. Christian schools use either Amharic or English as the language of instruction. This gives Christians a decisive advantage and helps explain their continued domination of Ethiopia's institutions, despite their minority status. Emperor Yohannes IV (1871-89) sought national unity through religious conformity, while Menelik II (1889-1913) sought centralization of government functions, creation of government health centers, financing of small industries, and spreading education as a means of creating that unity for Ethiopia. Both used church schools to educate Ethiopians.

For several thousand years religion controlled education in Ethiopia. The ancient Axumites created a system of writing that evolved from a Sabean script believed to have been introduced from Arabia. Similar to written Hebrew and related to Phoenician, the system is phonetic. The ancient Ge'ez language descended from such origins. Stone monoliths record the daring feats of ancient kings in Ge'ez, which has been the liturgical language of Ethiopia's Jews for 3,000 years and the Ethiopian Coptic Christian church since A.D. 400. This language was developed by a sophisticated ancient civilization and used not only by priests, but also by rulers who created impressive stone palaces, temples, and tombs, like the obelisks found at Aksum. Writings in Ge'ez, as well as Greek and Sabean, inscribed on these monuments describe military campaigns, the victories of Ethiopian kings, and trade with Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Greece, and India. Gold and silver coins were minted to facilitate commerce and trade.

Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and indigenous African religions have long peacefully co-existed in Ethiopia, but tensions have occasionally erupted in violence. Each major religion created schools for children of its adherents. Christianity is dominant in the north, northwest, and central states. Judaism is limited to the Lake Tana region. Islam is strong in the east, south, and west. Indigenous religions are strong in the southern, eastern, and western regions.

By far, the greatest traditional schools were constructed and managed by the Ethiopian Orthodox Coptic Church. King Erzana started church schools to perpetuate Christianity, but church schools achieved their "golden age" of expansion between A.D. 1200 and 1500. Church education has changed little since that time. Its primary mission has been to train individuals for the priesthood, but the secondary mission has been to spread the faith through Christian culture. Church schools trained not only priests, but monks and debtera (cantors), who were often better educated than the priests they served. The debteras were church scholars, custodians of education, and a privileged elite who helped decide who held power. Many were children of the elite and sought to keep the elite in power. Teachers were also trained in church schools, along with civil servants, such as judges, governors, scribes, treasurers, and administrators of all sorts. Religious schools were the only source of trained personnel.

Prompted by Italy, which militarily occupied Eritrea between 1885 and 1892, Emperor Menelik II began the modernization and secularization of Ethiopian education. The church did not challenge his opening of competing secular schools from 1905 onward. The government was modernized by creating 10 ministries, and the administration of education was left in the hands of the church, which satisfied its leaders. Secular curriculums included the study of French, English, Arabic, Italian, Amharic, Ge'ez, mathematics, physical training, and sports. Tuition, as well as room and board, were paid for by the emperor. From 1905 on, Ethiopians began to associate secular education with national progress. The elite began to discuss the need for universal education and literacy.

Empress Zewditu Menelik declared in 1921:

Every parent is hereby required to teach his child reading and writing through which the child may learn the difference between good and evil. . . . Any parent refusing to do so will be fined 50 dollars. . . . Those of you who are leaders of parishes in rural as well as urban areas, in addition to your regular responsibilities in the churches, teach the children of your respective communities how to read and write. . . . If you fail to teach, you will be deprived of your positions entrusted to you. . . . Every parent, after you have taught your child how to read and write, make him attend your choice of any of the local trade schools, lest your child will be faced with difficulty earning a livelihood. If you fail to do so, you will be considered as one who has deprived another of limbs, and accordingly you will be fined 50 dollars, which money will be used for the education of the poor. This proclamation applies to those between the ages of 7 and 21 years. A parent will not be held responsible for any child of his who is over 21 years old.

In effect, Ethiopia declared war against ignorance and illiteracy with the aim of transforming the country into a literate industrial society.

The evolution of education in Ethiopia can be logically divided into five periods. The first is the Pre-European traditional educational system, which was followed by the initial period of Secular education from 1900-1936, during which Ethiopian monarchs attempted to modernize education. The Italian Colonial educational system began in 1936 and lasted until 1941. The Independence era, which lasted from 1941 to 1974, was characterized by the efforts of a restored Emperor, Haile Selassie, to revive and develop Ethiopia's educational system. Finally, there was the post-Selassie Afro-Marxist and post-Marxist modern educational reform period which continues into 2001.

Educational SystemOverview

Education between the ages of 7 to 13 is free and compulsory. Jobs in Ethiopia's growing industrial sector require command of English in many cases, especially in the computer-related high-tech sector. Illiteracy rates are very high in farming communities where farming techniques have changed little over the centuries. Agriculture employs most Ethiopians, but industrial employment is increasing rapidly as emerging industries create new jobs.

Calligraphy was at one time a valued skill. It took one year to copy a book by hand. Books were treasured. A good scribe could support himself reproducing books. Scribes learned to illustrate their books with beautiful art depicting selected topics. They made leather covers and bound their books. Each page was made from either goat or sheep skin. Because of the time involved, and materials needed, the cost of book production was high. Great artists were granted the title Aleqa. Carried in special leather cases on the back under one's shawl, these priceless treasures were read each morning after rising and each night before sleeping. The art of making reed pens, ink, and parchment were also learned skills, and a master scribe was a valued member of a community. Ethiopian calligraphy reached its peak of perfection between A.D. 1400 and 1500.

The adviser to the Ministry of Education, Ernest Work, argued for the creation of a uniquely Ethiopian system of education. Work recommended that Amharic be the language of instruction. He argued that, "Ethiopian boys and girls should be educated in their own languages, learn about their own country and men and interesting things, as well as the world in general." He drew up a plan that mandated six years of elementary education for all. Industrial and trade school, agricultural schools, and homemaking courses followed elementary school. Five or six years of additional education was recommended for students who wanted to go into business. The final piece of Work's plan called for an Ethiopian university. He felt it should be established with foreign, private aid. It should foster a college of education for teacher training as well. A resident of Addis Abba commented on general literacy in 1935, saying, "It was remarkable to the resident of many year's standing that whereas in 1920 the boy of his household staff who could read and write was notable, in 1935 among the same society there were few young men and boys who had not mastered the elementary processes of reading and writing the Amharic script." Some teachers still teach Amharic using the fidel (Ethiopian alphabet) with 231 characters, but rather than make students memorize these they use Laubach, which are representations that are easier for students to grasp. They call this their "global approach." After mastering this, many students go on to learn the derse (how to write) or 12 types of essays. Sawasiw (grammar), is also learned by these leed (scholars). This honor is no longer restricted to the privileged.

There were 21 government schools and many more religious schools in 1935. The enrollment in just the government schools was 4,200 students, which excluded students studying abroad and in religious schools.

The language of instruction officially changed from Amharic to English after 1944. All books and materials were printed in English. This placed a heavy burden on learners for whom this was a second or third language. The British Council helped to ease the burden of this change by setting up libraries with books, pamphlets, and periodicals in English for Ethiopians. After 1954, Amharic was used from kindergarten to second grade, with English studied as a foreign language. English was the medium of instruction for third grade through the university.

The first evidence of radical educational reform was the post-revolution (1975-76) literacy campaign or Zemecha. More than half a million students with some high school education or more, as well as their teachers and professors, were pressed into service in an effort at development through cooperation. Their goal was to teach peasants to read and write in a year and a half. Each literate teacher was assigned 40 illiterate students. This army of literacy teachers was trained for 5 to 10 days in psychology, teaching methods, techniques for creating order in class, and the use of educational materials and teaching aids. The books they used also taught practical skills such as how to count money in a market place when selling crops, hygiene, childcare, and terracing land to prevent soil erosion.

The Empress Menen Girls' School originally opened in 1931 to educate Ethiopian girls and played an important role in educating Ethiopian women in the first decade following restored independence. By the early 1950s it had become one of the top four general secondary schools. The school sought to give girls a technical education, but it also tried to preserve traditional female occupations. Gradually, the school expanded to include a one-year teacher training course and a three-year diploma course.

Girls participated in traditional education far less than boys. Ethiopians believe that a woman's place is in the home or working in the farm fields with her husband. The art of homemaking was paramount. Attention was given to learning to bow low when greeting elders and strangers, as well as the custom of women receiving articles with both hands. These were the hallmarks of well-trained, traditional Ethiopian women. However, post-war Ethiopia declared that both boys and girls should be afforded equal opportunities. The number of female students between 1944 and 1951 averaged 19.5 percent. This was a problem. Many girls either stayed home or dropped out.

In addition to traditional classes and schooling, there were other educational opportunities as well. Technical schools were rebuilt and expanded. The language of instruction changed from French to English. Mechanics, electrical engineering, carpentry, and other practical subjects were offered along with mathematics, chemistry, physics, and history. The aim was to produce technicians, technical supervisors, and foremen.

Agricultural schools, such as the Ambo Agricultural School, were created to teach scientific commercial farming. The idea was to develop such schools into colleges of agricultural science. They were located near fertile farmland with ample rainfall and possible irrigation and hydroelectric sources. The United States provided a complete agricultural laboratory. Schools were well equipped with farm tools and machines. Graduates earned certificates that allowed them to work as agricultural technicians or to teach agricultural science in elementary schools. Some worked as farm managers, agricultural advisers, or as assistants on experimental stations. Modern farming techniques and practices thus entered Ethiopian society.

Traditional Ethiopian education was private and stressed the centrality of religion, the needs of the soul over those of the human body, modesty, humility, and dedication to persistent pursuit of thoroughness. Nobles prided themselves on being patrons of education, the arts, and literature. Many sponsored the creation of books and works of art. Elite parents hired resident scholars to teach their children. They gave generously to church sponsored schools, and the Orthodox Coptic Church jealously guarded its dominant role in education. Isolated cases of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Greek Orthodox, Swedish Evangelical, and Hebrew schools could be found, and some noble children studied abroad at great expense. Students returning from overseas study often met with cool or even hostile receptions. Suspicion of things foreign was understandable given Ethiopia's history of defending itself against foreign forces that attempted to destroy it.

Decades ago, in principle, schools were open to girls and boys, but in practice, only boys whose parents were members of Orthodox churches were admitted. Traditional church schools were not impartial, nor were they democratic. No pretense of serving all citizens of Ethiopia was claimed or practiced. Most students lived at school, and the teacher served also as a parental figure. There were no classes on holidays or Sundays. Senior students assisted the priest in church services as a form of in-service training.

Preprimary schools remain the monopoly of church schools that teach writing and reading skills before children enter public, government-run schools. For tradition-bound conservative Ethiopians, such education is still important. Ethiopia has more than a quarter of a million trained priests educated within this traditional system. More than 20,000 churches and monasteries have schools attached which offer traditional education. In areas where the Ethiopian Orthodox Coptic Monophysite faith is practiced, other religions can set up schools, but they cannot recruit converts to their religion. Despite revolutionary change, such schools provide one type of literacy and training to large numbers of Ethiopians.

Curriculum under the Italians changed from how it was conducted under Ethiopian control; invading Italian forces changed the Ethiopian educational system in 1936. In the process of this change, thousands of educated Ethiopians were killed, and the survivors became exiles in England, France, and the United States. Italy created a dual system of education. European children were given sound academic training and prepared to lead, whereas Ethiopian children were educated for servitude. Their education was inferior in quality, thus preventing them from ever competing against Italians or challenging their authority or right to rule. Missionary schools complied with Italian educational regulations. Coptic, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, and state schools were encouraged as a form of divide and rule tactic.

Beyond basic literacy, Italian colonial education for Ethiopians was designed merely to buy their loyalty. African schools were limited to teaching in Ge'ez, Tigranya, and Amharic. Religion, not science, was stressed for Africans, while just the reverse was true for Italian children. Italian scholars felt that ancient Rome made a mistake when it educated the native chiefs of Britain. Therefore, the Italians were advised not to educate Ethiopians beyond elementary school and not to teach them the Italian language.

Before the Italian invasion Ethiopia had over 4,000 students in schools, but after the invasion that number dropped sharply to 1,400 students. Inferior instruction for Ethiopians magnified the tragedy. Textbook printers were ordered to exclude all reference to Italy in 1848 and to the Italian revolution.

Preprimary & Primary Education

In the pre-European traditional educational system, children in primary schools, learned to read and write Ge'ez's 265 characters. Emphasis was placed on rote memorization. Admitted between the ages of 7 and 12, the time required for graduation depended on intelligence, health, and motivation. Elementary pupils had to learn to read, write, and recite the Dawit Medgem (Psalms of David). There are 15 sections, called negus (kings), which normally took two years to master. Next they learned to sing kum zema (church hymns), which took four years, and msaewait zema (advanced singing), which took an additional year to learn. Liturgical dancing and systrum holding required three years. Qine (poetry) and law required five years to learn. The interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Apostles' Creed, took four years on average, while the interpretation of the works of learned monks and priests took three years. When a student knew the psalms by heart, he had mastered the "house of reading" and was now considered an elementary school graduate. His family gave a lavish feast to celebrate this achievement. If they could afford it, they gave his teacher property, money, clothes, or other gifts. Many subjects were learned simultaneously as in middle school.

Orthodox Coptic Church schools provided much needed training in reading and writing in preprimary schools. Thus, many children already had basic literacy skills by age six upon starting primary school. The first postwar formal curriculum was a 6-6 structure: six years of elementary school followed by six years of secondary school.

During the early 1930s, 18 percent of primary school age children were in school. By contrast, beginning in the early 1970s and continuing on into 2001, more than 50 percent of primary school age children attended school. The absolute number of primary school students increased from 859,000 to over 2 million. The number of primary school teachers rose from 18,642 to more than 35,000 during this period, but the teacher student ratio rose to 1 teacher for every 90 students. Overcrowding has also led the government to create a three-shift system, to extend the academic year by two months, and to stagger starting dates to accommodate rising demand. Nevertheless, the gains in education are impressive and substantial.

Revolutionaries increased primary schools from 2,754 to 5,800 between 1974 and 1984. They concentrated on building new primary schools in rural areas to end the placement of schools in privileged urban communities. Most new schools were built in under-privileged urban and rural areas. Formally neglected students had opportunities to learn, which were reinforced by quota systems that guaranteed them seats in secondary schools and universities as an additional incentive to learn. Revolutionary curriculums stress vocational studies over academic subjects. Gardening is introduced in the fourth grade. Polytechnic training begins in fifth grade, along with political education and history. The teacher pupil ratio increased from 1 teacher for every 44 students in 1974, to 1 teacher for every 64 students after the revolution because access to educational opportunities expanded.

Secondary Education

Middle school involved learning the Merha Euoor (Book of the Blind), which took six months, and history, which took one year. Mathematics, astronomy, canon and civil law, Christian ethics, world history, and the Amharic language were also studied in middle school. Amharic is considered the language of national unification and literature. Many subjects could be learned simultaneously if the student had the aptitude. Completion of middle school qualified a student to serve as a deacon in the Ethiopian Orthodox Coptic Church.

Many schools were boarding schools to accommodate the large number of war orphans who were homeless. This led to marked attrition at the secondary school level, except for bright students. Secondary school students who wanted to attend universities had to take the London Matriculation Examination, the General Certificate Examination, or the Ethiopian Secondary School Certificate Examination. Students headed for the United States took the College Entrance Examination set by the Board of Regents of New York State. These examinations measured Ethiopian secondary school graduates against international competitors for university seats globally.

In 1948 two years of junior high school were added, and secondary education was reduced to a four year curriculum. From 1954 on, primary school consisted of the first four grades, and junior high school started at the fifth grade and ended with the eighth grade. Efforts were made to create a uniform curriculum to facilitate transfers between schools. By 1943 the Haile Selassie Secondary School opened its doors and began training students. This school offered a full four-year secondary program. Most of the teachers were foreign. The school had two tracks. The first track prepared students for university entrance, while the second track prepared students for further technical training in vocations. The British assisted by opening the General Wingate Secondary School. This school had science laboratories, and offered classes in science, art, music, and handicrafts. Both secondary schools were boarding schools.

Competitive examination at the end of sixth grade determines which students can advance to junior high, high school, vocational training, and ultimately, the university. Elementary school students who fail the tests set by the Ministry of Education are not allowed to repeat a class. Failed students are not prepared for jobs, but neither can they go on to high school.

Junior high schools increased from 420 in 1973 to over 800 in 2001. Students attending junior high school rose from 101,800 to more than 215,000. The number of junior high school teachers rose from 3,226 to over 4,800. Polytechnic education is being expanded to include all children between the ages of 7 to 14 years of age. The goal is to stream junior high graduates into vocational training and productive work in line with Ethiopia's demands for industrial, health care, and service industry workers.

High school construction rose from 113 to an excess of 190 and is still rising rapidly. The secondary school population expanded from 82,300 to over 220,000 students. The high school teacher population rose from 2,955 to more than 5,500. The teacher pupil ratio rose from 1 teacher for every 10 students in 1962 to 1 teacher for every 30 students in 1970 and 1 teacher for every 44 students in 1984. In one sense this illustrates more open access to education; however, quality of education becomes a concern. Before 1974 approximately 91 percent of high school students entered the academic stream, 7 percent went into vocational subjects, and 2 percent studied education as part of teacher training.

Higher Education

Originally, the equivalent of higher education was reserved for students who intended to become debtera or leed themselves. This was a very small elite group of scholars. Advanced courses were only offered at special centers located in Gondar, Gojam, Tigre, and Wollo. Students had to memorize each lesson without flaw to advance. Three areas of specialization were studied. A student attended academies of music, poetry, and written texts. Life in the academy was severe, simple, and demanding. Students awoke at dawn each morning to prepare for the religious service. The master sat on an elevated platform, surrounded by admiring students. They recited the previous day's lesson and then began memorizing the new lesson for that day. Classes ended by late afternoon. They ate a modest dinner and then went out collecting firewood. The day's lessons were reinforced until midnight when they slept.

Advanced students began their training at the academy of music. These academies were attached to designated churches or monasteries. Works composed by Yared, a great composer and lyricist of the sixth century, were studied. He created a system of musical notation still widely used. Written in Ge'ez, it has dots, lines, and directional signs that tell the student how to sing a verse. Academy graduates can read these symbols and sing correctly. Ezel (low-voiced and dignified singing) was reserved for funerals, fasts, and vigils. Arary (light and happy singing) was reserved for great festivals and weddings. The Degwa (essential collection of ecclesiastical music) was mastered. Liturgical chants were accompanied by religious dancing, kabaro (drumming), and tsentsil (systrum) playing. It typically took eight years to complete the advanced courses in Ethiopian Church music. Ethiopian secular music, known as azmari (wandering minstrel), could also be studied. This music dealt with love, death, marriage, harvesting, and the like. An azmari, or minstrel, traveled widely, performing at weddings and joyous celebrations. He flattered, cajoled, and goaded people into dancing, laughing, and giving away money. He could use poetry and songs to insult anyone, even nobles.

The academy of poetry was the next challenge for advanced students. Students learned to translate Amharic into Ge'ez and enlarged their vocabularies in both languages. They studied Ethiopian culture, its traditions, folkways, values, and customs, as well as its rules and regulations. Comprehension of texts in Ge'ez was essential for students. They spent time in isolated solitude to compose original poems in Ge'ez. Though critiqued by the professors, originality was encouraged. Ge'ez grammar and philology and 12 styles of poetic composition form the curriculum of the poetry academy, which took 13 years to complete. Passages from famous philosophers, such as Plato, Aristotle, Zara Yacob, and Wolde Hiywet, were also studied.

The literary academy was the third academy of higher education. This school of literary texts required scholars to properly interpret stories and passages from the Old and New Testaments, together with literature, fiction, and books on the monastic life. Texts such as the Laws of Kings, the foundation of Ethiopian law for centuries, were also studied. Global history was taught from an Ethiopian perspective. Ten years were required to graduate from the literary academy.

The development of local schools in each province that sent their better students for education in the capital or abroad was encouraged. These local schools stressed knowledge of Ethiopia. Ethiopia's most promising scholars were given scholarships to study in Europe, the Middle East, other African nations, and North America. The largest number went to France, where most studied law, politics, economics, and science. French was Ethiopia's leading foreign language, thus many students felt comfortable in French universities.

A university college in Ethiopia was created in 1931 to reduce the expense and training of administrators. In 1941, old blueprints for this college were reactivated, and the emperor approved a plan. A Canadian Jesuit priest, Dr. Lucien Matte, was selected to head the college. By 1954 a civil charter was granted, and Haile Selassie University became a reality in 1961. Thus, following World War II, Ethiopia had built an educational system that covered a wide range of learning needs from kindergarten to the university level.

In 1965 the Ethiopian University Service was created (EUS). This program required university students to serve as teachers in rural Ethiopia for one academic year, between their third and forth years of study.

Entrance examinations to universities have been extremely competitive. They were inequitable and favored children of the elite from the best schools, usually from major urban areas. The twelfth grade school leaving examination alone screened out 80 percent of university applicants. From 1940 to 1960 those who failed to enter college were given government jobs. By 1970, there were few government jobs to dole out. Even the Armed Forces were full to capacity with high school graduates who had failed the university entrance exam.

In the early 1970s, a program was instituted to make a quota system for university student selection. Students from each region were assigned seats based upon the percentage of their ethnic group in Ethiopia's total population. The idea was to be fair to all groups. To achieve this goal, admission standards were lowered. Many students admitted had never seen a science laboratory in their rural homeland schools. They often knew neither English nor Amharic and found it difficult to follow lectures. The urban terrain was unfamiliar and frightening, and many dropped out and retreated to their mountain homes. Quotas proved a failure and the old selection system was quietly put back in place. Another program also tried to shorten the time needed to complete a degree from four years to three. Given the low quality of education in the high schools, this experiment also failed and had to be phased out. Students simply needed more time to master English and gain scientific knowledge.

A small number of students who complete high school enter universities, despite the explosion of education at the primary and secondary levels. In 1981, approximately 75,000 students took the university entrance examination (ESLCE), but only 3,000 were admitted to four-year colleges, while another 2,000 were admitted into institutes of technology and training schools. The number of students seeking university education is increasing rapidly, but Ethiopia's institutions of higher education do not yet have the capacity to absorb them.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Originally, the Ethiopian government alone could not finance universal education, so missionaries of all denominations were allowed to build schools. This further broadened the base of education, but Ethiopians viewed non-Coptic religious education as unpatriotic. To them, learning from Catholics was a betrayal of the nation. Any education outside of Orthodox Coptic Church schools was tantamount to being anti-Ethiopian. They felt that learning in a Catholic school amounted to accepting Catholicism and represented a betrayal of national honor and the native religion. Such persons were willing instruments in the hands of alien powers. The Ethiopian Orthodox Coptic Church encouraged such attitudes toward both secular and non-Coptic schools, which hampered the spread of education nationally. Despite this, French Catholics opened the Ecole Francaise, which by 1921 had graduated 1,400 students. Education was free. The old Coptic Church monopoly on education was giving way to a diverse array of other schools, which complimented traditional religious education, which continues to flourish. To meet the rising cost of education a special education tax of 6 percent was levied on all imports and exports.

After his official coronation as emperor in 1930, Haile Selassie put all education under the control of the Ministry of Education and Fine Arts. The education tax generated revenue, and the new emperor added 2 percent of the treasury's national revenue to support education.

Finance for postwar secular education came from two sources. Approximately 3 percent of export taxes financed education. This was supplemented by dedicating 30 percent of the land tax to education. After 1948, elementary schools in rural areas were financed by a special rural land tax. Only church land was exempt. All other education was financed by the national treasury, which devoted 20 percent of its total income to education. This set a pattern followed later by Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta, who dedicated 30 percent of Kenya's budget to education.

Afro-Marxists have mobilized ordinary citizens in rural and urban areas to form associations. These committees furnish labor and building materials, and the government furnishes blueprints for school buildings. These citizen brigades are expected to build 16,000 learning centers throughout Ethiopia. Materials and tools are donated by the government if a community can not afford them. During the same period, the government committed itself to building 1,800 new primary schools. The new regime is promoting the idea of self-help and self-taxation to meet its educational targets.

Nonformal Education

Restoration of Ethiopia's education system was an impressive feat which included adult education. As early as 1948, the emperor opened the Berhanih Zare New (Your Light Is Today), a school and cultural institute whose ultimate purpose was to branch out into the field of mass education so that every person in the Empire would become literate in a prescribed period. Plans were made to adopt a simplification of the Amharic alphabet as a vehicle for achieving this end. Nevertheless, the goal of universal literacy remained elusive.

The adult literacy rate in 2001 remains at 35 percent. The main beneficiaries of adult literacy have been women who traditionally were less likely to be educated then men. Female enrollment in most schools is less than 34 percent, but in adult literacy classes it exceeds 50 percent in rural areas and 74 percent in cities.

Distance learning, via radio and television, beams 1,200 lessons per year in 10 languages to millions of Ethiopians in remote regions. Impressive gains by the Zemecha suggest that if they could agree to stop fighting one another, Ethiopia could eliminate illiteracy.

Teaching Profession

With few educated Ethiopians to teach the children and educated foreigners still fully committed to successfully defeating the Axis Powers and ending World War II, it was difficult for Ethiopia to rebuild its education system. Few Ethiopians remained who were either qualified to teach or had teaching experience. At all levels Ethiopians had to rely on foreign teachers to reopen their schools. For this reason, the courses taught and the methods of instruction were not uniform. These varied from one school to the next. The English, Swedes, Americans, and other nationalities conducted classes as they would at home. In 1962, after several decades of rebuilding and training teachers, the Bureau of Educational Research and Statistics reported that 62 percent of Ethiopia's teachers had only elementary education or lower, 13 percent had 3 to 4 years, 16 percent had 1 year of teacher training, and 9 percent had some teacher training at the community level. Under colonial rule, the best teachers taught at the university level and the worst at the primary school level. Primary school teacher salaries were so low that it was difficult to recruit and retain teachers with even a modest primary education. Ethiopia put the most money into the lower grades because it was believed that only a broadly educated mass could earn enough disposable income to support a small elite of doctors, lawyers, bureaucrats, artists, and administrators. Without such a semi-educated mass, the elite could not flourish. Ethiopia needed many teachers to reach this goal and to train them required constructing teachers' colleges.

A joint UNESCO- and USAID-funded and equipped teacher training program at Debre Berhan Community Teacher Training School failed because it required students to learn how to operate brick making equipment, build milking sheds for dairy cattle, make butter and cheese, and grow the vegetables that they ate at school. Parents objected that they wanted students to study academic subjects because the parents could teach them how to farm at home. Their attitude toward manual labor was negative. Many graduates were not accepted as agricultural experts when they returned home because elders culturally refused to accept orders or instruction from youth. Mothers pulled daughters out of the school complaining that they could learn hygiene, child-care, cooking, and handicrafts at home. They argued that their daughters did not have to go to school to learn such subjects. More than 42 percent of graduates dropped out of teaching after 5 years of service. More than money or materials, the limited number of teachers slowed the expansion of mass education. This teacher training college was abandoned after many parents transferred their children to other schools more academically oriented. Attitudes and culture held education back in postwar Ethiopia. Social Impact Assessments that predict the social response to development became mandatory by the 1970s to help avoid such costly cultural mistakes.


Ethiopia is an old and proud African nation with a long tradition of education. With each era new forms of education were added to previous forms, which continue to function and provide literacy in Ge'ez, Amharic, and Arabic. The old religious schools still can be relied on to provide basic literacy in remote regions. Secular schools now build on this foundation and extend it. Emperors Menelik II and Haile Selassie added a secular layer of educational institutions on top of the existing religious schools. Literacy and education were offered to many who could not have dreamed of this privilege in the past. Prosecuting two costly wars led to the slow growth of secondary education and the virtual stagnation of university level opportunities, despite tremendous pent-up demand. This may lead to social volatility, tensions, and turmoil in the future unless it is resolved.


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Dallas L. Browne

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Ethiopia
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 65,891,874
Language(s): Amharic, Tigrinya, Oromigna, Guaragigna, Somali, Arbic, other local languages, English
Literacy rate: 35.5%
Area: 1,127,127 sq km
GDP: 6,391 (US$ millions)
Number of Nondaily Newspapers: 149
Number of Television Sets: 320,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 4.9
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 2,000
Number of Radio Stations: 7
Number of Radio Receivers: 11,750,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 178.3
Number of Individuals with Computers: 60,000
Computers per 1,000: 0.9
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 10,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 0.2

Background & General Characteristics

The Ethiopian context

Political context Virtually all observers of Ethiopian history and politics agree that current political events cannot be isolated from past history. The multiplicity of the Ethiopian people, and its links to ancient history and culture are reflected in traditions still very much alive today. However, Ethiopia today is said to be a "new" Ethiopia in the making. After decades of resistance and war against different totalitarian regimes within, a new model of state governance is being implemented. According to the authorities an ethnic federal state, with ethnically defined regions and democratic standards, has been introduced in the country. During the 1990s, many observers viewed Ethiopia's experiment in government as a bold attempt at African nation building, while others worried about what will become of the traditional "Ethiopian entity" after ethnic division. To attempt to describe the ongoing political changes in Ethiopia in an introductory paragraph would be overly ambitious. However, a key concern of this study is to relate the professionalism of Ethiopia's news media to human rights and democracy in the nationto participation and pluralism.

The redefinition of the Ethiopian state on a new basis is underway, but the very foundation of that project remains controversial. In conducting our research, we have received the general impression that history is being repeated in Ethiopia. One could still say that a top-down authority is imposed on the people, this time draped in the ideological rhetoric of democracy, and again with external support, now from the West.

After decades of failed political experiments, several key issues in Ethiopian politics remain to be solved. In many situations it would be gravely misleading to analyze African democracy in terms of Western concepts. Ethiopia might and should develop democratic institutions well suited for its own society, and such institutions may differ from Western models. However, there are also certain principles fundamental to democratic modes of governance which are universal. These include open and equal opportunity for all to participate in politics, and freedom of speech and organization. Independent of local history and cultural context, these standards must be respected in a democratic society. Professionalism in a country's media allows for a constructive use of the freedom of speech, one that offers truthful, useful criticism of a country's institutions.

Ethiopia has chosen to enact a specific press bill, rather than to rely on the common law approach used in the United States and other Western democracies. These provisions would seem to create a liberal press environment. However, the absence of a free media tradition in Ethiopia has resulted in lack of adequate provisions for developing independent, professional journalism. Also lacking is a professional board or other mechanism to determine whether press content fits the press bill's criteria for press responsibility and for the taking of lawful measures. Thus most press offenses are considered by authorities as criminal, and not civic in nature.

To develop media as a viable source of information is to enable and support democracy in Ethiopia by strengthening human rights and democratic institutions. The promotion of human rights depends, among other factors, on the active involvement of the media. On the other hand, the effective operation of the media depends on a government that respects human rights and the freedom "to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through media and regardless of frontiers" (The Press Freedom Bill). The freedom of expression may be ushered in and cultivated through professional, independent journalism.

Polarization Public debate in Ethiopia seems polarized to a first time visitor. Events and statements are easily interpreted to fit into the patterns of old conflict, and few people seem willing to engage in constructive dialogue with their adversaries. One also notices deep mistrust regarding an opponent's motives. Ethiopians who reflect on their own traditions often say "we sit on our own chairs and do not meet in the middle."

Regarding the media, this means that the independent press easily interprets all the stories in the government papers as propaganda, while the government media looks at the independent press with great skepticism, to the point of calling it an enemy of the people.

One of the causes for this polarization is the absence of a tradition of dialogue among adversaries. Some Western nations have long venerated the idea of discussion between competing parties, while physical force or other forms of intimidation have been practiced and encouraged in Ethiopia. The country's democratic movement during the 1990s has so far been neither strong enough, nor has it lasted long enough to alleviate some peoples' fears that it will backfire.

Another reason for polarization is ethnic practices. The country contains more than 80 smaller or larger ethnic groups with different languages that have played an important role in defining ethnicity in Ethiopia. The former regime called itself Marxist, but the fact that certain ethnic groups dominated it was to many Ethiopians far more important. And today the same people are far more preoccupied with the fact that the present government has its power base related to ethnicity, than that it calls itself democratic. It is our impression that the Ethiopians have developed a sophisticated ability to interpret anything that emerges from the government quarters. Their basic assumption is that what they hear is not true.

On the other hand, the polarization of the Ethiopian debate results in an added sense of personal engagement on the part of journalists, which is of vital importance to the Ethiopian press. Because of the tense ethnic situation as well as the government's softness on the enforcement of human rights, journalists take personal risks in pursuing certain stories. These risks add a dimension of reality to the debate and inspire journalists to a true devotion to their jobs. The challenge to the press is to communicate this engagement and devotion through stories and articles of high journalistic quality.

When political distrust and allegations are part of an ongoing process, one should be wary of taking any absolute stand for either side. Ethiopian political positions have become so entrenched, so defensive, that political arguments have to a large degree lost their value. Since the adversary is suspected of hidden motives, every group believes it is the only truly democratic one. Groups practice a total and unyielding criticism of each other, a moral exclusiveness, which does not allow them to expect anything but disruption and destruction from the other groups. Consequently political positions become self assertive and absolute: every new revelation of the adversary, every new suspicion instantly adds credibility to one's own position.

To get the political process on track towards an incorporating, broad based, participatory democracy, a constructive dialogue between the different actors must be established. The Ethiopian political environment seems to lack tradition for agreeing to disagree. Disagreement seems often to result in enmity and polarization. An important step towards broad and mutual participation in the country's decisions will thus be to nurture a less-biased, truth-searching media, one capable of bringing about dialogue between the different actors in the Ethiopian community. This dialogue should not seek consensus for its own sake, but in order to avoid polarization, which blocks communication and cements enmity.

Historic Development of the Media in Ethiopia

Dictators have been common throughout Ethiopian history. Whatever press existed during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie I (1930-74) and the following dictatorship behaved, with a few exceptions, like willing mouthpieces for the rulers. Only during the 1990s have signs of a free and independent press emerged. During that decade a plethora of new magazines and papers appeared on Ethiopian stands.

In a country with more than 80 languages, it is difficult to establish national newspapers and nationwide radio/TV programming. Traditionally a rather high percent of the urban population understand Amharic, and most newspapers, radio and TV programs are available in that language. Only a few programs in radio and television are produced in other major languages, such as Tigrinya and Oromiffa.

Even though many newspapers are published in Ethiopia, journalism as many Western nations practice (or at least believe in practicing) itas an independent, critical, theoretically objective enterprisehas never really developed, and only sporadically have high-profile Ethiopians objected to the country's lack of an independent "fourth estate." Western journalists learn early on that reporting must be separated from commentary, but Ethiopian journalists routinely conflate the two, to name just one example.

Until the passage of the Press Freedom Bill in 1992, the printed press was limited. The first newspaper in Ethiopia and a few other publications emerged under Emperor Haile Selassie I. However, modern mass media was introduced in Ethiopia a century ago, during the reign of Menelik II (who ruled from 1889-1913). The first medium to be introduced was a weekly newspaper (La Se-maine d'Ethiopie, 1890), published in French by a Franciscan missionary living in Harar. In 1905 the name of the publication changed to Le Semeur d'Ethiopie. The first Amharic newspaper was issued in 1895a four page weekly newspaper named Aemero. The first issues were hand written. Between 1912 and 1915 weekly newspapers like Melekete Selam, Yetor Wore ("War News"), and many others emerged.

For the most part, these print media were controlled by the country's government, subject to official censorship and string-pulling. In 1965 Berhanena Selam Printing Press, a modern, almost monopoly instituition run by the government, was established. The Printing Press played a role in the publication of two national weekly newspapers, Addis Zemen (New Era), in Amharic (1941) and its English counterpart the Ethiopian Herald, in 1943. These two served as the main official press organs of the state and as the main source of information for literate people.

A military group called the Derg wrested power from Selassie in September 1974 and arrested him, citing his incompetence in domestic affairs (particularly in dealing with an early-1970s famine that ravaged parts of the country). Derg member Major Mengistu Haile Mariam established his own leadership within that organization in February 1977 via a shootout between his followers and those of his main rival, Tafari Banti, who died in the fighting; following this, Mengistu declared himself chairman and began his military rule over the country by 1977. During the 17 years of Mengistu's rule, the government-and party-owned publications Meskerem ("September"), Serto Ader ("Worker"), and the pre-Derg Yezareyitu Ethiopia ("Ethiopia Today") were published in addition to the previously mentioned Addis Zemen and the Ethiopian Herald.

In October 1992, as previously mentioned, came the proclamation of the Press Freedom Bill by the Ethiopian Transitional Government. The document states in Paragraph 3 that "1. Freedom of the press is recognized and respected in Ethiopia. 2. Censorship of the press and any restriction of a similar nature are hereby prohibited." Part Three further guaranteed the right of access to information: "Any press and its agents shall, without prejudice to rights conformed by other laws, have the right to seek, obtain and report news and information from any government source of news and information."

After the proclamation of the Press Freedom Bill, new, independent newspapers and magazines developed, especially in Addis Ababa. These offer the minority points of view often left out of government-owned publications, but suffer from inadequate fact-checking and occasional censorship, as well as the government's refusal to allow representatives from non-official papers at its press conferences.

News agencies, often government-owned, were also introduced to the country during the previous century, including the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA), begun in 1942 as "Agenze Direczion" and renamed in 1968. Walta Information Service, a more recently established news agency, is associated with EPRDF, the party in power, and is housed in the same complex as Radio Fana.

Brief Presentation of the Present Media

The Ethiopian publishing industry mushroomed after the Press Bill of 1992. Figures differ, but according to the Government, 385 publications were registered between October 1992 and July 1997, of which 265 were newspapers and 120 magazines. At any one time, there are probably about 20 different newspapers for sale in Addis Ababa. More than half of the total number of papers were closed down during the same five-year period, often because of limited resources. The "independent papers" are owned by private share companies (business.communities, political parties or just individual business entrepreneurs). Because of a very limited middle-class, the income on advertising is also very limited. The government papers are subsidized by government funds, and partly financed by advertisements and subscribers.

Access to publications outside the capital is limited. Given Ethiopia's low literacy rate, and the relative high cost of newspapers, regular readership may be as low as one percent of the population. The Addis Ababa public consumes most of the country's newspapers (which, in total, number no more than 500,000 out of a population of 60 million, or less than one in a thousand).

As for the demand side, illiteracy, weak economy and the near non-existence of infrastructure prevent newspapers from reaching a mass readership, especially in rural areas, where newspapers (as previously noted) cannot even be distributed. In this kind of situation, it is self-evident that radio and TV are important media. Radio is important because it is inexpensive and available for group listening. TV is important for the same reasons, and both broadcast mediums are especially useful because they don't require literacy. TV sets are scarce in the rural cities and almost absent in the villages and in the remote parts of the country. Radio sets are better distributed, but are still a luxury commodity for large segments of the Ethiopian population. Even batteries for the radio sets are far too expensive in areas defined as non-monetary communities.

Broadcast media may be able to fill in some of the educational gaps created by illiteracy and language difference.

Press Laws

Following the proclamation of the Press Bill, many private and party newspapers began to appear. In addition the Ethiopian Press agency now publishes four newspapers, one each in Amharic, English, Oromiffa and Arabicrespectively, Addis Zemen and Ethiopian Herald, both dailies, and Berissa and Al-alem, both weeklies.Addis Zemen has a circulation of 19,000, the Ethiopian Herald 10,000, Berissa 3,000 and Al-alem 2,500. The Press Agency lacks both the manpower and the transportation capacities to effectively deliver these papers to Addis, the regions and areas outside Ethiopia; for this and other reasons, the papers face major distribution problems.


Ethiopia's Constitution grants basic civil liberties to its citizens, including freedom of speech and freedom of the press. However, the legislation governing the press is viewed by many as a hindrance to the development of a free press in Ethiopia.

Historically, the Ethiopian government will tolerate freedom of speech to a certain point. But opposition newspapers regularly report dramatic instances of censorship: stories of journalists harassed and imprisoned for reporting truth, etc. The appearance of such stories may, in some cases, have more to do with anti-government hostility on the part of opposition newspapers than with factmuch of these papers' content is based on rumors. A critical use of sources is a rare virtue in Ethiopian journalism of any kind, even though this is basic for developing a trustworthy journalism, and even promoters of human rights in Ethiopia are of the opinion that some journalists are asking for trouble. Journalists have a tendency to distrust open sources, and are more willing to trust what is whispered in the coffee houses. However, these points granted, one must still admit that government oppression of journalists is a reality in Ethiopia as it is throughout the world in fact, Ethiopia once imprisoned more journalists than almost any other country. Privately operating journalists are also hampered by the fact that they are cut off from part of the governmental flow of information. Direct censorship against independent newspapers is rare, but the government, on the other hand, claims that the independent press is irresponsible and un-trustworthy. This is the official reason why journalists from the independent press are denied access to the government press conferences. Thus the situation is aggravated by both sides in the conflict.

The recently proclaimed Bill of Broadcasting makes independent FM radio stations legally possible in the country. Such stations could make an important contribution to Ethiopian freedom of speech, but certain civic groups expressed skepticism upon hearing the proclamation draft, citing limitations in the new law. As drafted, the bill does not allow religious organizations and political parties to run their own radio stations. Such prohibitions are regarded by some as a breach of freedom of expression.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC) has issued a report on journalists, documenting the arrests and imprisonment of journalists from the independent press. Lately the pressure against journalists seems to have eased a little. There are now fewer arrests, even if journalists still are brought before the courts every now and then. The new tolerance is probably connected to the country's conflict with Eritrea, a conflict on which the government press and the independent press, in general, have had similar views. The question is, will this alliance remain when the conflict is over?

State-Press Relations

It is fair to say that while the makeup of Ethiopia's government has frequently changed during the twentieth century, the printing press's function, as well as that of radio, television, and news agencies, has remained the same: to serve the government in power. Media have consistently and primarily promoted government policy and activities. Consequently, Ethiopia has little or no indigenous tradition of thinking about the press as a free commercial enterprise, or as a watchdog or critic of the government. Because of the continued government control of the broadcast media, the non-government media have been limited to print, but the 1999 proclamation of a new Bill of Broadcasting in the House of Representatives may challenge this government stranglehold.

The largest newspapers and the only Ethiopian broadcasting corporation are owned by the government. If one looks at the circulation of the newspapers, the government papers hold the largest share. Non-government papers are hampered by the government's refusal to allow them to send reporters to its press conferences, as well as by an overly suspicious attitude toward the government that sometimes leads to an equally uncritical acceptance of sources critical toward it.

To illustrate how strong the tradition of control is, Government radio rarely airs a live interview. Any live interview is considered an advance for free speech.

News Agencies

There are disturbingly close relations between the official Ethiopia Journalist Association and the government. This is emphasized by the fact that the head of the association also heads up Ethiopian Broadcasting and the country's official news bureau.

There is also an independent journalist association, the Ethiopian Free Press Journalist Association (EFJA). This association is not a legal body in Ethiopia.

Apart from these, there are no press institutions/associations in Ethiopia. This lack provides yet another illustration of the two main problems in Ethiopian journalism: its low level of development, and its dominance by the government. At the same time the Ethiopian people show a growing awareness of the importance of the media. Lobbying has increased, and various groups have introduced initiatives to improve Ethiopian media. On September 24th -25th, 1999, the International Press Institute organized a seminar under the theme "Ethiopian Media in Development." "Independent" and "government" journalists gathered under one roof for discussions about the state of their joint enterprise. For one and a half days ethical and other problems afflicting the Ethiopian media were raised and solutions suggested. The seminar was sponsored by the Austrian, British and Norwegian embassies in Addis Ababa.

Broadcast Media


The government views radio as the most important mass medium in a large country like Ethiopia. The leadership in the country's only official school of journalism consider radio and TV to be important assets in promoting democracy in the rural and remote areas of the country. Radio's strategic importance is also, some suspect, the reason behind the government's reluctance to allow private radio stations.

Broadcasting, primarily the radio, reaches a much larger part of the population than does print, though Ethiopian radio is limited. Radio Voice of the Gospel, owned by the Lutheran World Federation, operated prior to the overthrow of the Emperor in 1974. Their facilities were seized under the Derg, and today there are only two radio broadcasters in Addis Ababa: Radio Ethiopia and Radio Fana. The latter is associated with EPRDF, but is not directly government owned. There is only one regional radio station in Bahir Dahr, which is associated with the regional government. The other radio station is TPLF radio in Mekele, broadcasting only in Tigrigna.

There are some regional broadcasting initiatives surfacing, of which Bahir Dahr probably is the most developed. The regional radio in Bahir Dahr, a major town in the Amhara region, is run by the Department of Culture, Tourism and Information. This region is said to have 15 million inhabitants. The regional broadcast is transmitted one hour per day, seven days a week. In addition, the studios also produce material for national television and publish a weekly newspaper and a quarterly magazine. According to this regional broadcast center, the station covers 90 percent of the region. Nobody knows the actual number of listeners. The first audience research will be conducted next year.

As previously noted, the vast majority of newspaper readers live in Ethiopia's capital, and Addis Ababa uses much of the country's other media as well. The numbers are less certain for radio than for print media, but it is believed that a similarly large difference exists between the number of urban radio listeners and rural ones, though this difference is less pronounced than the difference in the corresponding numbers for print media. Radio Ethiopia claims to have reached 50 percent of the landmass and 75 percent of the population with a good signal, making it the most influential news source in the country. However, frequency coverage does not reflect the station's actual availability to listeners, due to a lack of radio receivers. Ordinary audience research is not conducted in Ethiopia. It is too costly and too complicated. But in connection with the field work for this article, a limited audience research was conducted in Addis Ababa (count 1,200), Ambo (count 200), Awassa (count 301), Debre Zeit (count 200) and Nazareth (count 299). The data has to be further analyzed, but it reveals the great potential radio broadcasting holds for Ethiopia.

With these facts in mind, the recent proclamation of a Broadcasting Bill by the Ethiopian House of Representatives seems an interesting and perhaps hopeful sign. Part Three of this Proclamation sets out a legal basis on which private commercial radio and television can be licensed. The Bill of Broadcasting may bring the introduction of FM radio closer to reality. This will be an enormous challenge for the media development in Ethiopia.


Those few Ethiopians who can watch TV, most of whom live in Addis Ababa, have only one channel's worth of state-controlled programming to watch during their evenings and weekends; during the day only the Educational Mass Media Agency broadcasts.

Education & TRAINING

The mushrooming of "independent" papers and the lack of professionalism in the field make it important that basic journalistic education in Ethiopia be improved, both in the long and short terms. Ethiopian media professionals at this point lack some of the basic skills necessary for the press to play a significant role in any democratization process in Ethiopia. From a quick survey of the Ethiopian press, one may safely conclude that the country badly needs education in journalism.

Few Ethiopian journalists have professional education in the field. Only a couple of people in all of Ethiopia hold advanced degrees in journalism. Many reporters operate as spokespeople for particular political views, rather than as journalists. Self-censorship is also a big problem, because some journalists would rather maintain peace between themselves and the state and thus avoid reporting any facts that may force ugly confrontations. Among the independent papers, which are under less pressure to show deference to government accounts of events, an equally unprofessional skepticism about the government pervades political reporting.

The Mass Media Training Institute (MMTI) in Addis Ababa is the only officially funded institution providing journalism education in Ethiopia. MMTI started in 1996 and runs a two-year program for approximately 100 students. Eighty percent of the students enter the school on recommendation from the government. In principle, the rest of the places are open for all. In year 2000, applicants contested these 20 openings. Most of the teachers have journalistic experience, but not all have a formal education in journalism.

Addis Ababa University also offered minor-level courses in journalism. However, plans are underway to establish a School of Journalism at Addis Ababa University. There are also independent institutions in Addis Ababa offering shorter courses in journalism, and a private college (Unity College) is giving courses in journalism.


Ethiopia is emerging nearly finished with its first full decade of democracy. Freedom for journalists has not been the normal practice, but signs are hopeful. Recent legislation paves the way for democratic reforms, though these are sure to take on an African frame.


Aadland, Öyvind. "Ethiopia Research Report." Gimlekolen Mediasenter, 2001.

Azzeze, Keffeyalew, General Manager of Ethiopian Press Agency, Ethiopian Television, Radio Ethiopia and Ethiopian Herald and Chairman of the Ethiopian Journalist Association interview by Öyvind Aadland. Addis Ababa, June 16, 1999.

Bisarit Gashawtena, Vice Minister of Information and Culture, interview by Öyvind Aadland. Addis Ababa: Friday, June 18, 1999.

Bishaw, Dr. Mekonnen, Secretary General Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC), interview by Öyvind Aadland. Addis Ababa, June 16, 1999.

Chemu, Ato Woldemichael, Minister of Information and Culture interview by Öyvind Aadland. Addis Ababa, June 11, 1999.

Debelko, Ato Tzehaye, Head of MMTI interview by Öyvind Aadland. Addis Ababa, June 16, 1999.

Galla, Shibberu, Director of EECMY, Communication Services, interview by Öyvind Aadland.

Hiwot, Alemayhu Gebre, Bureau Head Culture, Tourism and Information Bureau, interview by Öyvind Aadland. Bahir Dahr, June 14, 1999.

Negga, Berhanu, General Manager, EMAISC, President of Ethiopian Economic Association and Professor in Economics at Addis Ababa University, interview by Öyvind Aadland. Addis Ababa: June 10, 1999.

Öyvind Aadland

Mark Fackler

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Ethiopia (ēthēō´pēə), officially Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, republic (2005 est. pop. 73,053,000), 471,776 sq mi (1,221,900 sq km), NE Africa. It borders on Eritrea in the north, on Djibouti in the northeast, on Somalia in the east and southeast, on Kenya in the south, and on South Sudan and Sudan in the west. Addis Ababa is the capital and largest city.

Land and People

Ethiopia falls into four main geographic regions from west to east—the Ethiopian Plateau, the Great Rift Valley, the Somali Plateau, and the Ogaden Plateau. The Ethiopian Plateau, which is fringed in the west by the Sudan lowlands (made up of savanna and forests), includes more than half the country. It is generally 5,000 to 6,000 ft (1,524–1,829 m) high but reaches much loftier heights, including Ras Dashen (15,158 ft/4,620 m), the highest point in Ethiopia. The plateau slopes gently from east to west and is cut by numerous deep valleys. The Blue Nile (in Ethiopia called the Abbai or Abbay) flows through the center of the plateau from its source, Lake Tana, Ethiopia's largest lake. The Great Rift Valley (which in its entirety runs from SW Asia to E central Africa) traverses the country from northeast to southwest and contains the Danakil Desert in the north and several large lakes in the south. The Somali Plateau is generally not as high as the Ethiopian Plateau, but in the Mendebo Mts. it attains heights of more than 14,000 ft (4,267 m). The Awash, Ethiopia's only navigable river, drains the central part of the plateau. The Ogaden Plateau (1,500–3,000 ft/457–914 m high) is mostly desert but includes the Webe Shebele, Genale (Jubba), and Dawa rivers.

Ethiopia's population is mainly rural, with most living in highlands above 5,900 ft (1,800 m). Almost half the people are Muslim, while over a third belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church; about 12% practice traditional religions. There are a great number of distinct ethnic groups in Ethiopia. The Amhara and Tigreyans, who together make up about a third of the population, live mostly in the central and N Ethiopian Plateau; they are Christian and hold most of the higher positions in the government. The Oromo, who make up about 40% of the country's people, live in S Ethiopia and are predominantly Muslim. The pastoral Somali, who are also Muslim, live in E and SE Ethiopia. Until the 1980s a small group of Jews, known as Beta Israel or Falashas, lived north of Lake Tana in Gondar. In the midst of famine and political instability, 10,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted (1984–85) to Israel, and another 14,000 were airlifted out in 1991. By the end of 1999 virtually all the Falashas who were practicing Jews had been flown to Israel; a number of Falash Mura, Falashas who had converted to Christianity in the 19th cent., were allowed to immigrate to Israel in the next decade.

Amharic is the country's official language, but a great many other languages are spoken, including Tigrinya, Oromo, Somali, and Arabic. A substantial number of Ethiopians speak English, which is commonly taught in school.


Ethiopia is an extremely poor and overwhelmingly agricultural country, with agriculture employing 80% of the people and farm products accounting for almost half of the country's GDP and 60% of its exports (mainly coffee). The great majority of the population is engaged in subsistence farming. The chief farm products are cereals, pulses, coffee, oilseed, cotton, sugarcane, potatoes, khat, and cut flowers. Large numbers of cattle, sheep, and goats are raised, and there is a fishing industry. Because of its degraded lands, poor cultivation practices, and frequent periods of drought, Ethiopia has to rely on extensive food imports.

Industry, which is largely state-run, is mostly restricted to agricultural processing and the manufacture of consumer goods. The main industrial centers are Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, and Nazret. The leading manufactures include processed food, beverages, textiles, leather and leather goods, chemicals, and metal products. No large-scale mineral deposits have been found in Ethiopia; gold, platinum, copper, potash, and natural gas are extracted in small quantities. The country is developing its hydroelectric capacity, which is significant; the electricity being produced is for both domestic use and export.

Ethiopia has a poor transportation network, with few year-round roads. The country's one rail line links Addis Ababa and Djibouti; plans for its revitalization were announced in 1998. The chief ports serving Ethiopia, which became landlocked with Eritrean independence, are in other countries: Djibouti, in the country of Djibouti, and Aseb and Massawa, in Eritrea. The border war that began in 1998 ended Ethiopian use of Eritrea's ports.

The annual value of imports into Ethiopia is usually considerably higher than the value of its exports. The principal imports are food and live animals, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, machinery, motor vehicles, cereals, and textiles. The main exports are coffee, khat, gold, leather products, live animals, and oilseeds. The leading trade partners are China, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Italy.


Ethiopia is governed under the constitution of 1994, which provides for a president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government. The bicameral Parliament consists of the 108-seat House of Federation, whose members are chosen by state assemblies to serve five-year terms, and the 547-seat House of People's Representatives, whose members are popularly elected and who in turn elect the president for a six-year term. The prime minister is designated by the party in power following legislative elections. Administratively, the country is divided into nine ethnically based regions and two self-governing administrations (the capital and Dire Dawa).


Early History

Cushitic language speakers are believed to have been the original inhabitants of Ethiopia. They were driven out of the region by the Cushites in the 2d millennium BC The Cushites founded a new civilization which probably traded with the Egyptians, according to ancient Egyptian texts. The Egyptian name for Ethiopians was Habashat, which is the probable origin of the name Abyssinia.

According to tradition, the Ethiopian kingdom was founded (10th cent. BC) by Solomon's first son, Menelik I, whom the queen of Sheba is supposed to have borne. However, the first kingdom for which there is documentary evidence is that of Aksum (Axum), a kingdom which probably emerged in the 2d cent. AD, thus making Ethiopia the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the most ancient in the world. Immigrants (mainly traders) from S Arabia who had been settling in N Ethiopia since about 500 BC influenced the economy and culture of Ethiopia. Aksum controlled much of the Red Sea coast and had links with the Mediterranean world.

Under King Ezana, Aksum was converted (4th cent.) to Christianity by Frumentius of Tyre. Closely tied to the Egyptian Coptic Church, the established Ethiopian church accepted Monophysitism following the Council of Chalcedon (451). In the 6th cent., Jewish influence penetrated Aksum, and some Ethiopians were converted to Judaism.

With the rise of Islam in the 7th cent. Aksum declined, mainly because its land contacts with the Byzantine Empire were severed and its control of the Red Sea trade routes was ended. Thereafter, the focus of Aksum was directed inward toward the center of the Ethiopian Plateau (mainly the regions of Amhara and Shoa), and it was largely cut off from the outside world. Aksum soon lost its cohesion, and Ethiopia lapsed into a period of competition among small political units.

In 1530–31, Ahmad Gran, a Muslim Somali leader, conquered much of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian emperor Lebna Dengel (reigned 1508–40) appealed to Portugal for help against the Somalis (a Portuguese embassy had reached the Ethiopian court in 1520). The Somali war exhausted Ethiopia, ending a period of cultural revival and exposing the empire to incursions by the Oromo. For the next two centuries the Ethiopian kingdom, centered at Gondar near Lake Tana, was beset by ruinous civil wars among princes (especially those of Tigray and Amhara), was menaced by the Oromo, and was again isolated from the outside world.

Nineteenth-Century Ethiopia

The reunification of Ethiopia was begun in the 19th cent. by Kasa (Lij Kasa; c.1818–68), who conquered Amhara, Gojjam, Tigray, and Shoa, and in 1855 had himself crowned emperor as Tewodros II (Theodore II). He began to modernize and centralize the legal and administrative systems, despite the opposition of local governors. Tensions developed with Great Britain, and Tewodros imprisoned (1867) several Britons, including the British consul. A British military expedition under Robert (later Lord) Napier was sent out, and the emperor's forces were easily defeated near Magdala (now Amba Mariam) in 1868. To avoid capture, Tewodros committed suicide.

A brief civil war followed, and in 1872 a chieftain of Tigray became emperor as John (Yohannes) IV. John's attempts to further centralize the government led to revolts by local leaders; in addition, his regime was threatened during 1875–76 by Egyptian incursions and, after 1881, by raids by followers of the Mahdi in Sudan. The opening (1869) of the Suez Canal increased the strategic importance of Ethiopia, and several European powers (particularly Italy, France, and Great Britain) sought influence in the area. In 1889, John was killed fighting the Mahdists, and, following a short succession crisis, the king of Shoa (who had Italian support) was crowned emperor as Menelik II.

Menelik signed (1889) a treaty of friendship and cooperation with Italy at Wuchale. Due to a dispute over the meaning of the treaty (Italy claimed it had been given a protectorate over Ethiopia, which Menelik denied), Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1895 but was decisively defeated by Menelik's forces at Adwa on Mar. 1, 1896. By the subsequent Treaty of Addis Ababa (Oct., 1896), the Treaty of Wuchale was annulled, and Italy recognized the independence of Ethiopia while retaining its Eritrean colonial base. During his reign, Menelik also greatly expanded the size of Ethiopia, adding the provinces of Harar (E), Sidamo (S), and Kaffa (SW). In addition, he further modernized the military and the government, made (1889) Addis Ababa the capital of the country, developed the economy, and promoted the building of the country's first railroad (financed by French capital).

The Twentieth Century and the Rule of Haile Selassie

Menelik died in 1913 and was succeeded by his grandson Lij Iyasu, who alienated his fellow countrymen by favoring Muslims, and antagonized the British, French, and Italians through his support of the Central Powers (which included the Muslim Ottoman Empire) in World War I. Lij Iyasu was deposed in 1916 and Judith (Zawditu), a daughter of Menelik, was made empress with Ras Tafari Makonnen as regent and heir apparent. In the 1920s, there was tension with Italy and Great Britain, as each tried to extend its influence in Ethiopia. Ras Tafari was given additional powers by the empress in 1928, and on her death in 1930 he was crowned emperor as Haile Selassie I.

Almost immediately he faced threats from Italy's ruler, Mussolini, who was determined to establish an Italian empire and to avenge the defeat at Adwa. A border clash at Welwel in SE Ethiopia along the border with Italian Somaliland on Dec. 5, 1934, increased tension, and on Oct. 3, 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia. The League of Nations (which Ethiopia had joined in 1923) called for mild economic sanctions against Italy, but they had little effect, and an attempt by the British and French governments to arrange a settlement by giving Italy much of Ethiopia failed. The Italians quickly defeated the Ethiopians and in May, 1936, Addis Ababa was captured and Haile Selassie fled the country. On June 1, 1936, the king of Italy was also made emperor of Ethiopia. The country was combined with Eritrea and Italian Somaliland to form Italian East Africa.

In 1941, during World War II, British and South African forces easily conquered Ethiopia, and Haile Selassie regained his throne. Britain had considerable influence in Ethiopian affairs until the end of the war and administered the small Haud region in the southeast (adjacent to present-day Somalia) until 1955. In 1945, Ethiopia became a charter member of the United Nations. Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia in 1952, and in 1962 it was made an integral part of the country; Ethiopia thus gained direct access to the sea. In 1955 a new Ethiopian constitution came into force, and in 1958 the Ethiopian church became independent of the Coptic patriarch in Egypt.

Despite considerable aid from the United States and other countries, Ethiopia remained economically underdeveloped, with its wealth concentrated in the hands of a small number of large landlords and the Ethiopian church. A coup in 1960 lasted only a few days before Haile Selassie was returned to power. Between 1961 and 1967 there were border skirmishes between Ethiopia and Somalia, and in the late 1960s and early 70s there was considerable fighting between the government and a guerrilla secessionist movement in Eritrea. In 1966, Haile Selassie instituted several reforms, including the granting of more power to the cabinet. Nevertheless, unrest continued among groups seeking more far-reaching reforms.

Ethiopia after Haile Selassie

In a gradual coup that began in Feb., 1974, and culminated in September with the ouster of Haile Selassie, a group of military officers seized control of the government. Haile Selassie's failure to deal adequately with the long-term drought in N Ethiopia in 1973–74 was reportedly a major reason for his downfall. The constitution was suspended, parliament was dissolved, and Lt. Gen. Aman Michael Andom became head of a newly formed Provisional Military Administrative Council (PMAC). In 1977 Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam became head of the PMAC, which soon diverted from its announced socialist course. A popular movement, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party, began a campaign of urban guerrilla activity that was contained by government-organized urban militias in 1977. Under the Mengistu regime, thousands of political opponents were purged, property was confiscated, and defense spending was greatly increased.

In 1977, Somalia invaded disputed territory in the Ogaden Desert and Bale Province. In addition, Eritrean nationalists were able to gain control of most of Eritrea. However, with massive amounts of military aid from the USSR and troops from Cuba, the government drove the Somalis out of the country (1978) and also retook land in Eritrea. Severe droughts throughout the 1980s resulted in devastating famine and led to widespread flight to Djibouti, Somalia, and Sudan. In 1987 a new, Marxist-based constitution was approved. Ethiopia and Somalia signed a peace agreement in 1988, but internal strife worsened as bitter fighting occurred (1989) in Tigray and Eritrea. Diplomatic relations with Israel, which had been severed in 1974, were restored in 1989 as aid from the Soviet Union and Cuba declined and Ethiopia looked for other potential investment sources.

In 1991 the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of rebel organizations (led by Tigrayens) under the leadership of Meles Zenawi, began to achieve real successes and ultimately routed the Ethiopian army, forcing Mengistu to resign and flee the country. The EPRDF organized an interim government with Meles as president. A new constitution, drafted by an elected constituent assembly and approved in 1994, divided the country into ethnically based regions, each of which was given the right of secession. Eritrea had established its own provisional government in 1991 and became an independent nation in 1993.

In 1995, Negasso Gidada became president, a largely ceremonial post. Meles became prime minister after elections that were boycotted by most opposition parties. In early 1996, some 70 figures from the Mengistu regime went on trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity; many of them, including Mengistu himself, were tried in absentia. Ethiopia, despite work toward reforming the nation's agriculture, continues to face problems of famine and widespread poverty. Elections held in May, 2000, resulted in a landslide for the EPRDF.

A border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea broke out in 1998 when Eritrean forces occupied disputed territory. Fighting was largely inconclusive until May, 2000, when Ethiopian forces launched a major offensive, securing the disputed territory and driving further into Eritrea. A cease-fire agreement signed in June called for a truce, the establishment of a 15.5 mi (9.6 km) UN-patrolled buffer zone (in Eritrean territory), and the demarcation of the border by a neutral commission. An estimated 70,000 to 120,000 Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers and civilians died in the conflict. A treaty was formally signed in Dec., 2000, and there was slow progress toward the goals of the treaty in the subsequent months. The border was established in Apr., 2002, by the Hague Tribunal. The ruling generally favored neither country, but some decisions in favor of Eritrea led Ethiopia to fail to finalize the border.

Ethiopia, despite work toward reforming the nation's agriculture, continues to face problems of famine and widespread poverty. The country is dependent on rainfall to raise its crops, and a drought in 2000–2001 affected some 10 million Ethiopians, with perhaps as many as 50,000 dying from starvation. A new famine threatened the country in 2003 as a result of a drought that began in 2002. The situation improved somewhat by 2004, but several million people were still dependent on food aid. Girma Wolde-Giorgis was elected president in Oct., 2001; he was reelected in 2007. In 2003–4 there was ethnic violence in the Gambela region (W central Ethiopia); there were accusations that the army was involved in some of the attacks.

Parliamentary elections in May, 2005, resulted in substantial gains for the opposition in the lower house, where they won more than 170 seats, but opposition parties accused the government of irregularities in many constituencies; the government also accused the opposition of irregularities in others. When opposition protests occurred in the capital in June despite a ban on demonstrations, a number of demonstrators were killed, several thousand were arrested, and the unrest spread to other areas. Although election board investigators visited constituencies where the results were strongly in dispute, the board ultimately ruled largely in favor of government candidates, awarding Meles's coalition a parliamentary majority. Foreign observers called the vote generally free and fair, but noted that it was marred in some respects and criticized the slowness of the count and the handling of charges of irregularities. Government opponents protested the result through a parliamentary boycott and, in November, street demonstrations; the police killed some 200 protesters. The government arrested hundreds, eventually releasing most of them, but many opposition leaders were not released and were charged with treason and genocide. In response, a number of nations and international organizations suspended (Dec., 2005) foreign aid to the government. The charges of genocide and treason were dropped in Apr., 2007, but more than 80 opposition figures remained accused of attempting to overthrow the government. Many of them were sentenced (July, 2007) to life in prison, a verdict that was denounced internationally; they and most of the rest of the 80 were subsequently pardoned. The government subsequently has continued to suppress the politicial opposition and criticism of its policies.

Tensions with Eritrea escalated in 2005 as both nations bolstered their forces along the disputed border. The United Nations called (Nov., 2005) for Eritrea and Ethiopia to reduce their forces along the border, and expressed concern over Ethiopia's failure to finalize the border; UN sanctions were threatened for noncompliance. A year later the boundary commission said that it would demarcate the border on maps and the two nations would have a year to demarcate the border on the ground, but the 2007 deadline passed with the issue unresolved. In Dec., 2005, a Permanent Court of Arbitration claims commission ruled that Eritrea had violated international law in attacking Ethiopia, and that Ethiopia was entitled to compensation. The UN ended its peacekeeping mission along the border in mid-2008, blaming both Ethiopia (for its failure to adhere to the boundary commission's ruling) and Eritrea (for limiting and interfering with the operations of peacekeeping forces); the last peacekeepers were withdrawn in Oct., 2008.

In Apr., 2006, Ethiopian soldiers fought with Kenyan forces when the soldiers pursued Oromo rebels across the border into Kenya. Somali Islamists accused Ethiopia of invading Somalia in June after the Islamists secured control of much of S Somalia. Although Ethiopia denied the charge, Prime Minister Meles denounced Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who became leader of the Somali Islamists' shura [council], as a threat to Ethiopia; the sheikh accused Ethiopia of "occupying" the Ogaden.

In July, 2006, there were more credible reports of Ethiopian troops entering Somalia in support of the beleaguered government based in Baidoa, but Ethiopia did not acknowledge this until October, when it said the Ethiopian forces in Somalia were military trainers. In December the Somali Islamists demanded that Ethiopian troops leave or face attack. When fighting erupted, Somali government forces supported by Ethiopian forces drove the Islamists from their Somalia strongholds. Warfare ended in early 2007, but insurgent attacks continued, preventing Ethiopia from withdrawing its forces. In 2008, Ethiopia stated that its forces would remain until stability is assured or a credible peacekeeping force was in place. After a peace agreement was signed between moderate Islamists and the interim Somali government, however, Ethiopia agreed to withdraw, and removed its troops from Somalia in Jan., 2009. Ethiopian forces, however, did occasionally make incursions into Somalia in subsequent months. Flooding in Aug.–Sept., 2008, and again in October, afflicted several Ethiopian regions; several hundred thousand people were affected.

Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia reinvigorated a long-simmering indigenous Somali insurgency in the Ogaden in 2007, and Ethiopia responded with a military crackdown. It also employed local militias against the rebels, leading to accusations of Darfur-like tactics. In addition, the government was reported to have blocked food aid to the region.

In June, 2009, the government charged more than 40 people with conspiring to overthrow the government and assassinate public officials. Most of the accused were current or former military officers; 12 accused were in exile. Berhanu Nega, an exiled opposition leader and alleged mastermind, called the conspiracy charges a fabrication. Most were subsequently convicted; Berhanu (in absentia) and several others were sentenced to death. In Aug., 2009, the Permanent Court of Arbitration claims commission issued its final war damages awards; Eritrea was assessed roughly $174 million to cover Ethiopian claims while Ethiopia was assessed $164 million for Eritrean claims.

The May, 2010, parliamentary elections resulted in a landslide for the EPRDF, which won nearly all the seats, but the campaign was criticized as unfair and marred by intimidation of opposition politicians and their supporters; the opposition also accused the EPRDF of vote rigging. In late 2011, Ethiopian forces again entered Somalia, in a concerted effort in support of the transitional government forces there that continued into 2012. Ethiopian forces in Mar., 2012, also attacked what Ethiopia described as several Eritrean military bases that were used to train Ethiopian antigovernment militants.

In Aug., 2012, Meles died in office; Hailemariam Desalegn, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister, succeeded him as prime minister. Mulatu Teshome, Ethiopia's ambassador to Turkey, was elected president in Oct., 2013. The EPRDF won every seat in the parliamentary elections in May, 2015; the opposition again criticized the vote as rigged and unfair.


See C. Clapham, Haile Selassie's Government (1969); E. Ullendorff, The Ethiopians (3d. ed. 1973); J. Markakis, Ethiopia (1974); P. Schwab, Ethiopia (1985); C. Clapham, Transformation and Continuity in Revolutionary Ethiopia (1988); E. J. Keller, Revolutionary Ethiopia (1989); A. Dejene, Environment, Famine and Politics in Ethiopia (1991); G. Takeke, Ethiopia: Power and Protest (1991); S. Uhlig, ed., Encyclopaedia Aethiopica (5 vol., 2003–).

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Kategna .................................................................... 144
Berbere (Spice Paste)................................................. 144
Niter Kebbeh or Kibe (Spiced Butter) ........................ 145
Injera (Ethiopian Bread)............................................. 146
Lab (Ethiopian Cheese) ............................................. 146
Kitfo (Spiced Raw Beef) ............................................. 147
Dabo Kolo (Little Fried Snacks).................................. 147
Aterkek Alecha (Vegetable Stew) ............................... 148


Situated in eastern Africa, Ethiopia (formerly called Abyssinia) has an area of approximately 1,127,127 square kilometers (435,186 square miles). Comparatively, the area occupied by Ethiopia is slightly less than twice the size of the state of Texas.

Ethiopia is a country of geographic contrasts, varying from as much as 125 meters (410 feet) below sea level in the Denakil depression to more than 4,600 meters (15,000 feet) above sea level in the mountainous regions. It contains a variety of distinct topographical zones: the Great Rift Valley runs the entire length of the country northeast-southwest; the Ethiopian Highlands are marked by mountain ranges; the Somali Plateau (Ogaden) covers the entire southeastern section of the country; and the Denakil Desert reaches to the Red Sea and the coastal foothills of Eritrea. Ethiopia's largest lake, Lake T'ana, is the source of the Blue Nile River.

The central plateau has a moderate climate with minimal seasonal temperature variation. The mean minimum during the coldest season is 6°c (43°f), while the mean maximum rarely exceeds 26°c (79°f). Temperature variations in the lowlands are much greater, and the heat in the desert and Red Sea coastal areas is extreme, with occasional highs of 60°c (140°f).


Ethiopia was under Italian military control for a period (193546) when Benito Mussolini (18831945) was in power. Except for that time, Ethiopian culture has been influenced very little by other countries. Ethiopia's mountainous terrain prevented its neighbors from exercising much influence over the country and its customs. Exotic spices were introduced to Ethiopian cooking by traders traveling the trade routes between Europe and the Far East.

Ethiopia went through a period of recurring drought and civil war during 197491. In 1991 a new government took over, and civil tensions were relieved somewhat because the coastal territory seceded from the inland government, creating the new nation of Eritrea.

Ethiopian cooking is very spicy. In addition to flavoring the food, the spices also help to preserve meat in a country where refrigeration is rare.

Berbere (pronounced bare-BARE-ee) is the name of the special spicy paste that Ethiopians use to preserve and flavor foods. According to Ethiopian culture, the woman with the best berbere has the best chance to win a good husband.



  • Large flat bread (flour tortilla, lavosh, or other "wrap" bread)
  • 3 Tablespoons Cajun spices
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • ½ stick (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened


  1. Preheat oven to 250°F.
  2. Mix the garlic powder, spices, and butter together to make a spread.
  3. Spread a thin layer over a piece of flat bread.
  4. Place the bread on a cookie sheet, and bake for about 20 minutes, until crispy.

Berbere (Spice Paste)


  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • teaspoon ground cloves
  • teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 Tablespoons onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups paprika
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons red pepper flakes (use larger quantity to make a hotter paste)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1½ cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil


  1. Measure the ginger, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek seeds, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice into a large frying pan.
  2. Toast the spices over medium-high heat for 1 minute, shaking the pan or stirring with a wooden spoon constantly.
  3. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Put the spices, onions, garlic, salt, and vinegar in a blender and mix at high speed until the spices form a paste.
  5. Toast the paprika, red pepper flakes, and black pepper in the large frying pan for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  6. Add the water slowly to the pan, then add the vegetable oil.
  7. Put the blender mixture into the pan as well, and cook everything together for 15 minutes stirring constantly.
  8. Place the paste in a jar and refrigerate.

Makes 2 cups.

Niter Kebbeh or Kibe (Spiced Butter)


  • 4 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1½ teaspoons tumeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick, 1-inch long
  • teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 pounds salted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons garlic, peeled and finely chopped


  • Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat.
  • Bring the butter up to a light boil.
  • When the surface is covered with a white foam, stir in the remaining ingredients, including the onion and garlic.
  • Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered for about 45 minutes. Do not stir again. Milk solids will form in the bottom of the pan and they should cook until they are golden brown. The butter will be clear.
  • Strain the mixture through several layers of cheesecloth placed in a strainer.
  • Discard the milk solids left in the cheesecloth.
  • Serve on toast, crackers, or use in cooking.
  • Store the spiced butter in a jar, covered, in the refrigerator (where it can keep up to 3 months).


The national dish of Ethiopia is wot, a spicy stew. Wot may be made from beef, lamb, chicken, goat, or even lentils or chickpeas, but it always contains spicy berbere. Alecha is a less-spicy stew seasoned with green ginger. For most Ethiopians, who are either Orthodox Christian or Muslim, eating pork is forbidden. Ethiopian food is eaten with the hands, using pieces of a type of flat bread called injera. Diners tear off a piece of injera, and then use it to scoop up or pinch off mouthfuls of food from a large shared platter. A soft white cheese called lab is popular. Although Ethiopians rarely use sugar in their cooking, honey is occasionally used as a sweetener. An Ethiopian treat is injera wrapped around a slab of fresh honeycomb with young honeybee grubs still inside. Injera is usually made from teff, a kind of grain grown in Ethiopia. The bread dough is fermented for several days in a process similar to that used to make sourdough bread. Usually enough bread is made at one time for three days. Little fried snacks called dabo kolo are also popular.

Injera (Ethiopian Bread)


  • 1 cup buckwheat pancake mix
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup club soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 Tablespoons butter


  1. Mix buckwheat pancake mix, all-purpose flour, salt, and baking powder together in a medium bowl.
  2. Add egg and club soda, and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
  3. Melt about 1 Tablespoon of the butter in a skillet until bubbly.
  4. Pour in about 2 Tablespoons of batter and cook for 2 minutes on each side until the bread is golden brown on both sides.
  5. Remove the bread from the pan carefully to a plate.
  6. Repeat, stacking the finished loaves on the plate to cool.

Lab (Ethiopian Cheese)


  • 16 ounces (1 pound) cottage cheese
  • 4 Tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon rind, grated
  • 2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Place a clean piece of cheesecloth (or a very clean dishtowel) in a colander and pour mixture into the colander to drain off extra liquid.
  3. Gather the cheesecloth to make a sack and tie it with clean string or thread.
  4. Suspend from the faucet over the sink. (Another option is to suspend the sack over a bowl by tying the string to the knob of a cupboard door.)
  5. Allow to drain for several hours until the mixture has the consistency of soft cream cheese.
  6. Serve with crackers or injera.

Kitfo (Spiced Raw Beef)


  • cup niter kebbeh (spiced butter, see recipe above)
  • ¼ cup onions, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ginger, ground
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom, ground
  • ½ Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon berbere (see recipe above)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound ground beef


  1. Melt the niter kebbeh in a large frying pan.
  2. Add onions, green pepper, chili powder, ginger, garlic, and cardamom, and cook for 2 minutes while stirring.
  3. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  4. Add lemon juice, berbere, and salt.
  5. Stir in raw beef and serve.

Serves 6.

Dabo Kolo (Little Fried Snacks)


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup oil


  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Add water slowly to create a stiff dough.
  3. Knead on a lightly floured board for about 5 minutes. (To knead, flatten the dough, fold in half. Then turn the dough about one-quarter turn, and fold again. Keep turning and folding the dough.)
  4. Pull off pieces of dough to fit on the palm of the hand.
  5. Press or roll out (using a rolling pin) into a strip about ½-inch thick on a floured countertop.
  6. Cut the strip into squares ½-inch by ½-inch.
  7. Cook in a frying pan on medium heat until light brown in color on all sides.


About half of the Ethiopian population is Orthodox Christian. During Lent, the forty days preceding the Christian holiday of Easter, Orthodox Christians are prohibited from eating any animal products (no meat, cheese, milk, or butter). Instead they eat dishes made from beans, lentils, and chick peas called mitin shiro that is a mixture of beans and berbere. This is made with lentils, peas, field peas, chick peas, and peanuts. The beans are boiled, roasted, ground, and combined with berbere. This mixture is made into a vegetarian wot by adding vegetable oil and then is shaped like a fish or an egg; it is eaten cold. A vegetable alecha may also be eaten during Lent.

During festive times such as marriage feasts, kwalima, a kind of beef sausage, is eaten. This sausage is made with beef, onions, pepper, ginger, cumin, basil, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and tumeric. It is smoked and dried.

Aterkek Alecha (Vegetable Stew)


  • 1 cup vegetable oil (used as ¼ cup and ¾ cup)
  • 2 cups red onion, chopped
  • 2 cups yellow split peas
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • teaspoon turmeric
  • 3 cups water


  1. Pour ¼ cup oil into a large pot and place over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion is golden brown.
  3. Add ¾ cup oil and add all other ingredients.
  4. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Serve with injera made with vegetable oil instead of butter.

Some food words from Ethiopia:

berbere. A paste, composed of hot spices, used to season many foods.

injera. Spongy, fermented bread that tastes similar to sourdough bread and resembles a large flour torilla or large, thin pancakes

kitfo. Raw beef dish.

teff. A grain used to make teff flour, the basis for the national bread, injera

tib. Generic name for cooked meat dishes

wot. Spicy stews. If a dish has "wot" in its name, it will be hot, while "alecha" means mild.


Before eating a meal Ethiopians wash their hands under water poured from a pitcher into a basin. Then a prayer or grace is said. An appetizer of a bowl of curds and whey may be served. At the start of the meal, injera is layered directly on a round, woven basket table called a mesob. Different kinds of stews such as wot (spicy) and alecha (mild) are arranged on top of the injera.

Sometimes the meal will not begin until the head of the household or guest of honor tears off a piece of bread for each person at the table. The right hand is used to pick up a piece of injera, wrap some meat and vegetables inside, and eat. As a sign of respect, an Ethiopian may find the best piece of food on the table and put it in their guest's mouth. Ethiopians drink tej (a honey wine) and tella (beer) with their meals. Coffee, however, the most popular beverage in the country, is usually drunk at the end of a meal. Ethiopia is considered the birthplace of coffee. Coffee is a principal export.

The coffee, or buna, ceremony begins by throwing some freshly cut grasses in one corner of the room. Incense is lit in this corner next to a charcoal burner, where charcoal is glowing and ready to roast the coffee. All the guests watch while the raw green coffee beans are roasted. The host shakes the roasting pan to keep the beans from scorching and to release the wonderful aroma of the beans. The beans are then ground with a mortar and pestle (a bowl and pounding tool). A pot is filled with water, the fresh ground coffee is added, and the pot is placed on the charcoal burner until the water boils. The coffee is then served, often with a sprig of rue (a bitter-tasting herb with a small yellow flower). The same grounds may be used for two more rounds of coffee.


Approximately half of the population of Ethiopia is classified as undernourished by the World Bank. This means they do not receive adequate nutrition in their diet. Of children under the age of five, about 48 percent are underweight, and nearly 64 percent are stunted (short for their age).

Wars, drought, political unrest, and population pressures of the 1970s and early 1980s have left their mark on the health of Ethiopians. Hundreds of thousands of people died during a famine (widespread food shortage) in 1973, and as many as one million may have died between 1983 and 1985. Ethiopia's coffee farmers produce one of the largest coffee crops in Africa; however, food crops are mainly produced by small farmers, known as subsistence farmers, who attempt to grow just enough food to feed their family. These farmers are not as successful. Ethiopians continues to suffer from malnutrition and a general lack of food. Sanitation (toilets and sewers to carry away human waste) is a problem as well, with only one-fifth of the population having access to adequate sanitation. Between 1994 and 1995, a little over one-quarter had access to safe drinking water.



Amin, Mohamed. Spectrum Guide to Ethiopia. New York: Interlink Publishing Group, Inc., 2000.

Harris, Jessica B. The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

Merson, Annette. African Cookery. Nashville, TN: Winston-Derek Publishers, Inc., 1987.

Sandler, Bea. The African Cookbook. New York: First Carol Publishing Group, 1983.

Web Sites

Ethiopian Resources. [Online] Available (accessed February 28, 2001).

IWon. [Online] Available,15463,250,00.html (accessed March 23, 2001).

Lonely Planet. [Online] Available (accessed March 23, 2001).

Spiced Butter Recipe. [Online] Available (accessed June 13, 2001).

World Gourmet. [Online] Available (accessed March 23, 2001).

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Official name : Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Area: 1,127,127 square kilometers (435,186 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Ras Deshen (4,620 meters/15,157 feet)

Lowest point on land: Danakil Depression (125 meters/410 feet below sea level)

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 3 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 1,639 kilometers (1,018 miles) from east to west; 1,577 kilometers (980 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: 5,311 kilometers (3,300 miles) total boundary length; Djibouti 337 kilometers (209 miles); Eritrea 912 kilometers (567 miles); Kenya 830 kilometers (516 miles); Somalia 1,626 kilometers (1,010 miles); Sudan 1,606 kilometers (998 miles).

Coastline: None

Territorial sea limits: None


Ethiopia is located in eastern Africa in the area known as the Horn of Africa: the northeastern extension of the continent. The country lies west of Somalia, north of Kenya, east of Sudan, and south of Eritrea and Djibouti. With an area of about 1,127,127 square kilometers (435,186 square miles), the country is slightly less than twice the size of the state of Texas. Ethiopia is divided into nine states and two self-governing administrations.


The territory of Eritrea was once a part of Ethiopia. Eritrea became an independent nation in 1993, however, after a long and bloody war fought over several decades. As of 2002, the governments of both nations were in dispute concerning the official boundaries between the countries.


Ethiopia has three main climatic zones: the dega, or cool zone; the weina dega, or temperate zone; and the kolla, or hot zone. In the highlands above 2,400 meters (7,800 feet) in elevation, daily temperatures range from near freezing to 16° C (61° F), with March, April, and May the warmest months. Nights are usually cold throughout the year, and it is not uncommon to greet the day with light frost. Snow is found at the highest elevations. Daily temperatures at lower elevationsfrom 1,500 meters to 2,400 meters (4,875 feet to 7,800 feet)range from 16°C (61°F) to 30°C (86°F). Below 1,500 meters (4,875 feet) is the kolla zone, with daytime temperatures averaging 27°C (81°F), but soaring to 40°C (104°F) in the Ogaden region during midyear.

Ethiopia is affected by the seasonal monsoon trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean that cross the African continent. The country receives most of its rain from mid-June to mid-September, with the high plateau experiencing a second and light rainy season from December to February. Converging winds in April and May bring lighter rains known as the balg. Annual precipitation is heaviest in the southwest, reaching up to 200 centimeters (80 inches). Up to 122 centimeters (48 inches) of rain falls annually in the highlands. The Ogaden in the east receives as little as 10 centimeters (4 inches), and precipitation in the Great Rift Valley and the Danakil Depression is negligible.


Ethiopia has some of the most spectacular scenery in Africa. Much of the country is set on a high plateau, with a massive central highland complex of mountains divided by the deep Great Rift Valley and a series of lowlands along the periphery (edges) of the higher elevations. The wide diversity of terrain produces regional variations in climate, natural vegetation, soil composition, and settlement patterns.

In the northwest, Simien Mountains National Park provides a habitat for such native animals as baboons, ibex, Simien fox, and birds of prey including a large vulture species, the bearded vulture or lammergeyer.

Most of Ethiopia is seismically active. There are hot springs that bubble up from deep below the earth's crust in Addis Ababa and elsewhere. There is potential for serious and damaging earthquakes in the area surrounding the Great Rift Valley. Ethiopia is located on the African Tectonic Plate, with the Arabian Tectonic Plate somewhat further to the north, beyond Eritrea. The Great Rift Valley extends across the country from the southwest to the northeast.

Neighboring Somalia claims the Ogaden border region in the southeast, but an exact border between the two countries has never been determined.


Ethiopia is a landlocked country.


A chain of large lakes dots the southern half of the Ethiopian area of the Great Rift Valley. Some are freshwater lakes, fed by small streams from the east; others contain various salts and minerals. Lake Turkana (also called Lake Rudolf), fed by the Omo River, is the largest lake in the country, with an area of about 6,405 square kilometers (2,473 square miles). However, most of Lake Turkana is situated in Kenya; only the northernmost portion extends into Ethiopia. Other lakes in the southern Rift Valley are Ch'ew Bahir, Chamo, and Abaya. Lake Abe, fed by the Awash River, is located in the northern part of the Rift Valley, on the border with Djibouti.

Lake Tana is located in the northwest, on the Ethiopian Plateau. It is the largest lake located entirely within Ethiopia, with an area of about 2,849 square kilometers (1,110 square miles), and it is the source of the Blue Nile.


Most of the northern and western rivers are a part of the vast Nile River system. Most notable of these is the Blue Nile (Abay), which flows out of Lake Tana towards the center of the country before curving northwest into Sudan. In the center of Sudan, the Blue Nile meets the White Nile to form the Nile River. The Atbara River and its tributary, the Tekeze River, both begin in Ethiopia and also flow into the Nile in Sudan. Together, the Blue Nile and the Atbara provide about 70 percent of the water volume in the Nile River. The Baro River in southwestern Ethiopia is another Nile tributary. Taken together, these four Nile tributaries account for about half of the outflow of water from the country.

Near Bahir Dar, the Blue Nile Falls (Tsisat Falls) are known as a site where many rainbows appear.

In the northern half of the Great Rift Valley, the Awash River flows between steep cliffs. Originating some 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Addis Ababa, it courses northward and descends several thousand feet to the valley floor. There it is joined by several tributaries until it becomes a river of major importance, only to disappear into the saline lakes of the Danakil Depression, most notably Lake Abe. The Omo River rises near the source of the Awash, but flows south into Lake Turkana at the other end of Ethiopia's portion of the Great Rift Valley.

In the southeast regions of the Somali Plateau, seasonally torrential rivers provide drainage toward the southeast. Chief of these is the Shabeelle, which has its source in several smaller rivers in the south and flows into Somalia. While it does not carry as much water as the Blue Nile, the Shabeelle is the longest river to flow through Ethiopia, with a total length of about 2,011 kilometers (1,250 miles). It is a tributary of the Gestro (Jubba), which also has its source in Ethiopia and flows into Somalia. The Gestro generally flows year-round into the Indian Ocean, thanks in part to its northern tributary, the Dawa. In contrast, the Shabeelle can dry up in the deserts of Somalia before ever reaching the Gestro.


The Danakil Depression is a sunken desert region in the northeast that stretches between the Red Sea to the Great Rift Valley. It is a large, triangular-shaped basin that in some places is as low as 125 meters (410 feet) below sea level. The lowest elevation in the country, it is also said to be one of the hottest places on Earth.


Sections of marshy lowlands exist along the Sudanese border in the west and southwest.

The Borena and Ogaden plains in the south are characterized by grassy ranges and are highly vulnerable to drought and erosion, especially from overgrazing.


The Blue Nile, one of the tributary streams that eventually flow into the Nile River, has its source in Ethiopia. With a total length of 6,693 kilometers (4,160 miles), the Nile is the longest river in the world. Its main headstream rises from Lake Victoria of Tanzania and Uganda. These rivers meet in Sudan and flow into Egypt. Throughout its length in Egypt, no other tributary streams enter the Nile before it empties into the Mediterranean Sea through a large delta.

Highlands in remote areas above 1,800 meters (5,850 feet) are covered with a varied as-sortment of evergreens and conifers, especially zigba and tid. Due to population pressures, however, many forests' borders have shrunk into relatively inaccessible areas.

High mountain elevations above the tree line along the Sudanese border are under intensive agricultural development. Even steep slopes and marginal areas are being cultivated for crop production.


The highest point in Ethiopia is a volcanic cone in the northeast, Ras Deshen (Mount Rasdajan). With an elevation of about 4,620 meters (15,157 feet), Ras Deshen is Africa's fourth-highest mountain.

There are sixty-seven volcanoes in Ethiopia, more than any other country in Africa; yet many are rather small. The most famous of these is Erta Ale, which has a relatively low peak at only 613 meters (2,011 feet). It has been erupting almost continuously since 1967 and has an active lava lake in its summit crater. The existence of these small volcanoes, hot springs, and many deep gorges indicates that large segments of the land mass are still geologically unstable. Despite the line of seismic belts that extends along the length of the Eritrean border and the Danakil Depression, no serious earthquakes were recorded in the area during the twentieth century.


Some geographers, especially Ethiopians, consider the Great Rift Valley a distinct region. It is the most extensive fault on Earth's surface, extending from the Jordan River Valley in the Middle East to the Shire tributary of the Zambezi River in Mozambique. The vast segment that runs through the center of Ethiopia is marked in the north by the Danakil Depression. To the south, the rift becomes a deep trench slicing through the high plateau from north to south, with an average width of 48 kilometers (30 miles). The Awash River courses through the northern section of the trench.

While the Great Rift Valley is by far the most impressive of Ethiopia canyons, millennia of erosion have produced other steep-sided valleys throughout the country; in some areas, these have been measured at about 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) deep and several kilometers wide.

The Blue Nile winds in a great arc starting at Lake Tana and courses in an arc through canyons more than 1,200 meters (4,000 feet) in depth before flowing into Sudan.

The Sof Omar caves are located about 450 kilometers (280 miles) southeast of Addis Ababa. They consist of a series of tunnels and chambers carved into limestone and chalk by the Web River. The caves are considered to be a sacred place by some Muslims. Legend tells that Sheik Sof Omar was seeking refuge in the area when Allah opened the mouth of the cave for him. Omar was said to have used the caves as a mosque for his entire life.

In the northwest, the Simien Mountains National Park features a rocky massif, with deep gorges cut into it by streams.


The highland that comprises much of the country consists of two regions: the Ethiopian Plateau in the west, which is bisected by the Great Rift Valley, and the Somali Plateau in the east. The higher Ethiopian Plateau is rugged and mountainous, while the Somali Plateau is sparsely populated, arid, and rocky.

Northward from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian Plateau inclines slightly toward the west and northwest, then abruptly descends near the boundary with Sudan. Given the rugged nature of these massifs and the surrounding tableland, this region's name is somewhat misleading. Little of the Ethiopian Plateau is actually flat, except for a scattering of level-topped mountains known to Ethiopians as ambas.

South of Addis Ababa, the plateau is also rugged, but its elevation is slightly lower than in its northwestern section. The eastern segment beyond the Great Rift Valley exhibits characteristics almost identical to those of its western counterpart.


The Horn of Africa is a peninsula that juts out from the northeast of the African continent, just below the Red Sea. It separates the Gulf of Aden from the Indian Ocean. Because the two main countries on the Horn of Africa are Ethiopia and Somalia, it is sometimes called the Somali Peninsula.


The Churches of Lalibela are located in that town in the central highland region of Ethiopia. At least eleven monolithic cave churches were carved into the rocks here in the thirteenth century. People come to Lalibela to see these rock churches, hewn out of the bedrock. The churches have been maintained by generations of priests who guard their treasures of ornamented crosses, illuminated Bibles, and illustrated manuscripts. The site has been named a World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).



Africa South of the Sahara, 2002. "Ethiopia." London: Europa Publishers, 2001.

Fradin, D. Ethiopia. Chicago: Children's Press, 1994.

Schemenauer, Elma. Ethiopia. Chanhassen, MN: Child's World, 2001.

Web Sites

Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, United Kingdom. (accessed June 2, 2003).

Historical Sites in Africa: Ethiopia. (accessed June 2, 2003).

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1,128,000sq km (435,521sq mi)



capital (population):

Addis Ababa (2,674,200)


Federation of nine provinces

ethnic groups:

Oromo (Galla) 40%, Semitic (Amhara and Tigreans) 33%, Shangalla 5%, Somalis 5%, Others 17%


Amharic (de facto official)


Christianity 53%, Islam 36%, traditional beliefs 11%


Birr = 100 cents

Landlocked republic in e Africa. Ethiopia is dominated by the Ethiopian Plateau, a block of volcanic mountains. Its average height is 1800m to 2450m (6000ft to 8000ft), rising in the n to 4620m (15,157ft), at Ras Dashen. The Great Rift Valley bisects the plateau. The Eastern Highlands include the Somali Plateau and the desert of the Ogaden Plateau. The Western Highlands include the capital, Addis Ababa, the Blue Nile (Abbay) and its source, Lake Tana (Ethiopia's largest lake). The Danakil Desert forms Ethiopia's border with Eritrea.

Climate and Vegetation

Ethiopia's climate is greatly affected by altitude. Addis Ababa, at 2450m (8000ft), has an average annual temperature of 20°C (68°F). Rainfall is generally more than 1000mm (39in), with a rainy season from April to September. The ne and sw lowlands are extremely hot and arid with less than 500mm (20in) rainfall, and frequent droughts. Grass, farmland, and trees cover most of the highlands. Semi-desert and tropical savanna cover parts of the lowlands. Dense rainforest grows in the sw.

History and Politics

According to tradition, Solomon's son, Menelik I, founded the Ethiopian kingdom in c.1000 bc. In the 4th century, the n kingdom of Axum introduced Coptic Christianity. In the 6th century, Judaism flourished. The expansion of Islam led to the isolation of Axum. The kingdom fragmented in the 16th century. In 1855, Kasa reestablished unity, and proclaimed himself Negus (Emperor) Theodore, thereby founding the modern state.

European intervention marked the late 19th century, and Menelik II became emperor with Italian support. He expanded the empire, made Addis Ababa his capital (1889), and defeated an Italian invasion in 1895. In 1930, Menelik II's grandnephew, Ras Tafari Makonnen, was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I. In 1935, Italian troops invaded Ethiopia (Abyssinia). In 1936, Italy combined Ethiopia with Somalia and Eritrea to form Italian East Africa. During World War II, British and South African forces recaptured Ethiopia, and Haile Selassie was restored as emperor.

In 1952, Eritrea federated with Ethiopia. The 1960s witnessed violent demands for Eritrean secession and economic equality. Following famine in n Ethiopia, Selassie was deposed in 1974. The Provisional Military Administrative Council (PMAC) abolished the monarchy. Military rule was repressive, and civil war broke out. The new PMAC leader, Mengistu Mariam, recaptured territory in Eritrea and the Ogaden with Soviet military assistance.

In 1984–85 widespread famine received global news coverage and 10,000 Falashas were airlifted to Israel. In 1987, Mengistu established the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

In 1991, the Tigrean-based Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) brought down Mengistu's regime. The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was created in 1995, and Menes Zenawi was elected prime minister. A border war with Eritrea (1998–2000) claimed tens of thousands of lives. More than 40,000 people died in the Battle of Badme (Febraury 1999).


Ethiopia is one of the world's poorest countries (2000 GDP per capita, US$600), 88% of the workforce are engaged in agriculture (mostly subsistence) and 67% of exports are food products. Coffee is the main cash crop, shipped through the port of Djibouti. During the 1970s and 1980s, it was plagued by civil war and famine (partly caused by long droughts). Ethiopia remains heavily dependent on food and financial aid.

Political map

Physical map


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Culture Name



Identification. The name "Ethiopia" derives from the Greek ethio, meaning "burned" and pia, meaning "face": the land of burned-faced peoples. Aeschylus described Ethiopia as a "land far off, a nation of black men." Homer depicted Ethiopians as pious and favored by the gods. These conceptions of Ethiopia were geographically vague.

In the late nineteenth century, Emperor Menelik II expanded the country's borders to their present configuration. In March 1896, Italian troops attempted to enter Ethiopia forcibly and were routed by Emperor Menelik and his army. The battle of Adwa was the only victory of an African army over a European army during the partitioning of Africa which preserved the country's independence. Ethiopia is the only African country never to have been colonized, although an Italian occupation occurred from 1936 to 1941.

In addition to the monarchy, whose imperial line can be traced to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was a major force in that, in combination with the political system, it fostered nationalism with its geographic center in the highlands. The combination of church and state was an indissoluble alliance that controlled the nation from King 'Ēzānā's adoption of Christianity in 333 until the overthrow of Haile Selassie in 1974. A socialist government (the Derge) known for its brutality governed the nation until 1991. The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) defeated the Derge, established democratic rule, and currently governs Ethiopia.

The last twenty-five years of the twentieth century have been a time of revolt and political unrest but represent only a small portion of the time during which Ethiopia has been a politically active entity. Unfortunately, however, the country's international standing has declined since the reign of Emperor Selassie, when it was the only African member of the League of Nations and its capital, Addis Ababa, was home to a substantial international community. War, drought, and health problems have left the nation one of the poorest African countries economically, but the people's fierce independence and historical pride account for a people rich in self-determination.

Location and Geography. Ethiopia is the tenth largest country in Africa, covering 439,580 square miles (1,138,512 square kilometers) and is the major constituent of the landmass known as the Horn of Africa. It is bordered on the north and northeast by Eritrea, on the east by Djibouti and Somalia, on the south by Kenya, and on the west and southwest by Sudan.

The central plateau, known as the highlands, is surrounded on three sides by desert with a significantly lower elevation. The plateau is between six thousand and ten thousand feet above sea level, with the highest peak being Ras Deshan, the fourth-tallest mountain in Africa. Addis Ababa is the third-highest capital city in the world.

The Great Rift Valley (known for discoveries of early hominids such as Lucy, whose bones reside in the Ethiopian National Museum) bisects the central plateau. The valley extends southwest through the country and includes the Danakil Depression, a desert containing the lowest dry point on the earth. In the highlands is Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, which supplies the great majority of water to the Nile River Valley in Egypt.

Variation in altitude results in dramatic climatic variation. Some peaks in the Simyen Mountains receive periodic snowfall, while the average temperature of the Danakil is 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the day time. The high central plateau is mild, with a mean average temperature of 62 degrees Fahrenheit.

The bulk of the rain in the highlands falls in the major rainy season from mid-June to mid-September, with an average of forty inches of rain during that season. A minor rainy season occurs from February to April. The northeastern provinces of Tigre and Welo are prone to drought, which tends to occur about once every ten years. The remainder of the year is generally dry.

Demography. In the year 2000, the population was approximately 61 million, with over eighty different ethnic groups. The Oromo, Amhara, and Tigreans account for more than 75 percent of the population, or 35 percent, 30 percent, and 10 percent respectively. Smaller ethnic groups include the Somali, Gurage, Afar, Awi, Welamo, Sidamo, and Beja.

The urban population is estimated to be 11 percent of the total population. The rural lowland population is composed of many nomadic and seminomadic peoples. The nomadic peoples seasonally graze livestock, while the seminomadic peoples are subsistence farmers. The rural highlands economy is based on agriculture and livestock raising.

Linguistic Affiliation. There are eighty-six known indigenous languages in Ethiopia: eighty-two spoken and four extinct. The vast majority of the languages spoken in the country can be classified within three families of the Afro-Asiatic super language family: the Semitic, Cushitic, and Omotic. Semitic-language speakers predominantly live in the highlands in the center and north. Cushitic-language speakers live in the highlands and lowlands of the south-central region as well as in the north-central area. Omotic speakers live predominantly in the south. The Nilo-Saharan super language family accounts for about 2 percent of the population, and these languages are spoken near the Sudanese border.

Amharic has been the dominant and official language for the last 150 years as a result of the political power of the Amhara ethnic group. The spread of Amharic has been strongly linked to Ethiopian nationalism. Today, many Oromo write their language, Oromoic, using the Roman alphabet as a political protest against their history of domination by the Amhara, who account for significantly less of the population.

English is the most widely spoken foreign language and the language in which secondary school and university classes are taught. French is heard occasionally in parts of the country near Djibouti, formerly French Somaliland. Italian can be heard on occasion, particularly among the elderly in the Tigre region. Remnants of the Italian occupation during World War II exist in the capital, such as the use of ciao to say "good-bye."

Symbolism. The monarchy, known as the Solomonic dynasty, has been a prominent national symbol. The imperial flag consists of horizontal stripes of green, gold, and red with a lion in the foreground holding a staff. On the head of the staff is an Ethiopian Orthodox cross with the imperial flag waving from it. The lion is the Lion of Judah, one of the many imperial titles signifying descent from King Solomon. The cross symbolizes the strength and reliance of the monarchy on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the dominant religion for the last sixteen hundred years.

Today, twenty-five years after the last emperor was dethroned, the flag consists of the traditional green, gold, and red horizontal stripes with a five-pointed star and rays emitting from its points in the foreground over a light blue circular background. The star represents the unity and equity of the various ethnic groups, a symbol of a federalist government based on ethnic states.

Sovereignty and freedom are characteristics and thus symbols of Ethiopia both internally and externally. Many African nation-states, such as Ghana, Benin, Senegal, Cameroon, and the Congo adopted Ethiopia's colors for their flags when they gained independence from colonial rule.

Some Africans in the diaspora established a religious and political tradition deemed Ethiopianism. Proponents of this movement, which predates pan-Africanism, appropriated the symbol of Ethiopia to liberate themselves from oppression. Ethiopia was an independent, black nation with an ancient Christian Church that was not a colonial biproduct. Marcus Garvey spoke of viewing God through the spectacles of Ethiopia and often quoted Psalm 68:31, "Ethiopia shall stretch her hands unto God." From Garvey's teachings, the Rastafarian movement emerged in Jamaica in the 1930s. The name "Rastafari" is derived from Emperor Haile Selassie, whose precoronation name was Ras Tafari Makonnen. "Ras" is both a princely and a military title meaning "head" in Amharic. There is a population of Rastafarians living in the town of Shashamane, which was part of a land grant given to the Ethiopian World Federation by Emperor Haile Selassie in return for support during the Italian occupation during World War II.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Ethiopia was home to some of the earliest hominid populations and possibly the region where Homo erectus evolved and expanded out of Africa to populate Eurasia 1.8 million years ago. The most notable paleoanthropological find in the country was "Lucy," a female Australopithicus afarensis discovered in 1974 and referred to as Dinqnesh ("you are marvelous") by Ethiopians.

The rise of sizable populations with a writing system dates back to at least 800 b.c.e. Proto-Ethiopian script inlaid on stone tablets has been found in the highlands, notably in the town of Yeha. The origin of this civilization is a point of contention. The traditional theory states that immigrants from the Arabian peninsula settled in northern Ethiopia, bringing with them their language, proto-Ethiopian (or Sabean), which has also been discovered on the eastern side of the Red Sea.

This theory of the origin of Ethiopian civilization is being challenged. A new theory states that both sides of the Red Sea were a single cultural unit and that the rise of civilization in the Ethiopian highlands was not a product of diffusion and colonization from southern Arabia but a cultural exchange in which the people of Ethiopia played a vital and active role. During this time period, waterways such as the Red Sea were virtual highways, resulting in cultural and economic exchange. The Red Sea connected people on both coasts and produced a single cultural unit that included Ethiopia and Yemen, which over time diverged into different cultures. It is only in Ethiopia that proto-Ethiopian script developed and survives today in Ge'ez, Tigrean, and Amharic.

In the first century c.e., the ancient city of Axum became a political, economic, and cultural center in the region. The Axumites dominated the Red Sea trade by the third century. By the fourth century they were one of only four nations in the world, along with Rome, Persia, and the Kushan Kingdom in northern India, to issue gold coinage.

In 333, Emperor 'Ēzānā and his court adopted Christianity; this was the same year the Roman Emperor Constantine converted. The Axumites and the Romans became economic partners who controlled the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea trades, respectively.

Axum flourished through the sixth century, when Emperor Caleb conquered much of the Arabian peninsula. However, the Axumite Empire eventually declined as a result of the spread of Islam, resulting in a loss of control over the Red Sea as well as a depletion of natural resources in the region that left the environment unable to support the population. The political center shifted southward to the mountains of Lasta (now Lalibela).

Around 1150, a new dynasty arose in the mountains of Lasta. This dynasty was called the Zagwe and controlled much of northern Ethiopia from 1150 until 1270. The Zagwe claimed descendency from Moses, using genealogy to establish their legitimacy, a characteristic of traditional Ethiopian politics.

The Zagwe were unable to forge national unity, and squabbling over political power led to a decline in the dynasty's authority. A small Christian kingdom in northern Shewa challenged the Zagwe politically and economically in the thirteenth century. The Shewans were led by Yekunno Amlak, who killed the Zagwe king and proclaimed himself emperor. It was Yekunno Amlak who forged national unity and began constructing the nation.

National Identity. Most historians regard Yekunno Amlak as the founder of the Solomonic dynasty. In the process of legitimizing his rule, the emperor reproduced and possibly created the Kebra Nagast (Glory of the Kings), which is regarded as the national epic. The Glory of the Kings is a blend of local and oral traditions, Old and New Testament themes, apocryphal text, and Jewish and Muslim commentaries. The epic was compiled by six Tigrean scribes, who claimed to have translated the text from Arabic into Ge'ez. Contained within its central narrative is the account of Solomon and Sheba, an elaborate version of the story found in I Kings of the Bible. In the Ethiopian version, King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba have a child named Menelik (whose name is derived from the Hebrew ben-melech meaning "son of the king"), who establishes a duplicate Jewish empire in Ethiopia. In establishing this empire, Menelik I brings the Ark of the Covenant with him, along with the eldest sons of the Israeli nobles. He is crowned the first emperor of Ethiopia, the founder of the Solomonic dynasty.

From this epic, a national identity emerged as God's new chosen people, heir to the Jews. The Solomonic emperors are descended from Solomon, and the Ethiopian people are the descendants of the sons of the Israeli nobles. The descent from Solomon was so essential to the nationalistic tradition and monarchical domination that Haile Selassie incorporated it into the country's first constitution in 1931, exempting the emperor from state law by virtue of his "divine" genealogy.

Both the Orthodox Church and the monarchy fostered nationalism. In the epilogue of the Glory of the Kings, Christianity is brought to Ethiopia and adopted as the "rightful" religion. Thus, the empire was genealogically descended from the great Hebrew kings but "righteous" in its acceptance of the word of Jesus Christ.

The Solomonic monarchy had a variable degree of political control over Ethiopia from the time of Yekunno Amlak in 1270 until Haile Selassie's dethroning in 1974. At times the monarchy was centrally strong, but during other periods regional kings held a greater amount of power. Menelik II played a vital role in maintaining a sense of pride in Ethiopia as an independent nation. On 1 March 1896, Menelik II and his army defeated the Italians at Adwa. The independence that emerged from that battle has contributed greatly to the Ethiopian sense of nationalistic pride in self-rule, and many perceive Adwa as a victory for all of Africa and the African diaspora.

Ethnic Relations. Traditionally, the Amhara have been the dominant ethnic group, with the Tigreans as secondary partners. The other ethnic groups have responded differently to that situation. Resistance to Amhara dominance resulted in various separatist movements, particularly in Eritrea and among the Oromo. Eritrea was culturally and politically part of highland Ethiopia since before Axum's achievement of political dominance; Eritreans claim Axumite descendency as much as Ethiopians do. However, in 1889, Emperor Menelik II signed the Treaty of Wichale, leasing Eritrea to the Italians in exchange for weapons. Eritrea was an Italian colony until the end of World War II. In 1947, Italy signed the Treaty of Paris, renouncing all its colonial claims. The United Nations passed a resolution in 1950 establishing Eritrea as a federation under the Ethiopian crown. By 1961, Eritrean rebels had begun fighting for independence in the bush. In November 1962, Haile Selassie abolished the federation and sent his army to quell any resistance, forcefully subordinating Eritrea against the will of its people.

African leaders passed the Cairo Resolution in 1964, which recognized the old colonial borders as the basis for nation-statehood. Under this treaty, Eritrea should have gained independence, but because of Haile Selassie's international political savvy and military strength, Ethiopia retained control. The Eritrean rebels fought the emperor until his deposition in 1974. When the Derge government was armed by the Soviets, the Eritreans still refused to accept external subjugation. The Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) fought side by side with the EPRDF and ousted the Derge in 1991, at which time Eritrea became an independent nation-state. Political confrontation has continued, and Ethiopia and Eritrea fought from June 1998 to June 2000 over the border between the two countries, with each accusing the other of infringing on its sovereignty.

The "Oromo problem" continues to trouble Ethiopia. Although the Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, never in their history have they maintained political power. During the period of European colonialism in Africa, the Ethiopian highlanders undertook an intra-African colonial enterprise. Many ethnic groups in the present state of Ethiopia, such as the Oromo, were subjected to that colonialization. Conquered ethnic groups were expected to adopt the identity of the dominant Amhara-Tigrean ethnic groups (the national culture). It was illegal to publish, teach, or broadcast in any Oromo dialect until the early 1970s, which marked the end of Haile Selassie's reign. Even today, after an ethnic federalist government has been established, the Oromo lack appropriate political representation.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Traditional houses are round dwellings with cylindrical walls made of wattle and daub. The roofs are conical and made of thatch, and the center pole has sacred significance in most ethnic groups, including the Oromo, Gurage, Amhara, and Tigreans. Variations on this design occur. In the town of Lalibella the walls of many houses are made of stone and are two-storied, while in parts of Tigre, houses are traditionally rectangular.

In more urban areas, a mixture of tradition and modernity is reflected in the architecture. The thatched roofs often are replaced with tin or steel roofing. The wealthier suburbs of Addis Ababa have multistory residences made of concrete and tile that are very western in form. Addis Ababa, which became the capital in 1887, has a variety of architectural styles. The city was not planned, resulting in a mixture of housing styles. Communities of wattle-and-daub tin-roofed houses often lie next to neighborhoods of one- and two-story gated concrete buildings.

Many churches and monasteries in the northern region are carved out of solid rock, including the twelve rock-hewn monolithic churches of Lalibela. The town is named after the thirteenth-century king who supervised its construction. The construction of the churches is shrouded in mystery, and several are over thirty-five feet high. The most famous, Beta Giorgis, is carved in the shape of a cross. Each church is unique in shape and size. The churches are not solely remnants of the past but are an active eight-hundred-year-old Christian sanctuary.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Injera, a spongy unleavened bread made from teff grain, is the staple of every meal. All food is eaten with the hands, and pieces of injera are ripped into bite-sized pieces and used to dip and grab stews (wat ) made of vegetables such as carrots and cabbage, spinach, potatoes, and lentils. The most common spice is berberey, which has a red pepper base.

The food taboos found in the Old Testament are observed by most people as the Ethiopian Orthodox Church prescribes them. The flesh of animals with uncloven hoofs and those that do not chew their cud are avoided as unclean. It is nearly impossible to get pork. Animals used for food must be slaughtered with the head turned toward the east while the throat is cut "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost" if the slaughterer is Christian or "In the name of Allah the Merciful" if the slaughterer is Muslim.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. The coffee ceremony is a common ritual. The server starts a fire and roasts green coffee beans while burning frankincense. Once roasted, the coffee beans are ground with a mortar and pestle, and the powder is placed in a traditional black pot called a jebena. Water is then added. The jebena is removed from the fire, and coffee is served after brewing for the proper length of time. Often, kolo (cooked whole-grain barley) is served with the coffee.

Meat, specifically beef, chicken, and lamb, is eaten with injera on special occasions. Beef is sometimes eaten raw or slightly cooked in a dish called kitfo. Traditionally, this was a staple of the diet, but in the modern era, many of the elite have shunned it in favor of cooked beef.

During Christian fasting periods, no animal products can be eaten and no food or drink can be consumed from midnight until 3 p.m. This is the standard way of fasting during the week, and on Saturday and Sunday no animal products may be consumed, although there is no time restriction on the fast.

Honey wine, called tej, is a drink reserved for special occasions. Tej is a mixture of honey and water flavored with gesho plant twigs and leaves and is traditionally drunk in tube-shaped flasks. High-quality tej has become a commodity of the upper class, which has the resources to brew and purchase it.

Basic Economy. The economy is based on agriculture, in which 85 percent of the population participates. Ecological problems such as periodic drought, soil degradation, deforestation, and a high population density negatively affect the agricultural industry. Most agricultural producers are subsistence farmers living in the highlands, while the population in the lowland peripheries is nomadic and engages in livestock raising. Gold, marble, limestone, and small amounts of tantalum are mined.

Land Tenure and Property. The monarchy and the Orthodox Church traditionally controlled and owned most of the land. Until the overthrow of the monarchy in 1974, there was a complex land tenure system; for example, there were over 111 different types of tenure in Welo Province. Two major types of traditional land ownership that are no longer in existence were rist (a type of communal land ownership that was hereditary) and gult (ownership acquired from the monarch or provincial ruler).

The EPRDF instituted a policy of public land use. In rural areas, peasants have land use rights, and every five years there is a reallotment of land among farmers to adapt to the changing social structures of their communities. There are several reasons for the nonexistence of individual land ownership in rural areas. If private ownership were legislated, the government believes that rural class divisions would increase as a result of a large number of peasants selling their land.

Commercial Activities. Agriculture is the major commercial activity. The chief staple crops include a variety of grains, such as teff, wheat, barley, corn, sorghum, and millet; coffee; pulses; and oilseed. Grains are the primary staples of the diet and are thus the most important field crops. Pulses are a principal source of protein in the diet. Oilseed consumption is widespread because the Ethiopian Orthodox Church prohibits the usage of animal fats on many days during the year.

Major Industries. After nationalization of the private sector before the 1974 revolution, an exodus of foreign-owned and foreign-operated industry ensued. The growth rate of the manufacturing sector declined. Over 90 percent of large scale industries are state-run, as opposed to less than 10 percent of agriculture. Under the EPRDF administration, there is both public and private industry. Public industries include the garment, steel, and textile industries, while much of the pharmaceuticals industry is owned by shareholders. Industry accounts for almost 14 percent of the gross domestic product, with textiles, construction, cement, and hydroelectric power constituting the majority of production.

Trade. The most important export crop is coffee, which provides 65 to 75 percent of foreign exchange earnings. Ethiopia has vast agricultural potential because of its large areas of fertile land, a diverse climate, and generally adequate rainfall. Hides and skins are the second largest export, followed by pulses, oilseed, gold, and chat, a quasi-legal plant whose leaves possess psychotropic qualities, that is chewed in social groups. The agricultural sector is subject to periodic drought, and poor infrastructure constrains the production and marketing of Ethiopia's products. Only 15 percent of the roads are paved; this is a problem particularly in the highlands, where there are two rainy seasons causing many roads to be unusable for weeks at a time. The two biggest imports are live animals and petroleum. The majority of Ethiopia's exports are sent to Germany, Japan, Italy and the United Kingdom, while imports are primarily brought in from Italy, the United States, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.

Division of Labor. Men do the most physically taxing activities outside the house, while women are in charge of the domestic sphere. Young children, especially on farms, get involved in household labor at an early age. Girls usually have a greater amount of work to do than boys.

Ethnicity is another axis of labor stratification. Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic state with a history of ethnic division. Currently, the Tigrean ethnic group controls the government and holds the core positions of power in the federal government. Ethnicity is not the sole basis for employment in the government; political ideology also plays an important role.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. There are four major social groups. At the top are high-ranking lineages, followed by low-ranking lineages. Caste groups, which are endogamous, with group membership ascribed by birth and membership associated with concepts of pollution, constitute the third social stratum. Slaves and the descendants of slaves are the lowest social group. This four-tier system is traditional; the contemporary social organization is dynamic, especially in urban areas. In urban society, the division of labor determines social class. Some jobs are esteemed more than others, such as lawyers and federal government employees. Many professions carry negative associations, such as metal workers, leather workers, and potters, who are considered of low status and frequently are isolated from mainstream society.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Symbols of social stratification in rural areas include the amount of grain and cattle a person possesses. While the symbols of wealth in urban areas are different, it is still these symbols which index high social status. Wealth is the chief criterion for social stratification, but the amount of education, the neighborhood in which one lives, and the job one holds are also symbols of high or low status. Automobiles are difficult to obtain, and the ownership of a car is a symbol of wealth and high status.

Political Life

Government. For almost sixteen hundred years, the nation was ruled by a monarchy with close ties to the Orthodox Church. In 1974, Haile Selassie, the last monarch, was overthrown by a communist military regime known as the Derge. In 1991, the Derge was deposed by the EPRDF (internally composed of the Tigrean People's Liberation Front, the Oromo People's Democratic Organization, and the Amhara National Democratic movement), which established a "democratic" government.

Ethiopia is currently an ethnic federation composed of eleven states that are largely ethnically based. This type of organization is intended to minimize ethnic strife. The highest official is the prime minister, and the president is a figurehead with no real power. The legislative branch consists of a bicameral legislation in which all people and ethnicities can be represented.

Ethiopia has not achieved political equality. The EPRDF is an extension of the military organization that deposed the former military dictatorship, and the government is controlled by the Tigrean People's Liberation Front. Since the government is ethnically and militarily based, it is plagued by all the problems of the previous regimes.

Leadership and Political Officials. Emperor Haile Selassie ruled from 1930 until 1974. During his lifetime, Selassie built massive infrastructure and created the first constitution (1931). Haile Selassie led Ethiopia to become the only African member of the League of Nations and was the first president of the Organization of African Unity, which is based in Addis Ababa. Micromanaging a nation caught up with the emperor in old age, and he was deposed by the communist Derge regime led by Lieutenant Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. Mengistu assumed power as head of state after having his two predecessors killed. Ethiopia then became a totalitarian state financed by the Soviet Union and assisted by Cuba. Between 1977 and 1978, thousands of suspected Derge oppositionists were killed.

In May 1991, the EPRDF forcefully took Addis Ababa, forcing Mengistu into asylum in Zimbabwe. Leader of the EPRDF and current prime minister Meles Zenawi pledged to oversee the formation of a multiparty democracy. The election of a 547-member constituent assembly was held in June 1994, and the adoption of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia's constitution ensued. Elections for the national parliament and regional legislatures were held in May and June of 1995, although most opposition parties boycotted the elections. A landslide victory was achieved by the EPRDF.

The EPRDF, along with 50 other registered political parties (most of which are small and ethnically based), comprise Ethiopia's political parties. The EPRDF is dominated by the Tigrean People's Liberation Front (TPLF). Because of that, after independence in 1991, other ethnically-based political organizations withdrew from the national government. One example is the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which withdrew in June of 1992.

Social Problems and Control. Ethiopia is safer than the neighboring countries, particularly in urban areas. Ethnic issues play a role in political life, but this does not usually result in violence. Christians and Muslims live together peacefully.

Theft occurs infrequently in Addis Ababa and almost never involves weapons. Robbers tend to work in groups, and pickpocketing is the usual form of theft. Homelessness in the capital is a serious social problem, especially among the youth. Many street children resort to theft to feed themselves. Police officers usually apprehend thieves but rarely prosecute and often work with them, splitting the bounty.

Military Activity. The Ethiopian military is called the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) and is comprised of approximately 100,000 personnel, making it one of the largest military forces in Africa. During the Derge regime, troups numbered around one-quarter of a million. Since the early 1990s, when the Derge was overthrown, the ENDF has been in transition from a rebel force to a professional military organization trained in demining, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, and military justice.

From June 1998 until the summer of 2000, Ethiopia was involved in the largest war on the African continent with its northern neighbor, Eritrea. The war was essentially a border conflict. Eritrea was occupying the towns of Badme and Zalambasa, which Ethiopia claimed was sovereign territory. The conflict can be traced to Emperor Menelik, who sold Eritrea to the Italians in the late nineteenth century.

Large-scale fighting occurred in 1998 and 1999 with no change in the combatants' positions. During the winter months, fighting was minimal because of the rains, which make it difficult to move armaments. In the summer of 2000, Ethiopia achieved large-scale victories and marched through the contested border area into Eritrean territory. After these victories, both nations signed a peace treaty, which called for United Nations peacekeeping troops to monitor the contested area and professional cartographers to demarcate the border. Ethiopian troops withdrew from undisputed Eritrean territory after the treaty was signed.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Traditional associations are the major sources of social welfare. There are many different types of social welfare programs in different parts of the country; these programs have religious, political, familial, or other bases for their formation. Two of the most prevalent are the iddir and debo systems.

An iddir is an association that provides financial assistance and other forms of aid for people in the same neighborhood or occupation and between friends or kin. This institution became prevalent with the formation of urban society. The main objective of an iddir is to assist families financially during times of stress, such as illness, death, and property losses from fire or theft. Recently, iddirs have been involved in community development, including the construction of schools and roads. The head of a family who belongs to an iddir contributes a certain amount of money every month to benefit individuals in times of emergency.

The most widespread social welfare association in rural areas is the debo. If a farmer is having difficulty tending his fields, he may invite his neighbors to help on a specific date. In return, the farmer must provide food and drink for the day and contribute his labor when others in the same debo require help. The debo is not restricted to agriculture but is also prevalent in housing construction.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are the main sources of aid to alleviate rural poverty. The Swedish International Development Agency was the first NGO in Ethiopia in the 1960s, focusing on rural development. Drought and war have been the two biggest problems in recent years. NGOs played a crucial role in famine relief in Welo and Tigre during the 19731974 and 19831984 famines through the coordination of the Christian Relief and Development Association. In 1985, the Churches Drought Action Africa/Ethiopia formed a joint relief partnership to distribute emergency food relief to areas controlled by rebel forces.

When the EPRDF took power in 1991, a large number of donor organizations supported and funded rehabilitation and development activities. Environmental protection and food-based programs take precedence today, although development and preventive health care are also activities on which NGO focuses.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Traditionally, labor has been divided by gender, with authority given to the senior male in a household. Men are responsible for plowing, harvesting, the trading of goods, the slaughtering of animals, herding, the building of houses, and the cutting of wood. Women are responsible for the domestic sphere and help the men with some activities on the farm. Women are in charge of cooking, brewing beer, cutting hops, buying and selling spices, making butter, collecting and carrying wood, and carrying water.

The gender division in urban areas is less pronounced than it is in the countryside. Many women work outside of the home, and there tends to be a greater awareness of gender inequality. Women in urban areas are still responsible, with or without a career, for the domestic space. Employment at a baseline level is fairly equivalent, but men tend to be promoted much faster and more often.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Gender inequality is still prevalent. Men often spend their free time socializing outside the home, while women take care of the household. If a man participates in domestic activities such as cooking and child rearing, he may become a social outcast.

The education of boys is stressed more than that of girls, who are supposed to help with household work. Girls are restricted from leaving the home and engaging in social activities with friends much more than boys are.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Traditional marriage customs vary by ethnic group, although many customs are transethnic. Arranged marriages are the norm, although this practice is becoming much less common, especially in urban areas. The presentation of a dowry from the male's family to the female's family is common. The amount is not fixed and varies with the wealth of the families. The dowry may include livestock, money, or other socially valued items.

The proposal usually involves elders, who travel from the groom's house to the parents of the bride to ask for the marriage. The elders are traditionally the individuals who decide when and where the ceremony takes place. Both the bride's and groom's families prepare food and drink for the ceremony by brewing wine and beer and cooking food. A great deal of food is prepared for the occasion, especially meat dishes.

Christians often wed in Orthodox churches, and a variety of wedding types exist. In the takelil type, the bride and groom participate in a special ceremony and agree never to divorce. This type of commitment has become rare in recent years. Wedding garb in the cities is very western: suits and tuxedos for the men and a white wedding gown for the bride.

Domestic Unit. The basic family structure is much larger than the typical Western nuclear unit. The oldest male is usually the head of the household and is in charge of decision making. Men, usually having the primary income, control the family economically and distribute money. Women are in charge of domestic life and have significantly more contact with the children. The father is seen as an authority figure.

Children are socially required to care for their parents, and so there are often three to four generations in a household. With the advent of urban living, however, this pattern is changing, and children often live far from their families and have a much harder time supporting them. Urbanites have a responsibility to send money to their families in rural areas and often try their best to relocate their families to the cities.

Inheritance. Inheritance laws follow a fairly regular pattern. Before an elder passes away he or she orally states his or her wishes for the disposal of possessions. Children and living spouses are typically the inheritors, but if an individual dies without a will, property is allotted by the court system to the closest living relatives and friends. Land, although not officially owned by individuals, is inheritable. Men are more privileged then females and usually receive the most prized properties and equipment, while women tend to inherit items associated with the domestic sphere.

Kin Groups. Descent is traced through both the mother's and father's families, but the male line is more valued than the female. It is customary for a child to take the father's first name as his or her last name. In rural areas, villages are often composed of kin groups that offer support during difficult times. The kin group in which one participates tends to be in the male line. Elders are respected, especially men, and are regarded as the source of a lineage. In general, an elder or groups of elders are responsible for settling disputes within a kin group or clan.


Infant Care. Children are raised by the extended family and community. It is the primary duty of the mother to care for the children as part of her domestic duties. If the mother is not available, the responsibility falls to the older female children as well as the grandmothers.

In urban society, where both parents often work, babysitters are employed and the father takes a more active role in child care. If a child is born out of wedlock, whoever the women claims is the father is required by law to support the child economically. If parents get divorced, a child five years old or older is asked with whom he or she wants to live.

Child Rearing and Education. During early childhood, children have the greatest exposure to their mothers and female relatives. At around the age of five, especially in urban areas, children start attending school if their families can afford the fees. In rural areas, schools are few and children do farm work. This means a very low percentage of rural youth attend school. The government is trying to alleviate this problem by building accessible schools in rural areas.

The patriarchal structure of society is reflected in the stress on education for boys over girls. Women face discrimination problems as well as physical abuse in school. Also, the belief still exists that females are less competent then males and that education is wasted on them.

Higher Education. Children who do well in elementary school go on to secondary school. It is felt that missionary schools are superior to government schools. Fees are required for missionary schools, although they are reduced considerably for religious adherents.

University is free, but admission is extremely competitive. Every secondary student takes a standardized examination to get into college. The acceptance rate is approximately 20 percent of all the individuals who take the tests. There is a quota for the various departments, and only a certain number of individuals are enrolled in their desired majors. The criterion is the grades of first-year students; those with the highest marks get the first choice. In 1999, enrollment at Addis Ababa University was approximately 21,000 students.


Greeting takes the form of multiple kisses on both cheeks and a plethora of exchanged pleasantries. Any hint of superiority is treated with contempt. Age is a factor in social behavior, and the elderly are treated with the utmost respect. When an elderly person or guest enters a room, it is customary to stand until that person is seated. Dining etiquette is also important. One must always wash the hands before a meal, since all food is eaten with the hands from a communal dish. It is customary for the guest to initiate eating. During a meal, it is proper form to pull injera only from the space directly in front of oneself. Depleted portions are replaced quickly. During meals, participation in conversation is considered polite; complete attention to the meal is thought to be impolite.


Religious Beliefs. There has been religious freedom for centuries in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the oldest sub-Saharan African church, and the first mosque in Africa was built in the Tigre province. Christianity and Islam have coexisted peacefully for hundreds of years, and the Christian kings of Ethiopia gave Muhammad refuge during his persecution in southern Arabia, causing the Prophet to declare Ethiopia exempt from Muslim holy wars. It is not uncommon for Christians and Muslims to visit each other's house of worship to seek health or prosperity.

The dominant religion has been Orthodox Christianity since King 'Ēzānā of Axum adopted Christianity in 333. It was the official religion during the reign of the monarchy and is currently the unofficial religion. Because of the spread of Islam in Africa, Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity was severed from the Christian world. This has led to many unique characteristics of the church, which is considered the most Judaic formal Christian church.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church lays claim to the original Ark of the Covenant, and replicas (called tabotat ) are housed in a central sanctuary in all churches; it is the tabot that consecrates a church. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the only established church that has rejected the doctrine of Pauline Christianity, which states that the Old Testament lost its binding force after the coming of Jesus. The Old Testament focus of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church includes dietary laws similar to the kosher tradition, circumcision after the eighth day of birth, and a Saturday sabbath.

Judaism historically was a major religion, although the vast majority of Ethiopian Jews (called Beta Israel) reside in Israel today. The Beta Israel were politically powerful at certain times. Ethiopian Jews often were persecuted during the last few hundred years; that resulted in massive secret airlifts in 1984 and 1991 by the Israeli military.

Islam has been a significant religion in Ethiopia since the eighth century but has been viewed as the religion of the "outside" by many Christians and scholars. Non-Muslims traditionally have interpreted Ethiopian Islam as hostile. This prejudice is a result of the dominance of Christianity.

Polytheistic religions are found in the lowlands, which also have received Protestant missionaries. These Evangelical churches are fast growing, but Orthodox Christianity and Islam claim the adherence of 85 to 90 percent of the population.

Religious Practitioners. The leader of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is often referred to as the Patriarch or the Pope by Ethiopians. The Patriarch, a Copt himself, was traditionally sent from Egypt to lead the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. This tradition was abandoned in the 1950s when the Patriarch was chosen by Emperor Haile Selassie from within the Ethiopian Church.

The tradition of the Patriarch being sent from Egypt began in the fourth century. The conversion of Emperor 'Ēzānā of Axum to Christianity was facilitated by a Syrian boy named Frumentious, who worked in the emperor's court. After Emperor 'Ēzānā's conversion, Frumentious traveled to Egypt to consult the Coptic authorities about sending a Patriarch to head the Church. They concluded that Frumentious would best serve in that role and he was anointed 'Abba Salama (father of Peace) and became the first Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Within the Orthodox Church there are several categories of clergy, including priests, deacons, monks, and lay-priests. It was estimated in the 1960s that between 10 and 20 percent of all adult Amhara and Tigrean men were priests. These figures are much less extraordinary when one considers that at that time there were 17,000 to 18,000 churches in the Amhara and Tigrean regions in the north-central highlands.

Rituals and Holy Places. The majority of celebrations are religious in nature. The major Christian holidays include Christmas on 7 January, Epiphany (celebrating the baptism of Jesus) on 19 January, Good Friday and Easter (in late April), and Meskel (the finding of the true cross) on 17 September. Muslim holidays include Ramadan, Id Al Adha (Arafa) on 15 March, and the birthday of Muhammad on 14 June. During all religious holidays, adherents go to their respective places of worship. Many Christian holidays are also state holidays.

Death and the Afterlife. Death is a part of daily life as famine, AIDS, and malaria take many lives. Three days of mourning for the dead is the norm. The dead are buried the day they die, and special food is eaten that is provided by family and friends. Christians bury their dead on the grounds of the church, and Muslims do the same at the mosque. Muslims read from religious texts, while Christians tend to cry for their dead during the mourning period.

Medicine and Health Care

Communicable diseases are the primary illnesses. Acute respiratory infections such as tuberculosis, upper respiratory infections, and malaria are the Ministry of Health's priority health problems. These afflictions accounted for 17 percent of deaths and 24 percent of hospital admissions in 1994 and 1995. Poor sanitation, malnutrition, and a shortage of health facilities are some of the causes of communicable diseases.

AIDS has been a serious health problem in recent years. AIDS awareness and condom usage are increasing, however, especially among the urban and educated populations. In 1988 the AIDS Control and Prevention Office conducted a study in which 17 percent of the sample population tested positive for HIV. A total of 57,000 AIDS cases were reported up to April 1998, almost 60 percent of which were in Addis Ababa. This places the HIV-infected population in 1998 at approximately three million. The urban HIV-positive population is drastically higher than the rural at 21 percent versus under 5 percent, respectively, as of 1998. Eighty-eight percent of all infections result from heterosexual transmission, mainly from prostitution and multiple sex partners.

The federal government has created a National AIDS Control Program (NACP) to prevent the transmission of HIV and reduce the associated morbidity and mortality. The goals are to inform and educate the general population and increase awareness about AIDS. Prevention of transmission through safer sexual practices, condom usage, and appropriate screening for blood transfusion are goals of the NACP.

Government health spending has risen. The absolute level of health expenditure, however, remains far below the average for other sub-Saharan African countries. The health system is primarily curative despite the fact that most health problems are amenable to preventive action.

In 1995-1996, Ethiopia had 1,433 physicians, 174 pharmacists, 3,697 nurses, and one hospital for every 659,175 people. The physician-to-population ratio was 1:38,365. These ratios are very low in comparison to other sub-Saharan developing countries, although the distribution is highly unbalanced in favor of urban centers. For example, 62 percent of the doctors and 46 percent of the nurses were found in Addis Ababa, where 5 percent of the population resides.

Secular Celebrations

The major state holidays are New Year's Day on 11 September, Victory Day of Adwa on 2 March, Ethiopian Patriots Victory Day on 6 April, Labor Day on 1 May, and the Downfall of the Derge, 28 May.

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. The classical language of Ge'ez, which has evolved into Amharic and Tigrean, is one of the four extinct languages but is the only indigenous writing system in Africa that is still in use. Ge'ez is still spoken in Orthodox Church services. The development of Ge'ez literature began with translations of the Old and New Testaments from Greek and Hebrew. Ge'ez was also the first Semitic language to employ a vowel system.

Many apocryphal texts such as the Book of Enoch, the Book of Jubilees, and the Ascension of Isaiah have been preserved in their entirety only in Ge'ez. Even though these texts were not included in the Biblical canon, among Biblical scholars (and Ethiopian Christians) they are regarded as significant to an understanding of the origin and development of Christianity.

Graphic Arts. Religious art, especially Orthodox Christian, has been a significant part of the national culture for hundreds of years. Illuminated Bibles and manuscripts have been dated to the twelfth century, and the eight-hundred-year-old churches in Lalibela contain Christian paintings, manuscripts, and stone relief.

Wood carving and sculpture are very common in the southern lowlands, especially among the Konso. A fine arts school has been established in Addis Ababa that teaches painting, sculpture, etching, and lettering.

Performance Arts. Christian music is believed to have been established by Saint Yared in the sixth century and is sung in Ge'ez, the liturgical language. Both Orthodox and Protestant music is popular and is sung in Amharic, Tigrean, and Oromo. The traditional dance, eskesta, consists of rhythmic shoulder movements and usually is accompanied by the kabaro, a drum made from wood and animal skin, and the masinqo, a single-stringed violin with an A-shaped bridge that is played with a small bow. Foreign influences exist in the form of Afro-pop, reggae, and hip-hop.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The university system fosters academic research in cultural and physical anthropology, archaeology, history, political science, linguistics, and theology. A large percentage of the leading scholars in these fields went to the University of Addis Ababa. A lack of funding and resources has constrained the development of the university system. The library system is inferior, and computers and Internet access are not available at the university.


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Adam Mohr

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The people of Ethiopia are called Ethiopians. There are more than seventy ethnic groups. The Amhara-Tigray group constitutes approximately 45 percent of the population and has traditionally been dominant politically. The Oromo (Galla) group represents approximately 40 percent of the population and is concentrated primarily in the south. For information on the Fulani, another important group, see the chapter on Guinea in Volume 4.

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Ethiopia •Dampier •Napier, rapier, tapir •Shakespeare • sepia • Olympia •copier • compeer • photocopier •cornucopia, dystopia, Ethiopia, myopia, subtopia, Utopia

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"Ethiopia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . (August 9, 2018).

"Ethiopia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved August 09, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.