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, 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.
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).
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 B.C. 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. B.C.) 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. A.D., 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 B.C. 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. 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 did make incursions into Somalia in subsequent months, in what the government described as reconnaissance missions. 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.
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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Ethiopia (Ge'ez: ኢትዮጵያ ), officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country situated in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Sudan to the west, Kenya to the south, Somalia to the east and Djibouti to the north-east.
Ethiopia is one of the oldest countries in the world and Africa's second-most populous nation. Ethiopia has yielded some of humanity's oldest traces, making the area important in the history of humanity. Recent studies claim that the vicinity of present-day Addis Ababa was the point from which human beings migrated around the world. Ethiopian dynastic history traditionally began with the reign of Emperor Menelik I in 1000 BC. The roots of the Ethiopian state are similarly deep, dating with unbroken continuity to at least the Aksumite Empire (which officially used the name "Ethiopia" in the 4th century) and its predecessor state, D`mt (with early 1st millennium BC roots). After a period of decentralized power in the 18th and early 19th centuries known as the Zemene Mesafint ("Era of the Judges/Princes"), the country was reunited in 1855 by Kassa Hailu, who became Emperor Tewodros II, beginning Ethiopia's modern history. Ethiopia's borders underwent significant territorial expansion to its modern borders for the rest of the century, especially by Emperor Menelik II and Ras Gobena, culminating in its victory over the Italians at the Battle of Adwa in 1896 with the military leadership of Ras Makonnen, and ensuring its sovereignty and freedom from colonization. It was brutally occupied by Mussolini's Italy from 1936 to 1941, ending with its liberation by British Empire and Ethiopian Patriot forces.
Having converted during the fourth century AD, it is also the second-oldest country to become officially Christian, after Armenia and home to some of the oldest Churches in the world. Ethiopia also has a considerable Muslim minority since the earliest days of Islam - being the site of the first Hijra in Islam history, the earliest 9th century Sultanates, the oldest Muslim settlement in Africa at Negash and home to the fourth holiest Muslim city of Harar - but the country has been secular since 1974. Historically a relatively isolated mountain country, Ethiopia by the mid 20th century became a crossroads of global international cooperation under the leadership of Emperor Haile Selassie I. It became a member of the League of Nations in 1923, signed the Declaration by United Nations in 1942, and was one of the fifty-one original members of the United Nations (UN). The headquarters of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) is in Addis Ababa, as is the headquarters of the African Union (formerly the Organisation of African Unity), of which Ethiopia was the principal founder. There are about forty-five Ethiopian embassies and consulates around the world.
In English and generally outside of Ethiopia, the country was also once historically known as Abyssinia, derived from Habesh, an early Arabic form of the Ethiosemitic name "Ḥabaśāt" (unvocalized "ḤBŚT"), modern Habesha, the native name for the country's inhabitants (while the country was called "Ityopp'ya"). In a few languages, Ethiopia is still called by names cognate with "Abyssinia," e.g., and modern Arabic Al Habeshah, meaning land of the Habesha people.
The term Habesha, strictly speaking, refers only to the Amhara and Tigray-Tigrinya people who have historically dominated the country politically, and which combined comprise about 36% of Ethiopia's population. Sometimes, the term is used to label the nearly 45% of Ethiopian population who used Semetic languages since ancient times like the Amharic (30.1% of Ethiopian population), Tigray (6.2%), Gurage (4.3%) and other smaller Semetic speaking communities like the Harari people in South east Ethiopia. Though since Amharic become the official language of the country, most of the population of the SNNPR and a significant portion of the Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz regions use it as a second language. In contrast, in contemporary Ethiopia, the word Habesha is often used to describe all Ethiopians and Eritreans. Abyssinia can strictly refer to just the North-Western Ethiopian provinces of Amhara and Tigray as well as central Eritrea, while it was historically used as another name for Ethiopia.
Around the eighth century BC, a kingdom known as Dʿmt was established in northern Ethiopia and Eritrea, with its capital at Yeha in northern Ethiopia. Most modern historians consider this civilization to be a native African one, although Sabaean-influenced due to the latter's hegemony of the Red Sea, while others view Dʿmt as the result of a mixture of "culturally superior" Sabaeans and indigenous peoples. However, Ge'ez, the ancient Semitic language of Ethiopia, is now thought not to have derived from Sabaean (also South Semitic). There is evidence of a Semitic-speaking presence in Ethiopia and Eritrea at least as early as 2000 BC. Sabaean influence is now thought to have been minor, limited to a few localities, and disappearing after a few decades or a century, perhaps representing a trading or military colony in some sort of symbiosis or military alliance with the Ethiopian civilization of Dʿmt or some other proto-Aksumite state.
In Prehistoric Nations, "In the oldest recorded traditions, Cushite colonies were established in the valley of the Nile, Barabra and Chaldea. This beginning must have been not later than 7000 or 8000 B. C. or perhaps earlier. They brought to development astronomy and the other sciences, which have come down to us. The vast commercial system by which they joined together the "ends of the earth" was created and manufacturing skill established. The great period of Cushite control had closed many ages prior to Homer, although separate communities remained not only in Egypt but in southern Arabia, Phoenicia and elsewhere." (Prehistoric Nations, pp. 95, 96.)
The Twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt (roughly 743-656 B.C.) was actually an Ethiopian dynasty. During this period Ethiopia ruled Egypt. Their most accomplished pharaoh during this time was Taharqa who wore two snakes on his crown signifying sovereignty of both Egypt and Ethiopia.
After the fall of Dʿmt in the fourth century BC, the plateau came to be dominated by smaller successor kingdoms, until the rise of one of these kingdoms during the first century BC, the Aksumite Kingdom, ancestor of medieval and modern Ethiopia, which was able to reunite the area. They established bases on the northern highlands of the Ethiopian Plateau and from there expanded southward. The Persian religious figure Mani listed Aksum with Rome, Persia, and China as one of the four great powers of his time.
In 316 AD, a Christian philosopher from Tyre, Meropius, embarked on a voyage of exploration along the coast of Africa. He was accompanied by, among others, two Syro-Greeks, Frumentius and his brother Aedesius. The vessel was stranded on the coast, and the natives killed all the travelers except the two brothers, who were taken to the court and given positions of trust by the monarch. They both practiced the Christian faith in private, and soon converted the queen and several other members of the royal court. Upon the king's death, Frumentius was appointed regent of the realm by the queen, and instructor of her young son, Prince Ezana. A few years later, upon Ezana's coming of age, Aedesius and Frumentius left the kingdom, the former returning to Tyre where he was ordained, and the latter journeying to Alexandria. Here, he consulted Athanasius, who ordained him and appointed him Bishop of Aksum. He returned to the court and baptized the King Ezana, together with many of his subjects, and in short order Christianity was proclaimed the official state religion again. For this accomplishment, he received the title "Abba Selama" ("Father of peace").
At various times, including a fifty-year period in the sixth century, Aksum controlled most of modern-day Yemen and some of southern Saudi Arabia just across the Red Sea, as well as controlling southern Egypt, northern Sudan, northern Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and northern Somalia.
The line of rulers descended from the Aksumite kings was broken several times: first by the Jewish (unknown/or pagan) Queen Gudit around 950 (or possibly around 850, as in Ethiopian histories). It was then interrupted by the Zagwe dynasty; it was during this dynasty that the famous rock-hewn churches of Lalibela were carved under King Lalibela, allowed by a long period of peace and stability.
The early twentieth century was marked by the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie I, who came to power after Iyasu V was deposed. It was he who undertook the modernization of Ethiopia, from 1916, when he was made a Ras and Regent (Inderase) for Zewditu I and became the de facto ruler of the Ethiopian Empire. Following Zewditu's death he was made Emperor on 2 November 1930.
Being born from parents of the three main Ethiopian ethnicities of Oromo, Amhara and Gurage, and after having played a leading role in the formation of the African Union, Haile Selassie was known as a uniting figure both inside Ethiopia and around Africa.
The independence of Ethiopia was interrupted by the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and Italian occupation (1936–1941). During this time of attack, Haile Selassie appealed to the League of Nations in 1935, delivering an address that made him a worldwide figure, and the 1935 Time magazine Man of the Year. Some of Ethiopia's infrastructure (roads most importantly) was built by the fascist Italian occupation troops (not by corvee) between 1937 and 1940. Following the entry of Italy into World War II, the British Empire forces together with patriot Ethiopian fighters liberated Ethiopia in the course of the East African Campaign (World War II) in 1941, which was followed by sovereignty on 31 January 1941 and British recognition of full sovereignty (i.e. without any special British privileges) with the signing of the Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement in December 1944. During 1942 and 1943 there was an Italian guerrilla war in Ethiopia. On 26 August 1942 Haile Selassie I issued a proclamation outlawing slavery.
In 1952 Haile Selassie orchestrated the federation with Eritrea which he dissolved in 1962. This annexation sparked the Eritrean War of Independence. Although Haile Selassie was seen as a national and African hero, opinion within Ethiopia turned against him due to the worldwide oil crisis of 1973, food shortages, uncertainty regarding the succession, border wars, and discontent in the middle class created through modernization.
In the beginning of 1980s, a series of famine hit Ethiopia that affected around 8 million people, leaving 1 million dead. Insurrections against Communist rule sprang up particularly in the northern regions of Tigray and Eritrea. In 1989, the Tigrayan Peoples' Liberation Front (TPLF) merged with other ethnically-based opposition movements to form the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Concurrently the Soviet Union began to retreat from building World Communism under Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika policies, marked a dramatic reduction in aid to Ethiopia from Socialist bloc countries. This resulted in even more economic hardship and the collapse of the military in the face of determined onslaughts by guerrilla forces in the north. The Collapse of Communism in general in Eastern Europe in the Revolutions of 1989, coincided with the Soviet Union stopping aid to Ethiopia altogether in 1990, and the strategic outlook for Mengistu quickly deteriorated.
In May 1991, EPRDF forces advanced on Addis Ababa and the Soviet Union did not intervene to save the government side. Mengistu fled the country to asylum in Zimbabwe, where he still resides. The Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE), composed of an 87-member Council of Representatives and guided by a national charter that functioned as a transitional constitution, was set up. In June 1992, the OLF withdrew from the government; in March 1993, members of the Southern Ethiopia Peoples' Democratic Coalition also left the government. In 1994, a new constitution was written that formed a bicameral legislature and a judicial system. The first free and democratic election took place in May 1995 in which Meles Zenawi was elected the Prime Minister and Negasso Gidada was elected President. Though it is widely suspected that Meles Zenawi rigged the election. This suspicion is supported by Zenawi's very low approval rating in Ethiopia.
In 1994, a constitution was adopted that led to Ethiopia's first multi-party elections in the following year. In May 1998, a border dispute with Eritrea led to the Eritrean-Ethiopian War that lasted until June 2000. This has hurt the nation's economy, but strengthened the ruling coalition. On 15 May 2005, Ethiopia held another multiparty election, which was a highly disputed one with some opposition groups claiming fraud. Though the Carter Center appreciated the preelection conditions, it has expressed its dissatisfaction with postelection matters. The 2005 EU election observers continued to accuse the ruling party of vote rigging. Many from the international community are divided about the issue with Irish officials accusing the 2005 EU election observers of corruption for the "inaccurate leaks from the 2005 EU election monitoring body which led the opposition to wrongly believe they had been cheated of victory. In general, the opposition parties gained more than 200 parliament seats compared to the just 12 in the 2000 elections. Despite most opposition representatives joining the parliament, some leaders of the CUD party are in jail following the post-election violence. Amnesty International considers them "prisoners of conscience".
Politics of Ethiopia takes place in a framework of a federal parliamentary republic, whereby the Prime Minister is the head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Federal legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament.
On the basis of Article 78 of the 1994 Ethiopian Constitution, the Judiciary is completely independent of the executive and the legislature. The current realities of this provision are questioned in a report prepared by Freedom House (see discussion page for link).
According to The Economist in its Democracy Index, Ethiopia is a "hybrid regime" situated between a "flawed democracy" and an "authoritarian regime". It ranks 106 out of 167 countries (with the larger number being less democratic). Cambodia ranks as more democratic at 105, and Burundi as less democratic at 107, than Ethiopia.
The election of Ethiopia's 547-member constituent assembly was held in June 1994. This assembly adopted the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in December 1994. The elections for Ethiopia's first popularly-chosen national parliament and regional legislatures were held in May and June 1995 . Most opposition parties chose to boycott these elections. There was a landslide victory for the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). International and non-governmental observers concluded that opposition parties would have been able to participate had they chosen to do so.
The current government of Ethiopia was installed in August 1995. The first President was Negasso Gidada. The EPRDF-led government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi promoted a policy of ethnic federalism, devolving significant powers to regional, ethnically-based authorities. Ethiopia today has nine semi-autonomous administrative regions that have the power to raise and spend their own revenues. Under the present government, some fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press, are circumscribed. Citizens have little access to media other than the state-owned networks, and most private newspapers struggle to remain open and suffer periodic harassment from the government. At least 18 journalists who had written articles critical of the government were arrested following the 2005 elections on genocide and treason charges. The government uses press laws governing libel to intimidate journalists who are critical of its policies.
Zenawi's government was elected in 2000 in Ethiopia's first ever multiparty elections; however, the results were heavily criticized by international observers and denounced by the opposition as fraudulent. The EPRDF also won the 2005 election returning Zenawi to power. Although the opposition vote increased in the election, both the opposition and observers from the European Union and elsewhere stated that the vote did not meet international standards for fair and free elections. Ethiopian police are said to have massacred 193 protesters, mostly in the capital Addis Ababa, in the violence following the May 2005 elections in the Ethiopian police massacre. The government initiated a crackdown in the provinces as well; in Oromia state the authorities used concerns over insurgency and terrorism to use torture, imprisonment, and other repressive methods to silence critics following the election, particularly people sympathetic to the registered opposition party Oromo National Congress (ONC).
Ethiopia is divided into nine ethnically-based administrative states (kililoch, sing. kilil) and subdivided into sixty-eight zones and two chartered cities (astedader akababiwoch, sing. astedader akababi): Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa (subdivisions 1 and 5 in the map, respectively). It is further subdivided into 550 woredas and six special woredas.
The constitution assigns extensive power to regional states that can establish their own government and democracy according to the federal government's constitution. Each region has its apex regional council where members are directly elected to represent the districts and the council has legislative and executive power to direct internal affairs of the regions. Article 39 of the Ethiopian Constitution further gives every regional state the right to secede from Ethiopia. There is debate, however, as to how much of the power guaranteed in the constitution is actually given to the states. The councils implement their mandate through an executive committee and regional sectoral bureaus. Such elaborate structure of council, executive, and sectoral public institutions is replicated to the next level (woreda).
The nine regions and two chartered cities are:
The major portion of Ethiopia lies on the Horn of Africa, which is the eastern-most part of the African landmass. Bordering Ethiopia is Sudan to the west, Djibouti and Eritrea to the north, Somalia to the east, and Kenya to the south. Within Ethiopia is a massive highland complex of mountains and dissected plateaus divided by the Great Rift Valley, which runs generally southwest to northeast and is surrounded by lowlands, steppes, or semi-desert. The great diversity of terrain determines wide variations in climate, soils, natural vegetation, and settlement patterns.
The normal rainy season is from mid-June to mid-September (longer in the southern highlands), preceded by intermittent showers from February or March; the remainder of the year is generally dry.
Ethiopia is an ecologically diverse country, ranging from the deserts along the eastern border to the tropical forests in the south to extensive Afromontane in the northern and southwestern parts. Lake Tana in the north is the source of the Blue Nile. It also has a large number of endemic species, notably the Gelada Baboon, the Walia Ibex and the Ethiopian wolf (or Simien fox). The wide range of altitude has given the country a variety of ecologically distinct areas, this has helped to encourage the evolution of endemic species in ecological isolation.
Historically, throughout the African continent, wildlife populations have been rapidly declining due to logging, civil wars, hunting, pollution, poaching, and other human interference. A 17-year long civil war along with severe drought, negatively impacted Ethiopia’s environmental conditions leading to even greater habitat degradation. Habitat destruction is a factor that leads to endangerment. When changes to a habitat occur rapidly, it doesn’t allow animals time to adjust. Human impact threatens many species, with greater threats expected as a result of climate change induced by greenhouse gas emissions. Ethiopia has a large number of species listed as critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable to global extinction. To assess the current situation in Ethiopia, it is critical that the endangered species in this region are identified. The endangered species in Ethiopia can be broken down into three categories; Critically endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable.
|Bilen Gerbil||Grevy's Zebra||African Elephant|
|Black Rhinoceros||Mountain Nyala||Ammodile|
|Ethiopian Wolf||Nubian Ibex||Bailey's Shrew|
|Guramba Shrew||African Wild Dog||Bale Shrew|
|Harenna Shrew||Beira Antelope|
|Large-eared Free-tailed Bat|
|Lesser Horseshoe Bat|
|Mouse-tailed Bat species|
|Natal Free-Tailed Bat|
|Patrizi's Trident Leaf-nosed Bat|
|Scott's Mouse-eared Bat|
The Ethiopian Wolf
Ethiopian wolves are decreasing rapidly in population. Fewer than 500 remain today due to the increased pressure from agriculture, high altitude grazing, hybridization with domestic dogs, direct persecution, and diseases such as rabies. The EWCP (Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Project) actively works on protecting this species. Scientists working with this project have found that this species has some resistance to the effects of small population sizes and some resilience to fragmentation. A 2003 study on the Ethiopian wolf resulted in the conclusion that the key to its survival resides in securing its habitat and isolating its population from the impact of people, livestock and domestic dogs. The interaction between humans and Ethiopian wolves have become increasingly threatening to their conservation as these negative interactions increase as human density increases. Human interactions include poisoning, persecution in reprisal for livestock losses, and road kills. Mountainous areas are critical for Ethiopian wolves survival to provide a healthy habitat. Protecting this unique creature entails securing protected status for conservation areas where ecological processes are preserved in an ecosystem, and addressing and counteracting direct threats to survival (human persecution, fragmented populations and coexistence with domestic dogs.) Biologists also recommend the goal of preserving a minimum of 90% of the existing genetic diversity of the species for 100 years, which may require establishing a Nucleus I captive breeding population (preferably in Ethiopia). These aspirations are being pursued by a group called the Ethiopian Wolf Recovery Programme (EWRP).
Outreach Several conservation programs are in effect to help endangered species in Ethiopia. A group was created in 1966 called The Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society, which focuses on studying and promoting the natural environments of Ethiopia along with spreading the knowledge they acquire, and supporting legislation to protect environmental resources.
There are multiple conservation organizations one can access online to make donations, one which connects directly to the Ethiopian Wolf. Funding supports the World Wildlife Fund’s global conservation efforts. The majority of the funds received (83%) goes towards conservation activities, while only 6% goes towards finance and administration. The remaining 11% of funds are allocated for fundraising, which is much needed. The WWF Chairman of the Board, Bruce Babbitt holds this organization accountable for the best practices in accountability, governance and transparency throughout all tiers within the organization.
A critical way to help threatened animals survive would be to protect their habitat permanently through national parks, wilderness areas and nature reserves. By protecting the places where animals live, human interference is limited. Protecting farms, and any place along roadsides that harbor animals helps encourage protection.
Deforestation is a major concern for Ethiopia as studies suggest loss of forest contributes to soil erosion, loss of nutrients in the soil, loss of animal habitats and reduction in biodiversity. At the beginning of the Twentieth century around 420,000 km² or 35% of Ethiopia’s land was covered by trees but recent research indicates that forest cover is now approximately 11.9% of the area. Ethiopia is one of the seven fundamental and independent centers of origin of cultivated plants of the world.
Ethiopia loses an estimated 1,410 km² of natural forests each year. Between 1990 and 2005 the country lost approximately 21,000 km².
Current government programs to control deforestation consist of education, promoting reforestation programs and providing alternate raw material to timber. In rural areas the government also provides non-timber fuel sources and access to non-forested land to promote agriculture without destroying forest habitat.
Organizations such as SOS and Farm Africa are working with the federal government and local governments to create a system of forest management. Working with a grant of approximately 2.3 million Euros the Ethiopian government recently began training people on reducing erosion and using proper irrigation techniques that do not contribute to deforestation. This project is assisting more than 80 communities.
Population growth, migration, and urbanization are all straining both governments and ecosystems’ capacity to provide people basic services. Urbanization has steadily been increasing in Ethiopia, with two periods of significantly rapid growth. First, in 1936-1941 during the Italian occupation of Mussolini’s fascist regime, and from 1967-1975 when the populations of urban centers tripled. In 1936, Italy annexed Ethiopia, building infrastructure to connect major cities, and a dam providing power and water. This along with the influx of Italians and laborers was the major cause of rapid growth during this period. The second period of growth was from 1967-1975 when rural populations migrated to urban centers seeking work and better living conditions. This pattern slowed after to the 1975 Land Reform program instituted by the government provided incentives for people to stay in rural areas. As people moved from rural areas to the cities, there were fewer people to grow food for the population. The Land Reform Act was meant to increase agriculture since food production was not keeping up with population growth over the period of 1970-1983. This program proliferated the formation of peasant associations, large villages based on agriculture. The act did lead to an increase in food production, although there is debate over the cause; it may be related to weather conditions more than the reform act. Urban populations have continued to grow with an 8.1% increase from 1975-2000.
Rural Vs. Urban Life Migration to urban areas is usually motivated by the hope of better living conditions. In peasant associations daily life is a struggle to survive. Only 45% of rural households in Ethiopia consume the World Health Organization’s minimum standard of food per day, (2,200 kilocalories), with 42% of children under 5 years old being underweight. Most poor families (75%) share their sleeping quarters with livestock, and 40% of children sleep on the floor, where night time temperatures average 5 degrees Celsius in the cold season. The average family size is six or seven, living in a 30 square meter mud and thatch hut, with less than two hectares of land to cultivate. These living conditions are deplorable, but are the daily lives of peasant associations.
The peasant associations face a cycle of poverty. Since the land holdings are so small, farmers cannot allow the land to lie fallow, which reduces soil fertility. This land degradation reduces the production of fodder for livestock, which causes low amounts of milk production. Since the community burns livestock manure as fuel, rather than plowing the nutrients back into the land, the crop production is reduced. The low productivity of agriculture leads to inadequate incomes for farmers, hunger, malnutrition and disease. These unhealthy farmers have a hard time working the land and the productivity drops further.
Although conditions are drastically better in cities, all of Ethiopia suffers from poverty, and poor sanitation. In the capital city of Addis Ababa, 85% of the population lives in slums. Although there are some wealthy neighborhoods with mansions, most people make their houses using whatever materials are available, with walls made of mud or wood. Only 12% of homes have cement tiles or floors. Sanitation is the most pressing need in the city, with most of the population lacking access to waste treatment facilities. This contributes to the spread of illness through unhealthy water.
Despite the living conditions in the cities, the people of Addis Ababa are much better off than people living in the peasant associations due to their educational opportunities. Unlike rural children, 69% of urban children are enrolled in primary school, and 35% of those eligible for secondary school attend. Addis Ababa has its own university as well as many other secondary schools. The literacy rate is 82%.
Health is also much greater in the cities. Birth rates, infant mortality rates, and death rates are lower in the city than in rural areas, due to better access to education and hospitals. Life expectancy is higher at 53, compared to 48 in rural areas. Despite sanitation being a problem, use of improved water sources is also greater; 81% in cities compared to 11% in rural areas. This encourages more people to migrate to the cities in hopes of better living conditions.
The continued urbanization and migration poses a threat to environmental sustainability in Ethiopia. As more migration occurs, there will be decreased food production to sustain the population. Rather than fixing the problems of degraded land and water resources, people move to cities in hopes of a better life. If nothing is done about the problem, the capacity to grow food will decrease as populations continue to increase, while poverty and health conditions get worse.
This is a problem many NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) are working on fixing. But there is clear evidence that most are far apart, less coordinated, and working in isolation, with no effective mechanisms for them to relate with other NGOs. This is why a consortium is required to solve the problem. The good news is that the Sub-Saharan Africa NGO Consortium is already coordinating efforts among NGOs in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Sudan, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali, Ghana, and Nigeria. By sharing information, techniques, and resources, NGOs are better equipped to help the rural farmers of Ethiopia.
Provision of telecommunications services is left to a publicly owned monopoly. It is the view of the current government that maintaining public ownership in this vital sector is essential to ensure that telecommunication infrastructures and services are extended to the rural Ethiopia, which would not be attractive to private enterprises.
There are some sectors which are reserved to Ethiopians only. The financial sector is one of them. There are now more than seven private banks in the country but none of them are owned by foreigners.
The Ethiopian constitution defines the right to own land as belonging only to "the state and the people", but citizens may only lease land (up to 99 years), and are unable to mortgage or sell. Renting of land for a maximum of twenty years is allowed and this is expected to ensure that land goes to the most productive user.
Agriculture accounts for almost 41 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), 80 percent of exports, and 80 percent of the labour force. Many other economic activities depend on agriculture, including marketing, processing, and export of agricultural products. Production is overwhelmingly by small-scale farmers and enterprises and a large part of commodity exports are provided by the small agricultural cash-crop sector. Principal crops include coffee, pulses (e.g., beans), oilseeds, cereals, potatoes, sugarcane, and vegetables. Recently, Ethiopia has had a fast growing annual GDP and it was the fastest growing non-oil dependent African nation in 2007. Exports are almost entirely agricultural commodities, and coffee is the largest foreign exchange earner. Ethiopia is Africa's second biggest maize producer. Ethiopia's livestock population is believed to be the largest in Africa, and as of 1987 accounted for about 15 percent of the GDP. Despite recent improvements, the rapidly exploding population means that Ethiopia remains one of the poorest nations in the world. According to a recent UN report the GNP per capita of Ethiopia has reached $160.The same report indicated that the life expectancy had improved substantially in recent years. The life expectancy of men is reported to be 52 and women 54 years.
Ethiopia is also the 10th largest producer of livestock in the world. Other main export commodities are khat, gold, leather products, and oilseeds. Recent development of the floriculture sector means Ethiopia is poised to become one of the top flower and plant exporters in the world.
With the private sector growing slowly, designer leather products like bags are becoming a big export business, with Taytu becoming the first luxury designer label in the country. Additional small-scale export products include cereals, pulses, cotton, sugarcane, potatoes and hides. With the construction of various new dams and growing hydroelectric power projects around the country, it has also begun exporting electric power to its neighbors. However, coffee remains its most important export product and with new trademark deals around the world, including recent deals with Starbucks, the country plans to increase its revenue from coffee. Most regard Ethiopia's large water resources and potential as its "white oil" and its coffee resources as "black gold".
The country also has large mineral resources and oil potential in some the less inhabited regions; however, political instability in those regions has harmed progress. Ethiopian geologists were implicated in a major gold swindle in 2008. Four chemists and geologists from the Ethiopian Geological Survey were arrested in connection with a fake gold scandal, following complaints from buyers in South Africa. Gold bars from the National Bank of Ethiopia were found to be gilded metal by police, costing the state around US$17 million, according to the Science and Development Network website.
Ethiopia's population has grown from 33.5 million in 1983 to 75.1 million in 2006. The country's population is highly diverse. Most of its people speak a Semitic(~ 45%) or Cushitic language (~ 40%). The Oromo, Amhara, and Tigray make up more than three-quarters of the population, but there are more than 80 different ethnic groups within Ethiopia. Some of these have as few as 10,000 members.
Ethiopians and Eritreans, especially Semitic-speaking ones, collectively refer to themselves as Habesha or Abesha, though others reject these names on the basis that they refer only to certain ethnicities. The Arabic form of this term (Al-Habasha) is the etymological basis of "Abyssinia," the former name of Ethiopia in English and other European languages.
According to the Ethiopian national census of 1994, the Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia at 32.1%. The Amhara represent 30.2%, while the Tigray people are 6.2% of the population. Other ethnic groups are as follows: Somali 6%, Gurage 4.3%, Sidama 3.4%, Wolayta 2%, Afar 2%, Hadiya 2%, Gamo 1%.
There are 1.2 million Ethiopians in the US as part of the Ethiopian diaspora.
In 2007, Ethiopia hosted a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 201,700. The majority of this population came from Somalia (approximately 111,600 individuals), Sudan (55,400) and Eritrea (23,900). The Ethiopian government required nearly all refugees to live in refugee camps.
According to the most recent 1994 National Census, Christians make up 61.6% of the country's population (51% Ethiopean Orthodox, 10.6% other denominations), Muslims 32.8%, and practitioners of traditional faiths 5.6%. This agrees with the updated CIA World Factbook, Christianity is the most widely practiced religion in Ethiopia. Orthodox Christianity has a long history in Ethiopia dating back to the first century, and a dominant presence in central and northern Ethiopia. Both Orthodox & Protestant Christianity has large representations in the South and Western Ethiopia. A small ancient group of Jews, the Beta Israel, live in northwestern Ethiopia, though most have emigrated to Israel in the last decades of the twentieth century as part of the rescue missions undertaken by the Israeli government, Operation Moses and Operation Solomon. Some Israeli and Jewish scholars consider these Ethiopian Jews as the historical "Lost Tribe of Israel". Sometimes Christianity in Africa is thought of as a European import that arrived with colonialism, but this is not the case with Ethiopia. The Kingdom of Aksum was one of the first nations to officially adopt Christianity, when St. Frumentius of Tyre, called Fremnatos or Abba Selama ("Father of Peace") in Ethiopia, converted King Ezana during the fourth century AD. Many believe that the Gospel had entered Ethiopia even earlier, with the royal official described as being baptised by Philip the Evangelist in chapter eight of the Acts of the Apostles. (Acts 8:26-39) Today, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, part of Oriental Orthodoxy, is by far the largest denomination, though a number of Protestant (Pentay) churches and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tehadeso Church have recently gained ground. Since the eighteenth century there has existed a relatively small (uniate) Ethiopian Catholic Church in full communion with Rome, with adherents making up less than 1% of the total population.
The name "Ethiopia" (Hebrew Kush) is mentioned in the Bible numerous times (thirty-seven times in the King James version). Abyssinia is also mentioned in the Qur'an and Hadith. While many Ethiopians claim that the Bible references of Kush apply to their own ancient civilization, pointing out that the Gihon river, a name for the Nile, is said to flow through the land, most non-Ethiopian scholars believe that the use of the term referred to the Kingdom of Kush in particular or Africa outside of Egypt in general. Some have argued that biblical Kush was a large part of land that included Northern Ethiopia, Eritrea and most of present day Sudan. The capital cities of biblical Kush were in Northern Sudan.
Islam in Ethiopia dates back to the founding of the religion; in 615, when a group of Muslims were counseled by Muhammad to escape persecution in Mecca and travel to Ethiopia, which was ruled by Ashama ibn Abjar, a pious Christian king. Moreover, Bilal, the first muezzin, the person chosen to call the faithful to prayer, and one of the foremost companions of Muhammad, was from Ethiopia.
There are numerous indigenous African religions in Ethiopia, mainly located in the far southwest and western borderlands. In general, most of the (largely members of the non-Chalcedonian Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church) Christians generally live in the highlands, while Muslims and adherents of traditional African religions tend to inhabit more lowland regions in the east and south of the country.
Ethiopia is also the spiritual homeland of the Rastafari movement, whose adherents believe Ethiopia is Zion. The Rastafari view Emperor Haile Selassie I as Jesus, the human incarnation of God, a view apparently not shared by Haile Selassie I himself, who was staunchly Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. The concept of Zion is also prevalent among Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, though it represents a separate and complex concept, referring figuratively to St. Mary, but also to Ethiopia as a bastion of Christianity surrounded by Muslims and other religions, much like Mount Zion in the Bible. It is also used to refer to Axum, the ancient capital and religious centre of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, or to its primary church, called Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion. The Bahá'í Faith has been established in Ethiopia since the 1950s, and today is concentrated primarily in Addis Ababa, but also in the suburbs of Yeka, Kirkos and Nefas Silk Lafto.
Ethiopia's main health problems are said to be communicable diseases caused by poor sanitation and malnutrition. These problems are exacerbated by the shortage of trained manpower and health facilities.
There are 119 hospitals (12 in Addis Ababa alone) and 412 health centers in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has a relatively low average life expectancy of 45 years. Infant mortality rates are relatively very high, as over 10% of infants die during or shortly after childbirth, while birth-related complications such as obstetric fistula affect many of the nation's women. HIV is also prevelant in the country.
The low availability of health care professionals with modern medical training, together with lack of funds for medical services, leaves the door wide open for potentially less reliable traditional healers that use home-based therapies to heal common ailments. High rates of unemployment leave many Ethiopian citizens unable to support their families. In Ethiopia an increasing number of “false healers” using home based medicines have grown with the rising population. The differences between real and false healers are almost impossible to distinguish. However, only about ten percent of practicing healers are true Ethiopian healers. Much of the false practice can be attributed to commercialization of medicine and the high demand for healing. Both men and women are known to practice medicine from their homes. It is most commonly the men that dispense herbal medicine similar to an out of home pharmacy.
Ethiopian healers are more commonly known as traditional medical practitioners. Before the onset of Christian missionaries and westernized medicine, traditional medicine was the only form of treatment available. Traditional healers extract healing ingredients from wild plants, animals and rare minerals. Among the leading number of disease that leads to death include aids, malaria, tuberculosis and dysentery. Largely because of the costs, traditional medicine continues to be the most common form of medicine practiced. Many Ethiopians are unemployed which makes it difficult to pay for most medicinal treatments. Ethiopian medicine is heavily reliant on magical and supernatural beliefs that have little or no relation to the actual disease itself. Many physical ailments are believed to be caused by the spiritual realm which is the reason healers are most likely to integrate spiritual and magical healing techniques. Traditional medicinal practice is strongly related to the rich cultural beliefs of Ethiopia, which explains the emphasis of its use.
In Ethiopian culture there are two main theories of the cause of disease. The first is attributed to God or other supernatural forces, while the other is attributed to external factors such as unclean drinking water and unsanitary food. Most genetic diseases or deaths are viewed as the will of God. Miscarriages are thought to be the result of demonic spirits.
One medical practice that is commonly practiced irrespective of religion or economic status is female genital mutilation. Nearly four out of five Ethiopian women are circumcised. There are three levels of circumcision that involve different degrees of cutting the clitoris and vaginal area. Many of these practices are done with an unsanitary blade with little or no anesthetics. It can result in heavy bleeding, high pain, and sometimes death.
It was not until Christian missionaries traveled to Ethiopia bringing new religious beliefs and education that westernized medicine was infused into Ethiopian medicine. Today there are three medical schools in Ethiopia that began training students in 1965 two of which are linked to Addis Ababa University. There is only one psychiatric facility treatment in the whole country because Ethiopian culture is resistant to psychiatric treatment. Although there have been huge leaps and bounds in medical technology there is still a large problem in the distribution of medicine and doctors in Ethiopia.
Education in Ethiopia has been dominated by the Orthodox Church for many centuries until secular education was adopted in the early 1900s. The elites, mostly Christians and central ethnic Amhara population, had the most privilege until 1974, when the government tried to reach the rural areas. In fact, until right now, it is only the elite Christians who have better chance to higher education. Languages other than Amharic are supressed. Oromo, for example wasn't allowed in the educational institutions. The current system follows very similar school expansion schemes to the rural areas as the previous 1980s system with an addition of deeper regionalisation giving rural education in their own languages starting at the elementary level and with more budget allocated to the Education Sector. The sequence of general education in Ethiopia is six years of primary school, four years of lower secondary school and two years of higher secondary school.
The best known Ethiopian cuisine consists of various vegetable or meat side dishes and entrees, usually a wat, or thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdough flatbread. One does not eat with utensils, but instead uses injera to scoop up the entrees and side dishes. Tihlo prepared from roasted barley flour is very popular in Amhara, Agame, and Awlaelo (Tigrai). Traditional Ethiopian cuisine employs no pork or shellfish of any kind, as they are forbidden in the Islamic, Jewish, and Ethiopian Orthodox Christian faiths. It is also very common to eat from the same big dish in the center of the table with a group of people.
The Music of Ethiopia is extremely diverse, with each of the country's 80 ethnic groups being associated with unique sounds. Ethiopian music uses a unique modal system that is pentatonic, with characteristically long intervals between some notes. Influences include ancient Christian elements and Muslim and folk music from elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, especially Sudan and Somalia. Popular musicians include teddy Afro, Tilahun Gessesse, Aster Aweke, Hamelmal Abate, Tewodros Tadesse, Ephrem Tamiru, Muluken Melesse, Bizunesh Bekele, Mahmoud Ahmed, Tadesse Alemu, Alemayehu Eshete, Neway Debebe, Asnaketch Worku, Ali Birra, Gigi, Dawit (Messay) Mellesse, and Mulatu Astatke.
Ethiopian distance-runners include Derartu Tulu, Abebe Bikila, Mamo Wolde, Miruts Yifter, Addis Abebe, Gebregziabher Gebremariam, Belayneh Densamo, Werknesh Kidane, Tirunesh Dibaba, Meseret Defar, Million Wolde, Assefa Mezgebu, etc. Derartu Tulu was the first woman from Africa to win an Olympic gold medal, doing so over 10,000 metres at Barcelona. Abebe Bikila, the first Olympic champion Θ representing an African nation, won the Olympic marathon in 1960 and 1964, setting world records both times. He is well-known to this day for winning the 1960 marathon in Rome while running barefoot. Miruts Yifter, the first in a tradition of Ethiopians known for their brilliant finishing speed, won gold at 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the Moscow Olympics. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kenenisa Bekele became the second man to achieve this feat, while fellow Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba became the first woman to win gold in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
Independent Ethiopian Web sites