Ethiopia is a republic on the Horn of Africa in northeastern Africa. Ethiopia borders Eritrea in the north and northeast, Djibouti in the east, Somalia in the east and southeast, Kenya in the south and Sudan and south Sudan in the west. The name Ethiopia means “the land of the blacks”.
Ethiopia is a poor agricultural country, and until 1974 was characterized by a feudal social order. The country is frequently exposed to famine and drought disasters and has long been considered among the world’s poorest. However, economic growth in recent years has changed this. Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria.
Ethiopia was never colonized, and therefore has a special prestige among other African countries. Eritrea was also part of Ethiopia, first as part of a federation, while from 1952 it was incorporated as one of Ethiopia’s provinces. Prolonged acts of war, especially in Eritrea, but also in the Tigray Province and the Ogaden area near Somalia, threatened the country’s unity and aggravated the economic problems. A 1991 peace agreement ended nearly 30 years of civil war, and in 1993 Eritrea detached itself as an independent state.
Ethiopia’s national anthem is Wodefit gesgeshi wid inn Ityoppya.
Geography and environment
Ethiopia belongs to the African Shield, with a landscape consisting mainly of highlands made up of enormous lava masses from the Tertiary era, which have the character of plateaus and high plains. Over the plains rise many mountain peaks that are remnants of former volcanoes. Highest is Ras Dejen, also called Ras Dashen, at 4620 meters above sea level in the Simien massif.
The Ethiopian highlands are naturally divided into two large plateaus of the Rift Valley, which extends as a huge valley from the Red Sea through Ethiopia. The western highlands, the Abyssinian Plateau, extend north-south for a length of about 500 kilometers. In the heart of the highlands lies the Shewa (Shoa) plateau, with the capital Addis Ababa. The eastern highland area, the Somali plateau, is similar to the western one, but is not that big. The Somali plateau has its highest section towards the Rift Valley, where there are several mountain peaks above 4000 meters in height.
The Blue Nile (Abay) flows from Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake. In Gojjam, the Blue Nile river valley is 1400 meters deep. The largest rivers that flow eastward are Shabelle and Ganale Doria ( Juba ). Towards the east flows the river Awash out in Danakilørkenen, where it evaporates in a large salt lake (Abbésjøen), on the border with Djibouti.
People and society
Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa with 100 million inhabitants as of 2017. It is the world’s most populous inland state. The population is mainly concentrated in the highlands, while the lower areas are very thinly populated. The vast majority of the population live in the countryside, while only about 10 per cent live in the cities. The largest city is the capital Addis Ababa, which in 2016 had 3.4 million inhabitants.
Ethiopia is home to over 80 different ethnic groups. The largest group is the kusjittisktalende Oromo which makes up around 34 percent of the population. Other major groups are the Semitic- speaking Amharas with 27 percent and the Tigrays with six percent. Throughout the imperial era, the Amharic and the Tigrayans formed the land-owning upper class in Ethiopia, and also had the political control. The Oromans live in the southeastern, western and southern parts of the country, and are mainly employed in agriculture.
Somalis make up 6.2 percent of the population and live largely as nomads in the eastern areas, formerly called Ogaden. They have long worked for the incorporation of their Ethiopian areas into Somalia. Towards the border with Eritrea, afar and saho live, while along the borders of the west and south live a number of different people who are culturally related to the people groups in Sudan. Gurage is a small (four percent), but influential business people.
The official and largest language is Amharic, which belongs to the Semitic language group in the Afro-Asian language family. It is closely related to the Semitic languages tigrinja and tigers, which are spoken in the north. The Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asian language family is represented by the languages Oromo, Sidamo and Somali. After the introduction of the ethnic federal government set in 1991, other languages also gained the status of official languages in the various regional states.
State and politics
Today’s regime dates back to 1991, when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), with the help of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), took power and formed the party Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which has had political control until today.. The EPRDF is formally a coalition of various regional parties, but was long dominated by the TPLF. Political changes in 2018 and the election of Abiy Ahmed as prime minister meant that the TPLF has gradually been marginalized.
A new constitution in 1995 turned Ethiopia into a democratic and ethnic federal republic, which meant dividing it into nine regional states defined by ethnic- linguistic borders, as well as two autonomous urban areas. The states have their own elected assemblies. The Constitution gives the states great independence, even the right to leave the federation.
The head of state, the president, is elected for six years by the National Assembly and has mainly ceremonial duties. The prime minister is the real political leader of the country. He is nominated by the majority party and approved by the National Assembly, which consists of the Federation House and the House of Representatives. Although the country is formally a liberal democracy, the EPRDF has widespread power. Political developments have come a long way towards a one-party government, where the TPLF and the Tigrayans have long dominated.
There are also groups that continue the armed struggle that was waged against Dergen, especially the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). The EPRDF has won all elections to date, and in the 2010 election, the EPRDF and allied parties received 534 of the 547 seats in the House of Representatives. In the 2015 elections, the EPRDF secured all seats.
EPRDF leader Meles Zenawi was elected president of the transitional government in 1991 and later elected prime minister – a post he held until his death in August 2012. It was then taken over by Hailemariam Desalegn, who comes from the small ethnic group Wolaita in the south. He remained in power until February 2018, when he unexpectedly resigned. The EPRDF then experienced a deep leadership crisis – a crisis averted by Abiy Ahmed of the Oromo Democratic Party (formerly the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization, OPDO) taking over as prime minister in April 2018.
From the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. On Churchill Avenue stands the statue with “The Lion of Judah”, the symbol of the former emperors of Ethiopia.
According to legend, Ethiopia’s history goes back more than 3,000 years, when it was reportedly founded by Menelik I, son of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba. However, the research tells a different story. From around the year 1000 BCE. laid immigration from the Arabian Peninsula on the basis of trading stations along the coast in the north as for about 500 BCE. led to the formation of the Aksum empire.
Under Emperor Ezana (c. 320-350), Christianity was made state religion, but Aksum gradually became more isolated from the rest of the Christian world and disintegrated in the 600s. The kingdom was replaced by the Zagwe dynasty (1137-1270), which in turn was replaced by the Solomon Kingdom. At the same time, a number of Muslim empires also emerged in the southeastern regions, with Shoa, Ifat and Adal as the most important.
The conflicts between the Muslims and the Christian kingdom gradually increased, and in 1527 the Muslim state of Adal attacked Christian Ethiopia. Military assistance from Portugal helped the Christians beat the Muslims in 1541. In the mid-18th century, Ethiopia was on the verge of dissolution, before Tewodros in 1855 managed to rally the kingdom under a centralized power. John IV took over the throne in 1871, and had to resist Egyptian, Italian and Sudanese attacks.
At the death of Yohannes, Menelik II (1889–1913) declared himself emperor, and the power was thus moved south to Shoa. He had to defend himself against the Italians who had occupied Eritrea in 1895, and in a decisive battle at Adua, Ethiopia succeeded in defeating the invading Italian army in 1896. Menelik continued his efforts to unite Ethiopia, laying large areas in the south under the throne, thus creating the boundaries of today’s Ethiopia.
Menelik placed great emphasis on modernizing Ethiopia, and in 1887 he founded the new capital Addis Ababa. His death in 1913 led to a struggle for power. Lij Iasu was appointed a new emperor for a short period, before the power in 1916 went to Menelik’s daughter Zawditu who ruled with Ras Tafari Makonnen as regent. He was crowned emperor in 1930 under the name of Haile Selassie I. In 1936, Italians occupied Ethiopia, and Haile Selassie was forced to seek exile in London.
In 1941, with the help of British forces, he was able to return home, thus ensuring Ethiopia’s continued independence. After the war, Emperor Haile Selassie continued his modernization policy, at the same time as he started the campaign to have Eritrea incorporated into the empire. In 1952, Eritrea entered into a federation with Ethiopia, before being annexed as Ethiopia’s 14th province. This also marked the start of a protracted liberation war in Eritrea, which lasted until 1991. In the 1950s, Ethiopia built a modern defense, based on a close relationship with the United States, which undertook training of Ethiopian military personnel and weapons supplies.
Resistance to Haile Selassie increased from the late 1960s. This was compounded by a severe drought in 1972–1974, which was crucial to the revolution in 1974. It was initially led by students, but was quickly taken over by the military. Before the army, younger officers organized themselves and formed in June the Armed Forces Coordination Committee (Dergen, Amharic Committee), which deposed Haile Selassie on September 12 and assumed control. Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam managed quickly to secure absolute power within the Derg, and was the sovereign head of state. In March 1975, Ethiopia was declared a republic, and a form of Ethiopian socialism was brought to life, among other things through nationalization of private enterprises and comprehensive land reform.
However, the military regime had to defend itself on a number of armed fronts. EPLF continued the liberation struggle in Eritrea, TPLF launched its fight in 1977, and the same year Ethiopia was attacked by Somalia, which claimed areas in Ogaden. The Ogaden War was in Ethiopia’s favor when the country received military assistance from the Soviet Union, which became Ethiopia’s new ally on the Horn of Africa. Negative economic development, pressure from the EPLF and TPLF, and diminishing support from the Soviet Union as the Cold War ended, led to Dergen’s fall in 1991. The TPLF surrounded the capital, securing power through the EPRDF.
The relationship between EPRDF and EPLF in Eritrea was initially good, but deteriorated dramatically in the late 1990s. A border dispute between the two countries at the disputed land area Badme in May 1998 led to full war, which involved large troop forces and resulted in significant losses on both sides. The two countries finally signed a peace agreement in Algiers in June 2000, negotiated by the Organization of African Unity (OAU). But then the International Court of Justice in The Haguethe border commission decided that Badme and Irob should belong to Eritrea, Ethiopia refused to accept the decision. This led to a tense relationship between the two countries. Relations between the two countries were normalized in 2018 when Ethiopia declared that they would accept the Algiers Agreement, and in September of the same year, the two countries signed a peace agreement.
Ethiopia’s strategic position on the Horn of Africa has made the country involved in various regional conflicts, by supporting various guerrilla movements, especially in Somalia, but also in Sudan. Relations with Egypt have also been difficult at times, which in recent years has been further complicated by Ethiopia’s plans to contain the Nile.
Economy and business
Ethiopia is one of Africa’s largest and most resource-rich states, yet one of the world’s economically least developed countries. Poorly developed infrastructure and a small modern sector have hampered the exploitation of the significant mineral resources, while at the same time hindering agricultural development.
The ruling EPRDF party soon turned its economic policy in a market-oriented direction, and from 1995/96 the country experienced some economic growth, with the exception of the war years. Initially, efforts were made to modernize agriculture, but in recent years a more comprehensive development policy involving privatization has been launched, while the state retains some control over important industry and infrastructure.
This policy is based on the idea of the developing country, modeled on countries such as South Korea and Taiwan. The results have been significant, with official economic growth of about ten per cent between 2004 and 2009. The growth has been somewhat moderate in recent years (seven per cent in 2012), and was then estimated to be around six per cent in the coming the years.
The introduction of the development state ideology from the 2010s led to considerable state control of the economy. The first 5-year Growth and Transformation Plan (Growth and Transformation Plan, GDP I) was launched in 2010, and the emphasis on the development of public communications and infrastructure has meant that Ethiopia has experienced significant economic growth over the past few decades – some years up 12 percent. A new Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II) was launched in 2015 – until 2020.
Agriculture is the dominant economic sector, of which approximately 85 per cent of the population is directly or indirectly dependent. The most important local cereals are teff and sorghum, besides barley, corn and wheat, as well as a good deal of oilseeds, vegetables and fruits. Agriculture accounts for about 90 percent of the country’s export revenues, of which coffee alone provides about two-thirds of the total export value.
Animal husbandry is substantial, but does not produce a great economic return, although cattle, hides and skins are important export goods. Some modernization of agriculture started in the 1970s and 1980s, but this was unsuccessful. From the 1990s, the focus was on export-oriented production of fruits and flowers.
Ethiopia is believed to have large mineral deposits that are only mapped to a limited extent, and the sector contributes only around one percent of gross national income, GNI. Ethiopia is in the process of developing its hydro – electric potential, particularly through the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which started in 2011. This involves the damming of the Blue Nile which flows from Lake Tana, and the project has created significant disagreement with Egypt. Geological conditions indicate opportunities for oil deposits, especially in the southwest, near the oil fields in Sudan. Gas was found in 2017, and the recovery of these deposits will start at the Calub and Hilala fields in 2019. All gas will be exported to China. The industry, which accounts for around 10 per cent of employment, comprises substantial food industry and the production of textiles and other consumables for the local market.
Ethiopia normally have large deficits in trade and balance of payments with foreign countries, partly due to large military expenses over longer periods. The deficit has been partly covered by loans and foreign aid, and Ethiopia is one of the most dependent countries in the world.
Ethiopia’s topographical conditions make the development of a modern transport network costly and difficult. As a result of Eritrea’s detachment, Ethiopia lost access to the sea and is dependent on the port of Djibouti. There is also a rail link between Addis Ababa and Djibouti, and it is currently being refurbished. The road network has been undergoing rapid development over the past few decades, largely financed by foreign loans. Large-scale plans to develop a new port in Lamo, Kenya, are underway, and the idea is to build links to South Sudan, among others. The most important international airports are at Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. 25 smaller airports serve domestic traffic.
Knowledge and culture
Education in Ethiopia follows a system where the primary school lasts for eight years, the secondary school for two years and the secondary school for two years. Primary school is in principle free and compulsory. At the child stage, English, mother tongue and the national language are taught in Amharic. According to UNESCO, less than 50 percent were literate in 2013.
Ethiopian authorities have been investing heavily in higher education in recent years, and there are currently 34 vocational schools, colleges and universities. Academic freedom is very limited in Ethiopia, and academics who are critical of the government have long been subjected to extensive human rights violations.
Ethiopia has a long literary history and was the only African country to have developed its own extensive writing tradition prior to its meeting with Europe. Written works of historical, religious, moral and legal character were written in geez, the ancient literary language now used only in the liturgy of the Ethiopian church. The main language Amharic had also developed an alphabet, and the first modern literature in this language came into being in the early 1900s. Well-known authors are Menghistu Lemma (1925–1988), Ashenafi Kebede (1937–1998), Sahle Sellasie (born 1936), Daniachew Worku (born 1936), and Abbe Gubegna (born 1934).
Ethiopian visual arts have a long and important tradition of church paintings and icons, as well as book paintings. The art was influenced by Byzantine and European directions. Characteristic of Ethiopian painting are saturated, powerful colors, often with dark outlines. In the 1900s, interest in secular art grew, and the country gained a state art school in the 1950s. Church building has examples that can be traced back to the 300s . Unique to Christian church architecture is a number of rock churches, especially the churches in Lalibela from the 13th century. Church architecture later largely follows the central type of tukul with tapered roof. In addition, it is EthiopianThe cross is a central ornamental element of Ethiopian art, for example in architecture and crafts.