Ethiopia Country Overview

Ethiopia, a republic located in East Africa, is bordered to the northwest by Eritrea and the Republic of Djibouti, to the east and southeast by Somalia, to the southwest by Kenya, and to the west and northwest by Sudan. The surface is of 1,128,176 km2. The capital is Addis Ababa.


The Ethiopian massif, with an average altitude of 1,675 m, covers more than half of the country’s surface. It is divided by the Great Rift Valley and cut by numerous rivers and deep valleys. Lake Tana, where the Blue Nile is born, is located in the north. The north-eastern margins of the massif are defined by steep cliffs in the direction of Danakil’s depression. The west bank descends smoothly into the desert areas of Sudan. From the far south, the plateau extends to Lake Turkana (or Lake Rudolf) in Kenya. The climate varies according to the altitude: tropical up to 1,800 m, subtropical between 1,830 and 2,440 m, and temperate at the highest altitudes.


According to PETSINCLUDE, the population (1993) is 51,070,000 inhabitants, with a density of 45 inhabitants / km2. The ethnic composition is very diverse. The following stand out: the Oromo (40% of the population), the Amhara, people with a partially Semitic origin, the Tigers (32%), the Shangalla (5%) and the Somalis (5%). Addis Ababa (1990) has 1,912,500 inhabitants. Other large cities are Diredawa (117,000 inhabitants) and Dese (1989) with 87,601 inhabitants. Approximately half of the population is Christian. The Ethiopian Orthodox United Church, one of the oldest in the Christian world and linked to the Coptic Egyptian Church, was the state church until 1974; there is also a high percentage of Muslims and animists. Ethiopia was home to the falhashas. More than 70 languages ​​are spoken, most belonging to the Semitic and Cusitic branches of the Afro-Asian family. The liturgical language of the Ethiopian Church, ge’ez, it gave rise to the group of languages: Amharic (official language and spoken by 60% of the population), tigrinya and tigré. The 1987 Constitution established a republic led by a president elected by Shengo, a unicameral national assembly. In 1994, a new constitution was adopted.


In the early 1990s, Ethiopia was one of the poorest nations on Earth. Its gross domestic product in 1991 was 6,100 million dollars, about 120 dollars per capita. Hunger is a constant threat. The economy continues depending on the income of the agricultural sector, especially coffee. Ethiopian birr is the official currency, but much of the trade uses trueque. Mining is not important, although deposits of oil and natural gas have been found. There are considerable deposits of potassium that have not yet been explored. The industry is engaged in the processing of agricultural and textile products.


Fossil remains of hominids found in the Awash valley date back approximately 3 million years, and further evidence suggests continued human occupation. During the first millennium BC, Semitic peoples of Sheba crossed the Red Sea and conquered the Camitas of the coast. Until the 2nd century AD, the victors had established the kingdom of Aksum, ruled by the Solomonic dynasty, which considered itself a descendant of the biblical king Solomon and the queen of Sheba.

Aksum converted to Christianity in the 4th century, following the tradition of Coptic Christians in Egypt. During the reign of Zara Yakub (1434-1468) a political system emerged that would last until the middle of the 20th century, characterized by absolutist monarchs who demanded military service and tithes in exchange for land grants. After the death in 1706 of Iyasus I, who reigned since 1682, another long period of dynastic confusion and decay began, during which the country was divided into several regions. The only unifying force throughout this period was the Ethiopian Church. With the support of high ecclesiastical hierarchies, Ras Kassa was crowned as an emperor with the name of Theodore II in 1855. By 1870, the Empire was little more than a collection of semi-independent states.

Menelik II, who established his capital in Addis Ababa, managed to unify the provinces of Tigre and Amhara in his kingdom of Shoa. Since the opening of the Suez Canal, the coast of the Red Sea has become a very attractive area for European powers. After dictator Benito Mussolini came to power in 1935, Italy invaded the country, but Emperor Hailé Selassie was restored to the throne by British and Ethiopian forces in 1941. After World War II, the United Nations (UN) voted to federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia.

Once it was established, Hailé Selassie ended Eritrea’s autonomy, giving way to the national resistance movement and the beginning of a military confrontation. Hailé Selassie largely ignored urgent domestic problems (inequality in the distribution of wealth, underdevelopment, corruption, inflation, unemployment and the severe droughts and famines in the north between 1972 and 1975) and in 1974 a strong opposition began that culminated in a coup. military. The Provisional Military Administrative Council, or Dergue, was created, which in 1974 announced the establishment of a socialist economy. In 1975, the land was nationalized, the monarchy abolished and the Republic established. During the 1970s, Mengistu Hailé Mariam was the main political figure, facing strong opposition.

The government received military aid from Cuba and the USSR, and in 1984 Mengistu established a Marxist-Leninist regime. However, the great famine and drought, coupled with the civil war, prevented international aid throughout the 1980s. In 1990, the collapse of the Soviet blockade and the drastic restriction of its aid, made the Mengistu government vulnerable. After mediation by the United States in peace talks, an interim national government was formed. Under the presidency of Meles Zenawi, the new government met with the enormous work of rebuilding the nation. In 1995, multiparty elections were held. After voters approved the secession in 1993, Eritrea declared its independence, which was recognized by Ethiopia.

Ethiopia Country Overview

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