Capital: Addis Ababa (pop. 3.4 million, 2012 est.). Other cities–Dire Dawa (387,000), Nazret (271,562), Gondar (254,420), Dessie (181,042), Mekelle (273,459), Bahir Dar (266,432), Jimma (149,166), Awassa (326,675).


Population: (est.): 84 million.


People Groups: Oromo 34.5%, Amhara 26.9%, Tigre 6.1%, Somali 6.2%, Sidama 4%, Gurage 2.5%, Wolaita 2.3%, Afar 1.7%, other nationalities 3%.


Languages: Amharic (official), Tigrinya, Arabic, Guaragigna, Oromifa, English, Somali.


Religions: Ethiopian Orthodox Christian 43.5%, Muslim 33.9%, Protestant 18.6%,


Government: Type Federal republic.

Branches: Executive–president, Council of State, Council of Ministers. Executive power resides with the prime minister.

Legislative–bicameral parliament.

Judicial–divided into federal and regional courts.


Living Conditions: Education: Years compulsory–none. Attendance (elementary)–87.9%. Literacy–43%. Health: Infant mortality rate–77/1,000 live births. Work force: Agriculture–80%. Industry and commerce–20%. GDP per capita (2010-2011): $376.


History: Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world. Missionaries from Egypt and Syria introduced Christianity in the fourth century A.D. Following the rise of Islam in the seventh century, Ethiopia was gradually cut off from European Christendom. The Portuguese established contact with Ethiopia in 1493, primarily to strengthen their influence over the Indian Ocean and to convert Ethiopia to Roman Catholicism. There followed a century of conflict between pro- and anti-Catholic factions, resulting in the expulsion of all foreign missionaries in the 1630s. This period of bitter religious conflict contributed to hostility toward foreign Christians and Europeans, which persisted into the 20th century and was a factor in Ethiopia’s isolation until the mid-19th century.

In 1930 Christian regent, Haile Selassie, was crowned emperor. His reign was interrupted in 1936 when Italian Fascist forces invaded and occupied Ethiopia. The emperor was forced into exile in England. Five years later, British and Ethiopian forces defeated the Italians, and the emperor returned to the throne.

Following civil unrest, which began in February 1974, the aging Haile Selassie was deposed on September 12, 1974, by a provisional administrative council of soldiers, known as the Derg (“committee”). The Derg seized power, installing a government that was socialist in name and military in style. It then summarily executed 59 members of the royal family and ministers and generals of the emperor’s government; Emperor Haile Selassie I was strangled in the basement of his palace on August 22, 1975.


The Derg was overthrown in 1991 but the country has suffered political unrest up to the present time. Elections have not been free and fair and opposition members have suffered arrest and imprisonment. Eritrea became an independent nation in 1993.


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