th´p, officially Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, republic (2005 est. pop. 73,053,000), 471,776 sq mi (1,221,900 sq km), NE Africa. It borders on Eritrea in the north, on Djibouti in the northeast, on Somalia in the east and southeast, on Kenya in the south, and on Sudan in the west. Addis Ababa is the capital and largest city.
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.
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 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 chief 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 BC The Cushites founded a new civilization which probably traded with the Egyptians, according to ancient Egyptian texts. The Egyptian name for Ethiopians was Habashat, which is the probable origin of the name Abyssinia.
According to tradition, the Ethiopian kingdom was founded (10th cent. BC) by Solomon's first son, Menelik I, whom the queen of Sheba is supposed to have borne. However, the first kingdom for which there is documentary evidence is that of Aksum (Axum), a kingdom which probably emerged in the 2d cent. AD, thus making Ethiopia the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the most ancient in the world. Immigrants (mainly traders) from S Arabia who had been settling in N Ethiopia since about 500 BC influenced the economy and culture of Ethiopia. Aksum controlled much of the Red Sea coast and had links with the Mediterranean world.
Under King Ezana, Aksum was converted (4th cent.) to Christianity by Frumentius of Tyre. Closely tied to the Egyptian Coptic Church, the established Ethiopian church accepted Monophysitism following the Council of Chalcedon (451). In the 6th cent., Jewish influence penetrated Aksum, and some Ethiopians were converted to Judaism.
With the rise of Islam in the 7th cent. Aksum declined, mainly because its land contacts with the Byzantine Empire were severed and its control of the Red Sea trade routes was ended. Thereafter, the focus of Aksum was directed inward toward the center of the Ethiopian Plateau (mainly the regions of Amhara and Shoa), and it was largely cut off from the outside world. Aksum soon lost its cohesion, and Ethiopia lapsed into a period of competition among small political units.
In 1530–31, Ahmad Gran, a Muslim Somali leader, conquered much of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian emperor Lebna Dengel (reigned 1508–40) appealed to Portugal for help against the Somalis (a Portuguese embassy had reached the Ethiopian court in 1520). The Somali war exhausted Ethiopia, ending a period of cultural revival and exposing the empire to incursions by the Oromo. For the next two centuries the Ethiopian kingdom, centered at Gondar near Lake Tana, was beset by ruinous civil wars among princes (especially those of Tigray and Amhara), was menaced by the Oromo, and was again isolated from the outside world.
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).
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.
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, with many thousands killed on both sides, 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, 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.
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 it would demarcate the border on maps, and that the two nations would have a year to demarcate the border on the ground. 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.
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 in the subsequent months. Flooding in August–September and again in October, afflicted several Ethiopian regions; several hundred thouands people were affected.