Ethiopia is a country situated in the Horn of Africa.
It is the 2nd-most populous nation in Africa (after
Nigeria), bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti
to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the
south, and Sudan to the west.
Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa
and the second-oldest official Christian nation in the
world after Armenia. Ethiopia is also the 10th richest
country in Africa.
Map of Ethiopia
President: Mulatu Teshome Wirtu (2013)
Prime Minister: Hailemariam Desalegn (2012)
Land area: 432,310 sq mi (1,119,683 sq km); total area:
435,186 sq mi (1,127,127 sq km)
Population (2012 est.): 93,815,992 (growth rate: 3.18%);
birth rate: 42.59/1000; infant mortality rate: 75.29/1000;
life expectancy: 56.56; density per sq km: 69
Capital and largest city (2009 est.): Addis Ababa,
Monetary unit: Birr
Ethiopia is in east-central Africa, bordered on the
west by the Sudan, the east by Somalia and Djibouti,
the south by Kenya, and the northeast by Eritrea. It
has several high mountains, the highest of which is
Ras Dashan at 15,158 ft (4,620 m). The Blue Nile, or
Abbai, rises in the northwest and flows in a great semicircle
before entering the Sudan. Its chief reservoir, Lake
Tana, lies in the northwest.
Archeologists have found the oldest known human ancestors
in Ethiopia, including Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba
(c. 5.85.2 million years old) and Australopithecus
anamensis (c. 4.2 million years old). Originally called
Abyssinia, Ethiopia is sub-Saharan Africa's oldest state,
and its Solomonic dynasty claims descent from King Menelik
I, traditionally believed to have been the son of the
queen of Sheba and King Solomon. The current nation
is a consolidation of smaller kingdoms that owed feudal
allegiance to the Ethiopian emperor.
Hamitic peoples migrated to Ethiopia from Asia Minor
in prehistoric times. Semitic traders from Arabia penetrated
the region in the 7th century B.C. Its Red Sea ports
were important to the Roman and Byzantine Empires. Coptic
Christianity was brought to the region in A.D. 341,
and a variant of it became Ethiopia's state religion.
Ancient Ethiopia reached its peak in the 5th century,
then was isolated by the rise of Islam and weakened
by feudal wars.
Modern Ethiopia emerged under Emperor Menelik II, who
established its independence by routing an Italian invasion
in 1896. He expanded Ethiopia by conquest. Disorders
that followed Menelik's death brought his daughter to
the throne in 1917, with his cousin, Tafari Makonnen,
as regent and heir apparent. When the empress died in
1930, Tafari was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I.
Haile Selassie, called the Lion of Judah,
outlawed slavery and tried to centralize his scattered
realm, in which 70 languages were spoken. In 1931, he
created a constitution, revised in 1955, that called
for a parliament with an appointed senate, an elected
chamber of deputies, and a system of courts. But basic
power remained with the emperor.
Fascist Italy invaded Ethiopia on Oct. 3, 1935, forcing
Haile Selassie into exile in May 1936. Ethiopia was
annexed to Eritrea, then an Italian colony, and to Italian
Somaliland, forming Italian East Africa. In 1941, British
troops routed the Italians, and Haile Selassie returned
to Addis Ababa. In 1952, Eritrea was incorporated into
Mengistu Leads a Campaign of "Red Terror"
On Sept. 12, 1974, Haile Selassie was deposed, the
constitution suspended, and Ethiopia proclaimed a Socialist
state under a collective military dictatorship called
the Provisional Military Administrative Council (PMAC),
also known as the Derg. U.S. aid stopped, and Cuban
and Soviet aid began. Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam
became head of state in 1977. During this period Ethiopia
fought against Eritrean secessionists as well as Somali
rebels, and the government fought against its own people
in a campaign called the red terror. Thousands
of political opponents were killed. Mengistu remained
leader until 1991, when his greatest supporter, the
Soviet Union, dismantled itself. In May 2008, Ethiopias
Supreme Court sentenced Mengistu to death in absentia.
He had lived in Zimbabwe since 1991.
A group called the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary
Democratic Front seized the capital in 1991, and in
May a separatist guerrilla organization, the Eritrean
People's Liberation Front, took control of the province
of Eritrea. The two groups agreed that Eritrea would
have an internationally supervised referendum on independence.
This election took place in April 1993 with almost unanimous
support for Eritrean independence. Ethiopia accepted
and recognized Eritrea as an independent state within
a few days. Sixty-eight leaders of the former military
government were put on trial in April 1996 on charges
that included genocide and crimes against humanity.