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Country Facts

Area: 1.13 million sq km (437,794 sq miles)
Population: 90,873,739 (2011 est.)
Capital City: Addis Ababa
People: Oromo 34.49%, Amhara 26.89%, Southern peoples and nationalities (Gurage Sidama/Walaita/Others) 8.85%, Somali 6.20%, Tigray 6.07%, Others (combined smaller ethnic groups) 17.5% (based on the 2007 census)
Language(s): Amharic, Tigrinya, Afan Oromo, Southern languages (eg Guragigna, Sidaminga), Somali, Arabic, other local dialects and English (the major foreign language taught in schools)
Religion(s): Orthodox Christianity 40.5%, Protestant 19.6%, Islam 35.4%, traditional 3.1%; Catholic 0.8%; others 0.7% (based on the 2007 census)
Currency: Ethiopian Birr, exchange rate 27 birr to £1
Major political parties: The government is run by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), an alliance between four parties – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO) and the Southern Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Movement (SEPDM) – along with six other smaller affiliated ethnic parties.
The largest opposition movement is the coalition known as the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (Medrek in Amharic) which comprises the Oromo Federalist Congress, Arena Tigray, the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, the South Ethiopia Peoples’ Democratic Coalition and the Ethiopian Social Democratic Party. Other major opposition parties include the Ethiopian Democratic Party and the All Ethiopian Unity Party.
Head of State: (President) Girma WoldeGiorgis (with little formal power)
Prime Minister: Meles Zenawi (with full executive powers)
Foreign Minister: Hailemariam Dessalegn
Membership of international groupings/organisations: United Nations, African Union (AU), Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

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Basic Economic Facts

GDP: US$29.72bn (2010, World Bank)
Real GDP growth: 8.7% (2010, World Bank)
GDP per capita: US$344 (2010, World Bank)
Inflation: 28.8% (2011, CIA)
Major Industries: Agriculture and animal husbandry 80%, Government and services 12%, Industry and construction 8%.
Major trading partners: China, Germany, Saudi Arabia, US, Belgium, and Sudan. Agriculture accounts for nearly half the country's GDP, 60% of its exports and 80% of total employment. Rural Ethiopia is exceptionally poor. However, the last five years have seen impressive growth rates of averaging around 10%. Inflationary pressures are growing, especially on food prices. The government has recently responded to these and IMF recommendations to bring inflation under closer control.

World Bank (

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Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa. It resisted colonisation by Italy and achieved international recognition in 1896 as a traditional monarchy, led by Emperor Menelik II. For much of the 20th century Ethiopia was ruled by Haile Selassie, crowned as Emperor in 1930. In 1936 Italy attacked Ethiopia from its colonies in neighbouring Somalia and Eritrea and occupied the country until 1941. Haile Selassie spent his exile in the UK, and was restored to power with British and Commonwealth military assistance. His long rule ended with the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974.

Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam emerged as the leader of the Provisional Military Administrative Council (known as the Derg) in 1977 which became a brutal Marxist dictatorship. Ethiopia was wracked by civil war for most of the Derg period, including a secessionist war in the northern province of Eritrea, an irredentist war with Somalia, and regional rebellions - notably in Tigray and Oromia. The population experienced massive human rights abuse and intense economic hardship, including acute famine in 1984-5.The Derg was overthrown in May 1991 when rebels of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) captured Addis Ababa. Meles Zenawi took the leadership.

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Eritrea secured independence from Ethiopia after a UN supervised referendum in 1993. A dispute over the ill-defined border with Ethiopia flared into military conflict in May 1998. There were an estimated 100,000 casualties. Hostilities concluded with the signing of the Algiers Peace Agreement of December 2000. This established the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) to delimit and demarcate the border and established a 25km Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) between the two countries. A UN peacekeeping force (UNMEE) was deployed along the TSZ from 2001 until 2008. UNMEE was to remain in place until the delimitation and demarcation of the border had been completed. However, following restrictions imposed by Eritrea that made it impossible for UNMEE to carry out its role, the Security Council terminated the mandate of UNMEE in July 2008.

The EEBC announced its decision on the border on 13 April 2002. Demarcation was due to follow in 2003. However, when it became clear that the town of Badme (where the hostilities started) had been awarded to Eritrea, Ethiopia challenged the EEBC's conclusions. In November 2004 Ethiopia announced its acceptance "in principle" of the EEBC ruling but there was little progress towards demarcation. In 2007 Ethiopia then stated its acceptance of the EEBC’s decision “without precondition” but has said relations need to be normalised between the two sides before the decision should be implemented. The international community has underlined that the EEBC decision is final and binding and has urged both governments to engage in political dialogue. Unable to physically demarcate the border on the ground the EEBC instead issued a ‘virtual demarcation’ showing where the boundary should be.


Ethiopia has a restive Somali population of its own (the Somali Regional State) - where an active insurgency is on-going – and still harbours memories of Somalia's occupation of the Ogaden in 1977-78. It has therefore played an active role in the peace-process in Somalia. However, Ethiopian intentions have been viewed with suspicion by various Somali factions, exacerbated by the Ethiopia’s military intervention from 2006 to 2009. Ethiopia has close relations with Somaliland (which has declared its independence from the rest of Somalia) and makes use of the Somaliland port of Berbera.

Ethiopia intervened in Somalia in December 2006 in support of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), then under pressure from the Mogadishu-based Islamic Courts Union. Ethiopia withdrew their troops from Somalia in 2009. The African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) remains in Mogadishu. Ethiopian troops again crossed into Somalia in support of the TFG on 19 November 2011. Ethiopia has made it clear that it will withdraw as soon as other (AMISOM) forces are ready to backfill.


Djibouti is vital to Ethiopia because its port serves the majority of Ethiopia's import and export needs. Relations are generally good although there have been periodic disagreements over the terms of Ethiopia's use of the port.

Ethiopia's Relations with the UK

Diplomatic Representation

UK representation in Ethiopia: Ambassador Greg Dorey
Ethiopian representation in the UK: Ambassador Berhanu Kebede


The UK and Ethiopia enjoy a close relationship, including a major development partnership. The main recent contacts were:


-- February 2012, Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi

-- June 2011, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn

-- March 2010, Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi

-- December 2009, Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi

-- November 2007, The former Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Seyoum Mesfin

-- March 2005, Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi

-- May 2004, Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi

-- February 2003, Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi


-- January 2012, Henry Bellingham, Minister for Africa

-- January 2012, Andrew Mitchell, DFID Secretary of State

July 2011, William Hague, Foreign Secretary

-- July 2011, Henry Bellingham, Minister for Africa

-- September 2010, Andrew Mitchell, DFID Secretary of State

-- January 2010 Baroness Kinnock, former Minister for Africa

-- January 2009, Lord Malloch Brown, former FCO Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State

-- October 2008, Douglas Alexander, former DFID Secretary of State

-- January 2008, Lord Malloch Brown, former FCO Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State

-- November 2007, Baroness Shriti Vadera, former DFID Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State

Cultural Relations

The British Council is the focal point for cultural relations between Britain and Ethiopia and has been established in Addis Ababa since 1943. It is making a positive contribution to Ethiopia's social and educational development through a range of programmes aimed at supporting the youth and promoting a better understanding of cultural diversity. It also manages the Chevening scholarship and fellowship schemes. The scholarship scheme has so far enabled over 150 Ethiopian students the opportunity to study for Masters Degrees in the UK. In 2009 it opened a modern new office in Addis Ababa next to the British Embassy.

British Council, Ethiopia (


For recent statements of UK Government policy towards Ethiopia see the Hansard website (, and enter Ethiopia in the search engine.

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Ethiopia is twice the size of France. It shares borders with Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan. It is landlocked. It is divided into nine ethnic-based regions plus the capital, Addis Ababa, and the city administration of Dire Dawa.

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Ethiopia’s key trade partners are: China, Germany, US, Saudi Arabia, Belgium and the Sudan (2010 data)>

Specialised tourism from the UK to holy sites, and for bird watching, eco-tourism and trekking is also increasing. Year on year, more people from Britain are visiting Ethiopia. An example of the strong links in this area is the TESFA project around Lalibela. The Amharic word for Hope, TESFA, also stands for 'Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Development', an NGO that was established with British support and that assists local Ethiopian communities to develop and manage their tourist potential.

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Ethiopia (


Ethiopia contains one of the largest concentrations of poor people on the planet and ranks 157 out of 169 countries in the 2010 United Nations Human Development Index. Eighty-one percent of people live below the poverty line and about 10 million are at risk of starvation.

Livelihoods are predominantly based on agriculture, which accounts for 80% of employment, 45% of national income and over 90% of export earnings. Life expectancy is 53 years, infant mortality before age five is 123 per 1,000 live births, and an estimated 2.1% of the adult population are living with HIV/AIDS (CIA, 2009). Food security is a major challenge.

Poverty indicators in Ethiopia are improving. Significant progress is being made towards the Millennium Development Goals, with Ethiopia on track to meet Goal 1 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger), Goal 2 (achieve universal primary education), Goal 6 (combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases) and Goal 8 (develop a global partnership for development). Good progress is also being made towards Goal 4 (reduce child mortality) and Goal 7 (ensure environmental sustainability). In the last five years, six million more children have been able to go to primary school, with enrolment now at 83%. Malaria cases have reduced by 50%. The use of contraception is increasing rapidly helping families to plan and space their children. The HIV infection rate is reducing. Infant mortality has fallen by over 25% since 2000. Fifty-two percent of the population now has access to potable water.

In January 2003 the UK signed a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding with Ethiopia which set out our mutual commitments in support of the government's poverty reduction programmes. DFID’s Country Assistance Plan for Ethiopia supports the Government’s own poverty reduction strategy. Although DFID stopped providing general budget support in 2005, a new mechanism for providing assistance, called the Protection of Basic Services grant, was introduced in collaboration with the World Bank and other donors. This ensures that poor people continue to have access to the basic services they need (specifically, education, health, agriculture and water and sanitation services) and is be a means of holding to account local officials responsible for delivering those services.

DFID is the second largest bilateral donor (after the US) among a large and growing group of donors in Ethiopia. Following the Bilateral Aid Review outcome, DFID Ethiopia's new Operational Plan commits to meet the needs of the very poorest through continuing support to proven programmes that will bring humanitarian assistance, social protection, healthcare, education and water to millions of people. The UK expects to spend £ 320m in Ethiopia in financial year 2011/12.

DFID Country Profile: Ethiopia (

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Ethiopia's current constitution was adopted in December 1994, with executive powers vested in the prime minister, the post Meles Zenawi has occupied since 1995. In a decisive break with Ethiopia's tradition of centralised rule, today’s institutions are based on the principle of ethnic federalism, designed to provide self-determination and autonomy to Ethiopia's different ethnic groups. Elections in 1995 and 2000 gave the component parties of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) an overwhelming majority of seats in the national parliament. The regional governments were similarly dominated by the EPRDF-affiliated parties.

General elections on 15 May 2005 revealed a sharp increase in public support for opposition parties. The final results gave the EPRDF and its affiliates control of the 547-seat parliament, but opposition parties saw a tenfold increase, with 176 seats.

In the aftermath, the political atmosphere deteriorated. A large number of electoral complaints were made and elections were re-run in some constituencies. Protests were met with a police response that left 199 people, including six policemen, dead. Opposition elements contested the conduct of the elections, and over 100 opposition members were arrested for an alleged role in stimulating violent protests in June and November 2005. After being detained for nearly two years, the courts found them guilty, but most were pardoned and released in September 2007. One prominent opposition leader, Ms Birtukan Mideksa, Chairwoman of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, was pardoned and released, but then re-arrested in December 2008 after denying asking for a pardon. She was finally re-released in October 2010.
Local elections in 2008 were largely uncontested with the ruling EPRDF sweeping the board and winning 99% of the 3.7 million seats. National elections were held on 23 May 2010 which saw the EPRDF win 90% of the popular vote and 545 of 547 parliamentary seats, 99.6% of the total. The poll was peaceful, but many, including the EU’s Election Observation Mission, expressed concerns that restrictions placed on political space had critically hampered the opposition. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2014.

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The 1994 Ethiopian Constitution and many other laws offer strong protection for human rights, but these rights do not always translate into practice. Since the controversial elections of 2005, respect of human rights in Ethiopia has markedly deteriorated. Street demonstrations in Addis Ababa in June 2005, following the disputed elections, and a further wave of violent protests around the country in November 2005, resulted in 199 people killed (according to the official inquiry) including several policemen. Opposition leaders continued to face intimidation, harassment and the arrest of party activists in the difficult post-election period. Oromo activists reported continuing cases of harassment and imprisonment. During 2007 until the present time an on-going insurgency in the Somali regions has met with a strong government response with numerous unconfirmed accounts of atrocities and detention.

Since 23 June 2011, the Ethiopian authorities have arrested 43 people on terrorist charges. Almost all are either opposition figures or independent journalists. Two Swedish journalists were also convicted in December of supporting terrorism and sentenced to eleven years in prison. The Ethiopian Government has publically stated that it has clear evidence that all those arrested were supporting terrorist groups. However, the impact of the arrests is to close further Ethiopia’s restricted political space.

Comprehensive information on the human rights situation is not available despite the establishment of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and Ombudsman in 2004. The introduction of Civil Society Organisations legislation in 2010 placed tight restrictions on the activities of civil society engaged in political or rights-based work. Many were forced to cease their work, and others were obliged to change their focus away from political advocacy. International monitoring bodies note that detention without trial is common; prison conditions are very poor and allegations of torture under detention are common. Journalists in the independent press who criticise the government are at risk of arbitrary arrest and detention. The principal women's and children's rights issues are Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), violence and child marriages.

The UK provides £5million to a multi-donor programme to strengthen key democratic institutions such as the Human Rights Commission and the regional and federal parliaments. We support the constructive dialogue between government and civil society aimed at creating an enabling environment for these organisations to carry out their work. A particular priority for UK governance work in the next few years is security in the developing regional states, and access to justice for women and girls.

Human Rights Annual Report (

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Last Updated: February 2012

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