Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Millennium Challenge Series #15: Ethiopia in the eyes of Modern British Empire

Dear Patriotic Ethiopians and Friends of Ethiopia:

While reviewing the recent Ethio-British relationships following the most recent Dallol Depression Fiasco, I came across this interesting information on Ethiopia from the Official British Sources.

This is a worthwhile document to review as we review the past and charter the future

Full Country Name: The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Country Profile: Ethiopia

Area: 1.1 million sq km (450,000 square miles)
Population: 71.3 million (World Development Indicators, 2005)
Capital City: Addis Ababa

People: Oromo 40%, Amhara and Tigre 32%, Sidamo 9%, Shankella 6%, Somali 6%, Afar 4%, Gurage 2%, Other 1%

Language(s): Amharic, Tigrinya, Oromigna, Guaragigna, Somali, Arabic, other local dialects and English (being the major foreign language taught in schools)
Religion(s): Orthodox Christianity 35-40%, Islam 45-50%, animist 12%, other 3-8%
Currency: Ethiopian Birr exchange rate 17 birr to £1

Major political parties: The government is run by the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), an alliance between four parties – the Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), Oromo Peoples Democratic Organisation (OPDO) and Southern Ethiopian Peoples Democratic Movement (SEPDM). Major opposition parties are the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF).

Head of State: Girma Wolde Giorgis
Prime Minister: Meles Zenawi
Foreign Minister: Seyoum Mesfin

Membership of international groupings/organisations: United Nations, African Union (AU), Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).


Ethiopia is twice the size of France. It shares borders with Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia 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.


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. For much of the 20th century Ethiopia was ruled by Haile Selassie. He became Regent in the 1920s and was crowned as Emperor in 1930. In 1936 Italy attacked Ethiopia from its colonies in neighbouring Somalia and Eritrea and went on to occupy the country until 1941. Haile Selassie spent his exile at Bath, in the UK, and was restored to power with British 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. He established a brutal Marxist dictatorship that evolved into an authoritarian communist system dominated by the Worker's Party of Ethiopia. Ethiopia was wracked by civil war for most of the Derg period, including a secessionist war in the northern province of Eritrea and regional rebellions in Tigray and Oromia. The population experienced massive human rights abuse and intense economic hardship, including acute famine.

The Derg was overthrown in May 1991 when rebels of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) captured Addis Ababa. Meles Zenawi took the leadership. After elections for a Transitional Government in 1992, he presided over the establishment of Ethiopia's current political structures. In a decisive break with Ethiopia's tradition of centralised rule, the new institutions are based on the principle of ethnic federalism, designed to provide self-determination and autonomy to Ethiopia's different ethnic groups.

BBC News Online country timeline: Ethiopia
BBC country profile - Ethiopia


Ethiopia's current constitution was adopted in December 1994, with executive powers vested in the Prime Minister. Meles Zenawi has occupied this post since 1995. Dr Negasso Gidada became President in 1995. He was replaced by Girma Wolde Giorgis in October 2001. 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 (ie the Tigray Peoples' Liberation Front (TPLF) in Tigray region, the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) in Amhara region, the Oromo People's Democratic Organisation (OPDO) in Oromia and the Southern Ethiopia People's Democratic Front (SEPDF) in Southern Nations).

General elections held on held 15 May 2005 revealed a sharp increase in public support for opposition parties. In the aftermath, the political atmosphere deteriorated. A large number of electoral complaints were made and elections were re-run in some constituencies. International observers from the European Union and the Carter Centre expressed concerns about this stage of the process. The final results, announced in September, gave the EPRDF and its affiliates control of the 547 seat parliament. Opposition parties gained a tenfold increase, with over 170 seats. However, some opposition elements contested the conduct of the elections, and a number of opposition leaders were arrested for an alleged role in stimulating violent protests in November 2005. Many opposition leaders, civil society representatives and journalists are still in detention facing serious charges ranging from treason to genocide.

Two prominent coalitions dominate the opposition scene - the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) formed in 2001 and the newer Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) formed in 2004. The CUD won 109 seats and the UEDF 52. The coalitions are made up of smaller parties. Some CUD components, notably the All Ethiopia Unity Party (AEUP), query the principle of ethnic federalism and assert a more national identity. UEDF components such as the Southern Ethiopian Peoples Democratic Coalition (SEPDC) and Oromo National Congress (ONC) assert a regional identity but operate outside the EPRDF fold. Other older political groups, such as the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), are outlawed and remain locked in the logic of armed struggle.

UN information service - IRIN


The human rights situation in Ethiopia is poor. The security forces have been implicated in several major public order incidents, not all of which have been conclusively investigated. Recent incidents have involved the killing of some 30 demonstrators in Addis Ababa in June 2005 following student protests over the elections, and violent protests around the country in November 2005 that led to more than 80 deaths. Opposition leaders have faced intimidation, harassment and the arrest of party activists in the difficult post election period.

There was violent suppression of student demonstrations in Addis Ababa in 2001 and the killing of political protesters in incidents at Tepi and Awassa in the Southern Regional State in 2002. Serious ethnic violence was directed against the Anuak community in the Gambela region from December 2003 to May 2004 in which military personnel were individually implicated. Oromo student protests in Addis Ababa 2004 met a heavy handed response followed by unrest in educational establishments across Oromia region. Detention without trial is common; prison conditions are bad and allegations of torture are widespread. Journalists in the independent press who criticise the Government are at risk of arbitrary arrest and detention. In response to growing criticism the government appointed an Ombudsman and a Human Rights Commissioner in July 2004. The principal women's and children's rights issues are Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriages.

Human Rights Annual Report 2006


Basic Economic Facts

GDP: US$9.81bn (2005)
Real GDP growth : 7.5% (2005/06)
GNI per head: US$160 (2005)
Inflation: 10.5% (2006)

Major Industries: Agriculture and animal husbandry 80%, Government and services 12%, Industry and construction 8%.

Major trading partners: Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, US, Germany, China, Japan, Italy and UK

Agriculture accounts for half the country's GDP, 60% of its exports and 80% of total employment. Rural Ethiopia is exceptionally poor. The value of Ethiopia's exports per capita is the lowest in the world. Coffee accounts for 55% of Ethiopia's exports and the economy has been hard hit by the collapse in the world coffee prices. Despite the effects of the war with Eritrea (1998-2000) GDP growth averaged 5.2% in the period of 1993 to 2000. However, low commodity prices are still affecting the economy. Growth declined sharply (3.8%) in 2003 because of a sharp fall in agricultural production resulting from the droughts in 2002 and 2003, far below the projected growth of 6%. However the combination of sound macroeconomic policies and HIPC debt relief, coupled with improved rains and harvest in 2004, should see agricultural production rebound and growth of 7.5% in 2005/2006.

The Government of Ethiopia has published its poverty reduction strategy, setting out five building blocks for sustainable development (agricultural development led industrialisation, justice system and civil service reform, governance, decentralisation and empowerment, capacity building). Meles presented his Plan of Action to Parliament in October 2002, which recommitted the government to making progress on governance and poverty reduction. Ethiopia's second generation poverty reduction strategy, the Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP) 05/06 - 09/10, is currently being finalised.

United Nations Development Programme
World Bank


Ethiopia is desperately poor. It contains one of the largest concentrations of poor people on the planet. Ethiopia ranks 170 out of 177 countries in the United Nations Human Development Report.

31 million people live on less than half a dollar a day and between 6 and 13 million people are at risk of starvation each year. Poverty in Ethiopia affects the majority of the population: 81% of the 71.3 million people live below a poverty line of $2 a day.

Livelihoods are predominantly based on agriculture, which accounts for 85% of employment, 45% of national income and over 90% of export earnings. Life expectancy is 48 years (UNICEF, 2004), under-five mortality is 123 per 1000 live births, and an estimated 41.4% of the adult population are living with HIV/AIDS (Demographic and Health Survey 2005). Food security is a major challenge. 15 million people are at risk from food insecurity, and over 8 million people are classed as chronically food insecure.

The commitment made by the Government of Ethiopia towards reducing poverty is starting to have results, which is particularly impressive given the rapid growth of the population. The Government has to expand its efforts every year just to keep up with demands.

Despite these signs of progress, Ethiopia remains unlikely to meet any of the MDG targets by 2015. If it is to have any chance of doing so, there will have to be a major improvement in economic growth and a massive increase in assistance from donors.

In January 2003 the UK signed a ten-year Memorandum of Understanding with Ethiopia which set out our mutual commitments in support of the government's poverty reduction programmes. A new DFID Country Assistance Plan for Ethiopia, which is designed to support the Government’s own poverty reduction strategy, is being prepared in 2006.

Although in 2005 DFID stopped providing general budget support - a form of aid the Ethiopian Government can use for any purpose as long as it is contributing to the reduction of poverty – we remain committed to supporting poor people in Ethiopia. Along with the World Bank and other donors, we have introduced a new mechanism for providing assistance, called the Protection of Basic Services grant.

This will ensure that poor people continue to have access to the basic services they need (specifically, education, health, agriculture and water and sanitation services) and will also be a means of holding to account local officials responsible for delivering those services. DFID will contribute a total of £94 million by the end of June 2007 for components 1, 3 and 4 of the grant, plus a further contribution of £15 million for component 2, which is for vaccines, anti-malarial bednets and contraceptives.

In addition to our assistance for humanitarian relief, which amounted to £11 million in 2005/6, we are providing £70 million over three years (2005-2007) for the Productive Safety Net Programme which aims to meet the needs of the chronically food insecure population.

Total levels of UK development assistance in Ethiopia are rising significantly, from £60m in 2004/5 to a planned £130m in 2007/8.

Provided the overall environment remains favourable, Ethiopia is expected to become the largest recipients of UK development assistance in Africa.

DFID Ethiopia
DFID Ethiopia Country Assistance Plan (2003)



Eritrea secured independence from Ethiopia after a UN supervised referendum in 1993. A dispute over the ill-defined border 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 a Boundary Commission to delimit and demarcate the border and established a 25km Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) between the two countries. A UN peacekeeping force (UNMEE) has been deployed along the TSZ since 2001. India, Jordan and Kenya are the major troop contributors to the 4000 strong force. Under the Peace Agreement, UNMEE was to remain in place until the delimitation and demarcation of the border had been completed.

The Boundary Commission 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 BC's conclusions. In November 2004 Ethiopia announced its acceptance “in principle” of the BC ruling but progress on demarcation remains stalled. The international community continues its efforts to keep the peace process on track by underlining that the BC decision is final and binding and by urging both Governments to engage in political dialogue.

UNMEE - United Nations Mission in Ethiopia & Eritrea


Relations with Somalia are fragile. Ethiopia has a Somali population of its own (Region V) and still harbours memories of Somalia's occupation of the Ogaden in 1977/78. Ethiopia has played an active part in the IGAD led peace process in Somalia but several Somali factions view Ethiopia's engagement with suspicion, particularly following the emergence of the Islamic Courts Union as a political force and allegations of Ethiopian military deployments inside Somalia. Ethiopia has better relations with Somaliland (which has declared its independence from the rest of Somalia) which include discussions over Ethiopian use of the port of Berbera.


Djibouti is important to Ethiopia because its port serves the majority of Ethiopia's import and export needs.


Diplomatic Representation

UK representation in Ethiopia: Ambassador: Mr Robert Dewar

British Embassy website - Addis Ababa

Ethiopian representation in the UK: Ambassador: Mr Berhanu Kebede

Website of the Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (London)


The UK and Ethiopia enjoy a close relationship, including a major development partnership. Prime Minister Meles was a member of the Prime Minister's Africa Commission. The main recent contacts were:

Visits to Ethiopia by the Prime Minister (for a meeting of the Africa Commission) in 2004, Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for International Development (October 2004, June 2005 and January 2006). Lord Triesman, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, FCO (December 2005).

Visits to the UK by Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, took place in March 2005, May 2004 and February 2003.

Trade and Investment

The UK is the third largest investor in Ethiopia behind Saudi Arabia and France and the fourth largest exporter, behind Japan, Germany and Saudi Arabia. UK exports to Ethiopia in 2005 totalled £32m, primarily in industrial and power generation equipment. Ethiopian exports to the UK totalled £18.45m in 2004, mainly in leathers, hides and furs.

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Ethiopia

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.

British Council - Ethiopia


For recent statement of UK government policy towards Ethiopia see Hansard website, and enter Ethiopia in the search


Travel advice: Ethiopia

Health requirements:
Fit for travel website

Last reviewed: 5 October 2006

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