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Ethiopia, General Information

Location: Eastern Africa , west of Somalia

Area: 1,127,127 sq km
Boundaries: total: 5,328 km
Border countries: Djibouti 349 km, Eritrea 912 km, Kenya 861 km, Somalia 1,600 km, Sudan 1,606 km

Climate: Tropical monsoon with wide topographic-induced variation

Background: Unique among African countries, the ancient Ethiopian monarchy maintained its freedom from colonial rule, with the exception of the 1936-41 Italian occupation during World War II. In 1974 a military junta, the Derg, deposed Emperor Haile SELASSIE (who had ruled since 1930) and established a socialist state. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and massive refugee problems, the regime was finally toppled in 1991 by a coalition of rebel forces, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). A constitution was adopted in 1994 and Ethiopia 's first multiparty elections were held in 1995. A two and a half year border war with Eritrea ended with a peace treaty on 12 December 2000 . Final demarcation of the boundary is currently on hold due to Ethiopian objections to an international commission's finding requiring it to surrender sensitive territory.

Polithics of Ethiopia:The election of Ethiopia's 547-member constituent assembly was held in June 1994. This assembly adopted the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in December 1994. The elections for Ethiopia's first popularly-chosen national parliament and regional legislatures were held in May and June 1995. Most opposition parties chose to boycott these elections, ensuring a landslide victory for the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). International and non-governmental observers concluded that opposition parties would have been able to participate had they chosen to do so.

The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was installed in August 1995. The first President was Negasso Gidada. The EPRDF-led government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has promoted a policy of ethnic federalism, devolving significant powers to regional, ethnically-based authorities. Ethiopia today has 9 semi-autonomous administrative regions that have the power to raise and spend their own revenues. Under the present government, Ethiopians enjoy greater political participation and freer debate than ever before in their history, although some fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press, are, in practice, somewhat circumscribed.

Zenawi's government was re-elected in 2000 in Ethiopia's first multi-party elections. The incumbent President is Girma Wolde-Giorgis.

Language: Ethopia has 84 indigenous languages. Some of these are: Afar language,Amharic language,Anfillo language,Berta language,Bussa language,Ge'ez language,Konso language,Ongota,Oromo language,Rer Bare language,Saho language,Soddo language,Somali language,Tigrigna language,Weyto language.

Religion: The Axumite Kingdom was one of the first nations to officially adopt Christianity, when St. Frumentius of Tyre converted Ezana of Axum during the fourth centuryAD. Islam in Ethiopia dates back almost to the founding of the religion; in 616, a band of Muslims were counseled by the Prophet Muhammad to escape persecution in Mecca and travel to Abyssinia, which was ruled by, in the Prophet's estimation, a pious Christian king. Moreover, Islamic tradition states that Bilal, one of the foremost companions of the Prophet Muhammad, was from present-day Ethiopia. A small group of Jews, the Beta Israel, lived in Ethiopia for centuries, though most emigrated to Israel in the last decades of the 20th century. There are numerous indigenous African religions in Ethiopia.

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