Capital : Addis Ababa
Arsi, Bale, Gamu-Gofa, Gojam, Gonder, Ilubabor, Kefa, Shewa, Sidamo, Tigray, Welega, Welo
Size: 436 000 sq m Popn: 55 117 000
This is one of the oldest states in the world and the Imperial regime which blocked European colonisation continued to annexe lands from neighbouring countries until well into the C20th. In ancient times, the area was subject to Egypt but became independent about the C11th BC. The kingdom of Aksum flourished from the C1st to C6th AD and Coptic Christianity was introduced from Egypt around the C4th AD. Arab conquests separated Aksum from the rest of the Christian world and the kingdom began to decline.
The kingdom which became Abyssinia emerged around the C10th and was strengthend by the founding of a new dynasty in 1270. It remained independent from European colonization but was subject to several invasions and civil unrest. In 1899, the country was reunified under Menelik II who had Italian support but in 1896 Italy invaded, claiming that the emperor had promised to make it an Italian protectorate. The invasion was put down but Italy annexed Ogaden to the southeast and several western provinces.
The country expanded under Menelik and when Haile Selassie became regent in 1916 was still an extensive empire. He was king from 1928 and emperor from 1930 but was unable to prevent Italy from occupying his country in 1935 and went into exile in Britain. Ogaden was given back to Somalia which was also under Italian control but in 1941, Haile Selassie returned. He ruled until liberation movements began in the 1960s and was deposed in 1974 and detained in his palace in Addis Adaba until his death in 1975 aged 83. The Provisional Military Administrative Council established a government and Ethiopia became a socialist state with General Teferi Benti, the rebel leader, as head of state. He was killed in 1977 when the Dergue, led by Colonel Haile Mariam Mengistu, seized power.
After the revolution of 1974 provinces annexed by Menelik and Haile Selassie increased their demands for secession and the government was forced to call Soviet and Cuban support but failed to suppress uprisings by Eritrean and Somalian nationalists. The USSR threatened to cut off aid to Somalia and the fighting was ended by Cuban troops although Eritrea and Tigre continued to fight for independence. In the 1980s, a serious famine in the north of the country led to a huge emergency aid programme from Western nations and the government tried to solve the problem by resettling northerners in the more fertile south with over 500 00 being moved by 1986.
In 1987, a new constitution had been adopted and Mengistu was elected as the first president but fighting continued and Tigre province was taken by the Eritrean People's Liberation Front and the Tigre People's Liberation Front in February 1989. Mengistu put down a coup in May that year and conducted purges in the military high command. In August, peace talks with the Eritrean rebels began after former US president Jimmy Carter offered to mediate. Further droughts in the north posed threats of another famine and rebel pressure increased until Mengistu was forced to flee the country in May 1991 when the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front occupied Addis Ababa.
Representatives from political and ethnic groups met to form a transitional government until elections could take place in 1993, giving regional groups the right to form their own countries and recognising Eritrea's right to independence. In September 1991, the EPRDF leader Isaias Afwerki became secretary general of the provisional government
Ethnic groups consist of Oromo (the largest), Adhere, Nuer, Anuak, Geleb, Amharas and Tigreans . The official language is Amharic since it was imposed, along with Christianity, by the dominant Northerners under the Imperialists but English is the official second language, French, Italian and Arabic are widely understood and over 100 languages are spoken. Amharic is a Semitic language related to Arabic and Hebrew with some has Cushetic African connections. Animist beliefs are retained by 20% of the population and Islam retains some influence but many people are Christians.
Christian names often include the elements gebre - 'servant of' and haile - 'power of'. These are compounded with names of religious significance such as 'Selassie' - trinity', 'Giorgis' for St George or 'Mariam' for the Virgin Mary. Most of these names are taken from the Amharic language. Names ending in '-u' are often male as this is the masculine form of 'you'. Women's names often end with '-esh', the feminine form of 'you are'. There are no inherited surnames and people take their patronymic (father's first name) as a second name. Women keep their maiden name on marriage.
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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