About Ethiopia

Location

Ethiopia officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populated nation on the African continent, with over 91,000,000 inhabitants. It occupies a total area of 1,100,000 km2 and has its capital at Addis Ababa.

Landscape

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The Ethiopian landscape is dominated by the volcanically formed Ethiopian High lands, a region often but somewhat misleadingly referred to as plateau, since it is in fact dramatically mountains. The central plateau isolated on three sides by low lying semi- desert or desert, has an average altitude of above 2,000m and includes 20 peaks of 4,000m or higher. The Ethiopian highlands are  bisected  by the Rift Valley ,which starts at the Red  Sea then continue through  the Danakil  Depression ( a desert area that contains  one of the lowest  points on the  Earth’s  surface) and through Southern Ethiopia to Mozambique in Southern Africa.

Danakil Desert Ethiopia.

Semien MTS.NPThe party of Rift Valley south of Addis Ababa is notable for its string of Eight Lakes.  Ethiopia's largest lake, Lake Tana, is the source of the Blue Nile River. This river, which winds around in a great arc before merging with the White Nile in the Sudan, travels through great canyons, which reach depths of more than 4,000 ft. Several rivers in the southwestern regions also comprise a system of tributaries to the White Nile.

The most distinctive feature is the northern part of the Great Rift Valley, which runs through the entire length of the country in a northeast-southwest direction. In the centre of the country is a high plateau region. This rugged tableland is bordered by steep slopes on the northwest; gradual slopes lead from the centre to the Western Plains and, on the east, through Somalia to the Indian Ocean.

South West of Ethiopia Rich in Wild life

The lowlands are hot and arid. One semi-desert region, the Ogaden, covers the entire southeastern section of the country. In the north, the Danakil Desert reaches to the Red Sea and the coastal foothills of Eritrea. The western boundary of Ethiopia follows roughly the western escarpment of the central plateau, although in some regions the Sudan plains extend into Ethiopian territory.

Climate

Ethiopia shows  a wide  climatic  variation ,ranging  from the peaks  of Bale ,which  receive  periodic  snowfall , to regular  daytime  temperature  of over 50°c .in the Danakil Deseret  .as a rule ,the central highlands  have  a temperate climate  and average  daytime temperature of 16°c ,belying their proximity to the equator .the eastern   lowlands and the far south are dry and hot.

Generally, Ethiopian is in the tropical zone lying between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer. It has three different climate zones according to elevation.

Kolla (Tropical zone) - is below 1830 meters in elevation and has an average annual temperature of about 27 degree Celsius with annual rainfall about 510 millimeters. The Danakil Depression (Danakil Desert) is about 125 meters below sea level and the hottest region in Ethiopia where the temperature climbs up to 50 degree Celsius.

Woina dega (Subtropical zone) - includes the highlands areas of 1830 - 2440 meters in elevation has an average annual temperature of about 22 degree Celsius with annual rainfall between 510 and 1530 millimeters.

Dega (Cool zone) - is above 2440 meters in elevation with an average annual temperature of about 16 degree Celsius with annual rainfall between 1270 and 1280 millimeters.

Ethiopian Seasons
  • Kiremt or Meher (summer) - June, July and August are the summer season. Heavy rain falls in these three months.
  • Tseday (spring) - September, October and November are the spring season sometime known as the harvest season.
  • Bega (winter) - December, January and February are the dry season with frost in morning especially in January.
  • Belg (Autumn) - March, April and May are the autumn season with occasional showers. May is the hottest month in Ethiopia.
 The Government & Political  System 

Ethiopia adopted a new constitution that established the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) in 1995.The federal government is responsible for national defense, foreign relations and general policy of common interest and benefits. The federal state comprise nine autonomous states vested with power for self-determination.  The FDRE is structured along the lines of bicameral parliament, with the council of Peoples’ Representatives being the highest authority of the federal government while the federal council represents the common interests of the nations, nationalities and peoples of the states. Members of both councils are elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term.

The federal state is headed by a constitution president and the federal government by an executive prime minister who is accountable to the council of peoples’ Representative.  Each autonomous state is headed by a state president elected by the state council.  The judiciary is constitutionally independent.

The Federal Democratic Republic is composed of state which are delimited on the basis of settlement patterns, language, identity and consent of the peoples concerned.

The Constitution

General Provision

The constitution is the supreme law of the land.  Human rights and freedoms, emanating from the nature of mankind, are inviolable and inalienable.  In addition, state and religion are separate and there is no state religion.  Besides, the state does not interfere in religious matters and vice versa.  All Ethiopian languages enjoy equal state recognition and Amharic would be the working language of the Federal government.

  • Fundamental rights and freedoms

All persons are equal before the law and are guaranteed equal and effective protection, without discrimination on grounds of race, nation, nationality, or other social origin, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion property, birth or other status.  Every one has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the freedom, either individually or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest his/her religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.  Every person has the inviolable and inalienable right of life, privacy and the security of person and liberty.

  • Democratic Rights

Every one has the right to hold opinions and has freedom of expression without interference.  Freedom of the press and other media and freedom of artistic creativity is also guaranteed without the prohibition of any form of censorship and giving access to information of public interest.  Every person has the right to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peaceably and unarmed and to petition.  Besides, the constitution gives for any person the right to freedom of association for any cause or purpose. 

  • State Structure

The FDRE has a parliamentarian form of government and comprises nine states, Addis Ababa being the capital city of the Federal State.

  • Structure and division of powers

The FDRE comprises the Federal Government and the member states.  The Federal Government and the states have legislative, executive and judicial powers.  The House of People's Representatives is the highest authority of the Federal Government.  The House is responsible to the people.

The State Council is the highest organ of state authority.  It is responsible to the people of the state.  State government has been established at state and other administrative levels deemed necessary.  Adequate power has been granted to the lowest units of government to enable the people to participate directly in the administration of such units.  The state council has legislative power on matters falling under state jurisdiction.  Consistent with the provisions of this constitution, the council has the power to draft adopt and amend the state constitution.  The state administration constitutes the highest organ executive power and State judicial power is vested in its courts.  The state shall respect the powers of the Federal Government.  The Federal Government shall likewise respect the powers of the states.  The Federal Government may, when necessary, delegate to the states of powers and functions granted to it by the constitution.

  • The Federal Houses

These are two houses: The House of people's Representatives and the house of the Federation.

Members of the House of People's Representatives are elected by the people for a term of five years on the basis of universal suffrage and by direct, free and fair elections.

The House of People's Representatives has legislative power in all matters assigned by the constitution to federal jurisdiction.  The political party or coalition of political parties that have the greatest number of seats in the house of people's Representatives form and lead the Executive. 

The House of the Federation is composed of representatives of nations, nationalities and peoples.  Each nation, nationality and people can be represented in the House of federation by at least one member.

Members of the house of the Federation shall be elected by the state council.  The state councils can themselves elect representatives to the House of the Federation, or they can hold elections to have the representatives elected by the people directly.

  • President of the Republic

The president of the FDRE is the Head of states.   The House of Peoples Representatives nominates the candidate for president.  The nominee shall be elected president if a joint session of the House of People's Representatives and the House of the Federation approves his candidacy by a two-third's majority vote.  The term of office of the president will be six years and no person can be elected president for more than two terms.

  • The Executive

The highest executive powers of the Federal Government are vested in the Prime Minister and in the council of ministers.  The PM and the Council of Ministers are collectively responsible for all decisions they make as a body.

The Prime Minister is the chief executive, the chairman of the council of the ministers, and the commander-in-chief of the national armed forces.  The PM shall submit for approval to the House of people's Representatives nominees for ministerial posts from among members of the two Hoses or from among persons who are not members of either House and possess the required qualifications.  The Council of Minister is responsible to the PM and, in all its decisions, is responsible to the House of peoples Representatives.  The council of Ministers ensure the implementation of laws and decisions adopted by the HPRS.

  • Structure and power of courts

Supreme Federal judicial authority is vested in the Federal Supreme Court. The House of peoples Representatives can, by a two-thirds majority vote, establish nationwide, or in some parts of the country only, the Federal High Court and First-Instance Courts it deems necessary.  Unless decided in this manner, the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court and of the First-Instance courts are hereby delegates to the State Courts.  State can establish State Supreme, High and First-Instance courts.  Judicial powers both at federal and state levels, are vested in the courts.  Courts of any level are free from any interference of influence of any governmental body, government official or from any other source.  Judges can exercise their functions in full independence and can be directed solely by the law.

  • External Relations

Ethiopia sets directives on external relations in its constitution prioring to respect the equality and sovereignty of other state and not to intervene in the their internal affairs.  Besides, it works to promote external relations on the basis of equality, and respect of common interests as well as promote fraternal relations with its neighbors and other African countries.  In addition, the country wants to create close economic links with its neighbors and other countries supporting peaceful resolution to international disputes if it happens.

People

Ethiopia has been called a rich cultural mosaic due to its different languages and dialects. Just like the people of Africa in general, the people of Ethiopia are a diverse group with over 80 different languages with up to 200 different dialects spoken. The Ethiopian languages are divided into four major language groups. These are Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic, and Nilo-Saharan. The largest ethnic and linguistic groups are the Oromos, Amharas and Tigrayans.  Other numerous ethnic groups are the Guraghe and Sidamo, dwelling in the western and south-western highland territories. Towards the north-eastern border with Eritrea and Djibouti, in the wide desert areas of Danakil, there live the Afar, semi-nomadic people which have almost entirely converted to Islam. The Eastern region towards Somalia and the south eastern Ogaden region are mainly populated by Ethiopian Somali, also almost all of which are Muslims. Afar, Sidamo, and Somali are, like the Oromo, tribes of Cushitic origin. Wolayta, Dorze, Konso  and Borena, all of which have preserved their own special style of architecture, agriculture, food and clothing.  Along the banks of Omo River there are several animistic peoples of Nilotic and Omotic origin, e.g. the Karo, Galeb, Bodi, Mursi, Benna , Erbore, Tsemay and Hamer on the eastern side and the Surma, Dizi, Bume and Nyangatom on the western side of the river. They have lived isolated until a few years ago and have preserved their lifestyle practically intact up to the present. Most of these peoples express their creativity and their esthetical sensibility by painting their body and by creating fancy hair-dressings. Towards the west, near Gambela and the Sudan border live the Anuak and Nuer populations, tribes of Nilotic origin which are related to Sudanese tribes.

Religions

A large number of religions are traditionally practiced in Ethiopia, the most numerous today being Orthodox Christianity, followed by Islam. Traditional beliefs, usually categorized as Animism, attract a decreasing number of followers.

According to the national census conducted in 2007, over 32 million people or 43.5% were reported to be Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, over 25 million or 33.9% were reported to be Muslim, just under 14 million, or 18.6%, were Protestant, and just under two million or 2.6% adhered to traditional beliefs. Neither in the 2007 census, nor in the 1994 census, were responses reported in further detail: for example, those who identified themselves as Hindus, Jewish, Baha'i, agnostics or atheists were counted as "Other".

The Kingdom of Aksum in present-day Ethiopia and Eritrea was one of the first Christian countries in the world, having officially adopted Christianity as the state religion in the 4th century.

Language

Ethiopia has 83 different languages with up to 200 different dialects spoken. The largest ethnic and linguistic groups are the Oromos, Amharas and Tigrayans.

Ge'ez is the ancient language, and was introduced as an official written language during the first Aksumite kingdom when the Sabeans sought refuge in Aksum. The Aksumites developed Ge'ez, a unique script derived from the Sabean alphabet, and it is still used by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church today. Tigrigna and Amharigna (Amharic) are the modern languages which are derived from Ge'ez. Amharic is the official national language of Ethiopia. English, Arabic, Italian and French are widely spoken by many Ethiopians.

The Ethiopian languages are divided into four major language groups. These are Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic, and Nilo-Saharan.

Gender

In Ethiopia, men and women have clearly defined roles. Traditionally men are responsible for providing for the family and for dealing with family contact outside the home whereas women are responsible for domestic work and looking after the children.

Parents are stricter with their daughters than their sons; often parents give more freedom to males than females. The traditional view was men neither cook nor do shopping because housework tends to be women's job. This view continues to be held in many areas of the country.

Although many people continue to follow these traditional roles, life is constantly evolving including the role of men and women. This can be seen particularly true in urban areas where women are beginning to take a major role in all areas of employment and men are beginning to take a greater role in domestic life.

Costume

The Ethiopian traditional costume is made of woven cotton. Ethiopian men and women wear this traditional costume called gabbi or Netella. Women often wear dresses (Kemis) and netella with borders of colored embroidered woven crosses, but other designs are also used. Other ethnic groups and tribes in the south and west of the country wear different costumes that reflect their own traditions. Some tribes partially cover their body with leather but others do not wear any clothes at all, merely decorating their faces and bodies with distinctive images.

Food

The Ethiopian national dish is called wat. It is a hot spicy stew accompanied by injera (traditional large spongy pancake made of teff flour and water). Teff is unique to the country and is grown on the Ethiopian highlands. There are many varieties of wat, e.g. chicken, beef, lamb, vegetables, lentils, and ground split peas stewed with hot spice called berbere.

Berbere is made of dried red hot pepper, herbs, spices, dried onions, dried garlic and salt ingredients. Wat is served by placing it on top of the injera which is served in a mesob (large basket tray). The food is eaten with fingers by tearing off a piece of injera and dipping it in the wat.

Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christians do not eat meat and diary products (i.e. egg, butter, milk, and cheese) on Wednesdays and Fridays except the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost, the Fast of the Prophets, the fast of Nineveh, Lent, the Fast of the Apostles and the fast of the Holy Virgin Mary. According to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church belief, the faithful must abstain from eating meat and dairy products to attain forgiveness of sins committed during the year, and undergo a rigorous schedule of prayers and atonement.

Vegetarian meals such as lentils, ground split peas, grains, fruit, varieties of vegetable stew accompanied by injera and/or bread are only eaten during fasting days. Meat and dairy products are only eaten on feasting days i.e. Christmas, Epiphany, Easter and at all other times. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christians, Jews and Muslims do not eat pork as it forbidden by their religious beliefs.

Drink

The favorite drink of many Ethiopians is bunna (coffee). Bunna is drunk in Ethiopia in a unique and traditional way known as a "coffee ceremony". First the coffee is roasted, then ground and placed in a Jebena (coffee pot) with boiling water. When ready it is then served to people in little cups, up to three times per ceremony.Other locally produced beverages are tella and tej, which are served and drunk on major religious festivals, Saints Days and weddings. Tella and tej are also sold by numerous designated commercial houses all over the country.