Population, society and rights
The Ethiopian population is made up of more than 70 ethnic groups who speak more than 200 languages and dialects. Major groups include the Oromo and Somalis, who speak Cushitic languages, while the Amhara and Tigrinya-speaking groups are linguistically Semitic. At least half of the population speaks Amharic as a first or second language. Oromo and Somali have acquired increasing importance in the western and southern provinces. In higher education, English has largely replaced French and Italian.
In the north-central plateau, Orthodox Christianity of the Coptic rite is the most widespread religion. The Coptic Church of Ethiopia has historically been one of the pillars of Ethiopian imperial power and was formally dependent on the patriarchate of Alexandria in Egypt until 1959, when it became autonomous under the pressure of Emperor Haile Selassie. Coptic Christianity was the official religion of the state until the Derg revolution in 1975. According to the 2007 census, about 43.5% of the Ethiopian population is Christian Orthodox, while Protestantism and Catholicism, widespread in colonial times and pre-colonial, constitute a minority. However, the Evangelical Churches have been gaining growing influence in recent years. Muslims, which according to official estimates make up about 34% of the population, are concentrated above all in the eastern, western and southern regions. The Ethiopian Islamic community claims to be actually more numerous than stated by official estimates, self-standing at around 45-50% of the population.
The Beta Israelis, pejoratively called Falasha (‘foreigner’ in Amharic), constituted the Jewish community of Ethiopia: they were transferred to Israel, on the initiative of the Israeli government itself, between 1984 and 1991. Authorized transfers of Ethiopian Jews are continued until 2013, when Tel Aviv decreed the end of the provision, sparking many protests regarding the arbitrariness and discriminatory nature of this decision.
In contrast to the principle of self-determination embodied in the new federal Constitution, respect for civil rights remains severely limited due to the repression carried out by the government against the various opposition movements and in particular against university students. Serious violations of human rights were also perpetrated when, following the 1998-2000 war, all Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin were expelled from the country according to the logic of a mass deportation that did not spare women and children. Although the law stipulates full freedom of information, the media and the press continue to be severely restricted, officially justified by the need for exceptional measures to combat Islamic terrorism. At the end of 2013, the largest opposition party. For Ethiopia society, please check homosociety.com.
Economy, energy and environment
Wars and political instability negatively affected the Ethiopian economy throughout the 1990s. The closure of the border with Eritrea has moved most of the traffic from the Eritrean ports to that of Djibouti, which is connected with the Ethiopian capital by the railway line built by the French in colonial times and now in total renovation. The economy began to grow at a rapid pace starting from 2004, thanks also to the robust support of international aid; nevertheless it remains the poorest country in the area. Between 2008 and 2011 there was a great expansion of the services sector, which drove the growth of the industrial and construction sectors; today the tertiary sector accounts for 41% of the national product. Agriculture, thanks to highly centralized development policies, has been oriented towards export products (coffee, cereals and khat). The sector should be subject to further expansion, due to the development of infrastructures and communication routes, which will allow access to the market for a wider range of producers and the reduction of transport costs. The agricultural development is also linked to Ethiopia’s need to respond to the cyclical famines that repeatedly strike the country.
Dependence on Sudan and South Sudan for the supply of oil and hydrocarbons represents an element of fragility: between 2012 and 2013, Sudanese President Al Bashir repeatedly expressed his will to close the oil pipelines, as a retaliation for the alleged aid from the South Sudan to Sudanese rebel groups. Such a decision would also have damaged the countries supplied, such as Ethiopia. The Grand Renaissance dam, under construction on the waters of the Nile, has in turn created strong tensions, cooling relations with Egypt, which has never accepted a more equitable distribution of water resources, except for an agreement with Sudan. While Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Burundi have signed a framework agreement for the concerted management of the Nile’s waters, Egypt has always declared its opposition.
According to some government officials, the country could become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) starting from 2015. This would require a decisive revision of the country’s economic structure, still strongly statist, in the direction of greater openness.