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Ethiopia-Political Participation and Repression

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Ethiopia Index

The period immediately following the overthrow of Haile Selassie was a time of open political debate. The new regime did not have a clearly defined ideology, but it was swept along by the growing radical discourse among members of the civilian left. Initially, the Derg tried to win the support of the Ethiopian left by declaring its socialist intentions in its program statement, Ethiopia Tikdem (Ethiopia First). The economic and social policies articulated in this document were populist in tone and did little to co-opt the civilian left.

Once it became clear that the Derg had assigned to itself the vanguard role in the revolution, elements in the civilian left began to criticize the new regime. Chief among such critics was the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party (EPRP). By 1976 the EPRP had become engaged in a systematic campaign to undermine and discredit the Derg. The party was successful in infiltrating the zemecha, the CELU, and even the Provisional Office for Mass Organizational Affairs (POMOA), the precursor to the Yekatit '66 Ideological School. At the height of its activities, the EPRP included students, intellectuals, teachers, merchants, and government bureaucrats. It even had sympathizers within the military.

During the late 1970s, apart from the military, the Derg relied for support on the All-Ethiopia Socialist Movement (whose Amharic acronym was MEISON). Rather than challenge the vanguard role of the military, MEISON entered into a strategic alliance with the Derg, accepting its hegemony at least for the short term. In the highly charged political climate of the moment, MEISON engaged in vigorous debate with the EPRP over the most appropriate strategy for reconstructing Ethiopian society. The debate between the two groups first took place in their organizations' newspapers and in pamphlets but later moved to the streets in the form of bloody assassination and counterassassination campaigns. The differences between MEISON and the EPRP were fundamental. The EPRP pressed uncompromisingly for a genuine "people's democracy," whereas MEISON favored "controlled democracy" and was prepared to give the Derg some time to return to the barracks.

The friction between the two groups inspired the Derg to become more radical in its ideology and public policies. The regime determined that to survive it would have to alter its program and co-opt or destroy its civilian opponents. It pursued both goals simultaneously by setting up three organizations: the PNDR, the Yekatit '66 Ideological School, and a political advisory body called the Politburo (not to be confused with the Political Bureau of the WPE).

The Derg seemed hesitant to permit free and open political competition, although it attempted to create the impression of openness by allowing political groups to operate in a limited fashion. Organizations resembling political parties were not allowed to organize on a mass basis, but they could participate in politics through representation on the Politburo; in fact, both the EPRP and MEISON were represented on the Politburo. Also represented were Abyot Seded (Revolutionary Flame), founded in 1976 by members of the armed forces and led by Mengistu himself; the Waz (Labor) League, which claimed a working-class base and shared the EPRP's radical populist tendencies; and the Revolutionary Struggle of the Ethiopian Masses (whose Amharic acronym was ECHAAT), a largely Oromo political organization. The Politburo provided a forum where the differences among the various political groupings could be clarified and where the Derg could monitor the tendencies of its opponents.

By late 1976, MEISON had become the most influential civilian group on the Politburo. However, the growing power of Abyot Seded was also evident, as it challenged MEISON and the EPRP within the Politburo and in grass-roots institutions such as kebeles and peasant associations. To counter this threat, the Derg began to prepare Abyot Seded to assume the role of chief adviser on ideological, political, and organizational matters. The aim seems to have been the creation of a cadre of Abyot Seded members with sufficient ideological sophistication to neutralize all civilian opponents, including MEISON. Abyot Seded members received ideological training in the Soviet Union, East Germany, and Cuba. On their return, they were assigned the task of politicizing the rank and file of the military.

The EPRP's efforts to discredit and undermine the Derg and its MEISON collaborators escalated in the fall of 1976. It targeted public buildings and other symbols of state authority for bombings and assassinated numerous Abyot Seded and MEISON members, as well as public officials at all levels. The Derg, which countered with its own Red Terror campaign, labeled the EPRP's tactics the White Terror. Mengistu asserted that all "progressives" were given "freedom of action" in helping root out the revolution's enemies, and his wrath was particularly directed toward the EPRP. Peasants, workers, public officials, and even students thought to be loyal to the Mengistu regime were provided with arms to accomplish this task.

Mengistu's decision resulted in fratricidal chaos. Many civilians he armed were EPRP sympathizers rather than supporters of MEISON or the Derg. Between early 1977 and late 1978, roughly 5,000 people were killed. In the process, the Derg became estranged from civilian groups, including MEISON. By early 1979, Abyot Seded stood alone as the only officially recognized political organization; the others were branded enemies of the revolution. Growing human rights violations prompted the United States, Ethiopia's superpower patron, to counsel moderation. However, the Derg continued to use extreme measures against its real and perceived opponents to ensure its survival.

When he assumed office in early 1977, United States president Jimmy Carter curtailed arms sales to Ethiopia because of its human rights abuses. In response, Mengistu severely curtailed relations with the United States, ordering all United States military personnel and most embassy staff to leave the country. In search of an alternate source of military aid, Mengistu eventually turned to the Soviet Union. However, before the Soviet Union and its allies could establish an effective presence in Ethiopia, opposition groups stepped up their campaigns against the Derg.

In addition to the urban guerrilla warfare being waged by the EPRP, nationalist movements such as the EPLF, the OLF, the TPLF, and the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) also stepped up their military campaigns in the countryside. By the end of 1976, the Eritreans had made substantial gains in rural areas, forcing Ethiopian troops into garrisons and urban centers in Eritrea. Meanwhile, armed groups such as the OLF and the TPLF were severely testing the regime, and in 1977 the WSLF, with the assistance of Somali troops, occupied most of the Ogaden. The Ethiopian government, however, with aid from the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Eastern Europe, reasserted its authority over contested areas by the following spring (see External and Internal Opponents, ch. 5).

Once it had reestablished control, the Derg resumed the creation of institutions that would enhance its political hegemony and legitimacy. After having almost met its demise, the Derg decided to form a vanguard party. In June 1978, the Derg announced that Abyot Seded would be joined with the factional remnants of the Waz League and the MarxistLeninist Revolutionary Organization (whose Amharic acronym was MALERED), a small splinter group of MEISON, in the allembracing Union of Ethiopian Marxist-Leninist Organizations (whose Amharic acronym was EMALEDEH). The task of the front was to identify strategies for the creation of a vanguard party. The following year, Mengistu announced that he would form a commission to develop a framework for the longawaited vanguard party.

By 1978 all civilian opposition groups had been destroyed or forced underground. The EPRP had been driven out of the cities and into the mountains of the central highlands, where it tried unsuccessfully to develop the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Army (EPRA). The OLF had been driven into refugee camps in Sudan and Somalia; the WSLF had sought refuge in Somalia; the TPLF and the Ethiopian Democratic Union (EDU), a group of former nobility and officials of the Haile Selassie government, had been pushed into Sudan; and the EPLF had been forced back into its strongholds along the Sudanese border. The task then facing the Derg was to establish its popular legitimacy among the various ethnic communities opposed to its rule. The most vigorous opposition came from the EPLF and the TPLF. The OLF, the EPRP, and the Afar Liberation Front (ALF) were experiencing revivals but had yet to become militarily effective.

Data as of 1991

BackgroundUnique among African countries, the ancient Ethiopian monarchy maintained its freedom from colonial rule with the exception of a short-lived Italian occupation from 1936-41. 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 border war with Eritrea late in the 1990s ended with a peace treaty in December 2000. The Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission in November 2007 remotely demarcated the border by geographical coordinates, but final demarcation of the boundary on the ground is currently on hold because of Ethiopian objections to an international commission's finding requiring it to surrender territory considered sensitive to Ethiopia.
LocationEastern Africa, west of Somalia
Area(sq km)total: 1,104,300 sq km
land: 1 million sq km
water: 104,300 sq km
Geographic coordinates8 00 N, 38 00 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 5,328 km
border countries: Djibouti 349 km, Eritrea 912 km, Kenya 861 km, Somalia 1,600 km, Sudan 1,606 km

Coastline(km)0 km (landlocked)

Climatetropical monsoon with wide topographic-induced variation

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Danakil Depression -125 m
highest point: Ras Dejen 4,533 m
Natural resourcessmall reserves of gold, platinum, copper, potash, natural gas, hydropower
Land use(%)arable land: 10.01%
permanent crops: 0.65%
other: 89.34% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)2,900 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)110 cu km (1987)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 5.56 cu km/yr (6%/0%/94%)
per capita: 72 cu m/yr (2002)
Natural hazardsgeologically active Great Rift Valley susceptible to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions; frequent droughts
Environment - current issuesdeforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; water shortages in some areas from water-intensive farming and poor management
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea
Geography - notelandlocked - entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the de jure independence of Eritrea on 24 May 1993; the Blue Nile, the chief headstream of the Nile by water volume, rises in T'ana Hayk (Lake Tana) in northwest Ethiopia; three major crops are believed to have originated in Ethiopia: coffee, grain sorghum, and castor bean
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 46.1% (male 19,596,784/female 19,688,887)
15-64 years: 51.2% (male 21,376,495/female 22,304,812)
65 years and over: 2.7% (male 975,923/female 1,294,437) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 16.9 years
male: 16.6 years
female: 17.2 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)3.208% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)43.66 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)11.55 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)-0.02 migrant(s)/1,000 population
note: repatriation of Ethiopian refugees residing in Sudan is expected to continue for several years; some Sudanese, Somali, and Eritrean refugees, who fled to Ethiopia from the fighting or famine in their own countries, continue to return to their homes (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 17% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 4.3% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 80.8 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 92.06 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 69.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 55.41 years
male: 52.92 years
female: 57.97 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)6.12 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Ethiopian(s)
adjective: Ethiopian
Ethnic groups(%)Oromo 32.1%, Amara 30.1%, Tigraway 6.2%, Somalie 5.9%, Guragie 4.3%, Sidama 3.5%, Welaita 2.4%, other 15.4% (1994 census)

Religions(%)Christian 60.8% (Orthodox 50.6%, Protestant 10.2%), Muslim 32.8%, traditional 4.6%, other 1.8% (1994 census)
Languages(%)Amarigna 32.7%, Oromigna 31.6%, Tigrigna 6.1%, Somaligna 6%, Guaragigna 3.5%, Sidamigna 3.5%, Hadiyigna 1.7%, other 14.8%, English (major foreign language taught in schools) (1994 census)

Country nameconventional long form: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
conventional short form: Ethiopia
local long form: Ityop'iya Federalawi Demokrasiyawi Ripeblik
local short form: Ityop'iya
former: Abyssinia, Italian East Africa
abbreviation: FDRE
Government typefederal republic
Capitalname: Addis Ababa
geographic coordinates: 9 02 N, 38 42 E
time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions9 ethnically based states (kililoch, singular - kilil) and 2 self-governing administrations* (astedaderoch, singular - astedader); Adis Abeba* (Addis Ababa), Afar, Amara (Amhara), Binshangul Gumuz, Dire Dawa*, Gambela Hizboch (Gambela Peoples), Hareri Hizb (Harari People), Oromiya (Oromia), Sumale (Somali), Tigray, Ye Debub Biheroch Bihereseboch na Hizboch (Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples)
Constitutionratified 8 December 1994, effective 22 August 1995

Legal systembased on civil law; currently transitional mix of national and regional courts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Executive branchchief of state: President GIRMA Woldegiorgis (since 8 October 2001)
head of government: Prime Minister MELES Zenawi (since August 1995)
cabinet: Council of Ministers as provided for in the December 1994 constitution; ministers are selected by the prime minister and approved by the House of People's Representatives
elections: president elected by the House of People's Representatives for a six-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 9 October 2007 (next to be held in October 2013); prime minister designated by the party in power following legislative elections
election results: GIRMA Woldegiorgis elected president; percent of vote by the House of People's Representatives - 79%

Legislative branchbicameral Parliament consists of the House of Federation (or upper chamber responsible for interpreting the constitution and federal-regional issues) (108 seats; members are chosen by state assemblies to serve five-year terms) and the House of People's Representatives (or lower chamber responsible for passing legislation) (547 seats; members are directly elected by popular vote from single-member districts to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 15 May 2005 (next to be held in 2010)
election results: percent of vote - NA; seats by party - EPRDF 327, CUD 109, UEDF 52, SPDP 23, OFDM 11, BGPDUF 8, ANDP 8, independent 1, others 6, undeclared 2
note: some seats still remain vacant as detained opposition MPs did not take their seats

Judicial branchFederal Supreme Court (the president and vice president of the Federal Supreme Court are recommended by the prime minister and appointed by the House of People's Representatives; for other federal judges, the prime minister submits to the House of People's Representatives for appointment candidates selected by the Federal Judicial Administrative Council)

Political pressure groups and leadersEthiopian People's Patriotic Front or EPPF; Ogaden National Liberation Front or ONLF; Oromo Liberation Front or OLF [DAOUD Ibsa]
Flag descriptionthree equal horizontal bands of green (top), yellow, and red, with a yellow pentagram and single yellow rays emanating from the angles between the points on a light blue disk centered on the three bands; Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa, and the three main colors of her flag were so often adopted by other African countries upon independence that they became known as the pan-African colors

Economy - overviewEthiopia's poverty-stricken economy is based on agriculture, accounting for almost half of GDP, 60% of exports, and 80% of total employment. The agricultural sector suffers from frequent drought and poor cultivation practices. Coffee is critical to the Ethiopian economy with exports of some $350 million in 2006, but historically low prices have seen many farmers switching to qat to supplement income. The war with Eritrea in 1998-2000 and recurrent drought have buffeted the economy, in particular coffee production. In November 2001, Ethiopia qualified for debt relief from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, and in December 2005 the IMF forgave Ethiopia's debt. Under Ethiopia's constitution, the state owns all land and provides long-term leases to the tenants; the system continues to hamper growth in the industrial sector as entrepreneurs are unable to use land as collateral for loans. Drought struck again late in 2002, leading to a 3.3% decline in GDP in 2003. Normal weather patterns helped agricultural and GDP growth recover during 2004-08.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$70.23 billion (2008 est.)
$62.93 billion (2007 est.)
$56.64 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$26.39 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)11.6% (2008 est.)
11.1% (2007 est.)
10.9% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$900 (2008 est.)
$800 (2007 est.)
$700 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 44.9%
industry: 12.8%
services: 42.3% (2008 est.)
Labor force37.9 million (2007)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 80.2%
industry: 6.6%
services: 13.2% (2005)
Unemployment rate(%)NA%
Population below poverty line(%)38.7% (FY05/06 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: 4.1%
highest 10%: 25.6% (2005)
Distribution of family income - Gini index30 (2000)
40 (1995)
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)25.2% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $4.517 billion
expenditures: $5.34 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)44.4% (2008 est.)
17.2% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$NA (31 December 2008)
$3.651 billion (31 December 2006)
Stock of quasi money$NA (31 December 2008)
$3.258 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$NA (31 December 2008)
$6.694 billion (31 December 2006)
Market value of publicly traded shares$NA
Economic aid - recipient$1.6 billion (FY05/06)

Public debt(% of GDP)32% of GDP (2008 est.)
44.5% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - productscereals, pulses, coffee, oilseed, cotton, sugarcane, potatoes, qat, cut flowers; hides, cattle, sheep, goats; fish
Industriesfood processing, beverages, textiles, leather, chemicals, metals processing, cement

Industrial production growth rate(%)10.4% (2008 est.)

Current account balance-$1.806 billion (2008 est.)
-$827.9 million (2007 est.)
Exports$1.555 billion (2008 est.)
$1.285 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)coffee, qat, gold, leather products, live animals, oilseeds
Exports - partners(%)Germany 11.8%, Saudi Arabia 8.7%, Netherlands 8.6%, US 8.1%, Switzerland 7.7%, Italy 6.1%, China 6%, Sudan 5.5%, Japan 4.4% (2008)
Imports$7.206 billion (2008 est.)
$5.156 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)food and live animals, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, machinery, motor vehicles, cereals, textiles
Imports - partners(%)China 16.3%, Saudi Arabia 12%, India 8.7%, Italy 6%, Japan 4.9%, US 4.5% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$870.5 million (31 December 2008 est.)
$1.29 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$3.155 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$2.621 billion (31 December 2007 est.)

Exchange ratesbirr (ETB) per US dollar - 9.57 (2008 est.), 8.96 (2007), 8.69 (2006), 8.68 (2005), 8.6356 (2004)
note: since 24 October 2001, exchange rates are determined on a daily basis via interbank transactions regulated by the Central Bank

Currency (code)birr (ETB)

Telephones - main lines in use908,900 (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular3.168 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: inadequate telephone system; the number of fixed lines and mobile telephones is increasing from a very small base; combined fixed and mobile-cellular teledensity is only about 5 per 100 persons
domestic: open-wire; microwave radio relay; radio communication in the HF, VHF, and UHF frequencies; 2 domestic satellites provide the national trunk service
international: country code - 251; open-wire to Sudan and Djibouti; microwave radio relay to Kenya and Djibouti; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Pacific Ocean) (2008)
Internet country code.et
Internet users360,000 (2008)
Airports63 (2009)
Roadways(km)total: 36,469 km
paved: 6,980 km
unpaved: 29,489 km (2004)

Ports and terminalsEthiopia is landlocked and uses ports of Djibouti in Djibouti and Berbera in Somalia
Military branchesEthiopian National Defense Force (ENDF): Ground Forces, Ethiopian Air Force (ETAF) (2008)
note: Ethiopia is landlocked and has no navy; following the secession of Eritrea, Ethiopian naval facilities remained in Eritrean possession
Military service age and obligation(years of age)18 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service; theoretically, no compulsory military service, but the military can conduct call-ups when necessary and compliance is compulsory (2008)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 17,666,967
females age 16-49: 17,530,211 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 11,078,847
females age 16-49: 12,017,073 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 908,384
female: 916,354 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)3% of GDP (2006)
Disputes - internationalEritrea and Ethiopia agreed to abide by the 2002 Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission's (EEBC) delimitation decision, but neither party responded to the revised line detailed in the November 2006 EEBC Demarcation Statement; UN Peacekeeping Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), which has monitored the 25-km-wide Temporary Security Zone in Eritrea since 2000, is extended for six months in 2007 despite Eritrean restrictions on its operations and reduced force of 17,000; the undemarcated former British administrative line has little meaning as a political separation to rival clans within Ethiopia's Ogaden and southern Somalia's Oromo region; Ethiopian forces invaded southern Somalia and routed Islamist Courts from Mogadishu in January 2007; "Somaliland" secessionists provide port facilities in Berbera and trade ties to landlocked Ethiopia; civil unrest in eastern Sudan has hampered efforts to demarcate the porous boundary with Ethiopia

Refugees and internally displaced personsrefugees (country of origin): 66,980 (Sudan); 16,576 (Somalia); 13,078 (Eritrea)
IDPs: 200,000 (border war with Eritrea from 1998-2000, ethnic clashes in Gambela, and ongoing Ethiopian military counterinsurgency in Somali region; most IDPs are in Tigray and Gambela Provinces) (2007)
Electricity - production(kWh)3.46 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 1.3%
hydro: 97.6%
nuclear: 0%
other: 1.2% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)3.13 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)37,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)33,590 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)430,000 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)24.92 billion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)2.1% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS980,000 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths67,000 (2007 est.)
Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria
respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis
animal contact disease: rabies
water contact disease: schistosomiasis (2009)
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 42.7%
male: 50.3%
female: 35.1% (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 8 years
male: 8 years
female: 7 years (2007)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)6% of GDP (2006)

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