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Ethiopia Index


Somali troops in the Ogaden

Detailed information on Ethiopia's prison system was limited. Only generalized data were available on prison installations.

Although the imperial regime achieved some progress in the field of prison reform, most prisons failed to adopt modern penological methods. Government-published figures on prison populations since 1974 were considered incomplete and misleading. Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization, and a few individuals who survived detention and escaped from the country have described prison conditions in a critical light.

The administrator of prisons managed the national penal system. Each administrative unit--including kifle hager (region), awraja (subregion), and wereda (district)--had at least one prison. Addis Ababa's Akaki (or Central) Prison, considered Ethiopia's most modern penal facility in 1974, was the central prison for Shewa. Akaki had separate facilities for female political prisoners. The largest number of political prisoners, approximately 1,500 in 1989, was housed in Akaki's maximum security section. Reportedly, the government had jailed political dissidents at numerous other prisons in Addis Ababa, including Fourth Division headquarters; the Third Police Station, which also served as national police headquarters and an interrogation center; and the Grand (Menelik's) Palace. Asmera, another center for political prisoners, had penal facilities at three locations. Most police stations and army garrisons also had jails. Each kebele and peasant association operated a jail in its jurisdiction. Association headquarters in each wereda and awraja also had prisons.

A prison farm at Robi in Arsi provided facilities for about 850 prisoners. In 1978 the government proposed a plan for deploying large numbers of inmates imprisoned for minor offenses to work on minimum-security state farms as part of the agricultural development plan. A single institution oversaw the rehabilitation of male juvenile criminal offenders. There was no comparable facility for female juvenile offenders, who usually were placed in the custody of their parents or guardians. In exceptional pre-1974 cases, the authorities jailed juveniles in larger prisons. After the emergence of the Marxist regime, a large but unspecified number of youthful political detainees of both genders were held in prisons and association jails. Many were released after a period of "political rehabilitation."

Historically, prison life in Ethiopia was gloomy and for political prisoners extremely brutal. The so-called process of rehabilitation often consisted of severe beatings, exhausting work and calisthenics, and political indoctrination. A public confession normally was proof of rehabilitation; in some cases, a political detainee's willingness to torture fellow prisoners was regarded as an indication of his penitence. Recreational facilities were rare, and no program existed to assist prisoners after their release. Punishment was the major concern of prison officials. Conditions in smaller, more remote prisons were worse than in the prisons of Addis Ababa, and peasant association jails were worse yet. As part of a program in the late 1970s to expand and improve the Ethiopian prison system, the Cuban government reportedly constructed new prisons that included facilities for solitary confinement.

In its 1978 report on human rights violations in Ethiopia, Amnesty International stated that Ethiopian prisons had failed to abide by UN regulations for the treatment of prisoners. A large number of prisoners might share a common cell. In the Central Prison's maximum security section, for example, Amnesty International reported that as many as fifty prisoners shared cells measuring four meters by four meters. Ad hoc committees--organized in each cell for selfimposed discipline, food distribution, care of the sick and aged, and orientation of new inmates--often communalized food and luxuries, such as tea and tobacco, donated by relatives. Complaints reached Amnesty International that cells were infested with pests and were unventilated and lacking the most basic sanitary facilities. Medical attention was generally inadequate and not even available at all facilities. Even seriously ill prisoners rarely received hospital treatment, and many died of natural causes aggravated by their imprisonment. Cell mates viewed death as a means of relieving the gross overcrowding typical of facilities housing political prisoners during the late 1970s. The authorities usually informed families of the death of their relatives by telling them "food is no longer necessary."

Although conditions in Addis Ababa's Central Prison improved somewhat by the late 1980s, most prison facilities remained substandard. In 1989 Amnesty International reported that individuals incarcerated in government-operated prisons were held in poor and sometimes harsh conditions. However, the report noted that prisons were subject to formal regulations, and there were few reports of torture.

The human rights organization also indicated that conditions in the Central Prison, which Menelik II had built in the nineteenth century, had improved in the 1980s. The prison's 4,500 inmates were allowed regular family visits, and relatives were permitted to send food, laundry, books, medicine, and other "comfort" items to jailed family members. Although the Central Prison provided basic medical treatment, the authorities authorized prisoners to see an independent physician or to seek treatment at local hospitals. During daylight hours, prisoners were free to associate with each other. The Central Prison opened a shop where small items were sold; a nursery and a primary school were established for children who stayed with their imprisoned mothers; and a secondary school was created where prisoners taught or studied. Additionally, prisoners were free to open their own recreational and educational facilities. Despite these findings, however, Amnesty International concluded that the Central Prison suffered from "inadequate medical care, poor hygiene, delays in obtaining professional medical or hospital treatment, overcrowding of cells . . . [and] . . . epidemics of cholera and meningitis." In addition, conditions at other special detention centers were substandard.

In regional prisons, Amnesty International found prison conditions to be much worse than those in Addis Ababa because of greater overcrowding and poorer hygiene and medical facilities. Prison authorities in Asmera, Mekele, and Harer subjected inmates to harsher restrictions than did authorities in the capital. In Harer and other unstable areas, civilian political prisoners often were held in military custody at military facilities under more severe conditions than were found in other prisons.

Emphasis in larger prisons was placed on work during confinement for criminal offenders, but these activities generally were limited to individuals serving long sentences. Priority was given to production, and there was little effort to provide vocational training. The largest prison industry was weaving, which was usually done on primitive looms. The prison weavers produced cotton material used for making clothes and rugs. Carpentry was a highly developed prison industry, and inmates produced articles of relatively good quality. Other prison industries included blacksmithing, metalworking, jewelry making, basket weaving, flour milling, and baking. Those short-term prisoners not absorbed into established prison industries worked in gardens that provided food for some of the penal institutions.

Income from materials produced by prison labor was applied to the upkeep of penal facilities. Prisoners received about 10 percent of the proceeds derived from the sale of items, but typically most of these funds were dedicated to communal projects intended to improve prison amenities. Although prison industries were not geared to rehabilitation, some inmates acquired useful skills. In certain cases, the government permitted work furloughs for some classes of political prisoners.

Most prison guards were military veterans who had received small plots of land in exchange for temporary duty at a prison. Under this system, the guards changed frequently as the duty rotated among a number of such persons living in the vicinity of a penal institution.

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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