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Ethiopia-The Tigray

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Ethiopia Index

Formed in 1975, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) was dedicated to the overthrow of the Mengistu regime (see The Tigrayan Movement, ch. 4). It survived during its early years only because of the money and weapons it received from the EPLF. The EPLF supported the TPLF because the latter formed a buffer between the Ethiopian army and Eritrea. Despite subsequent political and ideological rifts between the groups, the EPLF always maintained this buffer strategy.

On February 18, 1976, the TPLF convened its first congress, at Dima. The group of about 170 people in attendance elected a seven-member Central Committee. During May and June 1976, the rebels gained international attention by kidnapping a British family and a British journalist. By the end of the year, the TPLF had about 1,000 full-time fighters. It confined its military activities to attacking traffic along the main road between Mekele, the Tigrayan capital, and Asmera. Within two years, however, the TPLF had increased its strength to the point where the group controlled large parts of the countryside and threatened the Ethiopian army's supply lines.

Throughout the late 1970s and the early 1980s, Tigray, like Eritrea, suffered from the Derg's annual military counteroffensives in north-central Ethiopia. During these operations, the TPLF and the EPLF coordinated many of their military actions against government forces. However, in 1983 a rift developed between the groups after the TPLF proposed a unification of all anti-Mengistu elements, including the EPLF. Relations further deteriorated when the EPLF failed to inform the TPLF that it had started secret peace talks with Addis Ababa. As a result, the TPLF refrained from supporting the EPLF during the government's 1985 counteroffensive in northern Ethiopia. Although there was a brief reconciliation after the EPLF's victory at Afabet, the TPLF-EPLF estrangement continued for the next several years. In March 1987, for example, the TPLF refused to be represented at the EPLF's Unity Congress.

In February 1989, the TPLF, which by then included at least 20,000 full-time fighters plus an unknown number of parttime fighters, abandoned hit-and-run guerrilla tactics. The TPLF, with support from the EPLF, which wanted to open a second front against Mengistu, launched a conventional attack against the town of Inda Silase in western Tigray. The TPLF destroyed a 20,000-member Ethiopian army force. Ethiopian military units then withdrew from Mekele and the rest of Tigray without a fight. This defeat undoubtedly helped trigger the unsuccessful May 1989 coup against Mengistu.

Although government troops subsequently returned to southern Tigray and reoccupied a few towns and villages, the political and military initiative remained with the TPLF. On March 10, 1989, the TPLF opened its third congress. Apart from passing numerous antigovernment resolutions, the delegates pledged to support the EPRDF, which had been formed earlier in the year by the TPLF and a group known as the Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (EPDM), whose members were primarily Amhara. In time, the EPRDF also included the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO) and the Ethiopian Democratic Officers' Revolutionary Movement, both of which had been created by the TPLF in May 1990. Tigrayan strategists hoped the unification of these groups eventually would enable the TPLF to widen its base of support beyond Tigray. Elements in support of the government, however, denounced the EPRDF as nothing more than a TPLF organization in Amhara clothing.

In August and September 1989, TPLF forces, operating within the framework of the EPRDF, moved south into Welo. They overran towns along the main road, routed numerous Ethiopian units, captured an array of Ethiopian army equipment, and forced the temporary evacuation of the regional capital of Dese. By the end of 1989, the EPRDF had succeeded in defeating an Ethiopian garrison at Debre Tabor. This victory enabled Tigrayan forces to cut the road between the cities of Gonder and Bahir Dar and to force their way into northern Shewa, less than 160 kilometers from Addis Ababa. Mengistu responded to these developments by persuading the National Shengo to order the mobilization of all former soldiers and police up to age seventy. Additionally, the National Shengo authorized increased military spending, assigned all transport to the war effort, and armed local populations in war zones. However, these actions failed to improve the government's battlefield performance against the EPRDF.

During 1990 the EPRDF, which controlled all of Tigray with the exception of one small government outpost, concentrated on consolidating the gains it had made the previous year, although in June the insurgents repulsed a major offensive by the Ethiopian army. The year 1991, however, saw the EPRDF launch three offensives in rapid succession that destroyed the Ethiopian army and the Mengistu regime. On February 23, the rebels began Operation Tewodros to drive the government out of Gonder and Gojam, and they succeeded after only two weeks of fighting. The inhabitants of both regions supported the operation largely because of their opposition to the heavy conscription campaign of the previous year and because of their hatred of the villagization program.

In March the EPRDF launched Operation Dula Billisuma Welkita into Welega, which resulted in the capture of the regional military headquarters in Nekemte. Insurgent units then advanced south and east and soon occupied Fincha, site of an electric power station that served Addis Ababa. In mid-May Operation Wallelign was begun along the Welo front. Within hours the rebels had overrun Dese and Kembolcha. By May 20, the EPRDF had captured all government positions in southern Welo and northern Shewa and were advancing on Addis Ababa from the west. The next morning, Mengistu fled the country.

In the aftermath of these three campaigns, the Ethiopian armed forces disintegrated. Tens of thousands of soldiers crowded into Addis Ababa and sold their weapons or used them to rob civilians. Countless other soldiers went home, while many senior army and air force officers fled to Djibouti, Kenya, or Sudan. Ethiopian naval personnel and vessels dispersed to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Djibouti.

During the final week of the war, the EPRDF slowly advanced toward Addis Ababa, capturing the air force base at Debre Zeyit along the way. The final battle for the capital occurred on the morning of May 28, when the EPRDF entered the city. Resistance to the takeover consisted largely of street fighting and a low-level clash at the Grand (Menelik's) Palace. About 600 to 800 people, both civilians and combatants, reportedly died during the operation. For the TPLF, the long road from the hills of Tigray had finally ended in victory.

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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