Ethiopia, a country in northeastern Africa, is one of the oldest nations on the continent. Much of it consists of rugged mountains and a high, fertile plateau. Following are some facts in brief:
Capital: Addis Ababa
Area: 472,000 square miles (about three times the size of California)
People: The population of 51.4 million (1990 est.) comprises more than 70 distinct ethnic and linguistic groups; largest ethnic groups are the Omoro (40%), Amhara (25%), Tigre (12%) and Sidama (9%).
Principal languages: Amharic (official), Tigre, Galla
Religions: Orthodox Christian and Islam each about 40%; indigenous tribal religions about 15%; other 5%.
Economy: Primarily agricultural; principal products include coffee, corn, oil seeds, sorghum, sugar cane, wheat, livestock; coffee accounts for more than half of export earnings.
Currency: The basic unit is the \o7 birr\f7 .
History: Ethiopia has more than 2,000 years of recorded history. The royal line that ended with the deposition of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 claimed descent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Ancient Ethiopia reached its peak of power in the 5th Century, then was weakened by feudal wars and the rise of Islam. The nation remained independent through the colonial era until it was invaded and annexed by fascist Italy in 1935; British troops routed the Italians in 1941 and restored Haile Selassie to power. The emperor was deposed in a military coup in 1974 and died a year later. Civil war, a war with neighboring Somalia and famine have taken a serious toll since then. After a period of factional fighting, Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam was named head of state in 1977. In 1984, a communist state was proclaimed, with Mengistu as party leader. The cutoff of Soviet aid in 1991 precipitated Mengistu's downfall. A shaky coalition now governs the country; a separatist movement in the large northern province of Eritrea has achieved virtual independence for that area.
Sources: World Book Encyclopedia, Information Please Almanac, World Almanac