ADDIS ABABA, Sept 2 – Ethiopia, which was holding a state funeral on Sunday for long-time leader Meles Zenawi, is sub-Saharan Africa’s second-most populous country and has a history stretching back to pre-Biblical times.
– GEOGRAPHY: 1,100,000 square kilometres (440,000 square miles).
Since the Red Sea state of Eritrea broke away in 1991, Ethiopia has been landlocked. It also has borders with Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti.
– POPULATION: 84 million (World Bank, 2011). There are 87 different ethnic groups including the Oromos, who are the most numerous, the Amharas, the Tigreans, the Afars and the Somalians.
– LANGUAGES: Nearly 290 in all, the most widely used being Amharic, Oromo, English, Italian and Arabic.
– CAPITAL: Addis Ababa.
– RELIGIONS: Christians account for 62% of the population (44% Orthodox, 19% others), Muslims 34% and traditional religions 3%.
– HISTORY: With the exception of a brief period under Italian occupation, Ethiopia was never subjected to European colonisation — a rarity among African states.
Emperor Haile Selassie dominated Ethiopia between 1916 and 1974, save for a period of exile due to Italian occupation between 1935 and 1941.
After 1974, when he was overthrown in a coup and later executed, Ethiopia underwent a series of military dictatorships, notably under Mengistu Haile Mariam, who came to power in 1977 and instituted what became known as the “red terror”.
Mengistu was ousted in 1991 after a series of revolts by insurgent groups.
Meles Zenawi became president in 1991 and prime minister in 1995.
In May 1998 a brief but bloody war broke out between Ethiopia and Eritrea over a border dispute, which remains a source of tension despite a 2000 agreement.
– POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS: Ethiopia is a federal state, with considerable autonomy granted to its regions.
Most power is held by the prime minister.
– ECONOMY: Despite an boom in recent years, with economic growth of 10 percent in 2010, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world and is dependent on international aid. For the past 30 years it has frequently been hit by harsh drought, in which millions have died.
Main resources are agricultural, including coffee which makes up over 60% of its export earnings.
– GDP per capita: 374 dollars (World Bank, 2011).
– ARMED FORCES: 138,000 (IISS, 2012).
The Ethiopian army entered Somalia in November 2011 to combat Islamist Shebab insurgents, five years after a first massive intervention from 2006-2009.