1. Preface i This Country of Origin Information Key Documents (COI Key Documents) on Ethiopia has been produced by COI Service, UK Border Agency (UKBA), for use by officials involved in the asylum/human rights determination process. It provides general background information about the issues most commonly raised in asylum/human rights claims made in the United Kingdom. The COI Key Documents includes information available up to 1 July 2009. It was issued on 10 August 2009.
ii The COI Key Documents is an indexed list of key reports, papers and articles produced by a wide range of recognised external information sources. It does not contain any UKBA opinion or policy.
iii For UK Border Agency users, the COI Key Documents provides direct electronic access to each source referred to in the document, via a link on the source numbers in the index and list of sources. For the benefit of external users, the relevant web link has also been included, together with the date that the link was accessed.
iv As noted above, the documents identified concentrate mainly on human rights issues. By way of introduction, brief background information on Ethiopia is also provided. Please note, this background material is not intended to provide a summary of the material contained in the documents listed.
v This COI Key Documents and the documents listed are publicly disclosable.
vi Any comments regarding this COI Key Documents or suggestions for additional source material are very welcome and should be submitted to COI Service as below.
Independent Advisory Group on Country Information vii The Independent Advisory Group on Country Information (IAGCI) was set up in March 2009 by the Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency to make recommendations to him about the content of the UKBA’s country of origin information material. The IAGCI welcomes feedback on UKBA’s COI Reports, COI Key Documents and other country of origin information material. Information about the IAGCI’s work can be found on the Chief Inspector’s website at http://www.ociukba.homeoffice.gov.uk viii In the course of its work, the IAGCI reviews the content of selected UKBA COI documents and makes recommendations specific to those documents and of a more general nature. A list of the COI Reports and other documents which have been reviewed by the IAGCI or the Advisory Panel on Country Information (the independent organisation which monitored UKBA’s COI material from September 2003 to October 2008) is available at http://www.ociukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/ Return to Contents
Go to sources
2. Background information on Ethiopia Full Country Name: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
Area: 1,127,127 sq km.
Population: 82,544,840 (July 2008 est.).
Capital City: Addis Ababa.
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).
Religions: Christian 60.8% (Orthodox 50.6%, Protestant 10.2%), Muslim 32.8%, traditional 4.6%, other 1.8% (1994 census).
Major political parties and leaders: Afar National Democratic Party or ANDP; Gumuz Benishangul People's Democratic Unity Front or BGPDUF [Besse Mulualem]; Coalition for Unity and Democratic Party or CUDP [Ayele Chamisso]; Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front or EPRDF [Meles Zenawi] (an alliance of Amhara National Democratic Movement or ANDM, Oromo People's Democratic Organization or OPDO, the South Ethiopian People's Democratic Front or SEPDF, and Tigrayan Peoples' Liberation Front or TPLF); Gurage Nationalities' Democratic Movement or GNDM; Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement or OFDM [Bulcha Demeksa]; Omoro People's Congress or OPC [Imerera Gudina]; Somali People's Democratic Party or SPDP; United Ethiopian Democratic Forces or UEDF [Beyene Petros].
Head of state: President Woldegiorgis Girma.
Head of government: Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
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: 9 October 2007 election results: Girma Woldegiorgis elected president; percent of vote by the House of People's Representatives - 79%
(CIA World Factbook, 16 June 2009) 
Public holidays: Ethiopian Christmas - 7 January; Ethiopian Epiphany - 19 January; Battle of Adwa Victory Day - 2 March; Ethiopian Good Friday - exact date varies from year to year; Ethiopian Easter - exact date varies from year to year; Labour Day - 1 May; Patriots’ Victory Day - 5 May; Overthrow of the Dergue regime - 28 May; Ethiopian New Year - 11 September; Finding of the True Cross - 27 September; Birth of the Prophet Mohammed - exact date varies from year to year; Eid Al-Adha - exact date varies from year to year. (See Ethiopia.com) ; (Embassy of Ethiopia in Berlin) 
Return to Contents
Go to sources
Geography The US State Department Background Note on Ethiopia, dated June 2009, stated:
“Ethiopia is located in the Horn of Africa and is bordered on the north and northeast by Eritrea, on the east by Djibouti and Somalia, on the south by Kenya, and on the west and southwest by Sudan. The country has a high central plateau that varies from 1,800 to 3,000 meters (6,000 ft.-10,000 ft.) above sea level, with some mountains reaching 4,620 meters (15,158 ft.). Elevation is generally highest just before the point of descent to the Great Rift Valley, which splits the plateau diagonally. A number of rivers cross the plateau - notably the Blue Nile flowing from Lake Tana. The plateau gradually slopes to the lowlands of the Sudan on the west and the Somali-inhabited plains to the southeast.” [2c]
Return to Contents
Go to sources
Map of Ethiopia weblink:
 Return to Contents
Go to sources
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Country Profile on Ethiopia
(17 April 2008 version) stated:
“For much of the 20th century Ethiopia was ruled by Haile Selassie, crowned as Emperor in 1930. In 1936 Italy attacked Ethiopia from its colonies in neighbouring Somalia and Eritrea and occupied the country until 1941. Haile Selassie spent his exile in the UK, and was restored to power with British and Commonwealth military assistance. His long rule ended with the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974.
“Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam emerged as the leader of the Provisional Military Administrative Council (known as the Derg) in 1977 which became a brutal Marxist dictatorship. Ethiopia was wracked by civil war for most of the Derg period, including a secessionist war in the northern province of Eritrea, an irredentist war with Somalia, and regional rebellions - notably in Tigray and Oromia. The population experienced massive human rights abuse[s] and intense economic hardship, including acute famine in 1984/5.The Derg was overthrown in May 1991 when rebels of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) captured Addis Ababa. Meles Zenawi took
the leadership.”  The US State Department Background Note on Ethiopia, dated June 2009, added:
“The Derg's collapse was hastened by droughts and famine, as well as by insurrections, particularly in the northern regions of Tigray and Eritrea. In 1989, the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) merged with other ethnically based opposition movements to form the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). In May 1991, EPRDF forces advanced on Addis Ababa.
“In July 1991, the EPRDF, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), and others established the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE) which was comprised of an 87-member Council of Representatives and guided by a national charter that functioned as a transitional constitution. In June 1992 the OLF withdrew from the government; in March 1993, members of the Southern Ethiopia Peoples' Democratic Coalition left the government.
“In May 1991, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), led by Isaias Afwerki, assumed control of Eritrea and established a provisional government. This provisional government independently administered Eritrea until April 23-25, 1993, when Eritreans voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN-monitored free and fair referendum. Eritrea was with Ethiopia’s consent declared independent on April 27, and the United States recognized its independence on April 28, 1993.
“In Ethiopia, President Meles Zenawi and members of the TGE pledged to oversee the formation of a multi-party democracy. The election for a 547-member constituent assembly was held in June 1994, and this assembly adopted the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in December 1994. The elections for Ethiopia's first popularly chosen national parliament and regional legislatures were held in May and June 1995. Most opposition parties chose to boycott these elections, ensuring a landslide victory for the EPRDF. International and non-governmental observers concluded that opposition parties would have been able to participate had they chosen to do so. The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was installed in August 1995.
“In May 1998, Eritrean forces attacked part of the Ethiopia-Eritrea border region, seizing some Ethiopian-controlled territory. The strike spurred a two-year war between the neighboring states that cost over 100,000 lives. Ethiopian and Eritrean leaders signed an Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities on June 18, 2000 and a peace agreement, known as the Algiers Agreement, on December 12, 2000. The agreements called for an end to the hostilities, a 25-kilometer-wide Temporary Security Zone along the Ethiopia-Eritrea border, the establishment of a United Nations peacekeeping force to monitor compliance, and the establishment of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) to act as a neutral body to assess colonial treaties and applicable international law in order to render final and binding border delimitation and demarcation determinations. The United Nations Mission to Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE) was established in September 2000. The EEBC presented its border delimitation decision on April 13, 2002. To date, neither Ethiopia nor Eritrea has taken the steps necessary to demarcate the border.
“Opposition candidates won 12 seats in national parliamentary elections in 2001. Ethiopia held the most free and fair national campaign period in the country’s history prior to May 15, 2005 elections. Unfortunately, electoral irregularities and tense campaign rhetoric resulted in a protracted election complaints review process. Public protests turned violent in June 2005. The National Electoral Board released final results in September 2005, with the opposition taking over 170 of the 547 parliamentary seats and 137 of the 138 seats for the Addis Ababa municipal council. Opposition parties called for a boycott of parliament and civil disobedience to protest the election results. In early November 2005, Ethiopian security forces responded to public protests by arresting scores of opposition leaders, as well as journalists and human rights advocates, and detaining tens of thousands of civilians in rural detention camps for up to three months. In December 2005, the government charged 131 opposition, media, and civil society leaders with capital offenses including ‘outrages against the constitution.' Key opposition leaders and almost all of the 131 were pardoned and released from prison in the summer of 2007. As of March 2008, approximately 150 of the elected opposition members of parliament had taken their seats.” [2c]
The US State Department Background Note on Ethiopia, dated June 2009, stated:
“In June 2008, former CUD vice-chairman Birtukan Mideksa was elected the party chairman of the new Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party at its inaugural session in Addis Ababa. In October 2008 the Ethiopian Government initiated a crackdown on Oromo politicians, arresting over 100 of them and accusing some of being members of the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). At the end of December 2008, after detaining Birtukan several times briefly during the month, the government re-arrested her, saying that she had violated the conditions of her pardon (she was one of the prominent opposition leaders pardoned by the government in the summer of 2007). Her original sentence of life imprisonment was reinstated.
“Prime Minister Meles announced in December 2008 that the 3,000 - 4,000 Ethiopian forces in Somalia would be withdrawn by the end of the year. He stated that the Ethiopian army had accomplished its mission of routing the Islamic extremists. Troops would remain near the Somali border, where they would be prepared to immediately intervene again should the extremists regroup and again threaten Ethiopia. By the end of January 2009, the Ethiopian army had fully withdrawn from Somalia.” [2c] Return to Contents
Go to sources
Recent events and political developments – January to July 2009
Withdrawal from Somalia - January
An Afrol News report, dated 26 January 2009, stated:
“Ethiopia has completed full withdrawal of its troops from Somalia after a two year intervention to fight opposition Islamists fighters. The Ethiopian troops completely departed from Mogadishu on 15 January , but pulled back to Baidoa.
“The latest phase of the withdrawal began on Sunday night [25 January 2009] when Ethiopian forces left the provincial town of Baidoa, where Parliament is based.
“Reports from the town said all the Ethiopian troops have vacated from the airport of Baidoa, which was the only remaining base of the Ethiopian soldiers in the Bay region.
“After the withdrawal of the Ethiopians, local reports said government soldiers and many other newly armed local militias with many battle wagons have been patrolling in the town and halted the movement of the people and traffic in the town saying they are ready to defend any attacks from Al shabab insurgents who recently vowed they will attack the soldiers.
“Ethiopia began to withdraw early January when truckloads of their soldiers began to pull out of Mogadishu, after announcing that the mission had failed to achieve its stated purpose of curbing Islamist insurgents.” 
Coup plot – April
In April 2009, Voice of America (VOA) reported that:
“Ethiopian authorities have arrested 35 people suspected of involvement in a plot to overthrow the government. Those arrested are said to be followers of an exiled opposition leader living in the United States.
“Government spokesman Ermias Legesse says the 35 arrested included two groups, one comprising soldiers and another that included civilian government employees and others. He tells VOA police found weapons and other incriminating evidence when they raided the homes of suspects. ‘We have got information from different people and we investigate it, and we have gone to the court and the court gave us an allowance to go to their home and we have checked their home and we have arrested 35 people and in their home we have got so many weapons, landmines, soldier uniforms, and their future plan what they want to do,’ he said.
“All those arrested are said to be members of a group called ‘Ginbot 7,’ or ‘May 15th’, which is the date of Ethiopia's disputed 2005 election. Ginbot 7 is led by Berhanu Nega, who was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in the 2005 election. But he never took office.
“He was jailed and convicted of treason along with more than 100 other opposition leaders in connection with violent post-election demonstrations in which nearly 200 protestors were killed. He and the others spent 20 months in prison before being pardoned.
“After his release, Berhanu went to the United States, where he is currently a professor of economics at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. A page on the university Web site says he has urged the United States and other western nations to back democratic movements in Ethiopia and other African countries by withdrawing support for dictators.
“Opposition Web sites such as ‘Ginbot 7' are blocked in Ethiopia. Berhanu has in the past accused Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of creating a one-party state.
“In a telephone interview, government spokesman Ermias described Ginbot 7 as an illegal organization. ‘It's not registered as a legal party, and not recognized by the government. It is an illegal party. The groups and the party, who are an illegal party, we call it Ginbot 7. That's our issue,’ he said.
“Ermias declined to say what charges would be filed against those arrested, saying that would be up to the Justice Ministry. He also declined to identify any of the suspects. He said they would all be brought before a judge within a few days.” [37b] On 5 May 2009, Amnesty International reported that:
“Additional arrests [of persons suspected of being involved in the attempted coup plot] have reportedly been carried out over the past several days and sources in the country have told Amnesty International that further arrests are expected.
“Many are believed to have been arrested for their alleged involvement in planning a thwarted attack on the government, but others appear to have been arrested for their own or family members’ peaceful political opposition to the government. Amongst the 35 [persons already arrested] is an 80-year-old grandfather in urgent need of medical care.
“…many or all of those recently arrested are believed to be held in Maekalawi Prison in Addis Ababa, though the government has not yet confirmed this. Amnesty International is not aware that the government has provided any specific information to family members about the whereabouts of their relatives or their conditions of detention.
“Amnesty International said that due to the secret nature of their detention, they are at significant risk of torture or other forms of ill-treatment.
“After an initial court appearance last week, those detained were remanded into custody for 14 additional days to allow for further investigation and charges to be filed. Amnesty International expects their next court appearance to take place on or about
12 May 2009.” [11b]
Food security A United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Press Release dated 11 May 2009 stated:
“The food security situation in some areas of SNNP, Amhara, Tigray, Somali and eastern Oromiya regions is gradually declining. Due to the delayed start and generally poor performance of the belg rains, the area planted this year has significantly decreased. The below normal rains received during the last two dekads of April (11- 30 April) have affected the development of belg crops as well as the germination of long-cycle meher crops planted in some areas. The situation in the belg-crop producing parts of the country is expected to deteriorate further during the July to September lean season. In the pastoral region of Afar, where rains have been below normal during the past two seasons, performance of the sugum (March to May) rains has been poor and the remainder of the season is forecasted to be below normal. [The] physical condition of livestock, terms of trade and livestock productivity are expected to decline until the main seasonal rains (karma) begin in July. In Somali Region also, although the start of the gu rains have been timely (early April), they have performed poorly during the last two dekads April (11 to 30 April) in some areas.
“The latest Ethiopia Market Watch, meanwhile, indicates that the country-level general inflation over the past 12 months moving average stood at 45.2 per cent in March 2009, of which food price inflation averaged 59.2 per cent, while non-food inflation was 24.4 per cent. Local and import parity prices for grain, meanwhile, show a slight decrease for all commodities across selected major urban markets. Likewise, in most rural markets of the country, the price of cereals show [sic] a declining trend following increase in the supply rate and decline in effective demand.”