Country of the World Ethiopia

About the country Ethiopia, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.




Lay of the Land: Located in northern East Africa with a coastline on the Red Sea, Ethiopia is a scenic, rugged land. Below-sea-level deserts contrast with 15,000-ft. mountains. The Ethiopian and Somali plateaus are split by the Great Rift Valley; the Blue Nile begins at Lake Tana in the west and hooks northward to Egypt. Though lying just north of the equator, Ethiopia's range of altitudes makes it a region of several different climates. Farmers typically harvest two crops per year.

Size: 471,800 sq. mi. (1,221,900 sq. km.).

Population: 30 million.

Who Rules: When Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed in 1974, a 120-member military government (the Dergue) took control of the country, vowing to establish a one-party socialist state. Private industry and financial institutions were nationalized in 1975. Strife soon erupted within the ruling Dergue, however, and a power struggle in early 1977 resulted in the execution of Gen. Teferi Benti, chief of state, and many of his supporters. Outbreak of civil war on both northern and southern borders further tightened the martial hold of the Dergue.

Who REALLY Rules: Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose bloody coup deposed General Benti, assumed control of the Dergue, and his National Revolutionary Operations Command, established in late 1977, was seen as its possible successor. In April, 1977, Haile Mariam expelled all American advisers and technicians. His Marxist regime outlawed all groups seeking establishment of a civilian government, including the activist Ethiopian People's Revolutionary party and the right-wing Ethiopian Democratic Union. Neighborhood kebeles carried out random executions against "enemies of the broad masses," leaving 30,000 dead since 1974. Beleaguered by rebel forces in the northern Eritrean provinces and by the Somalian invasion of the southeastern Ogaden provinces, Haile Mariam sought and received military aid from the Soviet Union. By March, 1978, a gargantuan Soviet sea and airlift had pumped $1 billion worth of tanks, missiles, and MiG fighters into Ethiopia, along with nearly 14,000 Cuban, Russian, East German, Bulgarian, and South Yemeni advisers, technicians, pilots, and combat troops. This assistance has bolstered Ethiopia's military regime, enabling it to recapture a large part of the Ogaden from the Somalians and to maintain control of the cities of Asmara, Aseb, and Mesewa in Eritrea.

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