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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Amhara in Ethiopia

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Ethiopia Facts
Area:    1,251,282 sq. km.
Capital:    Addis Ababa
Total Population:    55,000,000 (source: Ethiopian Embassy, Washington, D.C., 1994, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

Amhara have three of the risk factors for rebellion, territorial concentration, high levels of group organization and recent government repression.. There are a plethora of Amhara organizations that both work with the Tigrean-dominated Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and in opposition to its power. These organizations remain highly conventional in political practice, but more militant elements have arisen and may have the opportunity to gain influence if repressive activities continue against the Amhara. Self-perceived as the original founders of the Ethiopian nation, the Amhara have, to date, reacted relatively peacefully towards the EPRDF government; whether this trend continues is likely to be resolved by how much regional autonomy the Amhara gain through Meles Zenawi’s stated goal of an ethnically federal democratic state, and perceptions of the necessity of violence to gain acceptable levels of political power.


Analytic Summary

From the mid-19th century until 1991, the Amhara enjoyed a privileged status within Ethiopian society. Under Emperor Haile Selassie, a program of Amharization (i.e., implementation of the Amharic language, culture, religion and tradition) took place within the country. During the Marxist-Leninist Mengistu regime, the Amharas continued to enjoy their special status. However, the victory of pro-Tigrean TPLF and EPRDF forces over Megistu in the early 1990s brought an end to Amharic ethnic dominance in Ethiopia.

The Amhara represent approximately a quarter of Ethiopia’s population and are closer in demographics and culture to the politically dominant Tigreans but quite different from the Oromo, the demographic plurality group in the country. The Amharas generally live in the northern highlands of Ethiopia like the Tigreans (GROUPCON = 3) and are Ethiopian Orthodox Christian like the Tigreans but unlike the predominantly Muslim Oromo (BELIEF = 2). The Amhara speak Amharic, whereas the majority Oromo speak primarily Orominga (LANG = 2). Although the Amhara have no explicit political, economic or cultural restrictions placed upon them by the EPRDF government (POLDIS06 = 0; ECDIS06 = 0), the government has engaged in repression to silence Amhara opposition, including the arrest of many Amhara, show trials and the use of torture for intimidation, as well as land dispossession and forced resettlement (REPGENCIV04-06 = 2; REPNVIOL04-05 = 5; REPNVIOL06 = 0).

While no Amharic rebellion has been reported since the civil war of the late 1980s and early 1990s (REB99-06 = 0), organized protest is clearly not allowed by the EPRDF and has been restricted to rallies of the Amhara National Democratic Movement (PROT00 = 3; PROT01-03 = 1; PROT04 = 0; PROT05 = 1; PROT06 = 0). The ANDM remains closely affiliated with the EPRDF, but the Amhara have also organized opposition organizations such as the Ethiopian Democratic Union; the All-Amhara Peoples Organization (AAPO), which has recently changed into the All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP); and the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP), a radical leftist group opposed to EPRDF leadership with an almost exclusive Amhara membership.



Debbede, Girma. 1992. The State and Development in Ethiopia. New Jersey and London: Humanities Press.

Keller, Edmond. 1995. "Remaking the Ethiopian State." in I. William Zartman ed. Collapsed States: The Disintegration and Restoration of Legitimate Authority. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Krylow, Alexander. 1994. "Ethnic Factors in Post-Mengistu Ethiopia." in Zegeye and Pausewang eds. 1994. Ethiopia in Change.

Levine, Donald N. 2000. Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society. 2d Ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

LexisNexis. Various news reports. 1990-2006.

Library of Congress- Federal Research Division. 4/2005. "Country Profile: Ethiopia."

Minorities Rights Group. 1989. World Directory of Minorities, St. James International Reference. Chicago and London: St. James Press.

Zegeye, Abebe and Siegfried Pausewang. eds. 1994. Ethiopia in Change: Peasantry, Nationalism, and Democracy. London and New York: British Academic Press.

U.S. State Department."Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ethiopia." 2004-2006.


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Information current as of December 31, 2006