Forgotten world (48): Ethiopia

Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent country. Apart from a five-year occupation by Mussolini’s Italy, it has never been colonised.
Although largely free from the coups that have plagued other African countries, Ethiopia’s turmoil has been no less devastating. Drought, famine, war and ill-conceived policies brought millions to the brink of starvation in the 1970s and 1980s, but things improved a little with the overthrow in 1991 of the self-proclaimed Marxist junta led by Mengistu Haile Mariam.
Nevertheless Ethiopia is still one of Africa’s poorest states. Its people are almost two-thirds illiterate. The economy revolves around agriculture, which in turn relies on rainfall. The country is one of Africa’s leading coffee producers.
The province of Eritrea was hived off in 1993 and a border dispute escalated into full-scale war in 1999. Border tensions persist and Ethiopia says it is technically at war with Somalia’s Islamists.