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Assessment for Amhara in Ethiopia

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Amhara in Ethiopia, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 29 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
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

Undoubtedly there are a plethora of Amharian organizations which have formed that both work with the Tigrean-dominated 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

Before 1991 (in fact dating back to emperorships of the mid-19th century), the Amhara enjoyed a relatively 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. Since the Amhara had long advocated an "indivisible" Greater Ethiopian empire, they were very sensitive about Eritrean nationalist movements and the possibility of further state disintegration. However, even Tigreans (who are most closely related culturally to the Amhara) were trying to break up the country. The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party (EPRP), almost exclusively an Amhara organization with between 3000 and 5000 fighters, opposed the creation of Tigrean-led EPRDF. 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 dominant Tigreans than other ethnic groups in Ethiopia. The Amharas generally live in the northern highlands of Ethiopia like the Tigreans (REGIONAL = 0), are Ethiopian Orthodox Christian like the Tigreans (CULDIFX4 = 0), and Amharic remains Ethiopia's official language (LANG = 1). Although the Amhara have no explicit political, economic, or cultural restrictions placed upon them by the EPRDF government (POLDIS03 = 0; ECDIS03 = 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 (REP0101-03 = 1; REP 1102 = 1, REP1003 = 1, REP1103 = 1; REP1203 = 1).

While no Amharic rebellion has been reported since the civil war of the late 1980s/early 1990s (REB99-03 = 0), organized protest is clearly not allowed by the EPRDF and has been restricted to rallies of the Amhara National Democratic Movement (PROT00 = 3, and PROT01-03 = 1). The ANDM remains closely affiliated with the EPRDF, but the Amhara have also organized opposition organizations such as the Ethiopian Democratic Union, AAPO--the All-Amhara Peoples Organization that 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 Amharian membership.


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Keesing's Contemporary Archive, Keesing's Record of World Events. Annual. London: Longman Group Ltd.

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

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

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.

Reuters World Service via Nexus/Lexus search

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