ETHIOPIA stretches on 1,104,300 km in East Africa between Somalia and Eritrea in the East and North, Sudan in the West and Kenya in the South. The country, which has a long proud heritage of Christianity and independence, is surrounded from three directions by poor Muslim countries.
Ethiopia’s population is estimated, in 2009, as about 86 millions people, 2/3 of the population is Christian and almost all the others are Sunni Muslims. The country is a very mountainous, with poor infrastructure, but in the recent years the Ethiopian economy is one of the fastest growing economies of the world.
Because of Ethiopia’s Christian heritage Ethiopia had, most of the time, good relations with the Western democracies, except for few years from 1977 up to 1991, under the communist dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam, known as the Red Terror period.
Ethiopia was twice in war with neighboring Muslim Somalia – The Ogaden war in 1977 and the second time, in 12/2006, when Ethiopia invaded Somalia in the Ethiopian-Somali War. The invasion was urged by USA, in return for economic support and aid, in order to uproot from power the Council of Islamic Court (CIC), which took over the control on most of Somalia. Somalia was considered by USA as a safe haven for Al Qaeda affiliated organizations, such as the CIC, and a base of operation for terror attacks in East Africa, such as the 08/07/1998 bombings of USA embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the Mombasa Paradise Bombing. In 01/2009, last Ethiopian troops withdrew from Somalia and their mission turned to be a failure.
Up to 1994 Ethiopia occupied Eritrea, a Muslim country, which raised Christian-Muslim tension too. Ethiopia went through another two years war with Muslim Eritrea in the years 1998-2000.
Ethiopia has large mineral resources and oil potential in some of the less inhabited regions on the border with Somalia. In the oil region a small Islamic insurgency group is operating, probably not because of a sort of a Muslim ideology but basically for a better share in the wealth.
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